I've recently been reading over at Authonomy, and I have to admit that I am simply blown away by how awful some of the stuff is. My main shock is how great a percentage of what's posted is simply grammatically incorrect. For me, the absolute first rule of writing is to get the basics right. Has that gone out of style? Am I hopelessly out of date?

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And that is what I believe to be one of the two major problems with self-publishing...sorting through the crap to find something worth reading.

And no you are not out of date, but the world has forgotten the basics. We give a writing test during interviews for reporters - most of these folks have English or journalism degrees. I'd say a third of the raw copy is simply frightening and another third is marginal.
I do beta reading for crime and mystery. I often have people ask me to read their work, and all I ask is that they send me one chapter first so I can decide if I want to take them on. These are people looking to get their work published, so you'd think the writing would be polished. The number of mistakes in grammar and spelling surprises me, but then there are the POV mistakes, the switching between tenses, the lack of knowledge of even the most basic forms of punctuation. Not knowing the difference between there and their and they're.

I do this because ten years ago other people did it for me, when my writing was full of these very mistakes. Everybody has to start somewhere. I will try to help them out, but you'd be surprised at the number of people who just get angry at having their mistakes pointed out, even when they're asking me to help them.

I'm not perfect, but I can find mistakes that the author often misses. I still have better writers than me offering to help with my work, so I just keep passing it on.

So to answer your question, no, you are not out of date. If the basics aren't right, the work stinks. It's that simple. Good grammar never goes out of style. We can all learn.

Oh, and what exactly is Authonomy?
It's a website run by Harper-Collins to help weed through their slush pile by getting aspiring authors to post pieces of their work, where they get judged by other aspiring authors, and if they get enough buzz, the editors will read them and see if their publishing worthy.

I have a novel there, but I don't have the time to relentlessly campaign for "reads" and "backing" that get you up the charts, even though the reviews I did get have so far been pretty good.
I had a couple of novels on Authonomy for a while. The time and effort to wade thru and have people read it and rate it was irritating, to say the least. What was really grating was the necessity to rate other's writing and find something positive to say. Even though there was damn little to say. So end the end I just withdraw all the stuff and left it.
What I really wonder is whether what's posted at Authonomy is representative, in general, of what gets submitted to publishers. Anyone here have a sense of that?
Why wouldn't it be? That's why publishers have slush piles that are "read" by highschool kids during their summer break.
My understanding is that many publishers won't accept unagented submissions. In that case, I sincerely hope that what they receive is of a better quality than what I see on Authonomy. From a reader's standpoint, anyway. From a writer's standpoint, if that's my typical competition for publication, I feel a lot better about my chances!
I know from experience Authonomy is a good way to get a lot of feedback on your work quickly.

As to your question, Minerva, my guess is Authonomy is fairly representative of agent slushpiles because the requirements for submission are essentially the same: none. What goes to major publishers requires the author to obtain an agent, so that slushpile has got to be of better quality.

But for small publishers who will deal with authors directly, yeah, I suspect it's like Authonomy too.
OK, I'm sure I'm doing this wrong, but as I've said before, if I'm submitting something for feedback, you can be damned sure it's going to be the absolute best thing I can put out there. It's not going to be full of grammatical errors and plot mistakes. I'm going to have sweated my last drop on the thing before I let my best friend look at it, much less The Unwashed Masses.

Also (again, maybe I'm wrong on this), but I don't want Unwashed feedback on my work -- I want feedback from people who know what they're talking about. I don't understand writers who will just throw their work out there to anyone, especially in such a half-assed state. I guess it would help toughen me up to do that, but I honestly don't see the point. Am I missing something?

Maybe I'm being too hard on the Authonomy bunch, but if the site is truly representative of what agents have to read through to find clients, I can see why they're so grumpy all the time.

MK
www.minervakoenig.com
There are lots of writer sites nowadays and I've submitted work hither and thither. I view the feedback as from readers more than writers and rarely look at individual comments closely but at the totality of the feedback because patterns will emerge suggesting this works and that doesn't. I think it helps me to get that feedback, particularly in the early stages (not so much the late), when I'm deciding on the pieces, so to speak.

It is irritating when people submit work with errors. Some authors I know are simply lazy and others have a surprisingly hard time, considering the game they're playing, with basic grammar and spelling.
Minerva -

It absolutely is representative from what I've heard. If you go to a variety of agent blogs, you can sometimes get glimpses of it as they give examples. It's not like the 99% of queries that are rejected are all "almost there". It wouldn't surprise me if no more than 10-15% of queries most agents receive are even in the same continent as the kind of writing that has a chance of getting published. And that's taking into account that mediocre stuff does get published.

Your other points are really two issues. One is whether someone would put their work out in such a half-assed state. Well, I know I wouldn't and most writers I know who take a halfway serious approach to their writing wouldn't. That's not to say I wouldn't ever show it to anyone until it's ready for submission - I have several beta readers to whom I will show stuff that's only been edited once or twice or even incomplete stuff. But that's not the same as putting it on a web site. I guess I can understand someone who knows nothing about writing figuring they'll throw it out there and get free feedback.

The second issue is unwashed feedback. I suspect authors differ on this. My experience (unpublished so take that into account) is that even reasonably professional feedback - say from contests with good judges - is challenging to work with. necessary, but challenging. I submitted my first novel to about 8 contests and I got diametrically opposed feedback on a variety of issues, sometimes even from two reviewers within the same contest. And I'm not talking general feedback about whether they liked it or not. One reviewer said that my use of detail in the prologue was excellent and the other said that detail was useless and hard to read. And more stuff along the same lines. I am learning to "read between the lines" when I get feedback, and I also never make a change based on feedback from a single person unless I am absolutely convinced it is right.

All that was a long background on why I'll take feedback anywhere I can get it. I've received some excellent feedback from the "unwashed" fans who downloaded the audio version of my first book. Obviously I will take into account the source of the feedback when considering things. But I have to filter the feedback I receive anyway, no matter who it's from. I received feedback on the beginning of my second novel from an author who tore it apart. In a nice way he said the writing was so bad that it wasn't readable, including giving me a couple of specific problems that I had never heard of as being problems with writing. It came down to he thought my style did not even come close to flowing. I sent it to two other fellow authors as well as two additional readers asking them specifically to look at what he was talking about and all four said that at most it needed minor tweaking. It doesn't mean the first guy was "wrong", and it certainly got me to take a really hard look at some things. But in the end I did not decide to completely revamp my writing style.

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