I've turned into a news junkie recently - rather ashamed of my addiction to the rolling 24 hour news of war and disaster. Technology is extraordinary - to be able to watch events on the other side of the world in real time. But it's also frustrating - because you can watch, but you can't do anything to help other suffering human beings.
So now I'm trying to get back to writing again. And discovered that the peer critique site You Write On, has launched something called 'The Next Big Author'. The challenge is to write the opening chapter/s of a novel in May and submit them for peer criticism - the highest rated chapters will be viewed by publishers. It sounds fun. I tried out You Write On when it was launched and although initially cynical, it was a useful experience. You have to review someone else's work in order to get a credit to have yours reviewed. You request a chapter and have the option to reject the one you're sent if you don't feel you can do it justice.
I enjoyed most of the work I read and the reviewing is good experience for your own editing. I also found the feedback I got on the 3 chapters I submitted was really useful and I made lots of changes as a result.
They've also had a big success in a novel called The Legacy, which has had lots of good reviews and been listed for prizes, so this really is a legitimate enterprise that can launch authors who've been overlooked by the big publishers. The author of the Legacy had already written 7 unpublished novels before she hit the jackpot with this one and, looking through the lists of authors queuing up for review on this site, she isn't the only one.
How this site is going to differ from You Write On, I'm not sure. But it does stipulate that it has to be new work - YWO allows you to submit anything you've ever written. The really good thing about these sites is that they get people to focus on editing - you have to listen to your readers and think about their feedback.