October 25, 2020, 05:19:17 AM

Author Topic: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!  (Read 3108 times)

Offline ScarletBea

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Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« on: May 24, 2020, 05:19:30 PM »
Thanks to everyone who contributed with your comments and ideas in the other thread, sorry it took us so long to work on it...

Here is our proposal to refresh the Writing Contest - we'll give it a try for a few months and revise afterwards if it's working.

I have split it into things we (Xiagan and I) can and can't control.

Things we can control:
 
1. The word limit is 500-2000
  • Please note that this gives you lots of options: some said they prefer short flash-fiction, others longer pieces.
  • We may also experiment with different limits for different themes.

2. Themes will be announced for the following 4 months
  • This means that everyone has the same time to prepare
  • We hope that there will still be enough stories in all 4 months, not just the last one
  • We aim to have a selection of different prompts each time: theme, image, type, writing, quote, etc

3. Voting will be open for just 2 weeks, to encourage quicker feedback/critique (weeks 2-3 of the month)

4. We're going to promote/encourage more feedback/critique
  • Open the thread right away after voting ends
  • Writers should feel free to request
  • Encourage everyone to give their feedback, even if it’s not ‘formal’, just a few sentences, and the person isn’t a writer
  • We're going to ask members with published books to do a “guest critique” of a story (asked by the writer then randomly selected if more than one request)

5. Let's also advertise the contest on the facebook group, via common members of both sites
 
 
Things we can’t control:
 
We’ve been working on these items for many months, but it’s out of out control, so all we can do is hope and beg ;)
 
1. Publish winning stories on main site

2. Publish winning stories on facebook group
  • This one might be more achievable, via the person(s) identified in number 5 above

Thanks, and please give us your opinion!
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2020, 05:20:30 PM »
Note that we plan to publish the themes for the next 4 months during the next week, we're still working on them :)
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2020, 08:10:40 PM »
I like this. I'm not sure how much more attention it will draw to the Writing Contest, but I think it's a good first step. Some things for further discussion:

1) Do we have confirmation that we can post this information in the Facebook group? The About section clearly states that they are a reading group, not a writing group. Not to say that we will get push back from either the moderators or the community, but at this rate, I'm not sure I could realistically say it's not impossible for a moderator there to remove the post. What do we do if that happens, and we do receive push back from the moderators or community?

2) So themes will be given in advance instead of the first of the month. I think there's was a good bit of desire for democratically elected themes, so I'd like to hear the thought process behind this decision. As it stands, this still doesn't create much buy-in from the community -- which I would argue is the bigger problem -- thus releasing themes in advance will do about as much good as saying you have a term paper due by the end of the semester.

3) More critiques are good. When you say "everyone," does that mean everyone on the forum or just a general nomenclature? I think any form of engagement is good, and this is a really awesome idea.

Again, I think this is a really good first step that should draw in more life to the contest, if only because it's a form of "newness." Though I do think we're going to need to examine some of the underlying issues with the contest, so we don't apply band-aid solutions. For my part, I'm going to try and enter the contest in June, as it would be hypocritical of me to give feedback and not get involved again.
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Offline xiagan

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2020, 09:40:40 PM »
Thanks, Caleb.
2) So themes will be given in advance instead of the first of the month. I think there's was a good bit of desire for democratically elected themes, so I'd like to hear the thought process behind this decision. As it stands, this still doesn't create much buy-in from the community -- which I would argue is the bigger problem -- thus releasing themes in advance will do about as much good as saying you have a term paper due by the end of the semester.

This contains most of my head aches with the new contest. [image of an upside down smiley]

I fear a lot of momentum gets lost if we announce themes in advance because the themes from months three and four are "old news" by then and, additionally, it may feel like a chore (I need to write a story for this, this, and that...ugh...).  Could be that it helps people planning their writing better too, so I'm eager to find out how it goes.

I like democracy but I'm not a fan of voting for a theme. It makes the process overly complicated (look at the book club), people may not join because their favorite theme didn't win and the lead time has to be so long that we may have one theme to write, one theme to vote on, one theme to vote for its stories and one theme to critique simultaneously. Dunno how you see it but that would be too confusing for me.

Something I would be up to discuss is other people taking turns in orchestrating the contest or at least deciding on a theme. Could be the winner of last month's contest, could be a random person from the last contest's writers, could be somebody who submitted stories five times in a row, etc. This could be another reward (besides the hopefully starting again publication on the main site) motivating people to participate.

Something else we're thinking about is playing with duration of contests and word limits. This would need a time table where one can easily see that we have (for example) a 5k word limit for a ten week period from the beginning of September and after that 500 words for a two week long contest. Otherwise it would be too confusing.
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2020, 10:29:01 PM »
No I agree. A democratically elected theme sounds better on paper, but is sure to be fraught with more problems as it eeks along. We would see many of the same issues the Book Club has seen, as you noted, and interest would invariably wane as burnout or mild polarization occurred (ie. popular themes from certain individuals would always win). As a red-blooded American, I'm obliged to hate democracy and only care for republics, and so far, I think we're being represented fine in this department. Humor aside, I don't think voting on themes is going to overcome the buy-in issue I've discussed, though I do greatly appreciate your latter idea.

I think that having people take turns orchestrating the Writing Contest on perhaps a month-by-month basis is a wonderful idea. The winner of May could do July, June do August, so on and so forth. That would provide a level of collaboration I think would be highly beneficial to the contest. Contestants would take more ownership of the event, and while for many one of the great benefits was publication on the website, this could potentially rival that (and we have control over this).
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2020, 09:22:36 AM »
My take on voting for the themes vs. someone choosing them, apart from the items already mentioned, is that it could also put people on different starting blocks.
Someone who's quite used to writing could start a story, or think of an idea, for each of the proposals while the voting was going on, and then they'd be far ahead of a newbie who was waiting for the theme to start thinking, since they don't have as much experience.

I also really like the idea of the winner (or someone else) deciding on the next themes - gawd knows sometimes Xia and I do rack our brains for something interesting or different ;D
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Offline isos81

Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2020, 11:14:12 AM »
I agree with xia that the theme should not be announced beforehand. Winner choosing the next theme is a nice touch though :)

Word count can be increased to 2500. Newbies are struggling with word count :angle_smile:
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2020, 12:57:01 PM »
We had many requests for themes in advance, so let's give it a try for a few months, ok?
We can always go back to the monthly surprise.

If people feel so strongly about it, let's announce 3 months instead of 4?

As for the word limit, 2000 is a lot - if you ask the regulars, they'll tell you that's a really good practice, to say more with less :)
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Offline Caith

Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2020, 09:06:43 AM »
Hope you don't mind a newbie sticking an oar in :D

I used to contribute regularly to a monthly comp (not genre specifi) on another forum. The format there was that the monthly winner chose the theme for the next months and it worked well. The word count was generally 400 to 500, which did sharpen up your writing skills no end. Maybe a bit too few for fantasy, where you need a bit of space for world building.

Getting to set the theme for the next comp was a nice little incentive for taking part. I'd say it was worth a try here, in some form. 1500 word count max sounds about right to me but varying it from month to month sounds better, as it sets a challenge. 

Offline Magnus Hedén

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2020, 12:27:11 PM »
It may seem counterintuitive, but constraining yourself is an excellent way to flex your creative muscles. Practising writing within limitations like a theme/cue/prompt and a low word count is something I recommend to anyone wishing to develop their writing skill. Particularly if you step outside of your comfort zone. That's where you learn the most.

Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2020, 12:35:41 AM »
Is there really anything you can do with 2000 words that you can't do with 1500?

Offline isos81

Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2020, 07:04:54 AM »
Is there really anything you can do with 2000 words that you can't do with 1500?

I couldn't further shorten my story from 1800 to 1500 words. But that's me and it was my first ever story :)
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2020, 09:52:20 AM »
Hello again!
We're in month 3 of the 3-month refresh experiment and we'd like to get your feedback.

ITEM 1

I know there are a few things that we still haven't been able to do, but we did implement a few others.

- What do you think of setting 3 subjects in advance?
- Did increasing the word limit to 2000 help you, is it something you'd like to continue?
- Is voting in 3 weeks ok?
- Do you like the critiques?

ITEM 2

Xiagan and I are also thinking of the next 3 months and we had an idea: let's have the last 2 winners suggest a theme each, and Xia and I will come up with the third.
This will be done via PM, which means that they will have a slight advantage = they can pick up a theme they'll really like to write about!

What do you think of this idea? Is it unfair to the others? Shall we try it out in the next batch and see how it goes?

Note that in this case the people will be @JMack for May and @Caith for June.
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Offline Nora

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Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2020, 08:44:30 PM »
OK, just as a general mention before hand since I missed this post in June...

- Advertising on Reddit might bring fresh blood about. r/fantasy or r/fantasywriters would probably be receptive. That last one has a calendar for the whole year of topics : https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WTb5nbgYdbd7DevHLKzTdxbrJNG2sFvs/view

and it never seems to stem the flow of submissions. Of course, they can afford people to cherry-pick their topics because they have a way larger pool of potential writers. This being said they have zero rewards beyond the possibility someone will comment on your story and tbh that's a little dry for me. even the purely neural boost of pleasure knowing "you've won!" is better than nothing, or the rather dry self satisfaction of 'having written a thing'.

This being said I have zero issues with pre-released topics. I sometimes submit a story within the first week of topic coming out, and having nothing to do for an entire month has never sat really well with me. On the other end of the spectrum, when I am writing at the last minute like this month, I don't think about next month's topic, it isn't a distraction at all.
I don't know, I really don't see the issue and generally prefer the idea of seeing the topics ahead, because if I really hate/can't come up with something for this month, then I have nothing but frustration, and no opportunity to work on a different topic.
It's also relevant in my case, I guess, that I'm not really active on the forum at large. So if the contest is bad for a month it's most likely me not showing up at all and most likely getting distracted doing something else for then god knows how long. But it's very much just my case.

Quote
- What do you think of setting 3 subjects in advance?
- Did increasing the word limit to 2000 help you, is it something you'd like to continue?
- Is voting in 3 weeks ok?
- Do you like the critiques?

- I like it, I'd like it to stay like that.
- It let me be a little more generous, but after 5-6 years of writing 1,500 words stories here, it made little difference in the end. Still ok with it tbh.
- With only 5 stories it was most certainly ok, I voted the same day.
- I haven't had any critiques so I can't say anything on that front.


Quote
Xiagan and I are also thinking of the next 3 months and we had an idea: let's have the last 2 winners suggest a theme each, and Xia and I will come up with the third.

This seems like it will invite repetitions (though I could work extra hard to win xmas so I can make february fan fic free haha) and I personally don't care about it at all. I like the element of being forced into a subject I wouldn't usually tackle. The surprise/constraint is part of the fun of the exercise. I think I'd struggle to come up with something that wasn't already done and is a good theme and something I like... Sounds like a headache I don't want. But if it helps make people come in... then sure.


I think more than anything the contest needs fresh blood. I've invited a friend to join... but yeah, we need advertisement first and foremost, and forums aren't that hype any more these days. It's a tough battle.
Getting published was one of the main cruxes of the contest. This still not working is a massive bummer.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2020, 02:41:08 PM by Nora »
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Offline Jake Baelish

Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2020, 04:40:32 AM »
Here's my thoughts on the changes and other stuff:

- I personally don't mind three topics at once BUT, I feel it might have impacted on involvement. I could be wrong, previous months have also been quiet over the last year or so, but immediately after the large uptake in May in seemed to drop a lot. Now it could just be that 'dragons' will always pull a larger fantasy crowd, and imo the themes over Summer have been on the more difficult side (though I've really enjoyed them). But it could also be that if people saw them and weren't keen, they just gave it a miss for 3 months, rather than check in every month to see what's up. Also, having three topics in one thread for me seemed a bit much, but that's me personally and purely aesthetic  ;D

- I've liked the 2000 words limit. I didn't think I would, having gotten used to fine tuning stories into much less. But my last 3 would have been lacking imo without the extra words. Since we don't have a large range, I think it's only a good thing. Let's keep it!

- 3 weeks voting is fine by me, though if we got significantly more entries maybe not. More time does also raises the likelihood of more votes though.

- I haven't gotten involved with the critiques but they are always a good thing too surely.

- I echo Nora's feelings on winner's choosing the theme. I like the constraints too.

- I also echo the feelings regarding getting our stories on the main website. I know you are trying for this Scarlet and it is much appreciated. It is a cool draw and people who view the website will see it and might be inclined to join. I look at older contests and there was a far greater amount of involvement, I don't know if the fall in involvement coincides with the lack of being on the website, but it may be a factor.

There's my thoughts anyway.
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