November 24, 2020, 08:59:03 AM

Author Topic: What to do about the writing contest?  (Read 29792 times)

Offline xiagan

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What to do about the writing contest?
« on: February 03, 2020, 12:36:39 PM »
So Bea and I are a bit unsure how to proceed. The last months have been a struggle, participationwise. We had sometimes less than four stories (which is the unofficial minimum) and have kept themes open for two months to get at or above four stories.

Now Tardiness was open for two months (in the cold season no less, where people tend to be inside more and thus write more) and we still have only three stories.

Frankly, it's not motivating to make a new contest every month if the demand is not there. Sure, there are always up's and down's and slow spells from time to time but this feels like a long one.

But maybe we do something wrong? Who knows?

It'd be great if only former or actual participants or users who want to take part in the contest vote in the poll. The opinion of readers, while greatly valued, may skew the results and it's the writers whose opinion we need.
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Offline bdcharles

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2020, 01:31:24 PM »
For me, one of the big selling points of the comp is the inclusion on the front page of FF for winners. That seems to have dropped which is a shame because FF is, from what I can tell, a well-respected online fantasy writing spot, but if that real estate's not sweated here it goes to waste. General forum participation seems quite low and limited to - forgive me - the same few people (lovely though you all seem to be!) But new members are a forum's lifeblood. They keep it dynamic; without them, it dies.

On another similar forum there is a monthly comp (actually there's a few) and it's quite a well-productized, smooth-running thing. It has a buzz created around it, a little hoopla and fanfare. Prompts are chosen by forum members, put into a poll if seconded, and up it goes. I hosted it for the last 2 years and I think the fewest entries we got was 4. Usually there's closer to 10. Winners may be asked if their entry can go on the online publication. There's a secure section for first rights, which I don't see here.

That's it, for me. In summary I think the competition and the wider forum perhaps needs to be made more of, to attract members, and I think a few tweaks to the contest wraparound wouldn't go amiss. I do really like the fact that it's peer-judged. That keeps everyone involved and engaged, and it's different to others I've seen.
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Online ScarletBea

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Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2020, 02:43:16 PM »
bdcharles, thanks a lot for your feedback, I totally get your point of view.

I can't promise anything quickly, as I've been waiting since October, but hopefully 'soon' I will get the ability to publish things on the main site. I then plan to catch up with all the unpublished winning stories at the speed of one a week.
Maybe once that hurdle is cleared we start getting more entries.

Until then, my personal thanks to all, for your entries and your patience.
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Offline Bender

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2020, 02:46:38 PM »
Overall posting volume has been down in January.

Perhaps Tardiness didn't resonate well with writers.
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Offline Peat

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2020, 03:53:42 PM »
As someone who entered once, and kept meaning to enter more -

1500 words a month is a lot as someone who's trying to manuscripts ready for agents and the rest of it. I've suggested doing micro fiction before, as that's less time intensive for entries; a longer time period might help too.

The main site spot would be cool too, although honestly I'd never noticed it had gone.

Finally... the big thing is that the forum has lost traffic, and lost contributors, and youse are doing as good a job as ever but you're not sorcerers who can magic up new people out of nowhere to take part. But maybe we need to see if we can draw in some more people.

Offline bdcharles

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2020, 03:56:27 PM »
As someone who entered once, and kept meaning to enter more -

1500 words a month is a lot as someone who's trying to manuscripts ready for agents and the rest of it. I've suggested doing micro fiction before, as that's less time intensive for entries; a longer time period might help too.

The main site spot would be cool too, although honestly I'd never noticed it had gone.

Finally... the big thing is that the forum has lost traffic, and lost contributors, and youse are doing as good a job as ever but you're not sorcerers who can magic up new people out of nowhere to take part. But maybe we need to see if we can draw in some more people.

In a way a 1000 words is better because a lot of flash sites have that as their upper word count limit so, if a piece is entered here and if there is a secure page, it could still be a candidate for publishing on such a flash site.
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Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2020, 05:44:43 PM »
The contest itself is great. Having a 1500 word mini-challenge a month is brilliant for me. keeps me on my toes and gives me the chance to experiment.

I think the real issue, as pointed out by others, is that there aren't many writers left on this forum. Better advertising on the main site would definitely help. Forums in general have hemorrhaged members in recent years as Facebook and Twitter took off, but I think with the right marketing this still has a place. We've got an active membership, but new members rarely stick around. One thing I have noticed about the Facebook group is that it only ever mentions the forum as a place to get critiques or have your book reviewed, which is massively missing the heart of what FF is.

I don't think there's much that needs to be changed here on the forum, it might even just be a matter of topics not appealing or people being busy, but some more support from the main site would not go amiss.
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Offline eclipse

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Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2020, 05:46:25 PM »
Writers complain on f-f Facebook about can’t ask for tips and stuff because it’s for readers unlike the forum where it’s for writers and readers, you need to  get together with the Facebook mods to divert some traffic this way.

Members on Facebook have never heard of the forum.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2020, 05:49:08 PM by Eclipse »
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Offline Yora

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2020, 08:31:42 PM »
There is another Fantasy Faction on Facebook?

The reason I don't participate is because of the constraints inherent to the format. 1,500 words is a length that is suitable for exercising wordcraft, but not the kind of storytelling that I am interested in. 10,000 words over 3 months for example would be more attractive to me personally.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2020, 08:35:40 PM by Yora »
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Offline Jake Baelish

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2020, 05:35:21 AM »
I fell off on this about 6 months ago, largely due to work and my own writing. I've actually liked a few of the themes, including this month's. I just haven't been able to come up with anything for them  :-\

I will add to bdcharles comment on having the stories appear on the main forum. That is, even if just a bit, a motivating factor in knowing a winning story will appear on the boards.

Lowering the count to 1000 words is also a fair call since that also allows us to categorise it as flash fiction, which is something more common and that people may be more used to.

Getting more traffic is the overall key though, and having 0 tech expertise I wouldn't know where to start.
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Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2020, 10:07:59 AM »
I have a tough time pumping out a story I find acceptable over a single month, even if it's not very long. My process is one of write and rest, so when I enter contests or do submissions, most of the time I finish the story first, then look for a place to submit it. On the occasion that I write a targeted story, it's usually when the deadline is at least two months away.

Offline Bender

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2020, 04:57:14 PM »
Perhaps we can shift contest to every 2 months and announce topics for whole year upfront? So people can pick and choose topics they are interested in and have time to pace their writing accordingly.
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Offline Nora

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Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2020, 02:42:30 AM »
I personally dropped out of the forum for a variety of reasons. Some people I didn't get along with and put me off entire threads, I reached a point where I felt I didn't have much else "to say" in talking about SFF in general, and have never been one much to talk about books in specifics.
This has been wildly accentuated by my job becoming an SFF specialist bookseller. I talk about books with book lovers 7h a day and have tended to come home wanting to think about something else.  I've also decided to teach myself 3D art as a way of making my work situation bearable throughout Xmas, and this new hobby has pushed writing to the corners of my creative time (and what little I write these days mostly goes to a Star Wars fanfic I'm doing for kicks and giggles with a mate as a pissoff middle finger to the end of the trilogy).

Now there is nothing that can be done about any of that.

However, a few of the topics also did not appeal to me, and that will always be the case, but I do agree that either voting on topics or releasing 4/6 months of topics ahead of schedule might be refreshing. It'll let people who need more time plan ahead on topics they like.

There is also the lack of goal. I get frustrated when I see that some writers post yet don't vote, which carries a ton of weight when there are 5 voters tops. The stories aren't posted on the website, they're not getting exposition, so in the end 4 people read me here, I may never get feedback. So if I don't get an official publication, I may as well post the story on the sf writers subreddit, where I'll get dozens of reads and a handful of reviews. (spoiler alert, I don't do that a lot, I'm too busy animating weird shit these days, but I have done so in the past instead of writing here).

The forum does feel a bit tumbleweedy. We're far from the glory days where Jaymack recruited out new writers the breath after welcoming them to the forum. I don't have any ideas about that. I came to this place on a feverish quest for human company and help at a weird, dark time in my life when I was going insane having a bunch of horses for main company for days on end.
I highly doubt that's the main stream of newcomers. But yeah, if the fb people don't know about us, then what gives? It'd be nice to have the winning stories posted on fb too!! It's sad but true, there is no perks in winning besides patting oneself on the back and the gratification of beating someone else by a single vote.
I can't wait for Bea to get a hand on the staring wheel in that department. She's been relentlessly helping with the contest and always ready to step forward for more while other mods did less and less (for perfectly natural and justified reasons), I'm just chagrined that she hasn't been offered more sooner. The contest has been let to fade from the main site for years, so I suspect this is a negative feeding cycle where the neglect from higher up drips down to lower down, where all the main party involved decide to all go do other things somewhere else.

Which is why I voted for the first and last entries both. It'd be ideal imo for Bea (or anyone, at this point), to work the backlog on the main site, and the powers that be to beat the drum to remind our apparently large community that the forum exists and has a cool contest that is officially back on track.
The contest itself could use a little revamp, with either a thread for topic votes (maybe through likes, each person submitting an idea, and we simmer the best down to a pol, establishing the next 2/3 months that way?) or an open list.
This of course has the perk of being temporary. We could go back to a month by month system if the other doesn't stick.

I have to point out it's something I'm really behind. Sometimes I know from day one I have zero interest in trying the topic and I despair because I have the writing juice but really dislike the topic (like every single fanfic month), could have seen me instead spend two months polishing the next topic if it's more to my taste.
Of course I realise participation might end up even patchier than it is if 5 writers are each writing for a different month... Which is why getting fresh blood is number one.

Erff. Sorry. Might be rambling a bit, it's so late!

Don't take my words or advice too much to heart. I don't feel like I've been participating enough to get much weight in the topic.

My last word is this : please don't stop the contest if there are other options! It is fantastic and is what kept me writing all these years and I'd never have fucking guess I could write a compiling romance in 1500 words in all my life if it weren't for it, and for you guys making this fun. This is just a bump in the road. Please stay strong.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2020, 02:47:39 AM by Nora »
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Offline Ned Marcus

Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2020, 05:42:58 AM »
I entered one contest, but haven't recently. There are many reasons. First, the themes haven't inspired me (tardiness and school in particular), and if the theme isn't exciting for many people, then holding it over for another month won't help. But more important than that is few people read them, and if the winning stories are not put up on the main website, then it becomes much less interesting.

The possibility of selling stories to fantasy magazines and potentially reach a bigger audience is more attractive than writing for a contest that few people know about and which provides no feedback for the writers. Wishing to sell stories and make money is one of the reasons I don't enter more regularly. Nothing to be done about this one, I know.

As far as the prompts go, I'd prefer three or four. Perhaps one could be a theme, one a few sentences from a story (not to copy but to elicit a story), and an image (or a few images).

I like the idea of this being a flash fiction challenge—maybe from 400-1,000 words. I also agree with the people who have suggested a more active promotion of the contest on the forum itself, the main website, and on the FB page. It's easy to be a regular forum user and not notice that there even is a contest. Finally, it seems a really strange rule that entrants cannot vote for their own story. This is odd to me—and off-putting.

I hope the contest continues. With some changes it could become a popular part of the forum.

Offline Henry Dale

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Re: What to do about the writing contest?
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2020, 08:57:39 AM »
To me it wasn't the writing contest itself but rather my personal life no longer allowing me to chase after deadlines or pouring over stories and voting for them. People may have noticed I don't post much anymore either.

I hope the contest manages to get on track however. There were/are a lot of creative people there.

Several people have already brought up excellent points, especially the disjointedness between the different platforms of F-F is a sore point I believe. It basically just cuts the potential crowd up while they could have a lot of synergy.

Anyway, that's just my personal thoughts.