The Writeoff Association 926 members · 662 stories
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horizon
Group Admin

At this point I don't think I have much to add to the discussion. Legitimate points have been raised on both sides, but they're all predictions, and I think seeing actual outcomes will make much more difference than dissecting the predictions.

The five-day vs. nine-day period remains an interesting point, because for most people with day jobs, that makes the difference between "one weekend plus a bunch of edge time" and "two weekends". I would be curious to hear from the people who are explicitly requesting more time — 3704567 3701190 3700899, etc. — what their optimal additional time is (although that might have already been answered upthread and my tired brain isn't remembering). I abstain on any vote regarding the writing time period.

Chris
Group Contributor

3703704

I mean, a "polished" story is going to more accurately represent a writer's actual ability, right? Wouldn't that then make feedback more meaningful, because reviewers are addressing you where you really stand, not elsewhere?

Kinda like if I wanted to help a writer grow, I shouldn't look the timed essay they wrote in under 25 minutes for some standardized test, but something they poured all their efforts into. Because the latter reflects their true ability as a writer, and thus whatever flaws exist I can be confidant are flaws in them, not in something like the structure of the timed essay.

I wouldn't be comfortable giving that kind of critique in an anonymous setting like a writeoff, personally. What you seem to be addressing with your post is an actual examination of the author, and how their intentions and ideas translate to the written word. Without knowing who someone is, or being able to ask them if such-and-such is what they intended or if they agree that blah blah blah, I don't think you can give that kind of feedback. For example, take the story "Rainbow Dash Can't Make Skeleton Jokes to Save Her Life" from this writeoff. I thought the author was going for a pseudo-feghoot, giving us a dramatic setup and then bringing it all crashing down with the last line; most of the other reviewers seem to feel it was intended as a serious story, with the last phrase an action one-liner. Without being able to ask the author what they meant, how can I say what the author's "flaws" are? Without knowing what the author's trying to communicate, how can I try to help them find a more effective way to get their ideas across? Getting that kind of feedback is hugely useful, and I've been on both the giving and receiving end of it before to my benefit, but I'm not sure it can be done in a name-free setting with no two-way communication between author and reviewer.

What I try to do when I review, and what many of the other reviewers try to do, is give story-level feedback: to offer up what we got out of the story, what tripped us up or got in the way of our enjoyment, and how we'd improve upon that. It's the sort of feedback designed to help an author revise or even rewrite the particular story in question. not to address who they actually are as an author (and thus, it doesn't suffer from the lack of communication with the author in the same way the kind of reviewing you're describing does). At the end of the writeoff, what each story's author hopefully has is an idea of what the readers thought they were reading, which they can take and compare on their own to their intentions, while digesting any suggestions they were given (and accepting or ignoring as necessary). They can even take those comments to a pre-reader of their own and get the kind of feedback you're suggesting on their feedback. Either way, what they're ideally getting is a look at what came between the story they saw in their head when they sat down at their keyboard, and the story the readers saw pop up on their computer screens.

That kind of feedback isn't terribly useful, though, to an author who's already "finished" their story. Because it's story-level and not author-level, it's often not directly applicable to future writing (which isn't to say it's not applicable, just that only the author can determine for themself whether an issue is story-specific or endemic to their writing). And, if they have no intention of continuing to work on the story, it's not applicable to the story, either. It's still better than no feedback, certainly, but it's not terribly actionable. Since the point of the long timeframe is expressly to have the stories be "polished" when they're submitted--that is, to have the stories be more "finished product" than "cleaned-up, comment-ready draft"--the essence is that you're setting up an event where story-level workshopping no longer has much value.

Anyway, that's way too many words to answer a simple question (now you know why my blog is called One Man's Pony Ramblings) Assuming we go through with the polished story on a test run, I hope you'll get some good author-level feedback, but I honestly don't think you will, knowing that "can" lies outside of my comfort zone in any case. My advice is that, if you're looking for the kind of feedback you seem to be asking after, this is the wrong place to seek it. I would look for an individual editor, or propose something like a "best work" writeoff event, where authors are free to submit their best stories under their names and directly engage one another (though at that point, I'd hesitate to call it a "writeoff").

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3704685
Haha, confusing, isn't it? I suppose I aught to explain myself as clearly as possible here, especially since I'm beginning to feel like the spokesperson for this revision, which is funny since I didn't even initiate it. It's pretty much what 3704693 said. Out of the nineteen writeoffs that have occurred since October of 2012 when I first joined, I've only made 7 submissions, the last of which, before Just Over the Horizon, was back in May. So the short deadline has rarely worked out for me :( but hey I love these things. They get me to write and I love the challenge, even though when I usually fail it's unbelievably frustrating. But I always come back and look forward to the next round.

So believe me when I say I really don't want to irrevocably change the writeoffs or make them something they never were. If I was the only one who mattered and got to have my way I'd probably only add a day to each the regular and minific rounds. But, well, I'm not the only one who matters. Everyone does. And since there are others who struggle with the short deadlines, I thought it was a great compromise to try out something new without sacrificing the old. I really sympathize with those who are frustrated by the short deadline, and I sympathize with those who don't want anything to change.

Now I think 3704929 spoke true, so if the votes end up tallying in favor of the new addition, I believe letting it speak for itself will be better than arguing so much about it, if only because I'm getting burned out :derpytongue2: bluh

3704347
Okay, good! Now just to see what 3701190 and 3700899 have to say about making it around five days. *taps foot impatiently*
And I guess 3704929 you don't have an opinion one way or the other here?

3705368
Hmm, you make some great points, and I like the differentiation between author level and story level critique. There is a communication block for the reviews, you're very right. But I dunno, I don't agree that the story level critique will really become that less meaningful. By that argument, for anyone who's posted a story here on fimfic any reviews/critiques/advice would be near useless too, right?

BUT, like Horizon said, I think the best approach might just be to actually see how it goes. You could be entirely right, I don't truly know for sure.

bookplayer
Group Contributor

3705791
Five day rounds sound perfect for me. Short enough that I wouldn't lose interest or put it off, but long enough that if a day or two isn't good I'll still have time to do something.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3705930
Goodie!

Okay then, Rodger, is it alright if I go ahead and propose the polish round be shortened to 5 days instead of ten?

RogerDodger
Group Admin

Five days seems at odds with the numbers Bad Horse gave in 3694218.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3704567

Depends on what kind of artist you're talking about. Animators and comic book artists tend to draw quickly, yes, but the artísts may take weeks or months to produce a single studio piece. My old art professor took at least a month to do a single abstract work, which was quite amazing to look at because it was so intricate. It's beauty never would have been accomplished in even a fraction of the time, because it simply wasn't something you could do quickly, even if you didn't have to put massive amounts of thought into it, which he did.

Yeah... he has to take a month to convince you that the naked man is wearing something.

Real artists - that is to say, artists who actually produce art for a living, and, ergo, the ones who are most competent because, let's face it, they get paid money to do it - can produce quality works in hours to days, depending on the level of detail they're going for. I've dealt with them. I watch people produce art in streams sometimes, including commercial artists, and they work quite fast.

Computer tools are wonderful things.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3707195
3704929
If we're going to have a "polished story" format, it should be nine days, not five. Nine days is three times as much time as three days, and it includes two weekends, which means that you either have a lot more time to slot in random time, or you can write it in one weekend, then have a week for folks to get around to improving it.

Five days is just too similar to the present to be worth doing as a different format.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3708400
Oh I know haha my brother is one of them; he works very quickly, and I would be insulted if someone claimed he wasn't an artist. But that doesn't mean someone who also creates art for a living and yet takes a lot of time, because of either the subject or the medium or trying to perfect it, isn't an artist. They're just a different kind of artist. I've spoken with them and listened to lectures by them. The definition of what constitutes a real and good and talented artist is very wide.

You're free to feel differently, of course, and if you do, that's fine. :twilightsmile:

3707195
Ah quite true. Well, I would be fine with nine days, as Titanium Dragon suggested, or even the original ten. My reasons for suggesting it be shorter were to hopefully better guarantee it's success, in case most people ended up thinking it was too long. I dunno, 3705930, 3704347, 3701190 , what do you guys think?

Bad Horse
Group Contributor

3707195 5 days is on the edge of doable for me. 2 days to think, 2 days to write 4000 words, 1 day to revise. I probably can't reach 8000 words in 5 days, but I can almost certainly do 2000 words.

Anyway, it's 2 days better than 3 days.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3709138
Here's the thing:

I like the three day competition, as a lot of folks have noted. It is a different sort of thing where we do something we don't really do anywhere else - namely, write something fast. It encourages all of us to put out stories, and the very short timespan means that we have to run and gun.

The proposal here is trying out a longer thing, once, and seeing how it goes. Will the results be better? Will we get more entries? Will the entries be better?

Well, that's the question we're trying to answer.

But the idea (at least as of right now) isn't to replace the short story thing, but to augment the schedule with this - basically, add a new story format, in addition to the minific and short story contests, a different sort of contest, a "polished story" contest where we have more time to polish. I made the 9/10 day suggestion because it allows us to start on a Friday and end on a Sunday, giving us two full weekends to work on our story. Five days just isn't different enough from three days to justify that; nine or ten days is enough time, I think, for people to get at least some polish on a story.

If we're going to do this, I'd rather we go for having two weekends, rather than just having some weird thing where we randomly have two extra days - that's not interesting enough as a different format, at least not to me.

I'd be interested in trying out a two weekend short story contest, which is what the original proposal seemed to be about. But I want to actually see what happens when we do it; are we going to end up with better entries as a result? That's the real goal here, after all, or so my understanding goes; Bad Horse, at least, seemed to feel that stories weren't nearly polished enough and expressed his frustration that the stories weren't as good as they should be and therefore we were spending a lot of time commenting on "first drafts", which, to him, seemed like a waste. That seems like a legitimate complaint, and I am interested in the idea of exploring whether or not adding an extra week onto the current timespan has a large, positive effect on story quality. If it doesn't, though, then there is little added value.

The time constraints are meant to be meaningful, though, or so my understanding goes; we don't have forever to work on these. It is meant to try and encourage us to do it right the first time, as Chuckfinley spoke about on a recent blog post, and I think that's an interesting idea. But I am interested in the idea of a short "polished story" contest" so I'm willing to try. If we get good stories, after all, who is going to complain?

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3709678
I think the two weekend approach is best, for these reasons. Otherwise, if you've normally got no time to write during the week, five days ends up still being "a weekend" to you.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3709678
3710202
Well yeah, but as someone who consistently fails to meet the writeoff deadlines, two extra days is a huge increase, because it allows time for thinking, and planning. BUT, like I said, I'm perfectly fine with nine days/two weekends--I certainly won't complain about getting more time xD I only suggested five as a compromise to those who felt any increase was too much.

So nine days/two weekends it is then?

What do you guys think about the word limit? Personally, I think it should remain the same. For one, what's the point of having time to polish if you just use it to write more unpolished words? It's not about writing more, it's about writing better. Well, for me and others, it's about even writing enough, but that won't be the case for most. I feel like if we greatly increase the word limit, then people will take it to mean they should write bigger stories, as opposed to, well, more polished ones.

Could be wrong though.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3710400
The idea is to have more time for polishing the stories, so there's no particular reason to change the word limit.

Axis, you seem to be confused about what the issue here is; a lot of folks like the idea of the very short time span. The idea is that we're seeing if this would be interesting as a new, different story competition format, to go into the schedule as we do with our current things. It could possibly replace the other if there is sufficient interest but, frankly, given that we got a ton of entries on the last short story contest, it seems that a lot of folks can, in fact, make it work within the deadlines.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3711301

The idea is that we're seeing if this would be interesting as a new, different story competition format, to go into the schedule as we do with our current things.

I appreciate you telling me that nicely, TD. But, actually, I have been saying that the whole time. Here's a few snippets from some of my comments.

I don't propose removing the current configurations, but rather adding to them.

We won't be changing the regular short story contests, or the minific rounds, we'll simply be adding another longer round

But you know, you're not losing the current strict deadlines. There will just be another, less strict one added.

And again, you're not losing anything you care about regarding the current configurations--you're simply gaining another one which wont' even be that often.

So believe me when I say I really don't want to irrevocably change the writeoffs or make them something they never were.

The thing is, I do like the current short deadlines. It's why I've been with the writeoff for two straight years. But I have trouble with them too, and I'm also not in this discussion for only myself, otherwise I'd hardly be asking what others think and wouldn't have bugged Bad Horse to come and give his opinion. I also don't want anything replaced. It's why an addition strikes me as a good compromise; no one really loses anything. :twilightsmile:

Does that make sense? I don't want anyone misunderstanding my position. I'm happy to explain myself. ^.^

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3710400
I'd still at least like to see the upper word limit pushed up. I mean, with more time to write, it should be easier to get longer ideas out. Plus, I still say that time limit is not enough to differentiate this from the short story contest.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3711972
I'm not so sure how much higher I'd want the word limit to be, honestly; as-is, with current levels of participation, we're likely looking at reading a hundred thousand words or more; increasing the limit might push that up even higher. Not that I'm not good for longer stories being entered, but we should also keep in mind that we're going to have to read all of these. I could read them all, but how many other people would?

I do understand your point of view, though; really, it is just "extra time for extra polish", but I'm not sure how big of a difference it will make.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3712428
I don't think I'd want it much over 10k, maybe 12k tops. The 20k limit only proved that some of us can write that much in three days. c.c

Pav Feira
Group Contributor

Re: upper word count, while we have had some terrific stories with tonsa words, keep in mind that readers still need to read these and produce comments. If there's 200k words in the gallery, we'd need two weeks to read, and you'd get skimmed comments.

Sunny
Group Contributor

I'd note the idea isn't just about 'more time to polish stories' but also 'For those of us with busy lives, it means we have more breathing room.

It's why I'd like 48 hours on the minifics - because weekends for me are really busy, and with the last contest, my one entry was done after coming home from a long day, spit something out, crashed, and that was that. If I'd had Sunday evening I'd have been far more free to spend more than 30 minutes on it, because I'd have had more time to choose from.

Like, yes, having polishing time is great too, but part of why I really want an extended time frame is to safeguard against 'Well, crap, I have a 10 hour workday and errands and other things'.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

Given that discussion has died down now and that no one has voiced any major objections, proposal 1 has passed, and the Polished configuration will be tested for the next event.

3715734
Unfortunately, it's hard to accommodate for that without making things drawn out.

Sunny
Group Contributor

3737484

2 days doesn't really feel drawn out, though. Or even 36 hours.

Bad Horse
Group Contributor

3806582 I may have misinterpreted you. My recollection is that you responded to the longer writing time by saying that this made the event no fun anymore, and that you objected to it "on principle". "On principle" does not mean "I object to this because it doesn't fit my personal preferences"; it means "I object to this because it is in principle wrong, and I know that because I know the principles that determine what is right and what is wrong." That's what I'm complaining about. It's fine to have your opinion. I just don't like to have people tell me that my feelings are wrong, in principle.

RazgrizS57
Group Contributor

3806558

To me, write-offs are fun because I get to write a story, and then read a bunch of other people's takes on the same general prompt, and then talk about the stories with each other. What makes a write-off not fun, to me, is the same thing that makes it fun to some other people: Having a time limit and a scoring system.

I don't think the scoring system has ever been brought up here (recently, anyways). I'm pretty sure most people can agree that the medals and points are completely for flair and don't truly matter, and to a further extent, so does the overall ranking of any given story. And I completely agree about your points towards what you find makes these write-offs fun. I'd hate for anyone to not find these fun including myself, however, the main issue where the disagreement lies appears to be the time frame.

The issue for me anyways is extending the time frame without compensating for it somehow. I'm certain when this whole thing was being discussed earlier, I offered up raising the wordlimit ceiling and/or shortening the amount of days to seven or six, as eleven comes off as being too long. But apparently those suggestions went ignored. 3806583 has offered up limiting the number of entries and others have too, as a measure of trying not to overburden the voting process since the expanded time frame would allow for more material to enter. Keep in mind we also have to be weary of the "burnout" between the events themselves. I'm someone who feels like some sort of middle ground should be reached that everyone can agree on, and it bothers me when there's disagreement. Maybe that's a fallacy of mine, I dunno.

If you wouldn't mind specifying, what exactly is it that you don't find fun about the write-offs, and can you explain why? You and I both seem to be on the same page that we want these things to be fun (and not taken too seriously?).

As for your points of courtesy, your first two are just pointing at opinions. I'm also pretty sure I didn't paint my words to tell you how to feel, but if that sense came across, then I must apologize; it wasn't my intention. As for your last, I haven't been in too many of these, but I can only ask for your forgiveness. So often does others' viewpoints get overlooked during these sort of discussions.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

3805837
This is called a prelim round on the site, and it's implemented by assigning each entrant n stories per entry[1] to order from best to worst[2]. The stories are assigned in a way to minimise the variance in total word counts each author is assigned[3]. The votes are scored n - 2i + 1, where i is their position of the story in the ordering. This makes each vote zero-sum. Entries with a score greater than zero, and for which the author filled in their assigned prelim vote records, pass to the public voting round.

The end result is that after the prelim round, every entry has been read and rated n times, and approximately half of the entries are eliminated. n is currently set at 6.

This system is implemented on the website, but the size of the events hasn't been noted as an issue for a while. Prelim rounds will most likely be enabled on the Short Story contests should participation continue to increase.


[1]: Submitting more entries means you more work to do in the prelim round
[2]: In other words, it uses an explicit relative scale rather than the absolute one used for public voting
[3]: This could in theory be seen as an advantage for longer stories, since they'll get compared with low wordcount stories, which perform worse on average

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

(From the other thread)

3806558
I think you've told this story before.

I do find it a bit strange, though; MMORPGs have pretty much nothing in common with Tabletop RPGs, generally speaking. Indeed, computer RPGs in general aren't really much like tabletop RPGs, and I've never played a multiplayer one which strongly resembled one; ironically, the highly linear JRPGs and games like Mass Effect probably have much more in common with them, simply because they more resemble going through a storyline.

I also find it somewhat funny when people say that keeping score isn't a part of RPGs when virtually all RPGs involve money and experience point systems. Even though seeing those numbers go up is not a core motivation necessarily, they do help compel people to play more by giving them some sort of goal or target and some sort of gauge of doing better or worse.

For me? I find that these sort of extrinsic motivations help motivate me to try new things and to participate more. Writing for a competition or whatever not only allows you to see "how you did" relative to other folks (and thereby, gauge your own talent and skill), but also gives you a focus and direction to push in. Time limits drive us to actually do something; we gave everyone 10 days for this competition and ended up with two fewer entries than we got for the last 3-day contest. We didn't get more productivity, and Axis of Rotation, who had noted that they had failed to enter in the three day competitions because of time, also failed to enter in the ten day competition, again citing time.

It isn't really time, though. That's misattribution of cause. What it really is about is whether or not people are motivated to do it. Three days, there's no excuses - either you're going to make time to do it, or you're not. I, personally, make time to do these competitions because it is fun. Some people don't or won't.

We gave people over a month to submit FlutterDash contest stories, then extended it by two weeks, and still only got one entry. A lot of people expressed interest, and noted that an extension would help... and it didn't.

We didn't get any extra participation this time around, despite the longer time span. People were worried about having too many stories to read, and we ended up with two less than we did before.

Obviously, these folks were worried about the wrong thing.


On the other hand you have people who are saying that ten days gives them more time to polish their stories. For them, they think that having more time to improve their stories will make it better. That is a much more valid argument, and I can see the value in it.

But the best way to do that is to have other people - other talented people - look over and help edit your work, and a lot of folks here seem to be upset by that prospect. To me, I find the extra time worthless - just more time to hang myself with. I wrote almost all of my one entry in a single day, then spent a bit editing it then, then a bit editing it today (and it is a good thing, too - I had originally submitted it with my standard story formatting, with indented paragraphs. Shame on me).

I think that the idea of having ten days to write a "polished story" is fine and is, in fact, potentially valid, but we have to accept that we're going to need to have other people editing these stories to really end up with stories of the highest quality. That is how stories get better. I'm 100% cool with that. But if that's the case, then we have to accept that people are going to be having their stories edited by other people.

That's just how it has to go, if our goal really is to produce something "polished".

I'm not sure if it is really congruent with what I would consider to be the true purpose of the write-off, though, which is simply to encourage people to write. Editing is even more work, though I'm sure a lot of folks would be interested in it. I am going to release Dusk next week; Dusk was originally a writeoff story. So was Dawn. This writeoff story will be edited and posted as well. Why Doesn't The Sun Shine is almost ready for external editing.

But Mistitled, my unfinished entry for this, is much less likely to get done now simply because there isn't a time limit anymore - I don't have any unusual extrinsic motivation to write it.

The points don't actually matter, nor does the competition, not really - but they do matter in that they encourage me to get stuff done. And that's a good thing. And I think the same is true of others as well - once you've written a story, what's the point in not getting it all the rest of the way done? That's silly. So by getting us towards, at least, a first draft, we're much more likely to actually end up with something to post, and that everyone can enjoy at some point in the future.

The points also encourage me to read the other stories - the first FlutterDash competition got me to read every single entry in the contest, for instance, something which wouldn't have happened without the public scoring. Same goes for this.

All you really need in a scoring system - and indeed, what is ideal in a scoring system for the purpose of encouraging participation - is the ability to surpass others and for participation to reward the participant. ELO systems and similar systems are better for ranking how good you are, but they're not great for motivating most people in the same way that these sorts of simplistic scoring systems do. Each individual competition tells you how well you did against the pack, but you also "move up" just by trying. And that's good.

And in fact, that's really what your MMORPG system should have had - MMOs live and die on participation, and encouraging people to participate is the most important thing there. Having a system which encourages participation is what you want in a system like that. You might have a top 100 list which works a little bit differently, where you really, truly are trying to gauge how good relative to each other the very best people are, but outside of that, it isn't really what you want to display to the players (though secretly using a hidden rating system which matches you up against players of similar skill levels, regardless of your visible scores, is good for PVP as competing against people who are around your own skill level tends to be the most fun).

That's the correct answer for something like that. If you are doing seriousface competition, you don't use systems like that, but this isn't really a seriousface competition, and we have something (namely, our individual round results) for the seriousface players which is satisfying, even if the overall ranking might not be perfect for such.


The time limit, ultimately, is about getting people to participate. As you noted, the fun part, for you, is:

To me, write-offs are fun because I get to write a story, and then read a bunch of other people's takes on the same general prompt, and then talk about the stories with each other.

The time limit, then, is necessary to compel us to actually get stuff done. How many people here write a story a week?

How many people here pretty much only write write-off stories?

I think that says something about the time limit, and why it is valuable - it compels us to actually get stuff done, so that we actually end up with something something to read and talk about.

Unless we really are planning on actually trying to produce something polished, and are okay with people editing each others' stories, it isn't going to accomplish what I understood you to be hoping for - namely, actually reading over finished stories, which is more fun to you than reading over first drafts, as they are more interesting to discuss and we can dig into them more. If we want to discuss doing another one of these, I think that's an important thing to discuss and see if people are okay with it.

Pav Feira
Group Contributor

I've already said my piece. Some people are strongly in favor of this system, and some are strongly against. Some feel that it's testing the wrong things and that the rules should be changed to better test X, Y, Z. Others feel like the current writeoff system is ignoring a certain sect of the writerbase, and that the changes in this system are benefiting a group that's been ignored.

Regardless of your feelings on the matter, one angle to consider is the free market. If you don't like the "Polished" system, you aren't forced to participate in the next "Polished" event. If this collects a sizable amount of interest regardless, then it'll become a thing. If there's not enough reliable interest, future events might peter out and be replaced with the old system. So either way, I don't reckon there's a need to get too serious about this. We're all interested in having fun, after all.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3806778
Well, the thing is, I plan on participating even if I don't especially favor the format, because, as Bad Horse noted, the fun is in participating and talking to other people about the stories and suchlike.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

I've got a question! If we need extra time for the voting phase (though I dunno, 92k isn't that bad), won't that push the next event to right up after this one? Do we want to skip December because holidays?

RogerDodger
Group Admin

3807474
The voting period for Title Drop won't be extended.

I don't see a compelling argument to skip December.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3807557
Well, we have done 90k in a week before. I suppose we should just expect to see the score count low.

horizon
Group Admin

3806699

We didn't get any extra participation this time around, despite the longer time span. People were worried about having too many stories to read, and we ended up with two less than we did before.

Obviously, these folks were worried about the wrong thing.

I am happy to have been wrong here. (Not in the sense of pleased at the lower-than-last-round turnout, but in the sense of welcoming the correction to my mental model.)

At this point, before further evaluation of the round's success I'm going to need to: (A) read the entries, and see if the overall quality seems higher; (B) wait for a week and see if the list of participants includes a significant number of authors who otherwise wouldn't have gotten a chance to submit; and (C) see how the authors who pushed for this round feel about how it met their vision. I think there was a (D) but it's not coming to mind.

I'm glad to at least have tried it. It was a different experience, and pushed me in at least one way the three-day comp didn't. I pitched out a half-finished story and started over because I realized the core concept was weaker (and less fun to write) than the one I settled on. In a normal round I wouldn't have had that luxury.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3806699 makes a good point, motivation is central to the issue at hand here; with that I wholeheartedly agree. But...I do still think time is as well. The short deadline does supply ample motivation, at least that seems to be the case for everyone who I've ever seen participate, myself included. But people also function differently as writers, right? And I believe that while, say, a three day limit gives everyone motivation, for some it also constricts them a bit too tightly.

It's like...if you gave a group of people the same pair of pants, which were far too loose around the waist for everyone, and then tried to make them fit by putting everyone in the same-sized belt. For those with slimmer waists, the tight belt makes the pants fit nice and snug. For those with wider or thicker waists, the pants stay on and no longer fall down, but the belt squeezes their guts and is uncomfortable and gives them cramps, so they take them off anyway.

We all need a belt to wear the pants, but we can't all use the same sized belt.

Does that make sense? We all need motivation, and the writeoff supplies that, but the same constraints which provide that motivation don't work for everyone. It's not just about having the motivation, it's about having enough time to function as the writer you currently are. You need a belt, and it needs to fit properly; no one wants it too tight or too loose.

Obviously, you can't satisfy everyone's particular needs at once, and the writeoff being what it is, we're all handed the same belt size, or time limit. Which is why I think this new round was a good compromise. In each particular case, there are those for whom the belt fits perfectly, and those for whom it fits too tightly, perhaps to the point they simply can't bear it and quit, and those for whom the belt is too loose (like plenty of participants this round), possibly to the point the pants fall down to their ankles. In each case, not everyone is satisfied, but overall, when taking all the rounds together, everyone is satisfied. Like taking turns playing everyone's favorite song.

I think 3809126 has a good point that we won't know precisely how well this turned out for everyone until the voting ends. Personally, it was never about getting to polish my stories, but about simply having enough time to compete. Though sometimes no amount of time is enough, but that's life, and not the writeoff's fault, or that of anybody else. Also, if everyone ends up agreeing that ten days was way too long, I'm perfectly fine with shortening it to like six or five. Might be a happier median.

3806699, I think a way to fix the issue of needing outside aid to fully polish is to set the goal lower. Don't make the polished rounds about submitting the perfect version of your story that exists theoretically, but instead, about submitting it at the highest level of perfection you can attain, on your own. It's still polished, but only by you.

RazgrizS57
Group Contributor

3809685
I get what you're saying, but I suppose what I've been miffed the most about (and the real source of my grouchiness) is that the "polished story" format, in its current iteration anyways, was voted on a simple yes-or-no basis in this very thread, despite the OP looking like it says we could discuss alternate proposals to the format of this experimental event. We were given an option here to discuss how the event could be handled, and instead it devolved into a black and white sort of deal.

I have nothing against extending the time frame to allow people to work on their stories more, innately. What my big issue was was that eleven days comes off as being simply too much time, and for this event a significant number of us spent that additional time twiddling our thumbs and not actually using it to our advantage like it was intended. This makes for a disparity in quality of some kind, as Cold In Gardez made a point of earlier, but I digress. Eleven days simply feels like too much time. I'm certain the idea was brought up before of shortening that length of time to six or seven days (I think we even agreed to extend the minific events to 36 hours), which would still allow for plenty of time for one to polish their entries, while keeping that sense of urgency to write some of us seem to depend on, if to a lesser extent.

For some reason I'm looking at the modifiers of these write-offs (time, word limit, entry limit, etc.) as all being parts of a pie graph. You can't really expand the quantity of one without compensating for it somehow. I know I offered up raising the word limit ceiling earlier, but apparently that suggestion went ignored. Point is, I feel like we all need to come to some sort of agreement, whereas for this event not much of one was made except for a show of hands on who liked Plan A or not. I feel like we never got around to talking about Plan B, or C, or any others anyone would've liked to bring to the table. I'm sure we can all think of something that works for everybody.

Don't make the polished rounds about submitting the perfect version of your story that exists theoretically, but instead, about submitting it at the highest level of perfection you can attain, on your own. It's still polished, but only by you.

This has pretty much been my argument all along, and is generally applicable to any write-off or contest.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3809831
I suggested ten days for a reason - it covers two weekends. That means that, if you're serious about producing a polished story, you have a weekend to write it and a week to edit it and polish it. Six or seven days is, for many people, not a significant additional amount of time - most of their free time is concentrated on the weekends.

I think that external editing is a good thing, and I'd rather see stories which are actually polished, because we all have to read through all of these stories. The purpose, in the end, is to write more and produce stuff which is interesting to talk about. A big attraction to this event is that it is fundamentally social - we're all talking about each others' stories without knowing whose stories we're talking about. We all are reading each others' stories without any preconceptions, and we all get to giggle a bit (or facepalm) as people figure out/completely miss the point of our stories. And we get a little gold star at the end for participating, and we all get to judge everyone's stories, which makes us feel more compelled to read them.

If we try this again (and I think we should wait until after the present round is over to decide on that), I think we need to be okay with the idea that we're going to have people actually do what they would normally do to polish a story, namely get people to edit it. Which might mean we're a little less anonymous than usual, though still probably mostly anonymous. Because the way I see it, the goal of a polished story competition is to try and put our best work forward, and read a bunch of high quality stories, and thus improve our end user experience while reading the longer stories.

The reason that people weren't interested in a longer word limit, incidentally, is because we DO have to read all these stories. 90,000 words is a standard-sized novel - it is twice the "minimum" length of a novel (which is about 40,000 words) and simply reading 90,000 words is likely to take several hours. 90,000 words of reading plus feedback is even more than that; it took me probably six hours of work to read all the stories and provide feedback on them. While there is no true upper limit on the length of a short story, somewhere in the range of 8-10,000 words is about the upper limit for short stories - while there are short stories which are longer (bats has pointed out a 20,000 word short story) they're quite rare, and it is probably better to keep things within a reasonable range to ensure that we actually can read what everyone wrote. A novelette competition (7500-20,000 words) would likely take several weeks to judge, if people would in fact be interested in judging it at all - and it would require a lot more time to write the stories, most likely.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3698214
Incidentally, a completely separate suggestion:

We should have an actual schedule posted somewhere of when the write-offs are going to take place, out at least a month or two in advance. Given that they take place on a fixed pattern, I'm not sure why we don't have one posted somewhere. Is there some reason for this?

RogerDodger
Group Admin

3810687
The post you quoted contains this information. In what way is it not an "actual schedule"?

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3810681
I liked this idea all the way up until I realized it puts our editors on the same time crunch. If it takes you eight days to write your story, for whatever reason, is it reasonable to shove it in someone's face and yell "I NEED THIS EDITED RIGHT NOW!"

I wonder if we could come up with some kind of cross-editing thing among the participants, that wouldn't compromise anonymity... Well, except that we've got writers of all stripes, and there's potential for sabotage and I'm just not good at ideas I guess D:

RazgrizS57
Group Contributor

3811851
Cross-editing wouldn't work. Bias would be unavoidable because you know this particular fic is good because you're the one who edited it. Not to mention some editors and better than others and whatnot.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3810840
In the way that I am, apparently, stupid and blind and didn't properly read the post like an idiot.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3811851
Well, that depends on who your editors are I suppose. And whether or not you can find other ones who are willing to edit during the time period.

The main problem with asking each other to edit stories really has little to do with varied skill levels, I think (beyond if we simply assigned one person to edit someone else's story, which could run into that issue); the main problem lies in the fact that people are working on their own stories during the same time period. Not everyone has infinite free time.

3812001
I'm not terrifically worried about bias, to be honest; the main issues would be that stories wouldn't really quite stand on their own (which is part of the fun for a lot of people, I think) and for the aforementioned reasons. I mean, I've downvoted stories I've tried to help with before. :ajsleepy:

But I am a soulless monster. Not a heartless one, though. I know better than that Draco chump.

I suppose it could be a problem for some people.

Of course, we could just be required to use editors who aren't participating... but that might be a little unfair to some people. Also we don't want to discourage our friends from joining in.

*shrugs*

Thing is, as has been noted previously, editors aren't against the rules right now, we just aren't supposed to compromise our anonymity. I personally want to see people producing the best possible stories for me to read, because that's more fun to read.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3809831

I feel like we never got around to talking about Plan B, or C, or any others anyone would've liked to bring to the table. I'm sure we can all think of something that works for everybody.

My memory is kinda foggy on exactly how things went, being over a month ago, but if I recall correctly, we did discuss different options, and I know suggestions about word length change and even a different limit than ten days were all thrown in. I think the issue was just that most of us couldn't agree on anything, other than trying it out, and also that the discussion took place during a writeoff, like now, and people were more busy with that. But like you I do believe there is a solution here. Just gotta find it.

eleven days comes off as being simply too much time

Yeah, I figured it would probably be for a lot of people. Personally, I wouldn't mind something closer to five, but, as Titanium Dragon points out, ten days does have the advantage of containing two weekends, which is when the majority of free time theoretically occurs for most people. So I'm not sure. Maybe if people could vote on five vs ten, that way we could discern which works best for at least our current group of participants?

3811851 3812211
About editing...there's a lot of good points on both sides, I feel, so what if, for the longer polished round, we allowed it, but your story would be marked out as having been edited. That way, those who feel that receiving outside aid dilutes the piece's purity as "your work", and feel pride in competing on their own, still get recognized for doing so. And those who really want editors, or those for whom ten days is far too long, can use that time in seeking outside aide. Those who may need the full length just to finish a single story still get to do so.

There's still the argument that editing potentially allows for some to have an unfair advantage over others (he writes faster than I do, and so he can get an editor in time, I can't, his story is better, I lose, it's not fair, etc), but, if the stories are marked, than even if you get third with your unedited fic, and first and second goes to stories which were edited...couldn't you just say "I ranked first place for unedited stories?". I'd at least be happy with that. Maybe you beat other edited stories. My point is that I don't actually think it's all that unfair. After all, in each configuration you have those who barely finish in time, and those who whip out stories like they breath (the jealousy I feel, ugh), and they have plenty of time to self edit, which while that has a ceiling to its usefulness, still makes a meaningful difference, for most people, I believe.

So arguing it's unfair that some finish sooner and can seek out an editor is kinda like saying it's unfair that some can finish sooner and self edit...which is like saying it's unfair some can run faster than you in a track race.

So I suggest marking stories that do get editors. That way, those who do feel it is an unfair advantage (and I admit, you can't really prove it one way or the other) have an out to say "sure they won but they used editors", and that'll make them feel better...I think. Like marking out cheaters on a leader board. Sure they hold the records, but you know they cheated. Getting editors isn't cheating in my opinion, but at least those who feel such can be satisfied in the same way.

...make sense?

RogerDodger
Group Admin

3809831
If you desire a particular change strongly enough, it is your responsibility to drum enough informal support and demonstrate it is worth having a formal vote. 10 days was a ballpark in line with the goals of the configuration.

We can't waste all our time posturing over minor details, because otherwise there will never be any consensus.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3812900

those who feel that receiving outside aid dilutes the piece's purity as "your work", and feel pride in competing on their own,

Sorry, you likely didn't mean it this way, but how am I supposed to feel when I can't churn out a decent story without having someone else look at it first?

The more we talk about it, the more it seems like the only solution is to give up on the idea of "polished fics", which were never the point of the writeoff to begin with. I am, of course, extremely biased in this regard.

Chris
Group Contributor

3813236

I think a lot of the communication issues stem from the fact that there are two mutually exclusive reasons people are giving for wanting a longer time frame to write in: Bad Horse and Titanium Dragon want better stories, while Axis of Rotation wants more time just so he can finish something.

"Just manage to get something done" and "be able to read and critique stories that aren't full of time-induced errors" can't really coexist, unfortunately. Honestly, I'm not sure how much can usefully be said about whether or not our trial run until we all come to an agreement as to whether "success" means better stories, or participation from writers who need more than three days to meet the minimum requirements for entry.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3813236

how am I supposed to feel when I can't churn out a decent story without having someone else look at it first?

Not bad at all.
And don't let anyone say otherwise. Everyone needs editors, and no matter how good I might ever think I am, I certainly wouldn't post a story on fimfic without passing it through those whose opinions I highly trust and respect.

For those who feel that getting editors means we're not so much voting on your work as we are you+other people, I don't think that's trying to say getting an editor at any other time is belittling. I wouldn't hesitate to say most would agree that even first place winners could use some of it before official posting. They just take issue with it in the confines of the writeoff.

I don't know, perhaps I'm misunderstanding you? Someone might feel bad because they need an editor when others seemingly don't, or perhaps they placed behind a story which didn't seek outside aid...but aren't they going to feel that way anyway, whether or not we allow editors? In our current set up, there's nothing solving this issue for you, and it's probably even worse because there's nothing you could do about it. With editors, you can at least give yourself a better chance at placing higher.

3813776

Bad Horse and Titanium Dragon want better stories, while Axis of Rotation wants more time just so he can finish something.

Haha yeeeeeaaaaah....
Though to be honest, I thought Bad Horse was in the same boat as I. If I'm getting my history correct, it was his complaints that 24 hours for a minific round were far too short to even complete a story that initiated the conception of polished rounds.

I hope I'm clear here: if I'm the only person who wants/needs more time to even finish something in the first place, then by all means, let's just make it about being polished. I've pretty much always had this time issue, and I never asked for a different writeoff configuration because I thought I was the only one. I've still been trying to compete for two years, and I'll keep on trying, whether the polished rounds stay or go. So if I'm a one man army here, I surrender.

I didn't think I was, which is why I keep being annoying and not letting this go.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3813776
3814216
If it's a question of 'getting shit done' versus not, I'd be happier to have a less-long time period than this contest, or even a shift away from writing just over the weekend.

Honestly, with the short story contests, I spend most of Friday out grocery shopping, most of Saturday over at my friend's place being distracted by video games, and then end up writing most of the thing on Sunday, as well as editing. So it ends up being a minific contest for me either way, time-wise. (Though I generally have no problem writing two or three of those because they take less investment.)

Pascoite
Group Contributor

3810681
Well, I marked this as a reply to that comment, but it could really be a reply to all the recent ones.

I think editing is a bad idea. For the most part, it will widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

As has been said, using an editor at all necessarily means that you finish in time to get your story to one. But neither one of good reviewing and good writing ability implies the other. Participants here are all reasonably good writers. A truly good editor is tougher to find, and there are huge swings in what quality editors different people know and can coerce to help. If that editor is just correcting mechanical issues, that gives the story superficial polish. But if that editor is pointing out nuances of character and story flow, it can make a huge difference.

Cross-editing isn't a good answer, either. Everyone wants the tall, athletic guy on his dodgeball team. So after everyone's been picked, and you're left with the guy who's never reviewed before and doesn't know how... For that matter, if I'm a contestant, do you trust me to review for you? Might I get some ideas from your story and use them? If I see your story as a strong contender, might I give you bad advice to serve my own needs? Might I "forget" to look at your story for you?

Even though I'm opposed to peer editing, I wanted to put this thing through its paces, so I did edit one of the entries. Except the author missed the deadline and didn't submit it.

Titanium Dragon
Group Contributor

3814216
Bad Horse noted that he always felt rushed when he was making his stories, and felt like other people were rushing their stories as well. He specifically noted that he felt like it was not as good as it could have been because we got a bunch of "first drafts" and thus the feedback we were giving was not on really "finished" stories, and that with him, at least, it took him a while to make a good story at all. So in his case, I think it was both.

The problem is that in theory, a 10 day competition should allow more people more time to participate, and instead we saw the same number of entrants (2 fewer, technically, but that's probably not a statistically significant difference) and several people not finishing (or even writing something) within the time period. That tells me that the extra time isn't something which is increasing net participation in the event; having excessively stringent time constraints would, at some point, diminish participation, but 3 days and 10 days didn't create an appreciable difference, which would suggest that 3 days is sufficient for people at least getting stories done, and that the time constraints aren't a limit on participation (numerically, at least). Indeed, it may even encourage people to just go ahead and write rather than put it off; we actually get the most participation with our shortest time period contest, possibly precisely because it is so short and you just write now and are then done with it.

3815593

I think editing is a bad idea. For the most part, it will widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

If we look at the last several competitions, the lowest follower count for a medalist is 233. Since we started doing these on a monthly basis, there have been only two people who don't have high follower counts who medalled - WB and BobFromBottles. Both were half a year ago now.

I'm not saying that this isn't a concern at all, but I think we're kind of the haves and have mores here, and while there are some folks here who don't have that many followers, I think that this might actually help them find editors because, hey, there's a writeoff going on, so why not? Kind of acts as a push for it.

I dunno.

I mean, I'm not really super in favor of this format (as I have noted previously), but I'm not opposed to the idea of a polished story format - as Bad Horse noted, seeing more polished stories would be nice, and would be nicer to read as judges and would also allow us to give better, more meaningful feedback, and with a longer time span people could be more relaxed and take more time as needed, and possibly produce some things which they wouldn't have produced otherwise. But I think if we actually do something like this, I actually want to see better results out of it.

Cross-editing isn't a good answer, either. Everyone wants the tall, athletic guy on his dodgeball team. So after everyone's been picked, and you're left with the guy who's never reviewed before and doesn't know how... For that matter, if I'm a contestant, do you trust me to review for you? Might I get some ideas from your story and use them? If I see your story as a strong contender, might I give you bad advice to serve my own needs? Might I "forget" to look at your story for you?

I've helped people out with stories which were competing against me in competitions before. One of them beat me, even.

Is anyone really that involved in "winning" these as to go so far as to sabotage a competitor's work? That doesn't seem very likely, and would meet with a great deal of social disapproval and likely get you kicked out of the group if you were caught doing it. Forgetting, on the other hand, is entirely likely, but whatever.

Baal Bunny
Group Contributor

For my part, what I'm finding absolutely wonderful about the contest are the comments. I mean, talk about editors! I couldn't ask for a better bunch of writers to look at my story and give me feedback! This current contest doesn't even end for 4 days, and I've already done one major overhaul to my story and am planning another based on the ideas I've gotten so far. This group is worth its weight in gold, and I'm not just saying that because we're on the internet and nothing really weighs anything.:heart:

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