1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Bringing Back Iron Pen

Discussion in 'Ask the Staff' started by ThinkerX, Feb 22, 2016.

  1. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,487
    1,540
    163
    'Iron Pen' was the best challenge series this site has had.

    Ankari started 'Iron Pen,' but he's been absent for ages.

    I intend to bring it back, maybe under a different name. We have posters here who could benefit.

    Thoughts?
     
    S.T. Ockenner and Letharg like this.
  2. pischtoph

    pischtoph Acolyte

    9
    1
    3
    What's iron pen?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  3. Letharg

    Letharg Troubadour

    118
    70
    28
    Awesome idea! Count me in!
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I'm totally all about it.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,266
    3,645
    413
    Would be fun. I do think the name should be changed, however.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,532
    2,589
    313
    Mithril Pen? :D
     
    S.T. Ockenner, Trick and Ireth like this.
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,853
    3,516
    313
    I would love to see this happen.

    A few quick thoughts:

    - Completely new name. Iron Pen was Ankari's, it published an Anthology, it has a logo. We need a total split. Or his approval, if anybody wants to reach out to him.

    - Let's tie it firmly to Mythic Scribes so that responsibility for hosting the challenge and following up with judging can be passed around, with multiple people agreeing to help on a long term basis. That is, if ThinkerX hosts a challenge and disappears, somebody else should be on hand to say, "Okay, he's not around so I'll see it through and start next month's." There could even be a hosting and judging sign up sheet.

    - Let's draw up a brief contract and link it in every contest thread agreeing that we have the rights to publish the winner, even if we do it a year later and that person has disappeared from the site. Speaking of which, maybe we should also collect email addresses?
     
    S.T. Ockenner, Trick and Ireth like this.
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,596
    1,511
    163
    Since many of us have posted challenges and many more have participated, I'm of course excited about the idea. If anyone is interested, I compiled some of the Iron Pens into documents so they wouldn't disappear if this site did. I contacted Ankiari a year ago asking if he wanted these transcripts, but he didn't respond with interest. my intent in doing this was purely because I loved the competition and wanted to archive it so it wouldn't be lost if the internet freaked out or whatever, but I think the documents I compiled have merit to anyone who merely wants to read the old entries, all neatly categorized with the feedback they earned and the scores and winners. I even made little graphs. Anyways, I thought I'd offered them up in a public thread, but perhaps I forgot, or was awaiting Ankari's response?

    As to beginning a new challenge, I love the idea. I would be more inclined to participate if the challenge was independent of the site, as in, in the authors' hands. If it were me determining the structure of the undertaking, I would like to see a consistent challenge (as Iron pen always featured four prompts, with the exception of the picture ones, and the prompts were random in nature). Having a consistent set of rules and format for the challenge helped to keep the contest new and fresh, and the results varied. The thing was, we were all writing for fun. We weren't writing to publish those stories in an anthology, the anthology came only after 12 "seasons" of the challenge. I would imagine the contest would be quite different if the intent was to run a series of 10 challenges and then publish the winning entries in a collection. Just something to consider.

    By that I simply mean that we might be excluding or even discouraging our newer members from submitting their stories if they feel they can't compete with those who have produced winning entries multiple times.

    As for a contract, I would definitely not agree to participate in a challenge if I knew that the hosting site had the right to publish my work without my approval at any time in the future. I know several people here intended to self-publish their own stories on their blogs or websites, or in their own anthologies, and that would undermine their rights as writers. Also, what if someone wrote a story set in their own fantasy world (as several have done in Iron Pen), a sort of character exploration. They might not want that story to be published in an anthology before they released a book, or whatever.

    I think that needs some more work and discussion, because though I feel like it could save future headache, it will most likely discourage people with those kinds of personal goals from participating, and one of the reasons Iron Pen was such a beloved challenge was because we drew so many consistent competitors. Folks who maybe had never entered a challenge before. Folks who liked to prompt-write to keep their inspiration moving (like me), and other people who just liked the distraction. Some of those people wouldn't enter anything if they felt they had signed away their rights simply by participating.

    I do however agree that a rotation of the hosts would be really awesome, because I know how demanding it is to host challenges and crit all the entries and score and judge them. I've considered hosting more challenges, but then I have to weigh the pros and cons of spending my time doing that, vs. just writing. It's great if we have a team to work together, and many of us have known each other for a long time, so I know we could form a strong team, but I feel like the most important thing in this undertaking is to simply get the challenges rolling again. People will jump on board when they see how much fun it is and how awesome the entries, but who will participate in the first one if they know up front that they are submitting a story that by all accounts the right have already been bought for? Not me. My story in the anthology is unavailable to me until the contract is finished, which means I cannot include that story in my own collections I might want to self-publish or whatever. That's a big commitment to a future anthology that may or may not ever be made, and may or may not ever pay even the smallest royalties. A writer might do far better to self-publish their own entry story if it's good. And then the question is raised, what if my story doesn't win? Might it still be unavailable to me? What if I participate four times in the new challenge? Does that mean all four non-winning stories are in stasis until the committee decided to release them? I mean, what if the "winners" weren't available by email? How would editing happen? With the Iron Pen Anthology, my story was edited and grew from 3500 words to 7k. That was a bigger process for some of the writers, whose stories changed dramatically. Would said contract include the possibility of having one's work thoroughly edited in that fashion without their written approval? If not, what kind of quality could we expect of the future anthology, if we were contracted to print the stories as submitted? This just produces way too many frightening possibilities, if you ask me (and I understand you haven't, but hopefully people will consider what I've said, because it's one thing to get a challenge rolling again, and another to immediately jump to signing contracts and planning an anthology).

    I think first we need a consistent challenge again. Then, once we have a steady participation and a pile of quality stories that could potentially make for a good anthology, we should discuss the compilation of said stories and the editing procedure, like Ankari did. Who would be the final say on which stories were considered fit for publication? With Ankari at the helm, we had one person who was responsible for judging, we knew his standards, we participated voluntarily, and when we were contacted about the anthology, we knew what we were being offered and we knew the requirements for joining in the project. I simply can't see a possible way to begin the undertaking as a commercial venture, because it will prevent many people from participating. Many of our newer members might not feel comfortable with signing a contract to compete, especially if the future prospects aren't clearly spelled out, and many of our seasoned members simply know they can derive more benefit from their story by posting it on their own site and using it as bait on a lure to their other longer works.

    I want to see the challenges section flourish again. It was my main draw to this site for the last four years, and I'm a champion for the prompt writing, short story dash of finishing a story quickly, and the "get it right the first time" attitude of week-long challenges. I love the excitement, the thrill of writing fast, editing faster, and reading the other entries, wondering how you will stack up against the competition. I think it's a huge benefit to newer writers and veterans alike, to participate in challenges to flex your muscles, experiment with styles, and read the other entries to gain perspective and test your critique skills. But I don't want to see any challenge entered into as a commercial venture, because I think it defeats the spirit we spent so long in developing here.

    If it's just a challenge for fun, with the potential to later compile entries for a commercial purpose, count me in. I've got some great challenge ideas.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,853
    3,516
    313
    That's a fair point about the contract, Caged Maiden. So drop that idea, but we should still have some sort of toned-down agreement happening where at least the winner agrees to submit their contact information so that we can reach out to them for possibilities that might arise in the future. We still want to be prepared, y'know?

    ((edit))

    I also agree about having a roughly consistent challenge. But I think there could be a few different formats that we could use. Iron Pen used a list of four prompts, and sometimes the picture prompt. I think it makes sense to be open to adding one or two more formats.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    What about a contract which also allows the writer to retain rights? I was reading about how to create an anthology the other day on Lindsay Buroker's blog and it mentions how the anthology her guest had put together allowed their writers to retain their rights to the story and publish it in their anthology as well.
     
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,853
    3,516
    313
    Here's an idea. If we get to publishing a new contest anthology, what if we focused on making it a professional editing experience, and instead of giving everyone involved a cut, what if we made it into a fundraiser for site improvements and future events (like to pay for editing the next anthology....)?

    I know that I personally would be more inclined to compete for the editing experience, and to buy the book as part of a fundraiser, than to be part of a bottom rung anthology. I can't be the only person who feels that way.
     
  12. Velka

    Velka Sage

    332
    228
    43
    I'd like the formal challenges to return. I had a lot of fun participating in the Paint a Thousand Words challenge last February. Retaining rights is important and I like Devor's idea to use it as a fundraiser for professional editing - that would be a great learning experience for many of us.
     
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,853
    3,516
    313
    Just out of curiosity,

    If we offered a simple set of guidelines and a sign up sheet, who would be willing to host a competition? That would mean coming up with the prompt and offering some kind of a critique to each entrant.

    Press "Thanks" on this post if you would be willing to volunteer to take a turn as the host for a monthly competition. Let's see how many people want to help do this.
     
  14. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    1,592
    1,019
    163
    I'd really love to see a regular challenge around again. Never got to participate in an Iron Pen, but it sounds great.

    Personally, I wouldn't want to be part of an anthology--that's not what I would write for, and it kind of adds an unwelcome level of pressure. To be honest, I wouldn't want to publish anything that hasn't passed the scrutiny of some level of professional editor. Whether or not an editor hired for the project would meet that criteria for me...I still probably would want to opt out. Just not pursuing publishing of any sort right now.

    Don't think I'd be any good at hosting, but if you really need more volunteers I could try.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,853
    3,516
    313
    Yes, I agree, I'm kind of just thinking out loud.

    I'm on board with having no commitments to any kind of anthology when you enter. Like the Iron Pen, maybe we'll consider reaching out to people for an anthology after we have a dozen or so winners. But I agree with Caged Maiden's points about pressure and rights and that it shouldn't be built into the competition up front.
     
  16. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,596
    1,511
    163
    Again, I think the prudent way to proceed is to simply ask people to create challenges again. Put the word out that we're interested. We had a lot of Iron Pen contestants over the years, and we've had some really good challenges that simply got our brain juices flowing, despite being one-off challenges (Clichea, 30 days, Reaver I, II, and III, Bounty hunter challenge, Kilvikasa, Caged Cat, Chilari, etc.). The idea of beginning with the concept of a commercial venture is enough to discourage a lot of our members from participating. I know in the past, some people have been put off by the feedback or scores, others by their perception that their story was the worst. I think the best scenario would be for a few people to host un-scored challenges. Others to host self-scored challenges, where the writers score the entries, as I did in my challenge and others I've participated in. Others still could be recurring challenges like Iron Pen, where one person is at the helm and they rely on a team of volunteer judges to offer hopefully a clear set of rules and then multiple perspectives to get an average score.

    Basically, this thread was a question of whether people would still participate in an Iron Pen style challenge, and I know without a doubt that we would have participants, though it might not be well-attended in the beginning, as it got it's wheels spinning. The more we show how much fun it is, the more people will join in. We had Iron Pens with four entries, and we had some with like 13. A huge spread. Let's get the ball rolling again, and then later, if it's a successful run, we can talk about the possibility of pursuing a next level.

    But if we get bogged down in the future of what it could be, there'll be too many confusing details that will prohibit a lot of folks from simply throwing their hat in the ring. And that would be sad, because some of us are challenge junkies and for me, that was the biggest benefit to my skills as a writer. We're talking about that right now in the Tone of Voice thread.

    Don't forget that to register here as a member you must submit an email address. You can directly contact any member through that email address, as an option on their profile ( so they needn't frequent the forums anymore to contact them). And honestly, let's say in six months, there is talk of using entries from some of the challenges as an anthology, if someone truly falls off the face of the planet, well... they're out of the running, right? Go to the next person on the list. Or let a private writer contact folks who had good stories and initiate their own project and contract. There's nothing stopping me from contacting anyone here and saying, "Hey, I like your elves, and I liked this other guy's elves in his short story. What do you say we each write three or four elf-based shorts and publish them together as an anthology?"

    I think the general consensus is that we want to see more challenges again. So let's make that happen! The easy way to get competitors is to do what Phil and Ankari do--offer a $20 Amazon gift card as a prize and you're sure to have at least ten people throw their hat in. i'll do my part to throw some challenges up and furnish prizes if people want to compete. I'm sure others will, too. But we've unfortunately lost a lot of competitors due to the fact that we haven't had any really solid challenges for a while. Build it and they will come...
     
  17. pischtoph

    pischtoph Acolyte

    9
    1
    3
    I live for these kinds of things it helps my writer block, but what has been said is the original seemed like it wasn't built around being published. I know that would deter me, depending on what we are writing about and how much I had to create.
    All in all I will help as much as I can!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Let's say that someone wins the Iron Pen and doesn't want it published in an anthology. Then maybe the runner up can be offered that slot. Just shooting from the hip here. But perhaps the thing that stood out to me the most about Iron Pen in particular was that opportunity to be published in the anthology. It's really wonderful for visibility and learning in general. I personally would like to see that remain for those who would like that.

    Also, there are other challenges that can be done (CM mentioned Chilari's and those were always good as well). Thinker X specifically mentioned Iron Pen though and I'm just gonna guess it's because of the high level of challenge that it was so popular (definitely kicked my bottom a couple times). Anyway, I'd be happy to pitch in and help out in whichever way was needed the most.

    P.S.
    Didn't Phil do a generator challenge? I'm having a memory lapse on what that one was called though.
     
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,853
    3,516
    313
    Yeah, I think the fact that Iron Pen was a monthly challenge, with a name, that was organized, is the reason that it was so successful and made other challenges more successful, too. Any given Iron Pen challenge wasn't particularly remarkable by itself. It's the build up over time that did it - "Hey, I see all these people getting involved in Iron Pen month after month, maybe I'll join in this time."

    But it was too much to expect one person to keep up with, whether that was Ankari or T.Allen, with the Paint a Thousand Words challenge. I think we need to distribute the responsibilities.
     
  20. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,487
    1,540
    163
    Thank you for the responses!

    My main reason for bringing back Iron Pen is because it's beneficial to our newer posters. Completing a story within a given timeframe, word count, and prompts is a great boost to ones authorial ego.

    At least to start with, I intend to make this a Iron Pen clone as far as format goes: four prompts, with points for how well they are employed, plus the four sets of technical criteria. And yes, keep it short and to the point.

    As Iron Pen was Ankari's, another title for this challenge is probably in order. So far, the one I have come up with is 'Steel Quill,' which seems a bit lacking. I'm open to suggestions.

    Yes, I have no issue with tossing in a $20 gift certificate for a prize now and again.

    Publishing...is something for the future. I'd suggest a group vote or poll for the best, but it will probably be a year before we get enough quality stories together to contemplate an anthology.

    I intend to post the first later this week, with a due date towards the end of March - maybe Easter weekend. Right now, I'm thinking about asking for two additional judges. April is a NaNo month, so I might have to hand it over to somebody else then.
     

Share This Page