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Characters limit for new posts

Discussion in 'Ask the Staff' started by Sinitar, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. Sinitar

    Sinitar Minstrel

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    It's a little irritating to split a chapter/short story because the forum does not allow a post to contain more than 10.000 characters. I understand that it is a small inconvenience, but if it can be modified easily, I think it would improve the life of the writers.
     
  2. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    I think people would get a lot more useful feedback if they kept well under the 10,000 limit, posting just a scene or two. It definitely puts me off when I see a wall-of-text post, never mind two or three. Don't get me wrong, I like helping out with critique, but if putting a post limit discourages such lengthy showcase submissions then I'm all for it.

    In my opinion, I think the showcase is a little weak at the moment (not the submissions, the structure of the forum). There's little focus, and I don't think it's used to it's full potential. I'm not saying I have better ideas, but it could benefit from some drastic changes.
     
  3. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    We're definitely open to suggestions. Let us know if you have any ideas, and we will consider them. We want the Showcase forum to be the best experience possible for our members.
     
  4. Sinitar

    Sinitar Minstrel

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    As I've seen in other forums, we can organize a group of editors that can provide feedback above the average 'It's very cool. I liked that characters because he does awesome things. I think you are a good writer.' Such reviews are like candies, and the pleasure of reading them lasts the same: A few minutes at best.

    That's not true. It all depends on how willing the members are to read a story and to review. The showcase serves as a place to post stories, in my opinion, to excerpts that the reader can not understand wholly. I agree that wall of texts look intimidating, but when I start to read a story, I want to find out more, not just read parts and bits that fail to do justice to a piece of work. I know this is not always the case. However, certain writers lean towards character development, and it is impossible to understand a character from a mere 10.000 words. I cannot form a bond with it.

    In addition, I don't see how that word limit helps in the end. People who like it may just cut their chapters as they please, and people who would like to post integral structures are going to do so.
     
  5. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

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    I would be in favor of reducing the word limit and linking to a Google Docs file with editing enabled.
     
  6. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    On the other writing forum I use, members are only allowed to post a small amount of text, usually the first 13 lines of their story/chapter because (according to the people who run that forum) that's about how much time you have to hook a slush reader. People offer critiques on that, and based on those lines, offer to read for the other person. The most common form of peer critique for novels is a chapter exchange. Most of the real critiquing is done off-forum.

    I like that this forum allows longer posts than 13 lines, because, really, that's too little to get a sense of someone's story (but if that's all a slush reader will look at, maybe set up a sub-forum for 13 line posts). I'm ok with long entries, but maybe if we were required to keep it to one post, and then request readers if we need a crit for something longer, it might help.

    Also, more rigid formatting rules (even just a strict 'empty line between paragraphs') would help the wall o' text problem. If a writer forgets to do so, a moderator or admin or whoever can post below their entry or send them a PM reminder. If they fail to comply within a reasonable amount of time, their post is removed from the showcase (or, if you feel like it, modified into compliance by the admin). The moderator on that other forum cuts people's posts down to the required 13 lines all the time.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2011
  7. Sinitar

    Sinitar Minstrel

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    How about this? If the character limit is extended, people who want to post huge stories can do so, and people who don't want to do this use other methods. I understand problems can arise either way, but at least the lack of limitation allows room for flexibility. People who want to post excerpts can do so, but people who want to post full chapters are not allowed. There's a difference right here.

    After all, it's up to everyone if they read the story or not, be it an excerpt of a full story. A limit of characters does not really influence one's decision.

    EDIT: I don't intend to sound patronizing. That's just an example that reflects my thoughts on this matter.
     
  8. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    I'm not saying I know how it should be, I just know that it doesn't quite work right now.

    @Sinitar: On your point about forum users willingness to give feedback, consider this -
    • I checked a selection of the recent showcase threads, each had around 9 posts (give or take a post)
    • 50% (and sometimes more) of those were posted by the story poster
    • So that's 3 or 4 people giving feedback, or if you take in to account multiple posts by the same user, more like 2 or 3 people giving feedback
    • There were 58 users online in the last 24 hours, some of those (yes, the most recent) threads are older than 24 hours
    • Evidently, not that many people are willing to give feedback, if they even bother looking
    The more time it takes people to read something, the less people will read it. The fact that the poster then usually asks for feedback doubles this pressure. I'm not saying that no one will read it either, but that it's common sense to assume it won't reach people who don't have the time for it.

    On the concerns about not doing justice to a piece in fewer than 10,000 words, the primary use of the showcase seems to always have been critique, not just posting a story. As far as I'm concerned, writers who can't grab a reader in under 5,000 words (never mind 10,000) probably need some help. My suggestion would be to give posts a bit of focus. Users post a scene, and ask for help on the areas they feel they need (or want) to work on. If it's character development, post a scene that introduces your character and a scene that shows how he feels about X, or how he goes about achieving Y. It won't matter if we don't get the full picture, because people can still tell if you're using the word count to it's full potential.

    But I think it does. People who don't tend to have time for the showcase, or who are intimidated by the lengthy posts will see it as a forum to avoid. Why? Because I think new fantasy writers are more eager to show of their world with a big prologue and three chapters than to really focus on a single area they need to develop. The showcase is full enough of 'any feedback welcome', or 'critique please' posts as it is. That's quite a task for the critic, to just give any and all feedback that they can think of (even for a short post, never mind a chapter).

    So, we get this:

    • People post long posts without knowing what kind of feedback they even want
    • Less people have the time to respond
    • The poster gets less opinions, less viewpoints
    • The poster says thanks for people pointing out grammar and spelling errors, and giving advice on subtle plot and character changes
    • The post changes them for that section... then comes the next leviathan in text form
    What have they learned? They have had no real, focused advice.

    As for editors and formatting rules, I'd agree, but it's easier said than done. As a writer, one of the first things you should learn is how to actually structure sentences and paragraphs for either print or online reading. I'm sure most users know this, but we still see a lot of showcase threads that seem to lack any real formatting.

    And then who wants to edit that? I think something more along the lines of a submission process. Users submit posts to go to the showcase, but they don't appear until they are approved. If they're not formatted, or don't follow guidelines then deny it, with a polite message to at least make the text readable. Sometimes it looks like people are just posting their first drafts into the thread window and pressing submit - and I think it would be beneficial to themselves to ensure that those giving feedback are more comfortable with it. I'm not talking to anyone in particular here by the way, a lot of people do this, and it's probably the result of a lack of structure in the showcase.

    @BlackDragon: I'd love to expand on some of these ideas, but I'm not really sure how flexible the forums/website is. Do you code everything yourself, or is it hard for you to implement big changes?
     
  9. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    I do most of the coding myself, although I have an award-winning professional programmer working with me (Nathan Lauffer).

    While the core vBulletin software has some limitations, we're generally able to modify the code to accommodate our wishes without difficulty.

    At this point in time I'd love to hear more ideas from our membership base. Once we have a better sense of what people are looking for, we can lay out a strategy to make things happen.
     
  10. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think the Showcase is a wonderful idea and I love that people can come share their stories on an open forum. The problem, as Johnny Cosmo said, for me anyway, is this wall-of-text. If I open a Showcase and I see a really long entry, about 90% of the time I won't read it.

    Another thing. My personal opinion is that most people don't want honest feedback. They want someone to say "Wow! That was awesome!" Hell, even I like that. But is that helping anyone? No.

    I think some people may be afraid to really give honest feedback because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings and/or they just don't have anything to really say. I've read lots over the years and sometimes I just don't have anything to say. If someone asks me personally, then I'll give them my honest feedback. I once wrote this 5 or 6 page critique of someone's (a person I know in real life) story and they apparently didn't like my opinion because I never heard anything back. Not a word.

    I like the idea of having a group of editors. I don't know who would volunteer for this, but having them here would provide that certain members who want longer, in-depth critiques could ask this group of assigned editors, who could then analyze their text inside and out. And I know there are several members of this forum who would do an excellent job of doing so.

    Perhaps dividing the Showcase into sections that the writer wants critiqued could help? That way the critic would only cover those specific points. Then if the writer wants a different quality critiqued, they could put it in a different sub-forum? That way it would sort of be like an assembly line of critiques. More specific and focused instead of just "I like your MC." Possibilities could be:

    1. Grammar/Spelling/Mechanics Issues
    2. Character Development
    3. Plot Engineering
    4. What Works/What Doesn't Work

    Just whatever seems to be what writers are asking for specific help with the most.

    Also, having a "story trade" might help. Sort of like Critters does. Just a place where one writer will critique a story in exchange for a critique on their own story. That would encourage people who post to also give critiques. This could be exchanged off-forum or on, depending on length or preference.

    These are just ideas though. Maybe that would crowd up the forum too much. But having more specific areas to be critiqued may help instead of just a generalized feedback.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2011
    Black Dragon likes this.
  11. I like Phil's idea of having separate sections of the show case, I would be in the grammar section all day :D and I feel the same way about the wall of text. hell I'd even be willing to volunteer to be a group editor doing grammar/mechanics.

    though I must disagree phil, what I want when I post in the show case is for people to tell me "that sucked, and this is why..." if they don't like it (provided they give good reasoned arguments.) I think that's what all writers should want. I'm not here to please people, I'm here to become and help make others better writers.
     
  12. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    I like the idea of knowing specific areas that people are looking for feedback in (I have to constantly put down the driving urge to proofread everything I see). But do we need entire sub-forums? What if it were forum standard to include specific things you are looking for within the post/post title? Either way, I agree to knowing what people are looking for.

    As far as a specific group of editors, my question would be: who? There are a lot of members on this forum, and I would bet that we'd see a lot more stories coming in if there was a group of editors who were willing look over them privately. Who wants to spend that much time, especially as the forum grows?

    I'm less likely to read wall of text posts, also. I still try, but I won't push through if I get confused or lose interest. As for giving feedback: one of my frequent comments is that I like it, but that's also because I usually only give feedback to showcase entries I like. If I don't like an entry or (most especially) if I think it needs too much work, I don't write anything. In the first case because I have nothing good to say, and in the second because it's too hard to give thought-of-the-moment feedback on a forum (you have to read the whole thing and then write back). If we had an exchange going and I was reading the 'needs a ton of work' piece in a Word document, I could leave comments as I go. That's why I prefer exchanges. You can't do everything for everyone on the forum, but the members can if they help each other.

    Anyway, this is all just my opinion. I like it here either way. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2011
  13. One thing to think about, and why some sites only allow 13 lines is that open forums (parts where anyone at all can read it) anything more can count as first publication. If the section is limited to registered users only, then that might help, but I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not positive how it all works. Maybe if there were a group that people joined outside of the normal registration, that all those part of that group have agreed that the writing they read and critique is not published. Then it requires someone to actually read the site information and ask to be a part of it. Then the parts containing complete stories could be made only available to that group.

    I've stayed away from the story section because I don't mince words with a critique. If it sucks, I think someone should be told it does...and why. A good crit takes time, not only to read it, but provide some form of feedback that will help the writer understand the problems I see and possible ways to fix it. I've done my share of new writer critiquing and while I don't mind doing so occasionally, if the writer has no interest in listening, it's hard to feel it is worth my time.

    My opinion, if not a private section, then if you want a more balanced system, maybe have a limit of 500 words, after that, if someone wants to read more, then it can be pm'd to those who are interested in the rest and want to provide a critique for the rest. Then those of us who would like to look through the submissions can actually do so knowing the time needed to do 500 words is not too bad. This would also allow the chance to critique those 500 words on the things that fall in the 85% slush pile rejections without having to read more. General writing issues are the ones that most writers really need honest help with. Once a writer get's past the initial writing issues, then crafting is what comes next, and those will have more people requesting the rest than the ones needing help getting started.

    Rules for writers are sometimes a good idea as well. Thank you should be provided no matter how much you disagree with the critique. Along with the rule of explain it in the story, not the thread. :) While that might have more to do with content, overall, sometimes it is helpful to understand we can't explain to the reader what is going on outside of the story. No matter how much we might like to.

    I have always been partial to the contests though. Participants are required to read and crit all other entries. That does require more dedication to run a regular form of challenge, but it happens on other sites without too much difficulty.

    Overall I enjoy the discussions with other writers, when I'm in the market for a critique, I make a point to spend a few weeks critiquing other stories first, then I put mine out. If you aren't willing to critique others, why would anyone do the same for you?

    I think my favorite, novice critiquing system is the "Huh", "What", and 'ZZZZZ" method. "Huh" what are you talking about, that didn't make any sense. "What?" You expect me to believe that? "ZZZZZ" if it were any more boring I'd be in a coma. Simple anyone can do it, and it forces the author to figure out what to do.
     
  14. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    I don't think having sub-forums is a good idea. The showcase isn't exactly bustling as it is, so splitting it up will just make it seem really empty - so I have to agree with mythique. All it needs is for the thread poster to ask for certain feedback, so the responses have focus.

    As for editors, using volunteers is a poor option. Some aren't as qualified to edit as others, and it'd wreak havoc in the sense of community if the admin and moderators were to deny those who aren't strong writers. Editors would really have to be selected.
     
  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    @Johnny Cosmo: Yeah, I think editors could be selected. I was thinking more along the lines of people who are already part of the moderators or staff to volunteer, not just any random member.

    The sub-forum idea was just me throwing something against the wall. Perhaps if there was a more regimented system of using the showcase for specified purposes, more people would be encouraged to participate (either by sharing or critiquing). Maybe if there was a "brutally honest" disclaimer, I'd be more willing to join in. I typically don't like to rip something apart (critique it to my full extent) unless I'm given permission. And like Rhaedin said, some writers prefer brutality. But some don't. It discourages them from writing. But therein lies another problem. If someone has thin skin, perhaps they should only write for hobby purposes. Nevertheless, writers are fragile beasts after all. :)

    So both my ideas were just being thrown out there.

    However, I can't see anything wrong with the "story trading" concept. I personally like the idea of "story trading" in that if you want a critique, you have to give a critique. This sort of works on the NaNoWriMo forums with "Rate the Above Poster's Synopsis" in that people give meaningful criticism of another writer's synopsis for their novel and then the next poster does the same. This is one of the most popular threads on the Fantasy Forum at NaNoWriMo because people get to critique, but they also get some feedback on their own ideas.

    Anyway, I like the idea of keeping the Showcase the way it is, where people can post freely. But perhaps adding some other feature might kick it up a notch?

    I also like Lord Darkstorm's idea of making the showcases shorter and if it piques someone's interest, they can PM for the rest of it. I would really like to read more of the showcase work, but trudging through all those words can be bothersome for a lot of people. And it adds the realism, like he said about how slush piles really work.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  16. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Note that the limit is 10k characters--not words. At an average (for English) of a bit over four letters per word, plus spaces (one after each word) and punctuation, you come out to fewer than 2,000 words per post... quite a bit fewer if the poster's vocabulary is longitudinally-oriented. :p

    That having been said: even I can usually ( :rolleyes: ) manage to get what I have to say in under that limit--but where I can't, I just split it up, and mark it as consisting of more than one part. Anyone who's interested in what I'm saying will stick around to the end; anyone who isn't, isn't going to stick around even if I trim a few hundred letters off the back of it. (And I do try to keep things to a single post, no matter what it may sometimes seem like. It's good practice.)

    I wouldn't mind seeing sub-forums, if they were targeted correctly. In particular, I wouldn't mind seeing "first chapters" separated from complete stories. (I suppose we could also split things into "Seriously, tell me what you really think" and "Just read it and 'like' it, already" sections, but that probably wouldn't be as productive.)

    I'll have to dig out some of the guidelines for peer-reviewing we use in classes; may be something there that we can put somewhere prominent to steer feedback along useful lines. (The guidelines, by the way, cover both those giving the feedback, and those receiving it....)
     
  17. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I agree with you Ravana. I touched on this a bit, but having a section labeled "Brutally Honest Feedback Welcomed" or at least labeling your thread in some vein. Then if someone just wants less involved criticism, they can just post normally? I would be encouraged personally to post my own stuff if I felt like I was getting good feedback. Brutally honest doesn't always have to mean negative. But it helps to get a perspective on what other people are/aren't getting or what issues are miring their writing. If I just want quick feedback on an idea, it would be nice to have somewhere to do that. But if I want a detailed, thorough critique, then it would be nice to label them that way also.

    Maybe the key isn't creating a new sub-forum, just labeling your thread accordingly. Such as "The Warrior Within, Chapter 1, Brutally Honest Feedback Wanted" or "The Cute Pony, Chapter 1, Casual Feedback Wanted." Something like that? Don't know if that would help, but it would help me pick what I wanted to sift through.

    I'm not sure if I'm even addressing the OP anymore. Sorry!
     
  18. Sinitar

    Sinitar Minstrel

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    I like this idea, but as I've seen on another forum, we can just include what the author wants in the title. For example, if I want my reviewers to focus on grammar and character development, my story title would look like.

    My PC gone mad [C,G]

    Where C-characters, G-grammar
     
  19. If you are only looking for praise, then to me, it's wasting my time. I critique in order to help others see their story from a readers point of view, with (hopefully) some ideas on how it could be resolved. If it doesn't read well and the words of the story constantly demand attention, I'm done with it very quickly. Maybe I'm a bit soured by the people who just started writing and come by demanding everyone read and love their writing. Nothing like being told you haven't a clue what good writing is when you nicely tell someone they should spell check their document before asking for feedback. (Maybe their spell checker broke trying to tell them of all the misspellings?)

    I like the system of critique first, submit after. If you don't critique at least X number of stories, then don't submit one of your own. That way, those who want feedback on their own work, has to do so for other prior to getting any themselves. Critiquing is also one of the better ways of learning about story telling.

    I know some people look for certain things they might be working on in their writing, but if people are picky about the critique they get, then that limits the people who will even bother.
     
  20. Shadoe

    Shadoe Sage

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    I am of the wall-to-wall-text-scares-me crowd.

    On the other hand, a lot of folks here are of the novel-writing crowd, and how can one make an honest critique of a chapter if they can't read it? Four or five paragraphs isn't really enough.

    Another point: If one posts a scene from, say, a crime novel, everyone here can fill in a lot of the blanks and be able to understand that one scene. But this place is about fantasy writing. How can one get an honest critique of a fantasy piece if one doesn't have enough background to put it in context?

    But I think this is a message board, not a publishing house. If someone wants a critique on their entire novel, there are places where they can post that. (Is there any option to have a file submission system somewhere in the greater mythicscribes.com world?) Excerpts here seem pretty much just fine to me.

    I think people should state what kind of review they want when they're submitting a piece for review.
     
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