1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Short story contest discussion (Pre-approved by Lemex)

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by GingerCoffee, Jun 16, 2013.

    I noticed there were only a handful of voters in the last half dozen short story contests. We need more voters. You can read one story a day if the number of entries make for too much reading, there's plenty of time during the poll for that.

    Also, I suggest people who put up entries pay attention to paragraph formatting. I can't be the only one that hates seeing that wall of text. But I welcome comments on that matter in this thread. It could just be me.


    And, I'd like to float an idea for future contests: I'd love to see something like runner up points for originality, writing quality, formatting , matching the theme, and ??? .... More people might get positive feedback even if they aren't the winner. I know that might be wieldy so it's just an idea. If it's not practical, no worries.

    So this thread is to discuss the short story contest, BUT NOT SPECIFIC ENTRIES, PLEASE. :)
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with you about the wall of text. I know that there has been some discussion of this previously, and I gave some of my input and there was some discussion of making the entries anonymous. I realize that creates some extra work for someone who has to be willing to commit to receiving all of the entries and putting them up.

    FWIW, I can tell you why I don't participate in the ss contests here. Feel free to ignore it, because obviously they are working perfectly fine for the the folks who do, without my involvement. But if anything resonates with the SS participants, I think you might see some increased involvement.

    The biggest reason is that I feel almost overwhelmed with the amount of posts and with having all of the entries in a single thread. I wonder if weekly might be too frequent -- what I might suggest is making the submission period one week, and then giving one week to vote, but also to give feedback and commentary on each of the entries.

    I participate in a ss contest on another site, which seems to work very well. That one gives several weeks, often up to 4, to submit, and after submissions close, there is a period of about a week and a half for participants and anyone else who would like to give input to give some critique and also to submit a vote for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The submissions are all also anonymous, which enables folks to critique freely, without any positive or negative bias insofar as how they perceive the writer or how much they like him or her. Each story has it's own subthread, so the story is the first entry, and all subsequent entries are for critique, which can be as simple as "I loved this! Can't think of anything to change" or can be as involved and specific as anyone wishes to make. The voting thread is then a new thread. Also, as the entries trickle in, anyone can give feedback in that story's thread. It's just that the voting doesn't occur until after the deadline, when all entries have been submitted. Another thing is that anyone who submits a story must also vote. But anyone who is on the site can vote, as well as give feedback. Another fun aspect is that after the winners are announced, there is a thread to try to guess who the authors of each story are.

    I'm not suggesting that this site change to a monthly or 6 week submission period. A quick turnaround can have some advantages. But sometimes it takes a few days to ruminate on a prompt or theme, and I wonder if there was a full week to simply concentrate on writing a story, then a separate full week to just concentrate on reading the other entries and giving some feedback would make it more palatable and more worthwhile for everyone involved. I think a big motivator for writing a ss and sharing it is to get some feedback, and I haven't observed that as a focus here. (Maybe I'm wrong and just haven't searched it out thoroughly.)
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like the idea of not revealing the author until after the contest. It's tempting to vote for one's friends. But we'd have to PM the stories to Lemex in order to do that and it would limit editing after posting. And do PMs have size limits?


    I know what you mean about too many entries being daunting. One possibility is to have runoffs, with fewer entries in smaller contests and maybe a quarterly runoff between winners.

    Here's a different suggestion for too much reading being daunting:

    When I pick up a book to read, after reading the synopsis, I read the first few pages and it either begs to be read or I put it down. Short stories are the same on a different scale. I don't think people should feel obligated to read every word of every entry. Start by reading the beginning, or skimming. Pick the best two or three to read more carefully. I think you are still being fair to the author when you do that.


    I don't know the reason for only submitting stuff that's never been posted. There might be more entries and more interest if people could get critiques first then submit stories after polishing.

    Critiquing is probably competing with the short story contest for member time reading stuff. But critiquing first might go either way, members don't want to read something again they already read, or someone who critiqued something may be more interested in reading the polished version for the contest.


    A chance to discuss the entries could be interesting. I would have liked to have posted why I voted for the entry I voted for in the current contest poll. A discussion of the stories during the voting might draw more people to the contest.
     
  4. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    I definitely agree. If members could discuss and critique the entries, then not only would the contest become more popular, but also be a learning experience. I feel like critiquing whole pieces will encourage discussion on storytelling and not just on grammar and expression (which the writer's workshop tends to encourage).

    I also think making the entries anonymous would do more than get rid of any potential bias; it would add an element of mystery and suspense to the contest.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wasn't clear on what I meant about the "daunting" aspect. It was more about the way the entries are presented, rather than the number of stories to read. What I meant to say that I found daunting is that I see an announcement about the new contest, and very soon thereafter an announcement about voting (I think about the previous contest) and then an announcement about the winner, and when I just briefly browse, it seems like everything is happening at a whirlwind pace. I also don't like reading through one thread that has all of the stories in the single thread. It somehow seems like just too much to me.

    In the other SS contest (and I hate to keep saying that, because I don't want to give the impression of, 'oh this other contest is so perfect, and everything should be just like that one' I really just want to point out the aspects that I like and that I think make it work), within the SS contest thread, each story has a subthread. It's called something like Entry 1: A Great Day. That thread is then easy to find again if, for example, you want to read it one night, let it sit, and then give your comments the next day or after a couple days. It's also nice because you can see all of the comments on that story contained within that story's thread.

    Then the voting thread is another sub-thread. There is a mechanism in that contest for making voting anonymous, too. (If the voter wants her vote to be anon. If not she can just post her votes directly in that subthread.) That entails sending your entry to the person who also compiles the stories and posts them in their own thread. That person then posts the votes he/she received in the voting thread. There's good and bad about this -- I don't think we necessarily need to make that accommodation here. It's just something you might want to consider.

    Because there isn't voting and guessing going on simultaneously with the story submissions, it seems, I guess, calmer.

    Even if there are 25 stories, if they're delineated this way, it's not as difficult to read them all or at least give them an initial pass. And it can be okay for feedback to even say, "I tried reading this several times, and I just could not get into it." The feedback could be just a quick impression -- not something necessarily as involved as in the Writing Workshop section.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You bring up a good point that the contest and even request for entries are not kept at the top of the "new posts" lists. It no doubt makes the threads less trafficked and doesn't engender involvement.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing about this -- SS contests can be a great way to generate stories. That is, a good kickstart for a writer to write a story he hadn't thought of, but came into existence from the contest. After the initial feedback from the contest, he could post a revised version of the SS in the writing workshop.

    I think that the rationale for posting stories that have not been previously posted is to get stories that are generated by the prompt or theme. It's a way to get some additional practice in writing, especially if there's a deadline in a week. Those SS's could later become the launch pads for expanded stories. Many folks in the contest on the other site I'm on subsequently get stories they wrote for the contest published. A few others have bundled together shorts they've written, including many from the contest into a book that they sell on amazon.
     
  8. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I think the idea of the entries being anonymous is widely accepted by a lot of people and I think it is the first thing we should do.
     
  9. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    All the ideas in this thread are great. I'm sure if you PMed Lemex, he would love to implement them.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure Lemex will read this thread without a PM, but I may try to summarize the suggestions/issues at some point. :)
     
  11. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Maybe we could drop the max word count to 2,000?
     
  12. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    I don't think the max word count is a problem. After all, sometimes it takes people more words than others to convey their message.
     
  13. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. I'd rather read 4000 words of something really good than 2000 words of crap.
    If the piece is excessively wordy and rambling, then it presumably shouldn't receive votes.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Un update and a summary of the suggestions:

    The current contest ends tomorrow and there are only 7 votes. That's not enough!;)

    Suggestions in no particular order, please speak up if you think I missed any:

    Some people feel a wall of text with no paragraphs is hard to read.

    Some forum members would like:
    A means of keeping the contest and entries more in the daily limelight.

    A quicker turnaround with smaller more frequent contests.

    Have runoffs, with fewer entries in smaller contests and maybe a quarterly runoff between winners.

    A week to simply concentrate on writing a story (meaning the theme is announced), then a separate week to read the entries and give feedback. (That is already possible if one wishes, but it isn't formalized?)

    Anonymous entries until the voting ends.

    Anonymous voting (I think that already occurs).
    A thread to try to guess who the authors of each story are after voting. ​

    Anyone who submits a story must also vote.

    Voting for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and/or a means of voting for other positive qualities besides "best" (Another option: runner up points for originality, writing quality, formatting , matching the theme, and ???).​


    Critiquing may be competing with the short story contest for member time reading stuff:
    Make the contest focus more on critiquing than winning.

    Allowing stories to be entered after discussion and editing.

    Allow critique of the entries.

    An option to discuss the stories, before after or during the contest.

    Give each story it's own subthread, so the story is the first entry, and all subsequent entries are for critique, (voting is then in new thread). Within the contest thread, each story has a link to its subthread, or it can be found by the title.​

    Not all the suggestions are feasible, and some conflict with others or are slightly different versions of similar suggestions. Arguments pro and con for the suggestions can be found in the posts. One member suggested to lower the allowed word count but I left it out because it didn't seem to have support.
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I've been following this thread with keen interest (though keeping my distance, sorry everyone I've been a busy boy in my actual, real, private life). Also, I wish to think GingerCoffee for taking the initiative here. Also, Ginger, your summing up of the points has been a HUGE help for me cross referencing them, so thanks again. :)

    Anyway, on to the points raised:

    First off: the idea of anonymous entries to the contest is very interesting indeed. I've deleted all unneeded PMs on my account to open up space for this. I actually love this idea and will implement it in the next contest.

    This in practice (as far as I can work out) means returning to the old per week format that the contest originally had, and so am I assuming this means people want to return to that way of working the contest? Because I will admit, the current two week system was mostly for my sake.

    Anonymous voting already takes place.

    Aside from merely asking people do this this this is largely out of my power. I would have no way of actually policing this, so it just wouldn't be feasible doing this.

    Having more than one 'winner' seems like an interesting idea, but I have no idea how I could organize a second series of voting. And with anonymous voting I would have no way of finding a general consensus about any one story or the contest as a whole. Anyone have any ideas?

    However, making critiques of work is an interesting idea. Members currently can do this during the ultimate 'stage' of the contest, in the winning story's thread. However, if this is an idea that is popular then I must admit I'm not crazy about it myself, but if more people than just me like the idea I'll try and implement it, again I'm just not sure how. The contest is a democracy after all. Just think of me as the capitalist robber-baron behind the scenes. ;)

    If I've left anything out please tell me. I'm all for critiques of my handling of the contest too, so please don't be shy! It's the only way I'll learn. :)
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure if I wasn't clear or if people just disagree with me. But just for my own peace of mind, I wanted to clarify that when I suggested one week for the entries and the next week for critiquing the entries, that there would NOT be a second contest occurring during the week for critiquing and/or voting. I think that the critique could happen as soon as the story is up -- that is, if someone submitted a story on the first day of the contest, that story would be available for critiquing for two whole weeks. But the voting would occur only during that second week -- the contest would be closed to new entries at that point, so the full range of possibilities would be there for voting. As a practical matter, some people wouldn't want to critique until that second week anyway, and from what I've seen in some other contests, a lot of entries tend to be submitted on or near the last day. So that second week could be devoted entirely to critique and voting.

    As far as the requirement that each person who submitted a story vote -- yes, it's true there's no real way to enforce it. But hopefully people's own conscience would provide the motivation to vote. If someone is hell-bent on breaking this rule, it's probably not worth tracking him or her down and imposing some sort of punishment. But ideally, participation in the short story contest would be rewarding for the participation, the feedback, and for potentially winning.

    Continuing in this vein, I would say that there don't need to be a million winners. I think having only one or two (three if people really want three) for first and second place would work -- in voting you would vote for 2, with 2 points allotted to your first place and one for your second, and the winner is the one with the highest number of points. I think adding categories for most creative or whatever other categories is just too much. My vote would be for a straight first and second place overall. End. Everybody else has received comments, critique, praise, etc.

    Lemex -- I'm not really clear on why you don't like the idea of critiquing all entries and just want to be able to critique the winner. I'm curious about your reasoning for it. In this other contest I mentioned, people really enter primarily for the feedback and critique, which doesn't have to be elaborate. And thinking about a piece to give some thoughts, plus reading through other's critiques helps me a lot in deciding which story to vote for. I guess I'm just a feedback junkie, and I love any opportunity to get opinions and thoughts about anything I've written. To me, that would be a big reason to enter. But again, not everyone thinks the same way I do, so maybe this isn't the case overall.

    Just my $0.02.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Your two cents have been very valuable in this thread, Liz. :)
     
  18. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I'm not real keen on the critiquing idea. The workshop is the place to get help with your writing, the contest is a place where you try to stand on your own. Besides, if people worked to help someone improve their story, it gives slower writers a disadvantage because they don't have much time to get help before the voting starts.

    If I'm understanding you correctly. ;)

    I can't wait for anonymous entries! Thanks, Lemex!
     
  19. Mithrandir
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    I don't think the critiques would change the actual entries. The originally submitted story would be the story everyone votes on -- that's if I understand it right.

    I for one like that idea. You can read all the entries, see how other people respond to them, and then make your own decision. Plus, we'll finally be able to critique and post full pieces (I know you technically can now, but it's not common and generally discouraged).
     
  20. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify something I didn't realize was not being interpreted the way I thought. When I mentioned critiquing, the OP of the story doesn't get an opportunity to revise his entry for the contest. He can take that feedback and work on the story on his own, and do with it what he wishes -- post it on a blog, enter it in another contest somewhere else, submit it somewhere for publication, try to sell it himself, rework it into a longer story, or completely scrap it, keeping in mind some comments as they may relate to subsequent writing.

    Slower writers could have an advantage in that they could see critiques of other stories, and potentially see some pitfalls to avoid.

    Again, the critiques wouldn't have to be extensive, and really shouldn't be some sort of line by line critique. I think they'd work best as a quick pointing out of what elements the reader particularly liked or found confusing or disjointed, etc.
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Ah, I understand the idea now. Thanks for clarifying.

    JJ_Maxx has, as Meat Loaf put it, took the words right out of my mouth. The contest and the workshop are separate, and for good reason, the contest should be an individual effort, or as individual as matters really, just like any other contest out there. Also, there is also the fact that such a system could easily lead to threads clogged with comments on 12 different stories, I can just see people using the second 'critique week' to post stories too, and that would be a nightmare for anyone to sort through not just for me.

    I still can put it to the vote, like I said, it's more your contest than mine, but for the record I will admit I don't like the idea personally.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I just thought of something, could a vote bump the thread? More people would see the poll.
     
  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It doesn't now, and for that to happen Daniel wound have to work his magic changing the very nature of the forum voting system.
     
  24. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Regarding the suggestion to critique all stories, as of right now, anyone can enter the contests. So a new member could easily bypass the writing workshop and enter the contest just to have his/her story critiqued after the contest is over. I think the contests and the workshop should be kept separate.
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    How about you just bump the poll once in a while?

    Also in another forum I visit, there's a left hand column that displays a box with the most recent poll. People can vote right from the display or click on the poll thread. If you've voted already the results show instead of the voting options. I'm guessing that might be some standard forum display option, but I don't know if this software has it.

    As for the anonymity of the entries, even though people who've looked at the entries for the next contest might know the names, not everyone will. You can leave the names off with that contest. I couldn't recall the names except maybe one or two, and I've even been reading the entries.

    _________________


    That's a good point, Thirdwind, but I also think most people who seek critiques in the wrong forum just do it because they don't know the rules. But you've been here a lot longer, maybe you have seen people who consistently try to slip pieces in?

    _________________

    Edited to add, it looks like one can post in the poll thread. I didn't think we could. Bumping that thread could be allowed with some caveat, not more than once a day.

    Also, can we comment in the poll thread? I would post a one word reason why I voted the way I did if that were allowed. You could ask people not to post comments about their own entry.
     

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