Writing Sites in Review: a Foreword

Ever since Yahoo! 360 shut down their doors, I have been a writer without a home, so to speak. When Yahoo! was at its peak, it was the meeting place for everyone. You could get hundreds of reads by avid readers just by joining a group or two. I had a 360! page that was maxed out on friends, and my story posts were getting thousands of hits a day. I was getting positive comments and feedback from readers around the world. And about the time that I finally figured out what I was doing in the whole indie-author publishing biz, Yahoo! shut down the 360 pages, leaving those thousands of readers not knowing that I had just had my very first novel published.

Undeterred, I moved over to My Space with the rest of the herd. Unfortunately, the fans never found me. And about the time that word started getting around that Nicola was back at her desk pounding the keyboard, everyone left My Space for the new online crazy known to others as Facebook. Well, FB was just not something that I could really get into. The lack of blogging made it really difficult for a writer to be able to post novels and stories. And the very limited character count on the status left a lot to be desired as well.

 Undaunted, I went in search of a new place to post my graphic fiction. Now the internet has offered up a lot of sites and forums to post on, but in the past five years, even though I have looked at literally dozens of forums and sites, I have not found a single home for my brand of filth that I have been comfortable at save for XNXX. So as a duty to my fellow writers who may be looking for a place to cool their heels and get a lot of exposure, I shall systematically go through all the different sites I have tried, what I liked about them, and what ultimately caused me to turn my back on them.

 First, however, I would like to give a bit of advice to any who is looking for places to post their fictional material. There are a few rules and things you need to know before you go signing up for sites and posting your hard work for the world to read.

 1.  Know the Rules.  This is incredibly important. The last thing you want is to have your work pulled or your account banned while your work remains in cyberspace with you unable to get back to it to add to your online portfolio.

                 A.  Find out what ratings they allow and make sure you are not posting anything above the rating. If all they allow is MA and you are pretty sure your stuff should be rated MA17, then it is my opinion as a writer that you should not risk having your work pulled or your account banned.

                 B.  Find out what genres and themes are allowed. This is especially important if you are writing erotic fiction and posting to adult sites.  While you are writing fictional stories regarding fictional, non-existent characters, a large portion of adult sites apparently do not know the difference between real people and fictional characters and will not allow any story to be posted that contain certain themes or characters below a certain predetermined age.

                 C.  Find out what happens if your story gets reported. You need to know if you will have the option to do a rewrite, if it gets pulled regardless, or if you will get banned from the site without any explanation and without any chance to fix the problem.

 2.  Read the fine print i.e. the Terms of Service.

                 A.  This is where you will find out what themes will be allowed and what will result in your story getting pulled. 99% of your story forums and blog spaces will not allow anything that they deem “pornographic” or “obscene.”  This means that even though you are writing about people who do not exist in a graphic novel that depicts the rise and fall of society, it will not be allowed on most forums. In other words, even though The Hunger Games may be a bestseller, it would not be allowed to be posted on boards like Aimoo and Proboards because of the graphic violence, and even though it contains no sex, it would not be allowed on adult sites like Literotica and Lushstories because, again, the people who run the places apparently do not know the difference between fiction and reality (but seriously, they do not allow any characters under the age of 18 regardless of content of the story).

                 B. Make certain you are not giving up your copyrights or agreeing to some other moronic stipulation by posting on a site. I have come across a site that stated you were giving up your copyrights by posting anything on their site and they had the right to do whatever they wanted with the work, including claiming it as their own and having it published. In addition, I came across another story site that made you agree that when you became a member, you would not try to seek out publication with any other publishing house except for the ones THEIR SITE was partnered with.

 In following posts, I will explore different sites, what I liked about them, what they got right, and what ultimately made me decide that they just were not worth wasting my hard work on by posting to them.

Are You a Critic, or Are You a Writer?

As usual, I have been having myself a good laugh at other’s expense over on the website that hosts a huge chunk of my works. I have been reading the very over-the-top argument and certified rant regarding a certain newly Hollywood popularized trilogy. To put it bluntly, aside from the writer of said rant going on about how badly written the books are, the originator of the post apparently also insists upon picking apart the entire symbolism of the storyline. This whole jaunt into critiques has me once again shaking my head and wanting to make a few points in regards to not only writers, but readers as well as critics who insist upon putting their two cents worth into the unraveling of a storyline.

First I would like to point out that the originator of the post/rant has made two very common mistakes in the critiquing process that most critics make but that every critic should have better sense than to make in the first place. In critiquing, the rules are simple, and I have pointed these out on many a post in regards to the matter.  The rules that have been broken that the poster in the rant I am referring to are as follows:

1.  Attempting to pick apart the symbolism in a storyline that you did not write. 

Here is how this works.  Unless the author specifically details every single aspect of the symbolism in a novel/storyline, he who did not write the novel is only guessing. Don’t guess. You can debate and discuss amongst yourselves all you want, but to openly try to tell others what the symbolism actually is in the story is not only incredibly presumptuous, but shows your lack of experience as a writer if you are one, and your lack of intelligence as a critic if you are just an avid reader. By doing this you have also simultaneously broken another very important rule when it comes to critiquing a story:

2.  Do not presume to know what the author is thinking or where the author is going with a storyline. 

Again, unless an author sits down and spells out every single last detail, no one will ever know every single last secret to the symbolism in a storyline. Chances are there is even symbolism in the work that the author was not even trying to make and are just happy coincidences. Many times over there is symbolism and references that readers will –think- the author was trying to make when he/she had no intentions of making such symbolism in the storyline in the first place.  To be brutally honest, you are not the author, so stop acting like you know what he/she was getting at, what the symbolism is all about, and what the author was or was not trying to accomplish.    

Critics and readers are notorious for trying to figure out what an author was getting at, trying to accomplish, and trying to unravel all the intricate symbolism of a story. Writers naturally want to do this because we have very curious minds and want to try to spread everything out into a neat little line. Again, debating such things are fine; I often enjoy myself a good debate with other authors on what was being conveyed in novels that I have read. It’s a good intellectual exercise to see what others think about certain storylines, to see how writers can read the same novel and find so many different aspects in the symbolism.  Where writers should tread lightly, however, is when they get so full of themselves that they think they actually know what the author was thinking. 

It is when we stop looking at storylines as authors and begin to try to analyze every single detail that we forget what it means to be a writer, to create the storylines and weave the intricate web that will have others trying to figure out what we were thinking at the time and what we are trying to convey with specific scenes and characters. In the end, writers should either be critics or writers, but never both.  Because it is when we stop writing as storytellers and begin writing as critics and editors that we lose not only our creativity, but the respect we have gained as a purveyor of creative literature.