Writing Sites in Review:
My Shit List
In the eight plus years I have been searching for, examining, exploring, and posting to writing sites, there are only three that make my shit-list. Okay, so that’s not exactly true. There are actually closer to a dozen that have been on this list at one point or another, but for the most part they were such small-timers that they do not warrant a mention simply because they did not have the membership and numbers that would draw enough writers and readers to them that I would feel the urge to warn people to stay away from them. The problem with the three I am about to list is that I do not know which one I loathe the most. Two of them I still have a few articles posted to and the other one I will NEVER go back to even if they were to invite me back. With this in mind, I will start with the one that I no longer have a membership with.
Lushstories. If you value your talent as an independently thinking author and do not want to fall prey to moderators who abuse their power, then avoid this site at all costs.
1. Content guidelines. These rules are so draconian that it makes it next to impossible to actual have anything aside from the most vanilla and benign stories accepted on the site. You cannot have characters under the age of 18 regardless of content, your stories cannot contain sex between humans and non-human entities, even if those entities do not exist in real life, which means that you cannot write about vampires, werewolves, ghosts, goblins, fairies, zombies, or any other fictional, non-existence entity. Likewise, your stories cannot contain graphic violence, so you cannot have sword fights, gun fights, street fights, or mention the shed of blood or violence in any form. The really moronic part of this rule is that the site actually has a BDSM theme section. Do I even need to spell out what the people are that not only run it but moderate it? The last time I checked, BDSM involved violence, however mild, and none of it is allowed, even using fuzzy handcuffs and blindfolds.
In addition to the content guidelines, there is the problem with the stories being cleared for posting and then having the moderators come back and remove the story because a friend of theirs wanted it gone from the site because your story is getting more views than theirs.
Which brings me to another fault of the site:
2. I am Moderator, You are Scum. The moderators of the site blatantly abuse their power for not only their own gain, but will abuse it to make certain their forum friends get ahead as well. They will pull your story if it has been flagged by anyone (usually an author friend … is that the green-eyed monster I see?) and states you broke a rule that is not even posted on the site or they will claim you broke an actual rule that you did not actually break. In other words, they can interpret the rules however they see fit and remove any story at any time without actual proof and no one can do a thing about it. So if you are not in their little click of authors and your stories are doing well, they will be pulled. And when you complain to the owners of the site, the owners will revoke your account. So you simply cannot win.
3. No traffic. Unlike XN, this website does not see 1/100th of the hits that XN stories see in any given month. In addition, there is really no rating system and no way to find good stories. The new ones are placed on the top of the page and roll down the older ones, so your stories will eventually roll down to the point where they disappear from the reading radar. Unless you are constantly posting, your stories will end up buried far down into the abyss where no readers ever venture.
Number two on my shit-list is just simply ‘Writing.’ While there are a significant amount of people on this site, usually a few thousand on any given day, the place was geared more towards writers, so who you get reading, and ultimately reviewing your work, are writers. If you are a newbie who thinks you actually need a bunch of teenage wannabe writers telling you how you can follow some used-up hack author’s 100 Ways to Become a Better Writer along with their own ideas of what makes a good story good, then by all means, hop on board this teenage train wreck to nowhere.
Why you shouldn’t join this site:
1. Free isn’t really free. They only allow you to upload 10 items into your portfolio for free. After that, if you want more space, you either delete stuff out of your portfolio or you pay for more space, which can cost you between $10/month for the basic of memberships to $140/month for their most expensive package. I ‘m afraid I’ll have to call bullshit on this one. There are far too many sites out there that have a thousand times more readers and members that will not charge you a single dime to upload as much of your work as you want. If you insist upon wasting money each month on your work, you would come out much better to put that money into a publishing package and try selling your own work instead of helping to line the pockets of people who are only there to take advantage of the writing community.
2. Writers aren’t critics, and they shouldn’t be critiquing your work. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Writers can help you out if you are a complete newbie that has absolutely no idea on where to begin. Unless you have absolutely no grasp of the English language and only rudimentary understanding of grammar, writers really can’t help do much of anything but confuse you and make you think you can’t write.
If you take 500 writers and ask them for an opinion, about the only thing they are going to agree on is that you should watch your grammar and spelling. Everything else is just opinion, and every one of them is going to have a different opinion on exactly what will make you a better writer and what you should have done differently. Every one of them will point out different things you need to change about the characters, the storyline, the storyline progression, the action sequence, the romance scenes, so on and so forth. Trying to nail down exactly what you should be changing to make things better becomes too much. In the end, you would be rewriting the entire thing. But if you take 500 readers and 100 of them are pointing out the same problem that they are having with the storyline, progression, characterization, etc., then knowing what parts to rewrite becomes much easier. As a writer, you want to go where the readers are, not necessarily where a bunch of writers are. And if you are looking for real readers and real critiques that might help you hone your skills, you definitely will not want to waste your time, and heaven forbid any money, by visiting this site.
3. Congratulations, you’ve been spammed …. with useless newsletters and articles. When joining this site, you can expect to receive roughly 7 emails into your private email box all from the admins of the site with newsletters and random articles. They are mostly newsletters filled with promotions for the sites and riddled throughout with ways to ‘get yourself noticed’ on the site by uploading more stuff to your portfolio (by purchasing a membership) or articles written by the owners of the site or their friends that will tell you all about how to write a review (see #2 on why writers should not be writing ‘reviews’ in the first place), promoting contests etc. It’s basically a giant promo flyer for the site, the owners, and a select group of writers. Thankfully you can go in and get yourself removed from the spam newsletters, but if you write a blog, they give you endless ideas on blog articles that revolve around ‘what not to do when you own a writers’ writing site.’
4. Want traffic and lots of reads? Forget it, because no one is reading on this site. And the ones who are reading appear to be making their entire writing career revolve around dishing out reviews when they are supposed to be writing stories, novels, and poetry. In other words, since it is so full of writers, you will only get a few dozen reads a week, and you may or may not get a review. In fact, the only thing I have gotten any type of review on are my writing articles. And while I have had a lot of young writers and even seasoned writers tell me they wish they had some of my advice back when they first started writing, I still can’t see posting any more on the site simply because I actually get more exposure on this blog than I do over on that site.
What this site has going for it:
In all honesty, I can’t name you a single thing about this site that I actually liked. It’s a giant promotional flyer trying to get you to spend money on the website. The interface is not user-friendly, moving around and finding all the things the site provides is difficult, and more than 80% of what the site offers is only accessible with a paid membership. The read count is incredibly low, the reviews on actual stories and novels are virtually nonexistence, and the admins and moderators abuse their power. I had articles that had sat on that site for weeks but once they began getting reviews, every one of the ratings on them was quickly changed. And while I have no problem with that, it just proved that if you piss off the wrong people, you could very well have your membership revoked. Now imagine what could happen if you had actually paid for that membership.
And finally, the last site on my short shit-list is the WritersCafe
Why you should stay away.
1. Overrun by teenage wannabe writers who think that because they jotted down some poetry in a notebook while listening to My Chemical Romance they are suddenly the know-it-all when it comes to writing. If you don’t mind having your work critiqued by a bunch of teenagers, then this is the place to be. Otherwise, avoid this one as well.
2. Lots of potential, but no one is minding the store. The really sad part of this site is that it has so much potential. In addition to being able to post your work, there is a forum, you can write and post writing courses, create and maintain groups. The problem is that the owners of the site put it together and then abandoned it years back.
The forum: The forum is pretty much dead except for the occasional newbie who comes along and starts posting, quickly realizing that no one is actually visiting the forum.
The writing articles: This one makes me cringe every time I think about it. Since the place is mostly home to the 13 to 15-year-old class, 90% of the articles are a bunch of BS vomit that teenagers have slapped together by rewording advice they read in ‘How To’ books and articles on what makes you a better writer. What makes me sick to my stomach is the amount of little 13-year-old followers that some of these teenagers can amass who not only follow these kids around on that site, but actually think the hacks are helping them become a better writer. The funny part was these same kids did not actually write stories or poetry or anything other than the articles. And this is a good rule to remember if you find yourself reading a bunch of ‘how to’ articles. If the author has not written anything but the ‘how to’ articles, you might not want to listen to them. Unless you are writing fiction and novels and stories, you can’t very well know how to write them. It’s like writing a book on how to perform heart surgery when you have not actually performed it. When I was a teenager, I would have never asked my fellow writing peers what they thought of my work. There is no point in asking someone with less experience than you, or the same amount of experience as you, how to write. If you are not actively seeking out input and direction from those who have actually written and been in this line of work longer than you, then what is the point? They can’t help you, time to move on.
The social groups ….. and the enormous amount of underhanded writing ‘gimmicks’ that went along with the entire site. Since there are not any moderators or administrators on the site, you can create as many accounts as you want. What I have seen is numerous people create literally dozens upon dozens of accounts in order to ‘review’ the primary account’s stories. This bulks up their rank and will eventually get them the automated ‘badges’ that were implemented in the site back when it was first created. I have also seen these people use their accounts to create countless social groups, create writing contests, and then use all the spare accounts to ‘vote’ on their own writing so they will win more badges for winning contests that they rigged. And last, but certainly not least on that site, they will use the accounts to create tons of writing articles so they will win yet more ‘badges’ for having the most articles written and badges for having the most reviews and comments on those articles.
In summary, there is nothing good about WritersCafe.org anymore. If there were moderators taking care of the site and cleaning out the troublemakers, those abusing the system, and those who were not writing quality articles or using social groups to further their own agendas, then the place might be pretty decent. They would also have to address the very serious issue of all the teenagers on there who harass other authors and run them from the site because they only want their own little clique of friends on there. Until there are moderators placed in charge of the store, you will not get any true writing help, reviews, critiques, or any real reads of your work on this site.