Sometimes, It is Just Better to Cut Your Losses …

If you are serious about being a published author, and it is not something you do just for fun or for some silly validation on a random site, at some point you will realize you are ten times, twenty times, maybe even one hundred times the writer of any of the ‘greats’ on any given writing site. When that day comes, you will also realize it is time to cut your losses and say your farewells.

Over the past two years I have posted two stories on XN, and one of those two was a re-post of a story I had removed because it was being plagiarized all over the internet. I had no intentions of posting it back to XN, but after being begged to enter one of the forum’s many, many, writer’s challenges, and after receiving dozens of messages from readers wanting to know what happened to the original posting, I yielded to the demands and not only entered the CAW challenge (something I still regret), but also re-posted the story to the site. After months of endless drama of fans pitching fits after I, a published author, didn’t win the silly challenge, and listening to the Powers that Be insist entirely too many times that it was just coincidence that every time I received one vote ,one of the other writers would receive two votes from accounts that had just magically appeared out of thin air that same day, I rolled my eyes and went back to writing and promoting my latest novel to hit publication.

Sometime later, and at this point I honestly couldn’t tell you if it was weeks or months later, I made the apparent mistake of standing up for a fellow author who showed a lot of real potential in his art of the written word. We both knew that the CAW’s were rigged, had discussed it in great length through emails over the last year, and wondered how on earth the other members of the site could turn a blind eye to the blatant favoritism that went on in the forum. We knew the other members weren’t that daft; they clearly saw it going on. But those who saw it and stood up to it quickly learned that they had a moving target planted squarely on their chest, and if they did not do something that could easily get them banned no questions asked, it wasn’t long before half the forum had turned against them as well. It was a similar scenario that had others soon turning on my fellow author whom I considered a friend, and when I dared to stand up for him, that target was soon aimed squarely at me. The cherry on top of the pile of shit that is the XN forum came when a wannabe writer who suffers greatly from diarrhea of the keyboard claimed to have run me off the board because she had given me a cyber tongue-lashing. In all honesty, I don’t think anyone on the forum realized she was trying to be mean because the idiot can’t seem to remember the number one rule for writing:  KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!

After all of this I pretty much washed my hands of the site. I was sick of those damn CAW challenges taking over the entire forum for weeks on end. I was sick of seeing ‘writers’ who only write for fun constantly gushing on and on about how great this ‘writer’ was or how great that ‘writer’s’ latest story had turned out. I was sick of seeing the same three people win the CAW challenges time after time. I was tired of all the self-congratulations that were flying around. I was sick of beating my head against my desk wondering how on earth apparently intelligent people could possibly think some of that junk was actually worthy of an award.

For roughly the last year or so I have been slowly weaning myself off of the site. I never go over to the story side except to check on comments, and I am going entire weeks without so much as surfing over to the forum. I used to lurk on the site, just reading the threads and continuing to shake my head at the stupidity that abounds there. For several months things were quiet, and I had given serious thought about maybe coming back and start to post a few of the short stories I have been working on for a new anthology that I plan to release next year. And then this thread caught my eyes:

“For Future CAW Challenges …comments/discussions”

It started out innocently enough with writers and readers discussing what they liked about the writing challenge, what they didn’t like about it, what they thought needed improving, what rules needed to be changed or amendments added. It was open discussions, people giving honest opinions about what is honestly not working, is not going to work, or what could make it better. What do you expect? Any time you create something like an open writing challenge and then invite others to participate, you are going to get people who will want to improve it, who will come up with better ideas than the originator, people who will continually strive to improve upon it and make it more enjoyable for all those who participate.  That’s just the way things are. And to quote one of the posters on the thread, “show me one rule, law or set of guidelines that aren’t continually updated and modernised {sic} and I’ll show you a dictatorship.”

BINGO! You just summed up the entire XN forum in one sentence. The comments on this thread also reminded me, once again, exactly why I have not really been lurking around XN that much these past two years.

This is a singular truth to the XN forum that has been driving me nuts ever since I joined the community back in 2008. It’s always the same shit, different day. It’s always one person who hides behind the little clique of ‘friends’ who will come to her aid and pounce on anyone who dares to go against her. And those who have stated the blatantly obviousness of what is going on is soon ganged up on by that small little group, and it grows and grows until finally, yet more notable authors or those with decent, raw talent get sick of it and move on to other sites.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the fact that this goes on is the fact that the owners, namely Lemark, actually LETS this type of shit go on. It boggles my mind. 

And then it once again hit me, a simple truth about myself and that site that I keep forgetting. It is a simple truth that anyone who takes themselves seriously as an author will eventually come to realize. There comes a time in every writer’s life when you realize that you are ten times the writer of any of the ‘greats’ of any given site. When that day comes, it is sometimes better to cut your losses and say your farewells. This is pretty much what I have been doing with XN. I now have four novels in publication, am working on novels five, six, and seven as we speak. I have another six novels planned for the Before the Sun Rises series and several more short stories. I get trolled on XN by writers, I despise the clique that runs the forum, I wonder why on Earth Lemark would bother to have the forum and not have someone who was dedicated to running that side of things aside from the tyrant moderators who use it like their own personal playground, and I simply cannot stomach the majority of the stupid ‘discussions’ that go on amongst mostly intellectually, and literarily, challenged members. I’m tired of it all, I’m tired of beating my head against the proverbial brick wall and begging for a decent conversation regarding literature instead of ‘discussions’ that quickly dissolves into dozens of people who can barely string two coherent sentences together stating they know everything there is to know about writing, or those writers who cannot seem to grasp the simple concept that being good at non-fictional writing will not mean you are automatically going to be good at creative writing and trying, and failing miserably I might add, at trying to painfully teach such people the difference.

So that’s it. I’m pretty much through with it. That’s not to say that I won’t ever post to XN again, it just means that I have other options that I will utilize in addition to wallowing in the dregs of writing society that XN has become known for.

I am in a completely different ballpark; I am not content at just being known as a ‘great’ writer of some random forum. No, I do not write for fortune, and not to self-congratulate myself on a job well done or to win some useless title or have a few cliques kiss my ass and hail me king for a day.  But I just may keep using XN, sometime, if for no other reason than to just keep my options open … if I so decide upon it.

Writing Forums: Yes, It’s a Popularity Contest

Any writer who has spent more than a few hours on a writing forum will quickly realize that your talent has nothing to do with how well your stories are received, how many reads you get, how well your ratings will be, or the type of comments you will receive.  As much as it sucks, you could write something to rival Anne Rice, Stephen King, and J. K. Rowling and STILL have your work rate very low, have people tell you that you suck as a writer, and not receive 1/10 of the reads that the top-rated story has, even if that story sounds like it was written by a ten-year-old.

It totally sucks, but writing forums boil down to a giant popularity contest.  Unlike real life, though, it is not necessarily the “who” that is popular so much as it is the “what” that is the flavor of the day.  For example, XN caters to a very specific group of readers.  They are looking for instant gratification in their adult literature.  The more vulgar it is, the more taboo the subject, the better the response.  The readers apparently do not care anything about stories which are well written, well thought out, and have actual storylines and character development.  

Even though I know this, it is still very disheartening to have my hard work butchered and torn apart by readers who have absolutely no idea or appreciation for the amount of hard work and effort that goes into creating the type of erotic fantasy that I enjoy writing.  And despite this, I still post on this site.  I know that if I would take all of the sex scenes out then I would be able to post on other writing sites, but I refuse to jump through hoops and rewrite something that I like just to try to get a few more reads.  Being forced to change who I am as a writer and consequently the writing itself is the very reason why I have turned down mainstream publication offers and chose to go the self-publishing route. 

I know that I could have other options if I changed my genre of writing.  I know that posting on XN will result in my stories being trolled by mean-spirited readers and consistently rated down by jealous writers.  I know that members of the site are not looking for anything that has any type of thought and creativity behind it.  One has only to see all the “That was so hot!  You are a great writer!  I want more!” comments on seriously pathetic attempts at writing to know that most of the members and readers that frequent that site would not know a decent piece of written work if it bit them on their asses. 

This goes back to that whole “popularity” thing again.  If it’s a really badly written piece from a writer who has gotten a “following” because his brain-dead readers seem to think his vulgarity is a rare treasure, then they will continue to follow him around as if he were a literary god.  If it’s a wretched piece of text that jumps straight into an adult situation with no mention of the characters or how they came to be in this situation, then it will be praised and voted up.  Decent pieces of writing, those with thought and character development, coherent storylines and intriguing plot twists, will, inevitably, be voted to the bottom of the pile thanks to under-handed people who want to pretend they are writers by slapping a bunch of crap onto their computers and then post it on a site that has absolutely no literary standards what-so-ever.  Yeah, it’s the only place that would take their mindless drivel.  Most writing forums have standards.

Yet I choose to stay.  If I could find other sites* that allowed graphic violence and adult themes and situations then I would happily post on said site(s).  Until then, I will continue to put up with the trolls and oceans of mediocre writing that is XN.  In the meantime, I feel that each positive vote, each encouraging comment, each additional read is another small victory for the few decent writers that still cling to some ray of hope that XN will eventually stop catering to all the bad writers and mean trolls and start appreciating all the talented writers who give their writing genius to the site FOR FREE.  But it’s a choice that I stand by.  Sure, I’m not popular.  I will probably never be one of the “popular” writers.  But I’m betting that if any of my works ever hit the mainstream publication circuits I’d be a pretty damn big hit.  Of course, that maybe because in my own mind, I am already popular!

*If anyone knows of any good writing forums/sites that allows adult content with graphic violence, allows the writer to retain all copyrights, and does not require an act of congress to join, please feel free to let me know.  I have tried 4chan, fictionpress, Lit., Lush, SOL, wattpad, booksie, and a bunch of others that I can’t remember at this time.