For those of you who are new, or trying Fictionaut again, welcome. It was difficult for me when I first joined Fictionaut to learn some of the basic navigational tools and etiquette, so here is a beginners' primer for new folks. If anyone else has any ideas to add, please do so:
• When you post a story, take the time while you're here to read and comment on a few written by others.
• When someone comments on your piece, respond, either on his or her wall or below the response to your piece. You can write a group response or respond individually if you have the time to do so. It's polite.
• If someone writes on your wall and you wish to respond, go to their wall to respond. If you write on your own wall, chances are they won't see it.
• If you have questions or concerns, write a note in the Forum and other people will respond to you there.
• Many of the longer pieces are frequently ignored, so if you have time, please give them some love.
• If you want constructive feedback on a piece, ask for it. People will not offer suggestions unless prompted to do so, as Fictionaut isn't really a workshop for new work; however, there are private groups that focus on this part of the writing process, so again, ask about them in the Forums and someone will respond.
This is really quite helpful. Good points.
Leave it to you, JP, to have some very constructive ideas to offer. Thanks for this.
so good! thanks JP!
Nice job Joani! Constructive and helpful.
Is there any way this could be permanently 'up' somewhere on Fn? I remember being truly horrified at unwittingly broaching etiquette last year by posting stories too quickly - it had never even occurred to me not to. If I remember right a few folk kindly and patiently explained why, and it made sense [and sparked debate] and I was grateful to learn BUT there's nothing intuitive about such knowledge - a primer like this would have been really helpful for a newbie like me.
I'd maybe add that if you post individual thank you comments beside your story to those commenting it 'bumps up' the comment numbers a fair whack. I'd assumed that through the miracle of modern internet stuff [marvel at the technical know-how displayed here!] author comments wouldn't count in the numbers - then I belatedly realised they do! So going to people's walls became my preferred choice, though it is easier as a reader to see the dialogue and develop it if the comments are at the side of the story. So there's good reasons for both.
I'm rambling - excuse me - it's the meds.
Concise and extremely helpful. Nice work. *
The teacher in you shines here! It would be nice if we could sticky this post so newbies and oldies alike could be reminded of good manners. Peace...
These are excellent guidelines and yes, I believe they should be posted somewhere easy to find for the long term since these questions come up on a regular basis. How about a new "page" at the top (as the "stories" "groups" "people" "forums" etc.) labeled "Guidelines" or "Help"? Is that easy enough to do?
Perhaps when we invite someone to the site, we can be proactive enough to include the above ideas with a short note to the individual we're inviting. We need to be a community, right? Let's take some responsibility for making it a good one.
Thanks for this, JP! I'll look for a way to give it a more permanent home on the site.
Thanks for putting this together, Joani - good points all round. And Gill, I very much like your point about where to thanks people for their comments. I think it should be on their wall. If I read a story, and if I'm moved to comment...I'm done. I'm moving on. There's no way I can remember which stories I commented on, and then revisit them just to see if I've been thanked. There are lots of stories here, lots of good things to read - I'm probably not going to visit any story more than once.
Yes, I cringe a bit when I see a separate post to thank each comment. Actually, I cringe a lot. But we're all different, we all do things differently.
excellent points foster! i'm a prime abuser of the thank you on the story wall...
"Yes, I cringe a bit when I see a separate post to thank each comment."
Agree.It's so much nicer to visit the critic's wall and thank her or him and, if you want, to "follow" that person too, read some of his or her work.This isn't a political move,it's just being decent.
I'm guilty of this too, sorry Foster. It's so easy to thank and add an additional comment about the story on the story page. I've noticed that it does inflate numbers, so I've gone back and deleted my comments on some of my stories.
Is there a way to send a message to a group? As far as I can tell, there isn't.
THank you Joani for the impetus to get this type of thing centralized...sounds like Jurgen will find a place for it on site.
I've been cutting and pasting this into my "invites" when I offer one...though, perhaps I'm not encouraging enough as my conversion is woefully low (I've invited maybe 5 or 6 folks in 3 years...only 1 posted and posted only once...and they are all very well published and credentialed)
Sign on up! Depends on your goals, but the more you put in (comments, reading, posting etc.) the more you get back. Minimally it's a great place to learn about pubs, read good work, read particular people deeply (ie all their stuff potentially) and Line Breaks
is really cool. It features much more widely-known writers, household names, who put up one of their first efforts and give a little background on the story. Check out Amy Hempel's! also Charles Baxter, Mary Gaitskill.
There are various other features, interviews, market profiles, discussion forums..., ie. there's lots of stuff just to read here, but if you have questions on how to post things let me know. In the beginning you need to know you're work won't get the "notice" and comments that others get...there is certainly a "you read mine," "I read yours" thing that goes on. Unfortunately a lot of stories go up on the boards and are really terrific but just don't get seen. Commenting on people's work, adding them as a contact and joining open groups is one way to start to dig in. (Once a person is a "contact" you will see their activity on the feed on the main page...and vice-versa)
One other caveat....it seems the most active currency here is short-short stuff, micros... there's a noticeable dropoff in reads once a piece gets beyond 700 words.
welcome to Fictionaut!
Calm, deliberate, concise and well thought-out, Joani. I hope your students appreciate their good fortune and your administration doubles your salary!
From your lips to G-d's ears, Ramon : ) Thank you.
Ms, Reese, thanks for injecting some sanity and several thoughtful, useful ideas. Such things are sorely needed going forward.
To echo D James, Ms. Reese (he’s very formal), aka Ms. Joani:
Happy to put a good word in for You. About the raise: 20% fee?
This true statement that took the words right out of me noggin:
"One other caveat....it seems the most active currency here is short-short stuff, micros... there's a noticeable dropoff in reads once a piece gets beyond 700 words.”
I've harped, ad nauseum, on that subject, as I honestly think it’s the way the next generation will read fiction. Fiction writers would be better served to study short-script writing. If a story doesn’t move and have sound it ain’t gonna attract many new eyes.
Due to limited time and a low IQ, I seldom read fiction over 500 words; perhaps it’s my pioneer spirit.
(If I'm not mistaken, Ramon, I recall two quite long stories of yours from long ago that I enjoyed quite a bit, about a "mature" married couple, right?)
Hey Ramon, I agree with your assessment of where we are going. We've entered the era of short attention spans. Texting, not phone calls. eBooks, not hard copies and email, not letters. Short fiction is going to become/has become the gnu, gnu thing. Sad in a way, but the tactile pleasures of turning pages is not going to be around much longer.
I was happy to repost this at my blog Bent Country this morning and also to the Writers forum on Facebook, as well as the Foxhead Books Facebook page. I think this can help with folks coming in and seeing what can really happen here, and happen in good ways for both them and the readers and writers they have the fortune to befriend.
I would chime in to concur with Doug & Ramon’s points about story length. Not as a rule per se, obviously people should write and post whatever kind of story they want, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to note that longer stories are less likely to get read all the way through, and therefore commented upon. Just to set the right expectation.
There have been a few (maybe just a few) instances where a person new to the site posted a rather long story for their first piece and it didn’t get any responses, and the writer was never heard from again, and I felt bad.
Can't really make myself leave a note on someone's wall about comment posts to my works. I might send message in reply to a specific comment. Replies back and forth - wall to wall - aren't aren't always easily connected to particular works - especially over time. Also, I may not realize that a note has been left on my wall - especially if I've not visited FN in several days. I'm sure I've missed some posts to my wall, and I'm sorry for that.
In my head, a more complete understanding is gained by readers & authors if the comments - especially if there's discussion about particular likes or dislikes, corrections or additions that relate to works. But that's all conjecture.
I have posted and do post to other writers' walls, but those notes aren't really about comments left on my works. But, with responses to comments on my own posts, I do try to group my reply when possible or feasible. That does make perfect sense.
If the added comments do count - though we've been assured here several times by Jurgen and Carson that they don't count - that's a glitch in the FN system. Maybe it could be corrected.
Really like your primer in this thread, Joani, and do believe that it or a close variation should become a permanent intro to FN.
Perhaps if a member invites someone before this is up, he or she can include it with the e-mail invitation, and afterward, point it out to new folks. Sheldon-- Thank you for spreading the word.
Matt: No, I can’t recall writing anything “mature” (damned Early Alzheimer’s). Years ago, I wrote two extremely long stories at about 2,500 words.
David: Folks just don’t read much no more. How ‘bout the NO Picayune publishing three times a week? That’s sad.
Neil: Indeed, writers should post whatever length of story that comes out the end of their arms. Contemporary writers are starved for an audience; just stop writing when the story is told.
Sam: Password sites like Fn and online writers’ workshops are, perhaps, the only chance a writer has to communicate with the reader -- another writer; the only reader left.
"How ‘bout the NO Picayune publishing three times a week? That’s sad."
Indeed. And now they've "improved" their website, which means, of course, it's essentially unreadable...
Bro Matt: HaHaHaHaHaHaHa -- the truth is often spoke in jest.
Bro Matt: HaHaHaHaHaHaHa -- the truth is often spoke in jest.
Eugenia's post today brings up another issue about which new users at Fictionaut should be told:
• Fictionaut is a private invite group, but almost all reading is public. Your profile and stories are public and will show up on search engines. If you do not want your stories to appear publicly, you should not post them on the main board. You can, however, join one of the private groups and post your stories privately where they will not be available to the public.
I answered this question in another post, but perhaps we need to add this information to our primer, too:
• Fictionaut is a private invite group, but almost all reading is public. Your profile and stories are public and will show up on search engines. If you do not want your stories to appear publicly, you should not post them on the main board. You can, however, join one of the private groups and post your stories privately where they will not be available to the public. Click the "private" tab on the bottom right-hand side of your edit page to keep your work private.
...but I repeat myself. Sorry!
JP: Hey, Joni, I did that, too. Thought at first it was feeble-mindedness (izzat a word?), but on a reread, it might be the best thing I ever wrote -- with Bill S’s help.
Thanks to JP Reese for this thread. It should help new arrivals such as me to get a sense of the place. I don't see "hello" threads on the forum so I'll say it here.
I haven't been very involved in exchange or community with other writers so I'm excited to be here and have already been impressed with what I've read.
The debate on the brevity of the contemporary attention span is a worry for me (since my first story posted here clocks in at nearly 8000 words!).
I'll just point out though that it's divided into nice short bits, and the reader is free to be distractd by squirrels, or whatever, between each one...
Hi Robin: Glad this thread could help a bit. Welcome.
"The debate on the brevity of the contemporary attention span is a worry for me"
Don't worry about it. Movies are still 90-120 mins, pop songs are still about 3-4 mins, trees are still about yay high, symphonies are still of symphonic length...
It's just that it's hard to write a GOOD story of proper length, and people are naturally shy of investing the time necessary to find out.
Yours WAS very good, and I'm looking forward to more.
I'll be away from Fictionaut (mostly) for a while, so I wonder if folks could be kind enough to comment here with ideas to keep this thread somewhere near the top of the Forums until Jurgen and Carson get the chance to create the additional area that addresses Fictionaut Etiquette for new people. That way, all the new writers will see this thread and be able to better navigate the site until the "Primer" is officially in place.
One thing I've noticed as I dash in and out of here lately is that there are a lot of new writers posting their work but not taking the time to comment on other people's work. The more you participate by engaging with others, the more feedback you're likely to receive on your own stories. It's simply human nature to be generous to those who are generous in turn, so if you are feeling ignored, it may be because you are only posting your own work and ignoring everyone else. Your writing may be excellent, but if you don't give back to others in the community, you will not get the level of feedback your piece may deserve. In my case, I have found this to be true.
Welcome to all the new writers! I'm off again...
Robin, long stories, unless they are introduced formally as companion to an interview on the Fictionaut blog, will not get the same attention here as say... a poem, or a flash fiction.
It's the nature of the place that it serves as a showcase rather than a journal. The showcase aspect is part the fact that it is and was designed to be a social networking site for authors. Besides that, there is a steady pace of new material here, a LOT of material.
Also, long stories should probably not be posted here if you are trying to publish them somewhere, since many journals and competitions, with some exceptions, would consider public posting on the internet as giving the work the status of 'previously published.' I have many long stories that I've never posted here and withhold them for that reason. It's tough enough getting longer short stories published. You don't want to hamper you options by posting them on the internet.
If there was a caution I would give anyone here, it would be that 'success' in a venue like this is not validation as an author. If you have a story with more 'faves' than someone else, it doesn't mean that your story is better than one that goes unnoticed. By all means, enjoy Fictionaut, but don't believe that you 'need' to be successful here.
There is an inherent danger in social web sites when people place too much value in notoriety, the 'success' inherent in numbers. If it has too much value, an abstract concept is like money... it makes people do strange things.
Participation is not a mandate. It should be a pleasure to participate. Fictionaut can be a place where people with talent and ability get recognition, encouragement. At its best, that's what its been for me and for many, I think. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's a place where 'who' you read and 'who' you fave becomes more important than 'what' you fave or why. Then Fn becomes a system of bartered favors, cliques and factions. Maybe that's not fair, but it's true. It's human nature at its worst, but it's human beings who come here. "All human establishments are only as good as the best of its membership," but remember that the opposite statement is just as true.
I like Fn and I like reading. For whatever faults exist here, it's a good experience for any writer. Just remember this: You can only get out of it what you put into it. Something to think about.
Joani's primer is succinct and will help newcomers orient.
James, it was very good of you to take so much time to post this. Your point regarding a publisher's potential attitude to a story that had been online was something of a wake-up call. In actual fact I took Seiler down having read your contribution here.
I've put it back up though, having thought about it. I found your distinction between "showcase" and "journal" interesting but I think I'll leave that question to others. To me, FN is a writer's space to which I have been invited and, having been made a guest here, I offer the story up in all humility. It is there to be enjoyed. Feedback would be great of course although, taking the point about longer things not being read much here, I may not get much of that!
We are all finding our way, are we not, in ever-changing terrain? I wish to be a good guest here and have already "discovered" the work of several writers - Penny Goring, Chris Allen, Meg Pokrass, Matt Dennison and, via a forum link to the New Yorker, the crazy-good Jennifer Egan. I have left comments and faves and have even left my first New Yorker comment, another literary milestone ;)
My decision to make Seiler absolutely public (Fictionaut isn't the only place it can be found)will prove to be a good one, or not. It is the first part of a longer work and one I'm not likely to complete any time soon. For the time being I'm glad for it to be out there and I won't spend too much time second-guessing myself about attitudes from publishing houses, since their attitudes, if they are savvy, are also constantly changing.
In the meantime I can continue to discover writers here and offer them feedback and ecouragement at my own pace. I look forward to it!
Joani makes some excellent points here. Adoption and prominent display of some permanent suggested community guidelines would help newcomers and even people who use the community consistently to better understand how the community can benefit as a whole by the participation of all in a way that keeps it alive.
I'm still fairly new here and am confused about a point made. If I say thank you in a comment at my story I'm running the comment count up. I'm more than happy to go to someone's wall to say thanks and stop commenting. I've been trying to do both.
What I don't understand is why does running up the comment count matter? Is there a value attached to having a higher number of comments beyond the personal satisfaction of knowing members have read your story?
Comment count doesn't mean anything above and beyond itself, doesn't figure into the algorithm of placement of a piece on the Recommended Page (which, historically, some people have been *very* concerned about).
In the words of the immortal Chuck Berry, "Live like you wanna live..."
Not going to say it. Nope. Won't say it.
One thing I wish would happen with the newbies is that they...
BRING SOME &#^#ing LIFE WITH 'EM!
All these new members in the last couple of months and nothing, really, in terms of measurable energy or human presence.
I don't get it. They obviously want to join, wait for an invite, post one, maybe two, pieces and then disappear.
And from what I've seen, the vast majority of 'em never comment on anyone's work, good/bad/or otherwise...not even on that of the other new folks!
I'd like to see new, exciting, people joining, posting new, exciting, work and engaging with others, but all I've seen is... basically nothing.
I think it's weird.
Y'know...I have a theory...
Past couple months I've seen this on more than a few occasions in the "Author's Notes" -
"This is my first publication."
Posting here ain't publication folks. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Not even if you screw up your eyes real tight and pray to the big pink pixie in the sky. Publicity, yes. Promotion, yes. Publication, nah.
Hence the theory...wait for it...here it comes...
Some folks think this is a shortcut to developing a publication record (?). Would explain the lack of interest in other people's work.
Just a theory - so now don't y'all go chasin' me through the village with torches. Would love to be proven wrong - so c'mon newbies, argue with me - or at least give me alternate theory.
But right or wrong, for the 'primer' aspect of the thread at work here, might be useful for new folks to understand the difference between promotion and publication.
"Not going to say it. Nope. Won't say it."
C'mon, JLD. Say it. I won't tell anyone.
I think I used the word publication when I put a story up here recently but I was under no illusions about what it was.
What it was, for me, was the first time I had shared my work with anyone who doesn't live in my house. Hence it felt like going public, hence the word.
I think it's natural for new members to take a while to become good contributors - those who don't fade away entirely after an initial appearance will need time to figure out what it is they would be contributing to, and that is not something that a person can be told, in my opinion - they need to see for themselves.
There are a number of very active members here who are into their own groove and styles of interaction and a lot of very, very busy posters who have quite a high Fi profile. You have to bear in mind that it can be quite challenging for a new arrival in such a space to find a comfortable "in" for themselves.
It could be that the influx of new members will have an impact over the medium term on what it is Fictionaut users believe Fictionaut to be, and what it is useful for.
Evolution takes time.
If there is no feedback, there is no life. Many of the members who were active in the past are absent. When new members post their work and it marches down the page without so much as a comment, they won't stay either.
Just for a lark, I reposted a story from 18 months ago, when participation seemed like it was much more active than it is today. Originally, that story received 252 reads, comments from 27 different people and 24 favs. This time it only got 72 reads, comments from 7 people and as many favs.
While this not a definitive finding, it does reflect, from the number of reads alone, what I've suspected for a while, that Fictionaut is not anywhere near as energetic as it used to be.
Three things can turn it around... Ideas action and involvement. Ideas are cheap, leadership is rare and you can't get people motivated to be involved without having the other two things in place.
Just because something is free, doesn't mean anybody will take it... and nothing changes without active involvement.
Unless participation is a requirement for membership, admonitions to that same membership, suggesting that they need to participate more is not going to cut it. Admonitions without motivation are like the little winds of July, blowing the dust from one room to the next.
The decline in participation won't turn around unless someone cares enough to take the wheel, make this place as exciting as it used to be.
I'm going to agree with Robin. It took me about seven months after I joined to post a story. Of course, in those seven months I was an active reader and commentator.
As to all this conjecture as to "energy" and lack of interest and/or readership, I will state a cliche because it's morning and I'm stingy with my words (ain't wasting a good line on a forum - :) ), actions speak louder than words...
Let's just get on with it people...
I took a few weeks off, then posted a couple of pieces that didn't catch on and then posted something that did. Why those other pieces didn't gain traction, who knows, who cares.
Read, leave love notes for stories you love, and post as you please. I find this community quite beautiful and I'm proud to be a part of it.
There's an extra "as to" in that second paragraph -- scratch that and replace with " about." Gosh, I'm going back to bed.
So... everything's okay? Well, then... never mind.
No, not okay but always changing. That's what makes things worthwhile.
We should all strive to make things better. And I believe many of us are.
This is my first day here. Can some clarify? Is this forum strictly for posting UNPUBLISHED work (for feedback), or do folks post previously published work?
So I'm coming into this very late, but find this extremely helpful. Would have loved to have read it when I first joined and am glad it's here now. Great tips, JP!
Ken: Please read the first post on this thread. It will answer your question. Welcome.
Thanks Joani. I wish I'd seen this when I started using Fictionaut... you soon enough figure it out, but this is a good shortcut... I especially like the note about reading the longer stories. It's tough when you just want to dip in for a quick fix, but usually worth the extra time.
Much appreciate this. I've only just dipped a toe in the water here, but the toe likes it. A much more extensive site than I expected. So much to see and do. I suppose next I should click up the "about" page and find out more about Fictionaut. Ah, that is just what I shall do...
I'm so happy to have come across this post, albeit a bit late, as I've already been fumbling through the posting and commenting thing for a while now...
I want to say a general thank you to those of you who have commented on my work. I also have mostly responded to comments right there, but then I realized that people might not see my responses, as I noted that I never received notice about responses to any of my comments... and there were several when I went back and checked...
I have appreciated the direct messages and the occasional post to my wall. I have done a few of those, myself.
Mostly, I tend to participate in bursts. After I post a story, I'm very motivated to respond directly to anyone who comments, and to immediately explore their work and comment on several of their stories. It helps provide me with a little direction to dig in deeper. There are so many wonderful writers here, and I could spend days just reading all your work and conversing about what I find there. So, it happens a little bit at a time.
I agree, it would be helpful to have these rules posted right up front. It just makes the initial exploration a little less overwhelming. Of course, I'm already feeling a little bit more comfortable here, but it always relieves some of the doubt to have guidelines... limits... structure... aaah, yes... I do relish the safe zones... :)
Hi Deborah: I'm happy you found these suggestions, albeit a bit late. Welcome to Fictionaut.
Wow ~ what a stimulating conversation. First of all ~ Joani ~ THANKS for posting this thread and getting the ball rolling. Thoughts about courtesy, polite and collegial interaction and civil discourse especially resonate with me during these mean-spirited times. Whatever happened to a "kinder, gentler nation" and " a thousand points of light"? Ha! Just messin' with ya! Thanks to all for your insight and articulate comments.
This is great information and discussion. Thank you.
I'm curious about how to delete a new thread or correct typo's after hitting the publish/post button?
Thank you, N
What a great post Joani - have only just read this, and the points you make are useful.
Can I paste in an image at the head of my short story? (small file size)
I was told there would be appetizers.
@Ron ~ Con Chapman says he pastes images from his other sites and they go in just fine. I haven't tried it yet.
@Adam ~ You mean dessert, of course. Fine feast JP (I guess it's OK to call you Joani?) with post and comments.
How do I earn the right to invite someone, and does it involve high heels?
*thumbs up* Will get around to reading some things when I can, promise XD
I'm curious about accessing the Blog. I apologize if this is answered elsewhere but I have not found it. I see people's publications listed there, and wonder if I should be adding mine in some way. Is there a secret Fictionaut Fairy who just knows that people's work is coming out in magazines? Is there a way to find said fairy and leave little clues?
Tantra: Marcelle Heath is the Fictionaut fairy who collects success stories from us all once a month. Watch for her to remind us here in the forum next time she's compiling the monthly brag book, and you can send your info. to her to add to the post.
The date on which the story was posted does not appear on the story page. This may concern some readers who are visitors to the site and concern newcomer participants as well. Story, poem, essay, or photo of your own [continuation of paragraph I shall move to Marcus Speh's Jonah Lehrer thread in the General Forum].
A good indication of the story posting date is the date of first and subsequent comments, especially early comments as they appear on the right sidebar.
Thread comments may not be deleted even by group administrators, as Marc Vincenz learned in a 24-hour cram session after going to the top first. Sincerely good self-reports of his business life may be found at The NervOus BreaK Down.
Comments on stories (pieces, etc.) may not be deleted by the commenter.
Comments on stories (pieces, etc.) may be deleted by the story's author.
Wow. My first day here. This is a terrific thread with lots of great information. I feel like I just walked through a cocktail party, discovering this new place in discussions with all its inhabitants. Thanks so much, and nice to meet you!