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A Word of Warning · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 12
· · >>Chryssi >>bloons3
Welcome to this new WriteOff™ (please remember WriteOff is a trademark of The RogerDoger company Ltd., established 2013 in Adelaide, Australia. Any trademark violation will be liable to prosecution). This round, taking place just before Halloween™ (Halloween is a trademark of The USA inc. established 1776 in Washington, DC) is sponsored by the Hokey spooky Zoey. Recourse to a ghost writer is tolerated for this event only.

Since last round stood out by the number of very short stories written (barely above 2,000 words), this time the organisation committee has decided to proffer you the chance of expressing your most inner thoughts in less than 750 words (but still more than 400). This round is therefore about Original Fiction Minific, meaning you can write about almost anything that pops up in your mind, from the CETA wet squib to species extinction. You can even slander Theresa May or Donald Trump if you like. No one will judge you, guaranteed.

Prompt submission starts right now, so do not miss this opportunity to have your say. As usual, avoid Ot or A glass full of…. Please refrain from citing real persons in the prompts, like, e.g. Dubs falls in a jar of pickles, how can he escape? or A sweltering summer in Gardez. Shakespearian prompts are allowed by special authorisation from the author, so yeah: Hoisted by their own petard will be accepted.

Prompt voting begins Friday 28th at 12 GMT, and the writing period starts the day after, same hour. Also please note two major events will take place this weekend:

1. EU countries switch back from DST to standard time, so for those in Europe writing period ends one hour sooner than it begins (though that still makes for a 24-hour period);

2. There will be a WriteOff get-together in London to be held from Sunday 12 GMT (also Britain local time) on. If you want to partake in this doozy event, it’s not too late: contact Quill Scratch for any further information.

Now, as usual, the organisation committee wants me to remind you that, during the review phase, you must abide by the most stringent anonymity, meaning that breaching this fundamental rule is ground for disqualification and eternal damnation. Additionally, if you still decide to flout it, we’ll send Oblomov to drum some communist propaganda into your brain, which is way worse for your soul sanity than an eternity in hell. You’ve been warned.

Now, the only thing left for me to say is GOOD LUCK!
#2 · 5
It will be a good excuse to turn off the tv, burn all the political ads that come in the mail, and not hit other websites while writing (checks prompt) non-pony stuff. We're all doomed anyway. SMOD2016
#3 · 4
Looking forward to stave off the existential dread that the last month of my semester will bring me with some writing.
^ ^
#4 · 1
Hoo boy!
#5 · 5
I appreciate exactly how many of the prompts are all about the spoops.
#6 · 5
As usual, avoid Ot or A glass full of….

To Ot Or Not To Ot

… Goddammit.
#7 · 1
That Writeoff feel when you have to trim 150 words off your submission for it to fit...
#8 · 2

The deadline for the Anne of Green Gables issue of NonBinary Review is Tuesday, so I'm spending this weekend finishing up my submission for that rather than any sort of submission here...

#9 · 1
I'll try to squeeze something in before the deadline, but I'm not feeling hugely inspired AND I've got like, two other stories I need to proofread this weekend.
#10 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue
Blech. I had some good idea's for this prompt, but I just haven't had the time to write anything! I managed to cobble one story together at least.. But it's been a long day, and I'm exhausted. I just hope I wake up early enough to give this mess a good review and some polish... :/
#11 · 1
· · >>TheCyanRecluse
Do like I did last time and just ignore polish. What's the worst that could happen?
#12 · 1
I skipped the last one, but I got this one in!
#13 · 1
Aaaaaand done.

It's been awfully quiet here. Wonder how many entries we'll have.
#14 · 1
Well it's a story. It's not as funny as it should be, but I'm falling asleep and hopefully some of my effort shows through.
#15 · 1
I’ve got something. Going to bed now.
#16 · 1
Bam. Didn't think I'd muster the energy, but I forced it.
#17 · 1
750? Never fear! With three new entries, Jaxie's here!

Glad I decided to do this. Don't think my entries are gonna place, but that was fun.
#18 · 2
Well, usually it involves reading your entry the next morning, then curling up into a fetal ball and weeping at all of the massive typos, misspellings, broken grammar, and messed up HTML tags you left behind...

But maybe that's just me. ;>
#19 · 1
Entry submitted. As usually I'm not completely satisfied, but such is the nature of the Write-off.
#20 · 2
· · >>Cold in Gardez >>Monokeras
Man, I have to wonder if the Writeoff chat is sucking up all of the idle chat energy that I'm used to seeing in this thread. I guess it might be the holiday weekend, too.

... Or maybe attendance overall is just trending down. Last Writeoff original minific round, we had 47 entries from about 30 authors. The original minific round before that, we had 60 entries from about 45 authors. This round is 31 from 21.

Regardless, time to get the review train rolling. Allons-y!
#21 · 1
I tried to write something, but these "write a few hundred words on something non-pony-related based on a short random quip" are the least inspiring of all the formats for me... so I decided against submitting this one.

Best wishes for everypony else!
#22 ·

Glad to see you're in the review game this round, Horizon. Things always feel empty around here without your tiers :)
#23 ·
Don’t forget the London meet-up currently taking place!

(Message written under the Channel tunnel!)
#24 · 3
Attention Citizens!

Radio Writeoff plans to record, barring catastrophe, in about twenty hours.

That's about three in the afternoon central time, and eight in the evening in whatever wacky timezone Quill lives in.

So if you're interested in listening to us, tune in then in the Discord Chat.

If not, wait around for the recording that's cool too I guess.
#25 · 2
Alright, y'all, now that I've done a slate plus a couple, I need to stop Writeoffing and prepare for the convention I'm attending tomorrow. So I'm not gonna get to any more reviews before prelims end.

But can we show stories on the short end of the feedback scale some love? It was 3 days and 7 hours ago that we got every story to two reviews, and then we stalled out. There are still two stories with only two reviews:

14 Cold Comfort
30 Mind the gap!

And another large handful which have only gotten feedback from three readers:

6 An Almost-Perfect Verse in a Long Forgotten Tomb
10 The Coup
13 Digital Therapy
19 The Pumpkin Clause
23 Selections from Amaddisen’s Compendium of Cautions and Outcries
28 I'm Taking Off My Belt

Can we get everyone up to four different pieces of feedback in the next 24 hours?
#26 ·
[b]Georg’s first Round Micro Reviews for the new stories on my slate A Word of Warning Scores are letter grades for Plot, Technical Work, and Characterization mushed together, with an E for stories I find particularly Enjoyable. Ranked by how I like them, not necessarily how perfect they are on the score. (and posted all at once, from top to bottom so they line up on the chat.)
#27 ·
Bugger. I thought I had two more days for this. OKAY. REVIEW SPAM INCOMING FOR THE AUTHORS IN MY SLATE.

The Wheel of Fate is turning. Rebel 1. Let's rock.
#28 · 2

I wasn't expecting a good reception of this “fiction” because it is packed with French intimations and what I consider, with a dab of jingoism, to be French specific humour (just kidding: I mean it is very particular humour).

More specifically, the first part is a zany idea I had that cannot be traced to anything I read or saw. It was pure raving with puns as sprinkles. And I apologise, Horizon, if the Bohr model bumped you out, but the De Broglie/Heisenberg one is so boring… Maybe more true to facts, but so lackadaisical. Who cares about wave functions? ;)

The next part, tentatively the most achieved, is a double-take on La Fontaine’s most famous fable, La Cigale et la Fourmi, a classic poem every pupil studies and rote memorises in 2nd or 3rd grade (you can find the poem together with an English translation here). The short poem features the same characters, and the beginning is more or less the same, the locust (cricket, grasshopper, whatever) mooching food from the ant, who scorns it for spending the summer goofing off rather than working. The sentence “It’s been three centuries” refers to this initial text, written around 1670. The rest, starting off with the locust threatening to pester the ant with its shrill voice, is a stupid crossover of A Bug’s Life movie.

The last part is also something I thought of. I had this idea of God and the Devil playing bluff together. I first plumped for poker, but found out poker had very specific jargon I wasn’t familiar with (I never played poker, so I’m not even familiar with the French terminology). So I had to chuck that initial idea, and I picked a dice game instead. The game called “421” (rules here) was about the only one I was familiar with, and it’s also a fun one, so I went for it.

There was no direct connection between those three pieces, no golden thread to follow. So what gives? Well, each taken in isolation wouldn't have reached the 400 words limit, so I found fun to lodge three different "microfics" into a unique entry. Sort of a challenge of its own.

Overall, this was loaded as the dice with French references, and it was, in the end, quite easy to figure out who had written it given prior knowledge of almost one reference. Given that bias, I wasn't expecting much success out of it. Thanks to Kritten (and Georg, too!) for loving it and, frankly, Hat I’m not surprised you didn’t!

The Wall

The title is more a reference to Pink Floyd’s most acclaimed album than anything else.

This was partly written on my iPhone, and delivered “as is” without any editing pass. In short, I wrote it in the course of two hours while showering and packing up for London. I transferred the text to the WriteOff server in the nick of time before scarpering away to the Gare du Nord, where I naively thought I could use the WiFi and a few minutes before the train's departure to smooth it. Turned out the platform was crowded, I had to queue up much more than anticipated at the passport controls (but in the charming company of a foxy British gal), and finally barely managed to hop into the carriage before departure. In other words, absolutely zero time to correct anything, so it was left untouched.

To say the truth, given the circumstances the text was born under, I’m more than pleased of the reception it got, especially the writing being singled out as solid. Thanks a bunch guys!

My idea was to set this story into a “Martian chronicles”-like universe, but I realised this was too ambitious a project for such a low word count. At the end, I had to content myself with a slightly advanced outline, and that's what the text is. Also, I had no precise idea for the end, so I just sort of “plugged” a placeholder paragraph to serve as conclusion. But as you all noted, it was underwhelming. Basically it must be chucked and replaced by something more punchy. Suggestions welcome.

So thanks again for your appreciation of skill which was unexpected, to say the least, good luck, as usual, to the finalists and see you next round!

Take care all!
#29 · 3
· · >>Cold in Gardez
Sorry I didn't get this posted here sooner, but the Prelims Podcast is up!
#30 · 2

Added an index to your podcast Quill :3

You successfully guessed five fics that didn't make the finals!
#31 · 3
Attention Citizens!

Radio Writeoff is going to record another podcast in about

Eight Hours!

We apologize for the short notice. However, because we have moved things around, we're able to invite the
the one and only:
Cold in Gardez
to join us!

So if you're interested in listening to Quill's dulcet tones, try tuning in to the Writeoff Discord channel around then.

That's about six in the evening Eastern, eleven at night Quillzone, and I'm not even sure for Cold anymore sorry guys timezones suck.

Also, we're demoing another recording process in an attempt to cut down on editing and get the recordings to you faster. So hopefully that works and doesn't break everything.

See you then maybe!
#32 ·
· · >>Not_A_Hat >>Cold in Gardez >>Monokeras
I'm Taking Off My Belt

Well, after putting myself through writing practice, and an even longer period of telling myself to never publish anything, I decided to push through my funk and publish something. I honestly don't feel strongly for this idea in general; dark humor isn't something I think I would write. But I published it simply to publish it, and to stop not publishing things. Sorry you guys had to read it, but I did it for that reason.

I would've written something a lot more horror-focused, but everything I wrote felt hackneyed, and I didn't want to publish it. I decided on something funny, to attempt to get something that wasn't hackneyed. it didn't work, but that's the way life works, right?

All of the criticisms are fair. I'm not going to be negative like the last times, because that won't be good for anybody. I didn't write a good story, I can try again some other time, and I can fix this up if I want to.

I learned some things about myself and my writing from this:

1. I have a lot of trouble writing endings, something that has always been a problem in my writing. I don't even know what to ask in order to make a satisfying ending. I don't know what mindset to adopt, what people look for, what elements to throw in or tie together, anything! I don't think I can be a good writer until I figure that out.

2. My writing is flabby. This has been with every single story I've ever written, and I don't know how to practice snappy writing, but my writing is just flabby and loose. Maybe with another round of editing I could've done something with it.

3. I don't know my writing identity. I've been hesitant to publish anything because I don't know what I want to publish. Dark humor isn't something I want to write; I was aiming for the absurd here, and it didn't happen. I couldn't make anything I wanted to write work out for this prompt. And now I think I'm veering on excuses, so I'll stop now. I need to do some searching and see what draws me.

4. I don't know a lot of words. Someone said that I should've subverted my writing, and I had no clue what that means; even after looking it up, I wouldn't know how to apply it to my writing. I saw someone be praised for lampshading their prose, and another for writing a distaff piece, and after looking those words up, I wouldn't know how to do either of those things either. Jingoism is another word that, even though I've looked it up before, doesn't mean anything to me. That's the most discouraging thing that I've found. I'm not going to be deterred by it, though; I'll probably just be quieter in the future.

I don't know much more that I can say about that.

Thank you for the criticisms, everyone, and I again apologize for not writing something of enjoyment. I'm not going to be deterred by this, not like the last times. I don't know what to do about my deficiencies in ending stories, meandering around and making tight prose. If my publishing-for-publishing's-sake isn't really allowed, please let me know; otherwise, I will try again. Great job to everyone, finalist or not finalist, and best of luck to you all on your writing endevors!
#33 · 2
· · >>Not_Worthy2
But I published it simply to publish it, and to stop not publishing things. Sorry you guys had to read it, but I did it for that reason.

This is a good reason to publish, and I'm glad you did. Please don't take my critical review as meaning a story shouldn't be written/published; I think every story deserves that, despite how much I might or might not enjoy it.

Secondly, you mentioned flabby writing. I've found the book "Sin and Syntax" by Constance Hale useful in my own attempts to prune a purple prose problem, so if you can find a copy you might find it an interesting read. Not sure it's worth buying for the list-price, though.
#34 ·
· · >>Not_A_Hat
I'll have to look out for that at Barnes and Noble, thank you for that reference.

I didn't take your criticial review as anything other than a critical review, thank you for it. I would like to press you further, though; how does one subvert stories/story ideas (also, what doe one subvert?)?
#35 · 2
· · >>Not_Worthy2
>>Not_Worthy2 So, subversion is, in my mind, about pointing one direction and going another. Stories are usually built out of ideas that have been used before; Perspective has a strong example. The idea of the spirit, a reclusive being full of wisdom living on a mountaintop of distant place, is a staple in mythical stories. Someone who gives guidance or prophecy or what.

There are ideas about what this sort of character is like. Dignified, old, detached from worldy stuff, etc etc, there are ideas that spring to mind in association with that character.

Subverting that character, then, would be making them out as one thing while taking some of those ideas in a new or different direction.

In Perspective, the character is set up with this archetypal 'wise' idea-set, but instead of being old, dignified, etc etc, they're young, vivacious, funny, tightly connected to the world, etc etc. It's a subversion of the idea of this guide, because when the reader sees the setup they expect one thing, but they get another that doesn't fit what's expected but is still interesting and works with the archetype well enough.

As for what can be subverted... I'd say just about anything that has ideas/tropes/expectations around it can be given this treatment.

Is that helpful at all?
#36 ·
· · >>horizon >>Not_A_Hat
That's very helpful! I must confess that I wouldn't know how to use it with the idea I used, though. XD

Though now I would like to press further, if you don't mind: when would subverting an idea be detrimental to a story? It seems as though people want the unexpected all the time, and so subverting ideas would always seem like a good idea.
#37 · 2
· · >>Not_Worthy2

There's three things you need to do if you want to improve your writing: 1. Write a lot; 2. Get feedback; 3. Improve your writing based on the feedback.

You've already done the first two as a part of this contest, so you're much further along than you think. And once you write your next story, you'll have done all three. Assuming your next story is a pony minific, you can post it here, and get more feedback! And thus the cycle continues.

I know it can be discouraging getting a lot of harsh feedback on your story, but the fact is OF minifics are the 'hard mode' of the Writeoff. We get a lot of hidden support when writing about ponies because we don't have to define a world, characters, motivations, etc. We're writing about people we already know.

Anyway, the reason I think a lot of people had trouble with I’m Taking Off My Belt is that it didn’t have a lot of the traditional elements of a story: Character, Plot, Setting, Theme and Conflict.

Now, do stories need these things? Not at all -- there is no ‘correct’ way to write a story. But the modern convention of storytelling revolves around those five concepts. In a contest like this, with amateur writers, a story that doesn’t use those basic tools will need to be extremely compelling to justify its unconventional format.

Of those five concepts, what does I’m Taking Off My Belt have? There’s no character, really; the whole story is just the narrator telling us how everyone’s afraid of getting whipped by a belt. The plot is the sequence of events in a story -- again, there is no plot here. Nothing happens; nothing progresses.

Setting? Where does this story take place? I couldn’t tell you. Everywhere and nowhere, it seems.

Theme? Here we have something. I’m Taking Off My Belt does have a theme, and it’s a very strong one at that. In fact, the whole thing is pretty much an extended explication of the theme, about crime and punishment and fear. So, check this box off.

Conflict? Usually conflict is presented as the struggle of the character against another character, or nature, or god, or himself. Since there are no characters here it’s hard to say we have conflict. We have a narrator, but that’s not quite the same as having a character. On the other hand, the narrator does seem genuinely fearful at points, so I’m willing to grant that this story has some degree of conflict.

So this story has, maybe, two of the elements of storytelling. I think, more than any other reason, that’s why reviewers had trouble giving it a higher rating.
#38 · 1
· · >>Not_Worthy2
The short answer (because I'm on my phone at a con) is, everything you subvert you have to justify. Playing a trope straight allows you to establish a story element quickly: if your hero is approached by a familiar old man offering advice, you've got the "wise old mentor" trope played straight, and nobody's going to question it. But if you subvert that by making his mentor a five-year-old girl, you generally have to explain how that came about and how it works for readers to accept it as plausible — or at the very least do a lot of showing to establish the fact she's his mentor and they're both on board with that.

More subversions means more weight of of exposition; fewer means a more generic-feeling story. It's a balancing act.
#39 · 2
· · >>Not_Worthy2
Hey. I just wanted to chime in. I can't be of great help here because I'm almost in the same situation than you – I usually put off only mediocre stories at best (that's why I write retrospectives in advance), so I'm not really the one able to give you tricks and methods to improve your writing. The group is full of experts that have already tipped you with valuable information.

I just wanted to say that well, I'm with you in this. I know how frustrating and unnerving it can be to write something and get bashed because of it. But Cold is right: there's no other way than banging one's head against the wall, until you're strong enough to crash it and get through. It just takes time, so be diligent and patient. And do vent your anger when you feel bad, it's healthier than brooding.

Good luck, from the bottom of my heart. I'm sure you'll succeed.
#40 · 1
· · >>Not_Worthy2
As for when subverting would be detrimental... this is pretty hard to make definite statements about.

The problem is that stories are complex, and made up of many pieces. Because of that, they are very rarely made/broken on the inclusion or removal of any one idea. Pointing to any one piece and saying 'this never works' is really, really hard; it's just as easy to point to the rest and say 'change these.'

So to make strong statements about subversion, I'd need more idea of what the story was like and what the author was going for, and even then there would probably be a way to make the subversion work somehow by adjusting the rest of the story.

Of course, at some point, 'adjusting the rest of the story' might mean 'write a different story', which is advice I dislike giving; just because the rest of the story can be changed to suit one idea doesn't mean it should. So I guess in that sense, I'd say a subversion (or any trope) isn't a good idea if it detracts from the point of the story somehow. But in order to say when that's true, I'd need more to go on; I can't make a blanket statement about when/when not to subvert things. All I can do is say 'I don't think subversion serves your goals best here' in a specific story.

Does that address your question?
#41 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat >>georg
>>Cold in Gardez
Firstly, allow me to thank you for helping me out with those tips. It is discouraging to see negative reviews on stories, but not as much as it used to. I hope that's a sign that I'm maturing, but I can't be sure. Anyways, I'll be taking this to heart, and will work towards getting more work out there (with effort, mind), to get feedback and adjust. I still need to find out what it is I want to write, as well as how to tighten up my prose, and I will be working towards that, among other things.

Your criticisms are all fair, and definitely something I should keep in mind. I attempted to be a bit out there with this piece, and it didn't pay off. I would need to study how others do it first, before I attempt it again. Thank you for pointing that out, and thank you again for the advice.


What you've both said makes sense to me; the way you guys have set it up, it seems less like a tool, and more like an effect. I would conclude, from what you guys have said, that I shouldn't worry about making an idea subvert a trope on purpose unless the story idea calls for it.

At least that's what I got out of it. Thank you both for sharing your wisdom.

Also, Not_A_Hat, I bought Sin and Syntax. We'll see what will happen after I give it a read (but I'm expecting superpowers, y'hear!?).


I remember you from some time ago; you were going through a rough time, if I recall correctly. I thank you for your support, and I shall be keeping my eye on you (if you don't mind). Perhaps we can work through our individual problems together, no? :)

And to all four of you, thank you for your words. This is pretty much why I view you Write-Off cats as the "cool kids" (even though I'm sure some of you are older than me). I bid you all the best with your writing endeavors!
#42 ·
You're a writer; you can already create entire worlds using just your mind! What more of a superpower do you want? :P

And no worries. If you ever want more of my thoughts, feel free to hit me up on Discord or something. I can't claim to be correct or helpful, but I usually have an opinion. ;)
#43 ·
I apologize for my extended nonparticipation, both in reviews and reply. I am going to be quite busy up to the end of this round, but will respond when I can.
#44 · 4
Attention Citizens!

Radio Writeoff has posted the second half of our podcast, featuring Special Guest Speaker Cold in Gardez!

If you're interested in listening, find it here:
A Word of Warning - Part 2

If you're wondering if your story got discussed, check out the index below, which I have poorly formatted for your inconvenience! Hopefully it's still usable. Sorry about that, clickable links are a pain here and they're available in the youtube comments.

https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=0 - Quill Scratch, Not_A_Hat, Special Guest Cold in Gardez.

Controversial Stories Section
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=56 - A Man Must Learn to Love
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=344 - How to Play
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=408 - There's An App For That
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=477 - A Shadow of Thought

Honorable Mentions Section
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=577 - Path of Vengence
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=675 - Ramblin Johnny Shines
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=759 - An Almost-Perfect Verse in a Long Forgotten Tomb

Story Discussion and Recommendations Section
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=786 - The Coup
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=1104 - One Step at a Time
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=1577 - Sorrow's Council
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=2020 - Brother's Keeper
https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=2608 - Perspective

https://youtu.be/KpZJvUPEsY8?t=2828 - No-one wants to guess authors. :P
#45 ·
· · >>Cold in Gardez >>Not_A_Hat >>Fahrenheit
Also, quick question, now that I've done this twice: do people find my commentary structure/commentary in general too harsh? I've been thinking about it a lot this time around and I'm worried I'm coming off WAY more negative than I wish to be, probably because of the way I segment and generally tend to discuss problems more than sucesses
#46 ·

I think as long as you're explaining why you didn't like certain things, and making sure that the faults you're describing are actual storytelling problems, rather than personal preferences, you're doing just fine. No complaints here.
#47 · 1
Congrats to Not_A_Hat for Sorrow's Council. A well-deserved gold. Congrats to our other finishers, too!

And especially to horizon, for his fourth place bronze! Haven't seen that before.

Also congratulations to JudgeDeadd, who took sixth place with his first WriteOff entry! Hope to see more from you.
#48 ·
>>AndrewRogue I sometimes feel the same about my posts. I think part of what happens is that there's simply more to say about the negative aspects. I mean, if someone's doing well, you can tell them 'good job', but that rarely takes as long as pointing out bits you didn't like and explaining why?

So I usually try to pick out only one or two things to comment on as far as problems go, even if I feel the story has more. I pick what's most obvious to me and what I think I can give useful advice on. I don't know if it helps as much, but at the very least it helps keep me from feeling like I focus on problematic stories inordinately.

Well, I'll also say that... although getting positive feedback is pleasant, it's not very useful to me as a writer. So I'd much rather have someone acknowledge what they enjoyed, but then explain what they didn't, even if that outweighs what they liked. That's just me, though.
#49 ·
>>Not_Worthy2 "It is discouraging to see negative reviews on stories, but not as much as it used to..."

In terms of usefulness over the years, I've found positive comments to be a balm to the soul that keep me writing, but negative comments WITH descriptions of just why the reader did not like what they were reading are more precious than gold or diamonds. Even if I totally disagree with the reviewer at the time, given a few days or weeks, I start to see just where the story has peeling paint or dry rot. Sometimes it even takes a full re-write to make things tick. (Traveling Tutor's first chapter got that treatment, and very deservingly... deservingist... It really needed it.)

So the secret to success is to find people who hate what you are doing and are willing to describe their distaste in great detail on everything you do. Odd, but true.
#50 ·
Congrats to everyone, particularly our winners. =)
#51 · 2
· · >>horizon
This is actually relevant to something that's been weighing on my mind for a while. It seems to be agreed that it's up to the individual writer to possess the fortitude to withstand the gales of criticism that accompany Writeoff rounds. But I do think that reviews can do more harm than good, when not delivered mindfully.

A few months ago, back in the spring, I had just submitted an entry to an Original Fiction round. It wasn't the best story--made use of an old idea, wrote it at the last minute, writing period fell over my birthday, had a test the next morning... multiple factors contributed to an entry that I wasn't enamored with. But hey, I hadn't missed the deadline! I could still take pride in the fact that I hadn't missed a single original round. Woohoo!

The story got shredded. A reviewer whose opinion I deeply respected disliked it so much that they couldn't even finish reading it. Reading that hurt enough--but hey, it just wasn't their thing. That's understandable. That's okay. What really hurt was seeing that same reviewer call the story pretentious. Annoying. Trite. What wrecked my confidence was seeing something I'd written used to appease other writers: "Oh, I didn't hate your story. If I was going to hate a story, I'd be more likely to hate {name of Fahrenheit's story}." I was so ashamed of writing that entry that I didn't even have the guts to thank the people who did give me valuable feedback. [Edit: Apparently I did thank people. But I definitely didn't want to.]

To get to the point, all negative reviews are unpleasant to some extent. But devoting more attention to a story's weaknesses doesn't make for an overly critical review. Being blunt and straightforward doesn't necessarily make for a harsh review. I think what's crucial is maintaining a sense of respect for the authors and stories in the round. There are a lot of very different people at various stages of their individual writing journeys here, and in this sort of situation, tact is rarely inappropriate. The fact that you're mindful enough to be concerned about this is likely an indication that you're doing just fine. Keep up the good work. :)
#52 ·
Wow. I didn't even anticipate my story being in the Top 5, based on comments and the strength of its competitors. To have it sneak into fourth place — and then, on top of that, get a medal because Cold in Gardez wrote two of the top three and medals are assigned per-user — I was completely unprepared for.

Still, I guess it wasn't the biggest polling miss of the night.

Congratulations to !Hat and CiG (double congrats to CiG), and to everyone more generally. I thought this was an unusually strong minific round. A lot more TCs and Strongs than I've been giving out lately, and with original fiction no less — and a great deal of promise all the way down my slate.

Pretty burnt out right now — sorry I couldn't work up the energy for mashups. Won't be doing a retrospective on Cold Comfort either, unless anyone has any burning questions they want to ask directly. At least I got some reviews in. See you all next round, unless the prompt is election-themed.
#53 ·
I had to double-check to make sure that wasn't me. (It wasn't, and I'm relieved.) I feel like I've been getting more critical over time, and original fiction rounds in particular, it seems like everyone's knives come out, because the bar for original fic is higher (there's a lot more to accomplish in the same space).

Respect, I think, is necessary but not sufficient. I try to push myself to say at least one thing positive about each story, even if I disliked it totally; even those stories have things that they do better than others. Even at the high end, reading nothing but critiques can get fatiguing, and the people whose stories need more polish are also likely to be the ones who need more encouragement.

As you say, it can get awfully demoralizing seeing a story savaged, but the message we want to send is how the story could be better with a second pass, and tearing it apart without some path toward reconstruction makes that harder.
#54 · 1
Oh hey, wooden spoon. Considering that I've barely written anything in a year and a half and I was falling asleep while writing I can't really be too upset. Also most of the stories this time round were really good.

Overall I liked the concept of my story but I felt like I didn't have much to back it up with. I though the ending was sort of weak, everything past the first two paragraphs weren't particularly well written, the universe wasn't fully set up.

This was me getting back into things, I'll be sure to blow everyone away in a couple weeks.
#55 · 2
I was going to type up a retrospective for my stories, but as I was sitting here I realized I didn't have much to say about them. Not many issues were raised during the voting, and nothing about them seems to require explanation.

I'll only add that, after two years of participating in the WriteOff, I finally got third place in a round, and I still haven't earned a bronze medal.