I really hate writing things like this, because it sounds like I'm whining. Hell, maybe I am. I think I need to write it anyway, however.
I've come to believe that Everything2 isn't really a place to put my writing. At least, not my fiction. This is something that has been bothering me for a while, but has been cast in sharp relief in the past few months.
It's a bit awkward to say this, especially as the author of a node which calls for fiction posts here on E2. But it's been a fairly long trip since then.
I suppose I should offer reasons, in order to try to avoid coming off as a petulant whiner. I may or may not succeed.
In a nutshell, it would come to this - the reward is no longer worth the cost.
The reward has always been the knowledge that people were reading it. Not necessarily liking it - but reading it, and thinking about it critically. Not many, it's true - but enough to get messages about it, and even if not that, votes (one way or the other). I used to feel that placing fiction on E2 was, in fact, noding for the ages - placing something in a library where it would, over time, be dusted off and read by those who used the library, be they newcomers or regulars working their way through the collection.
Recently, though, it's become really difficult to make myself believe that more than a handful of people have even bothered to read the stuff. Of my past 15 or so fiction writeups, only a couple have garnered more than 20 total votes, and that's going back nearly a year. Most have under 12. By comparison, a quick factual has garnered nearly 30 votes in the past month.
My recent posts have admittedly all been long-form fiction, and from an earlier period in my writing, so are less polished (I think) than my other stuff here. But it's just discouraging to post 11,000 or 13,000 words and have the reception be, basically...nothing. Or, worse, have it be several immediate downvotes. I know, I know; XP Stoicism. However, let's be honest with ourselves - the whole point of XP was to incentivize people to contribute. Buying into the game was, it was hoped, the way to increased contributions and maybe even quality. I joined E2 at a time when that game was paramount, and maybe I've just outlived it here.
There's a cost, too. I have, over the past year, been trying to get some of my work published. I haven't been successful. That isn't E2's fault. However, E2 has figured in that to some small degree - because in several cases, work that I've polished for submission and submitted has been rejected due to prior publication, right here on E2. That, of course, isn't a surprise or unjust or anything - that's just the way the market works. But the fact of it is that placing work on E2 constitutes an electronic 'publication' of the work, as far as most markets for fiction are concerned. What that means is that placing my work on E2 practically guarantees that it won't see print. Not because of anything to do with quality - sure, it might not see print because it sucks, which is entirely my fault! However, it means that it won't even see the critical review process required to get to print, because most venues won't even consider it.
To be honest, most of my writing here happened because I felt I didn't have a better outlet for it, and that there wasn't much point in trying to get it published because it wasn't good enough for that (and several folks here agreed with me, at least, according to their votes and feedback). But that was okay - E2 offered a place I could put it where people whose opinion I respected would read it, and very occasionally offer me feedback on it. That latter part? Not so true anymore, apparently. This E2 seems to be mostly about the catbox or about factuals or about, honestly, ragtag bullshit. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with those three things - hell, I've posted more than my fair share of ragtag bullshit. But it hasn't, mostly, been about actual fiction and the reading/writing thereof - at least, not for those at my level of quality. I don't consider myself to be in the upper tier of fiction writers here on E2 - more like one of the dogged hacks.
But damn, I do miss the feeling that people read it, for better or worse.
Anyway, I'm sure this is going to garner downvotes and probably disparaging messages, which is okay. Price of doing business. But this is an observed change in E2, and I felt I owed it to E2 to make that observation available for better or for worse.
Let me be clear: I am well aware that this 'burnout' feeling may simply be because my writing isn't appealing to the current E2 userbase, and maybe I fell too hard into the Game to handle that. It's a bit hard to tell from the inside. So if your first reaction to this screed is to dismiss it as someone bitter that he's not getting upvotes, well, maybe you're right. I don't agree with you, but I'm not narcissistic enough to claim that you're wrong.
Anyway, that's it. This isn't a 'taking my ball and going home' rant, or any kind of demand, or anything like that. It's just me trying to put into text this change in my relationship with E2 the site, for better or worse. Does it mean I won't ever post fiction again? No, of course not. As wiser ones than I have said, 'We do it because we're compelled' - and while I haven't been all that compelled lately, that doesn't mean I won't be. Any product of that compulsion which shows up will probably still get posted here unless I look at it and think it has an honest chance of publication somewhere, and that's just normal business.
But I don't think I'll look forward to posting things here the way I used to. It'll feel more like writing and putting things up on a shelf over my desk where it might sit for years unread, rather than writing and publishing or distributing it for people to read.
One of the most consistent bits of feedback I've received to this node is that many people have trouble reading longer documents on websites/screens/with E2's CSS. Perhaps, in a mythical better world, we (E2) would have something like the Anthologize tool that would let E2 users 'decant' writeups into e-reader friendly form.
User skunko quite helpfully pointed out to me that there exist tools for improving the reading experience from the web, specifically including Readability. Perhaps this will assist those who have difficulty reading long-form fiction on E2. Thanks skunko!