A few of us are thinking of creating some kind of forum here for imaginative writing, so that writers can look at each other's work and exchange ideas. For now I want to hear from interested people.

As yet I have no clear idea of how exactly it'll work or what we'll do. Lucy-S made the proposal, with a lot of detailed ideas involving technical changes to the database and our methods. I don't know to what extent they're feasible. Until then, here's what we can do with existing methods:

  • Create a room. Lucy-S has suggested Prose Garden, and I like this. You enter the room by searching for or clicking on Prose Garden, and the chatterbox there is visible only to people who are currently in the room. So we can talk openly without having to use /msg.

  • Create a message group. I propose calling it e2prose. A god can add you to the group (or remove you if you want). Then anyone in the group can broadcast a message to the other members using /msg e2prose Blah blah...
  • To send messages to only those group members on-line now, use a ? on /msg, thus /msg? e2prose Blah blah.... This prefixes your message with 'ONO' (on-line only) and saves flooding message inboxes.

That's it: just a talking shop. No powers or privileges.

This does not address the one key problem, that posting on E2 is public and therefore legally counts as publication. Some other publishers will reject your work if it has already been published. But if it was restricted to a designated group of interested readers (our e2prose group), it would count as private. We do not have a way around this (yet, if at all). E2 is not the ideal site for serious private discussion of this kind.

I'm sure all E2 imaginative writers are heartily sick and depressed by the hostile reaction their writing gets here. All original fiction and poetry gets several downvotes instantly, without even being read, and regardless of the content. We're all used to mentally disregarding this spiteful and petty-minded ignorance, but it could make or break an aspiring new writer, who thought it was a commentary on their work rather than the blind philistinism it is.

I have used prose as a short, neutral term for what we write. Another word for it is imaginative. It's usually taught as creative writing, but that wrongly implies that factual discussions of science, history, or literature are not creative. It is not fiction, for it includes reflective retellings of real events: many of our best writers work in this way. It is not just formal short stories: many of our best writers work with visually and aurally poetic prose.

Clearly a similar group would be useful for E2 poets, and some writers would belong to both groups. However I think the poetry side is different enough to require a separate group. (And of course any other group, maths or history or sport, could have dedicated usergroups.)

A few people here are professionally published writers already. I don't want this group to seem dominated by them, and they don't need the confidence-boosting this group might give: this is more for the rest of us* who like to write enough that we might one day be published. Don't feel excluded, is what I'm saying.

Let me know if you're interested in being part of this. I sent out messages to tell a few people I can think of who might be. Expressed interest so far: So many people have expressed interest that there are too many to list. Click on e2prose to see the list. Anyone new who wants to be added, please contact a god. (Demeter is one and also a real live writer so I've made her head of the group.)

* Just after writing that I go to the post office and find that the book my short stories are in has arrived. I'm published! :-) And it's pr0nerotica so don't ask.

E2 Prose Writers Group: FAQ

As an addition to Gritchka's excellent introduction into what this group is about, a few of us thought that a procedures and protocols FAQ would be helpful to group members, particularly those just joining us.

How do I join the group? How do I get on or off the e2prose message list?

As Gritchka says, any e2 god can add (or remove) you, but the gods who are part of our group (and therefore the best folks to send your request to) are Demeter, Gritchka and yossarian.

Where can I find specific advice about writing or getting my work published?

Read through the writeups listed at Writing and Publishing.

How do I reply to messages sent to me from the e2prose list?

This can be momentarily confusing for new list members. When you click on the "reply" link (the "r" in parenthesis at the start of the message), you will be sent to the "talk" prompt, where you will see /msg sendername. If you type your message and click "talk", you will be sending the message to just that person, not to the list. So, to send to the whole list, you can either:

  1. click on the "ra" (reply all) link in parenthesis
  2. if that seems too easy, you can also replace sendername with e2prose before you send the message.

What can we talk about on the e2prose message list?

As Gritchka said, this list is to "talk shop" about any and all issues in prose writing and publishing. However, because it's easy to overwhelm people with the great volume of messages that a bunch of wordy folks like ourselves can generate, here are some guidelines for the message list:

  • Keep chat and in-depth discussion for the Prose Garden. If you have a question for the group, by all means ask it on the message list, but if you see a big discussion erupting, message those folks who are online (using the command /msg? e2prose) and suggest everyone go into the Garden. If you come up with ideas that you think should be shared with the group, summarize the ideas in a message to the whole group later.

  • Alternately, if people are having trouble with the Chatterbox or otherwise can't get into the garden and you feel the topic is important for group discussion, limit the messages to those who are online (using /msg? e2prose).

  • Nodevertize judiciously. If you've written a piece of prose you want to share with the group and/or get feedback on (be the writeup new or old), by all means send a short note to the list with the writeup hardlinked in your message. Do the same if you've written a "how-to" type piece on writing.

What's the best way of workshopping prose and getting/sending feedback on a writeup?

There are several ways to go about doing this. I recommend posting critiques so that other group members can see them. It can be helpful to other people to read criticism of a piece, because (1) the critique may apply to their own work, (2) if everyone interested sees the critiques, it saves the author getting 5 separate messages that say the same thing, (3) seeing others' critiques may spark ideas that help you formulate your own critique.

However, currently the system is not set up to accomodate critical writeups posted below the author's original node. So, please don't do this, else you risk losing XP and having your response writeup nuked by an editor.

So, I would suggest doing the following:

  1. Write your piece and node it.

  2. Announce it to e2prose.

  3. In the same message, tell the group what level of critique you'd like to see; some people aren't ready for a detailed slice-and-dice and just want overall comments. Others want the full treatment. You need to tell people what you want so they can prepare their comments accordingly.

  4. Set a time (based on the e2 server clock) when you will be hanging out in the Prose Garden so that people can come give you feedback and otherwise discuss your piece. It might be good to give people at least a couple of days to get to your writeup and read it. You could hold multiple sessions, if you like, in order to accomodate people in wildly differing time zones.

  5. Post a summary of the Prose Garden chat on your homenode for a week or thereabouts so those who couldn't make the session can see what was said and follow up with their own comments via direct messages to you if they wish.

  6. Take time to digest people's comments and revise your piece accordingly.

How should I give a critique?

There is one basic rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We're here to help each other; be honest, and be respectful. Ego-stroking won't get any of us anywhere, but we also need to be supportive of each other's efforts.

Here are some other suggestions to consider:

  1. Summarize what you felt the piece was about. If your interpretation differs from the author's intended interpretation, this tells him or her that the weight of the piece is falling someplace other than where it should, and revision is in order.

  2. Consider the characterizations, plot continuity, dialog, pacing, conflict, writing style, and the mechanics of the author's writing. Did these things work for you? If not, try to think of why, and give the author suggestions for improving things.

  3. Please don't take a critique (or a refusal to follow your advice when you give a critique) personally.

  4. A good critique helps both parties improve their writing.

Wow, that's great. But what if I don't want my stuff critiqued? What if I just want to make people aware of a piece so they can read it?

That's perfectly legitmate, too. Maybe you've noded a piece you consider to be "finished", either because it's been published or you're completely satisfied with it. Maybe you noded a piece a while back, and it disappeared from the "New Writeups" window with nary a vote. It's perfectly fine to want to make group members aware of something so they can simply read it.

But, please honor the spirit of not generating too many messages on the list. If you have a lot of older pieces, you might want to create a writeup to compile them or list them on your homenode. Then, direct people to the appropriate place to find all your prose nodes neatly laid out for consumption.

I've got some old prose writeups on the server ... should I try to improve them?

Absolutely. One of the goals of this group is to improve what's already on e2. disgruntledwren has volunteered to be the leader of the Fiction Rescue Squad within our fair group. She and Arthyr (and others) will provide upvotes and chings to those who make their old prose shine.

Should I tell other people about this group?

Absolutely. The more people we have here who care about good prose and who want to work with other writers to improve the writing here on e2, the better. This isn't supposed to be a "clique"; it's just a way of focusing interest.

If you see noder who are noding original prose, be certain to message them and point them to this node.

Is there an editor in the house?

Some of the e2 editors who have voiced an interest in our groups' work include Apatrix, iceowl, wertperch, Igloowhite and sockpuppet.

If you know of anything in this FAQ that should be changed or added, please send me a message. Thanks!

As an active E2 voter, I would like to contribute for both official and unofficial members of the E2 Prose Writers Group my own suggestions on how to make your creative writing less vulnerable to the "automatic downvoting regardless of the content" of which me and mine have been accused.

  • Don't display in "New Writeups". This checkbox is there for a reason. Since you now have the power to bring your noded fiction to the attention of a targetted readership, you may as well hide it from the general population if XP loss is a concern of yours. If, on the other hand, you've developed a healthy shield of XP stoicism, then by all means let your nodes be announced to the voting public.
  • You have exactly three sentences in which to engage my interest. If you're using the aforementioned overly-long node titles, then you've already used up your first sentence. Either way, if a noder finds your story unexpectedly, then they're not necessarily going to be receptive to what you have to say. You've got three sentences on the average in which to draw your reader in, so make them count. Be imaginative. Be funny. Be intriguing. Be, above all else, relevant. There are thousands of other writeups out there to read, each one just a mouse click away. Give your readers a good reason to stick around and finish yours.
  • XP Stoicism. Cultivate it. Professional writers go through months or years of rejection slips even after they've got their foot in the door with their first published work, and even the richest novelist is going to get some bad reviews for any given work. There's no reason you shouldn't expect a slew of "rejections" from the voting public when you put your stuff up here, too. Being a writer in any capacity requires a thick skin if you want to be serious about it.

Remember: you're putting your writings up here because you want feedback from us. Please don't complain just because we're being honest with it.

postscript: I'm not just criticizing blindly here. I, too, have a handful of creative writings on E2. And when noding them, because it's what I expect of others, I've always tried to follow the above guidelines. Just because it's creative doesn't mean it shouldn't also be content.

I am an active E2 voter, factual writer and prose writer. I am a member of the E2 Prose Writers Group. I support writing of a creative nature and writing of an experimental nature. I believe it has a place here. I also believe that there are those who believe E2 should be only a repository of facts and figures. To each their own. The existence of many different points of view not only makes E2 a more worthwhile place, it makes it a microcosm of the real world... and the real world of writing.

My opinion of the purpose of the E2 Prose group and its value to the E2 community may differ from that of other members. I do not believe that prose writers should take their work out of the mainstream of New Writeups. I do not believe that prose writers should seek ways to change the make-up or coding of E2 to suit their "needs" or wants. Why? Because the best education an aspiring writer can get involves learning to adhere to an existing system. Work within the limitations of the medium. Adapt to your surroundings. If you have aspirations to become a published writer, you will need to learn how to do this. If you are a published author who has experience dealing with the publishing industry, then this should make perfect sense to you. My advice to writers of fiction and creative prose is as follows:

  • Don't submit works in progress. Write and rewrite until you feel your work is ready to be read by your E2 brethren. Let others in the group or others you trust look over your work either on your E2 Scratch Pad or on your home node. Wait until you have something you feel is truly worth submitting before hitting the submit button.
  • E2 is not a writers' workshop. You can make valuable contacts through the E2 Prose group and perhaps work together outside the walls of E2. Through /msg you can share thoughts and brief critiques (I have found critiquing through /msg leads to misunderstanding based on the limited space for communicating). For greater understanding and sharing of advice and experiences, exchanging e-mail addresses is much more beneficial (there is an E2 Prose member I speak to regularly "on the outside" and there is no reason you cannot as well). Prose Garden works on a limited basis, but schedules and time differences make it difficult for everyone to gather at once.
  • Our support of prose does not mean support of crap. Prose should adhere to the same standards as any other contribution to E2. The power of good writing is that others can understand and on some level relate. Make it something people will want to read a second time or recommend to their friends. Prose requires good grammar and correct spelling more than any other E2 contribution. Proofread until your eyes bleed. The best work can be ruined by a single spelling error because it destroys the rhythm of the work.
  • Pick titles carefully. Personally, I pick them off the nodeshell trees because that is more of a challenge and I'm not creating new pages just for my own weird brain explosions. Long titles may amuse and intrigue you, but it is important to remember that your piece will have to follow that title. A long, mind blowing title may draw a reader in, but you now have a much greater chance of disappointing them. Want a real challenge, pick on obscure Webster nodes and write a piece centered on the word you find there. If you absolutely must create a new title, pick one that is sharp and reasonably short.
  • E2 Prose is a unique entity. This is a unique format that is unlike any other. You may get feedback and criticism, and that more than likely is what you are looking for. What works here is not necessarily what will work in another market (E2 is considered a market because votes and cools count as a kind of reimbursement for your work). You will get voted up. You will get voted down. As I have already noted, it is a better place to work on your ability to adapt and market yourself than to find out what kind of writing will sell in the outside world. Write for E2 and the readership you have here. A writeup sitting at -2 might be far more marketable in the "real world" than a 7 times C!ed +150. Remember that.
  • Formatting. You have the ability to experiment with the format of your work if you feel it might add to the overall feel of your work. I am guilty of a tendency to change the paragraph alignment for dialogue simply because it keeps it from melting into the narrative. It is also because I like breaking the rules when I can, and on the outside I can't. Enjoy yourself, but don't do it to the point of driving your readers mad.
  • XP Stoicism is a key to writing success. If you are the type of person who whines about downvotes and cries half the night over the nuking of a writeup, then please don't ever try to get yourself published. You will never make it. This is a good place to practice use of your backbone. Of course, maybe you simply enjoy writing and you enjoy sharing your work with others. That is great as well, and more power to you. Still, you must adapt to any environment you wish to become a part of.

I have been writing for a quarter of a century, something that amazed me when it was pointed out to me recently. I have been dealing with publishers, editors and agents for two decades. I enjoy E2 because it is laid back and rewarding in its own way. I enjoy reading so much of what is here, both learning new facts and enjoying delicious pieces of creative writing. If E2 didn't have both it would be like a world with only one sex. Pencils ready? Let's begin.

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