Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Note on FanStory

As many of you know, I am trying to get published, and while I have been submitting to various sources, I have also found a website that offers peer reviews in exchange for site money. My blog has lacked a little attention as I've been trying to improve my writing skills by getting some honest feedback at this site. It is called FanStory.com and can be found here.

The problem is that peer reviews at FanStory can be downright scary and giving a review can be like killing someone's puppy. I use the word "peer" with a lot of hesitation as I am now aware that anyone and everyone can get on the site and offer their review service and write their All American Novel. That's all fine and dandy, but, boy, can it lead to some interesting exchanges. I offer here a few of the experiences I have had since I joined.

I read a wonderful little poem that I gave an "Excellent" ranking to, but I suggested at one point that the author might rethink a passage where he switched verb tenses (the entire poem was told in past tense and he inserted the word "waits" into a critical passage). I thought nothing of the criticism, and, to me, it was minimal, but the author wrote back with flaired nostrils and his fists ready to kick some sea cow butt. He expressed his disappointment in my assessment and asked me to please explain what I meant by "verb tense". He'd never heard of that term. Huh?

I wrote a little poem and had recieved pretty good reviews. I almost hoped somebody would criticize it, but no one did. After it made the rounds and the reviews were recieved, I got a last minute review that read as follows. "3 stars (out of 5) Needs revision. I liked this poem a lot. It was awesome. Keep writing. You'll do better next time." Huh?

I wrote another little review of a pretty hashed prologue to a crime mystery. The writer had some good ideas but needed some creative advice. I suggested she use some foreshadowing early on in her work. She wrote back that she had never heard of foreshadowing and asked me to explain. Huh?

I guess my point is that the United States educational system must be failing at some level if we are churning out authors and poets and novelists that can't construct coherent sentences and express coherent ideas. I am not talking about scientists, doctors, mine workers, or waitresses that can't write. I am talking about people who are paying several dollars a month because they think they can write a little bit. They are wannabe writers that can't write. I feel like I should take my thesaurus and my editing pencil on to that site each day and prepare for battle.

Don't get me wrong. I am enjoying it. I just wish it was more constructive. If one more person tells me that I just don't get their poem, I'm going to explode.

This now ends the K. Jones soapbox standing portion of this post.

As for some other happenings.

I will be attending the Kay and Dorothy Jones Family Reunion with, well, the whole darned family this weekend in Alpine, Utah. Therefore, WilkeWorld will be quiet for a few days as I put on some swim trunks and scare all the women and small children.

In the meantime, I urge you all to check the Sea Cow Central link on my blogroll and determine which sea cow we should adopt. Please leave a comment below telling me which one should be the mascot and what we should ultimately call him.

Thanks all and have a great weekend.

48 Comments:

Blogger Travis said...

It seems to me that the two examples are from teenagers. I could be completely wrong. Maybe there are adults who don't know what verb tense is. And foreshadowing is a lesser known word, but if you want to be a writer you should know what it is, and how to use it effectively.

I had a free membership at writing.com, and I found that criticisms were wanting. Often people were too afraid to give real opinions. And when you got a good critic it was hard to swallow sometimes. There were also many non-critics. The one's where they say good poem, and not much more. Anyway, my point is that although it can be somewhat helpful, I don't put too much stock in reviews of work on the Internet. A better source might be a writing club.

Now, time to go find some of your writings and enjoy.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Travis said...

Oh, can you put a link to your online book in your links to the left so that I can always know were to find it?

3:56 AM  
Anonymous john cowart said...

After being a writer for 20+ years, I take an odd stance about writers' groups.
Wtiting is not a committee affair; I feel you have to fly solo -- usuaslly without a parachute.
I don't show my work to anyone, not even my wife, untill it's finished.
I don't change a word in a manuscript unless the editor is actually paying for the piece.
Lots of folks are willing to make corrections and suggestions. Why not? It costs them nothing.
Of course, Stephen King may view things differently, but what does he know.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Wendopolis said...

I've not heard of Fanstory. But that is one of the most frustrating things about getting reviews. A lot of people get offended in their ignorance, and it's tough to get a good review. But I've had good experiences at Writing.com, and would reccommend it to anyone. I've written a lot of stories that are posted there. Anyway, an online deal like that is best for me, whose free time is limited. A writing club/group wouldn't work for me. Keep writing!

7:54 AM  
Anonymous MissMeliss said...

You'd be surprised at the number of adults, even educated adults, who have no idea what subject-verb agreement is.

When did people stop noticing that the way we speak and write makes a big impression?

11:53 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Have a good time at your family renunion and just have fun with the family. Watch and observe and tell us what went on. Write about what you know best. Try not to scare too many of the children. No Doritos!

12:23 PM  
Blogger Better Safe Than Sorry said...

i think the problem with the site is exactly what you're experiencing, anyone can go on. do you have something in your area that you could maybe meet and exchange things with others, i'm thinking like a meeting one night through the week where you get together and offer and receive advice of what you are writing? i don't know if such a thing exists, but i think you would have more success than this on line thing.
anyway, hope you have a great weekend and a wonderful reunion.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Indigo said...

I shared an essay that I wrote once with some friends, to get some constructive feedback. Most of it was worthless, especially when they liked my essay better w/o the revisions. The best feedback I got was from a friend's husband, who was a writer himself. It was encouraging, yet critical at the same time.

Sorry they are such buttheads over there. It would drive me insane.

I wondered where you've been, BTW.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Indigo said...

Hey? Are you busy? Because I'm wondering if you are in a mood after this post and someone needs to say: "SNAP OUT OF IT!"

You're off riding a sea cow and didn't invite us, aren't you?

7:43 AM  
Blogger Indigo said...

Ahhhhh, you are busy scaring women and small children! Okay, I missed that part. :-) That's better than being too depressed to blog.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

K -

If you are working on a novel, I'm in a really great online critique group. I will confess that it is affiliated with the National Association of Women Writers, but if you seriously wanted to work with some good writers, I'd see what they thought about having a man involved. I think it would be good to have a male perspective frankly. None of us are published yet, but a couple have agents and a bunch of the folks have won contests with their writing. Not me of course, but hey . . .

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, did your comments stop me in my tracks! I thought I was the only person who had a bad experience with the infamous fanstory. I did learn from a choice few people there, but I also learned that the bottom line is money. If I reviewed all day, I would have enough 'member dollars' to promote my own material that night. And I reviewed properly, not some photocopied blurb that everyone received. If I didn't have enough earned for promoting my stuff, I used my bank account. Crazy! But in the end, it got to be such a pissing match, I decided to go it alone. Much of my work was reviewed by respected reviewers, but when a poorly written recipe for meatloaf was the top story because the semi-illiterate author had pumped it full of certificates and junk, I knew it was time to go. One book coming out, 4 on the burners, nice to read these comments. I certainly have had my head turned. Thanks for letting me vent!

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Penny Bodner said...

I can respect what you are saying about fanStory, to a point. This site is great because of exactly what you're complaining about.

It gives the opportunity to be educated, not isolated and snubbed. Where the American educational system has failed, this is an opportunity to continue to learn. People from all over the world are fanStory members, not just US citizens.

Take a valium, do some yoga, smoke a joint, or whatever it takes to calm down about it.

I had an exceptional rating on a poem yesterday, when some 17 year old kid from half the world away snatched a star. That brought my poem back to the professional level of rating. Did I cry about it? No. I was honest with this person, (who by the way, was fairly illiterate) and I explained to them that they should get a premium membership if they wanted to learn to write, etc. This individual had no command or clue of the English language, nor did I receive contructive critism.

There are plenty of wonderful writers on fanStory, and there are pro's and con's to everything (and some cons are pros) but for me it is an ingenius way to learn.

I don't buy my member dollars; I review to earn them. I paid my membership and that's all the cash FS got from me, with the exception of a couple of times when I bought some member dollars and when I won the Valentine's Day contest this year. It awarded me $110.00 member dollars, which I spent that same night!

Give fanStory a break! I noted that you're still there...People these days not only apparently cannot write---they don't appreciate much either.

Kentucky Sweet Pea

4:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what Ms. Kentucky said is quite true.
though there are many writers trying to improve on there, there are still some who are extremely talented.

I have a few in mind already who have their stuff published, and that must mean SOMETHING.

sure, the member dollars can get annoying- but you just have to learn to move past that and onto the actual writing.
yes sometimes I wish people would put more than just "nice work" or " great job again" etc., but maybe they just enjoyed it not for the message it presented but just for the fun of it.

The ranking system is a great idea because it pushes people to try harder, work for a reward, pride their hard work.
and because you have to pay to write, most people put out their best work in hopes others will enjoy it.

All in all, though Fanstory has its faults- there are a good number of positive points to save it from total devastation. :D haha

swt

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you tried www.openfloodgate.com?

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to try TheNextBigWriter.com. The writing on the site is excellent, the community is very professional (many of the writers have been published), and the support is great. I was a member of fanstory for awhile and it's a great site to put up a few stories, but not really a writing workshop. There are too many distractions. Best of luck with your writing!

5:51 AM  
Blogger J. Conrad Guest said...

One of the problems with writer’s groups, especially those that are online, is that you have no way to monitor the experience level of the participants. Also, feedback on any piece of text is highly subjective – any reader has the right to say of any text, “I didn’t think it was that good.”

Concerning Fanstory, I suspect they tend to be a popularity contest: contributors with the most family and friends will tend to get the highest marks. Generally, I think praise is often given in an effort to obtain a favorable response in reciprocation.

Reading is highly subjective; if you don’t understand this inarguable fact, then you haven’t yet submitted enough work for publication. I’ve had my work rejected by editors who didn’t care for it, and had the same piece accepted elsewhere with high marks for creativity, content and style. Every writer wants to believe his or her work is the best since Hemingway, but the truth is, Hemingway had his detractors, too.

I belong to a writers’ group that meets monthly at our local library. I’ve listened to participants praise a piece for being perfect, and then I feel compelled to add my two cents that it can be improved and offer suggestions for doing just that. I’ve also had participants criticize my work for reasons with which I don’t agree. The secret to sharing one’s work with any group of readers, online or in person, is to accept what you wish (what you find helpful, useful) and leave the rest on the table.

J. Conrad Guest

10:55 AM  
Blogger Honus X Heppablatte said...

For an in depth and painfully honest blog on a year at fanstory check out my blog here:

http://myyearatfanstory.blogspot.com/

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Honus x heppablatte is an absolute idiot. He is all over the internet professing his hatred of Fan Story! How sad for this little fellow.
At Fan Story, he spent his time pasting meaningless reviews which got him in trouble. Than, he ragged on everyone like his writing was just the grandest thing since Shakespeare. This bum had every write to be kicked off. Everyone cheered when he left! Good riddance!

2:40 PM  
Anonymous M. Lori Motley said...

I'm on FanStory (MMWym) and have the same issues. It's important to keep in mind that there are writers from all ages and all skill levels on the site. Getting quality reviews does happen... sometimes.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still on Fanstory -- nearly 3 years now. Its contests have prompted me to create several stories that I would never have thought of writing, so it's helped me grow.

Reviewing is subjective -- always. There are many who read the work but don't have the skills to critique, but some members are editors in real life and very helpful. It's been very beneficial to me, and the encouragement of its members have led me to publish a magazine article, for which I was paid.

8:45 PM  
Blogger texstoryteller said...

It's probably been a long time since you wrote this post but I agree whole-heartly with it. I too belong to Fan Story but not for much longer. Anytime I've written anything I usually get a hold of some grammar or spelling nazi. But you're only suppose to be "nice". I would say that most of those subscribers don't have the first clue how to give positive feedback. As for me, I've had enough of this site and the wanna be group.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I've been a member of FanStory for 18 months now, and I'd like to share my experiences.

FanStory can be a great place to hone your writing skills, but you need to approach it right. First, completely ignore the ratings and rankings. Generally speaking, they don't mean a damn thing as far as "who is the best". There are nearly as many talentless hacks as talented writers in the upper echelons. The reason for this disparity is that the rankings depend as much on quantity as they do on quality.

Second, don't promote too high. If you do, you will attract the fluff 5 star reviewers who are only trying to gather enough cyber bucks to promote their own stuff.

Third, when you are fortunate enough to get an honest, detailed review, kiss that reviewers feet, thank them, and nominate them for reviewer of the month. Another words, ENCOURAGE the honest reviewers and they will return. Many of the honest reviewers avoid the writers who react poorly to their honest reviews.

Is FanStory a good site for writers? Yes, yes, yes. Does it have its drawbacks? Sure, just like any site which is peopled by flawed humans, there are flaws. But I maintain that what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. I've belonged to several other writer's sites. None of them have taught me a blessed thing about writing until FanStory.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed Fanstory for the most part, however I get 5 stars on most of my work, but have only won one contest. It is hard to know what is good and what isn't, so I write what I like. Some of the feedback has been helpful and some made no sense. You have to have a tough skin to be a writer.

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