Writing Forums:  Yes, It's a Popularity Contest

Writing Forums: Yes, It's a Popularity Contest

A Lesson by N. C. Matthews

Ever feel like you are being judged based on what you choose to write about rather than your actual writing ability?


Any writer who has spent more than a few hours on a writing forum will quickly realize that your talent has nothing to do with how well your stories are received, how many reads you get, how well your ratings will be, or the type of comments you will receive.  As much as it sucks, you could write something to rival Anne Rice, Stephen King, and J. K. Rowling and STILL have your work rate very low, have people tell you that you suck as a writer, and not receive 1/10 of the reads that the top-rated story has, even if that story sounds like it was written by a ten-year-old.


It totally sucks, but writing forums boil down to a giant popularity contest.  Unlike real life, though, it is not necessarily the “who” that is popular so much as it is the “what” that is the flavor of the day.  For example, XN caters to a very specific group of readers.  They are looking for instant gratification in their adult literature.  The more vulgar it is, the more taboo the subject, the better the response.  The readers apparently do not care anything about stories which are well written, well thought out, and have actual storylines and character development.  


Even though I know this, it is still very disheartening to have my hard work butchered and torn apart by readers who have absolutely no idea or appreciation for the amount of hard work and effort that goes into creating the type of erotic fantasy that I enjoy writing.  And despite this, I still post on this site.  I know that if I would take all of the sex scenes out then I would be able to post on other writing sites, but I refuse to jump through hoops and rewrite something that I like just to try to get a few more reads.  Being forced to change who I am as a writer and consequently the writing itself is the very reason why I have turned down mainstream publication offers and chose to go the self-publishing route. 


I know that I could have other options if I changed my genre of writing.  I know that posting on XN will result in my stories being trolled by mean-spirited readers and consistently rated down by jealous writers.  I know that members of the site are not looking for anything that has any type of thought and creativity behind it.  One has only to see all the “That was so hot!  You are a great writer!  I want more!” comments on seriously pathetic attempts at writing to know that most of the members and readers that frequent that site would not know a decent piece of written work if it bit them on their asses. 


This goes back to that whole “popularity” thing again.  If it’s a really badly written piece from a writer who has gotten a “following” because his brain-dead readers seem to think his vulgarity is a rare treasure, then they will continue to follow him around as if he were a literary god.  If it’s a wretched piece of text that jumps straight into an adult situation with no mention of the characters or how they came to be in this situation, then it will be praised and voted up.  Decent pieces of writing, those with thought and character development, coherent storylines and intriguing plot twists, will, inevitably, be voted to the bottom of the pile thanks to under-handed people who want to pretend they are writers by slapping a bunch of crap onto their computers and then post it on a site that has absolutely no literary standards what-so-ever.  Yeah, it’s the only place that would take their mindless drivel.  Most writing forums have standards.


Yet I choose to stay.  If I could find other sites that allowed graphic violence and adult themes and situations then I would happily post on said site(s).  Until then, I will continue to put up with the trolls and oceans of mediocre writing that is XN.  In the meantime, I feel that each positive vote, each encouraging comment, each additional read is another small victory for the few decent writers that still cling to some ray of hope that XN will eventually stop catering to all the bad writers and mean trolls and start appreciating all the talented writers who give their writing genius to the site FOR FREE.  But it’s a choice that I stand by.  Sure, I’m not popular.  I will probably never be one of the “popular” writers.  But I’m betting that if any of my works ever hit the mainstream publication circuits I’d be a pretty damn big hit.  Of course, that maybe because in my own mind, I am already popular!

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Posted 5 Years Ago

Most members are there just to solicit praise for their own pieces, rather than to take much of an interest in those of others. Thankfully, there is an exception to that rule.

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Posted 6 Years Ago

XN sounds interesting. Is that a writing site? I can't find it
I do understand where you're coming from. Wattpad has this issue of "oh they're teens and he's a jock and she's a nerd" and bam those get 1 million reads. Whereas my work gets like 250 if I try really hard to get attention. I have no idea how some writers manage to magically get so many followers.

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Posted 7 Years Ago

*sigh* If Urbis was still around (I still hold out hope that it will be back - the guy in charge did say he was only working on changes), I'd recommend that you go there. Not that there were NEVER any "fluff" reviews there, but you could get your points back if someone wrote you one (and they lost those points) - an excellent way of discouraging 'i luv it kep ritin' lol' reviews. On Urbis, you wouldn't have had any trouble because of the graphic violence or for the romance elements in your stories. And you'd have gotten some good reviews from my friend DCKarma. (Here ends my "I miss Urbis" rant.)

I tried Fictionpress years ago, but got fed up with children (no matter their real ages) accusing me of copyright infringement because one of my fantasy stories had elves and dragons in it... just like one they'd read once! (Yes, it was that bad. Did you know that every story with any kind of wizard, even that stuff by Tolkien, is a deliberate imitation of Harry Potter?) All the other sites I've looked into - and there have been many - seem too snooty and literary - as in "We don't want your GENRE fiction here." Or just plain unfriendly, as in "We don't want your GENRE fiction here, you MAN."

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Posted 7 Years Ago

Weaver, dear, if I could find them then I would be there myself! I have tried so many forums, but ultimately their age-appropriateness puts me out of the running. Even if I were to take out all of the adult themes and situations, the science fiction/fantasy places will not take my writings because the "graphic violence" breaks the rules or they do not want any type of "romance" in the writing.

Thus far I have tried fictionpress.com (my stuff is too adult themed), webook.com asks that you give up your copyright to them (read the fine print very carefully!), booksie.com is okay but I do not get a lot of reads on there....just a few dozen a month, wattpad.com is the same as booksie, worthyofpublishing.com demands that in order to post there you can NOT actively try to get that piece of work published with anyone other than those publishers affiliated with their website, 4chan.org has more rules than the U.S. government....

The list that I have tried is endless. They either do not allow the graphic violence, the adult situations, they require you to give away your copyrights, there are so many rules that getting a story 'accepted' takes an act of congress and a dozen rewrites to fit their "rules," or the amount of traffic is so minimal that it's not worth the time and energy in trying to post there.

I have wanted so many times to start my own writing forum that allowed ANYTHING to be posted and for writers to get actual, useful feedback. Alas, I simply do not know enough authors who would be interested in such a place. But I suppose I could always dream.

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Posted 7 Years Ago

"Most writing forums have standards."
Please, tell me where these forums are, and if they accept writers of science fiction/fantasy! (The "serious" forums I've tried don't want "that genre stuff.")

Thank you for writing this lesson, or article, or quiet rant against the futility of trying to get real feedback from literate people... You've put into words something I often think but cannot write due to the inarticulate anger that hits me every time I try to say something about it.
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N. C. Matthews
N. C. Matthews

My pen name is Nicola Chey Matthews. I have been writing for over 28 years now. I first began writing when I was only five years old. I wrote my first novel at the age of 13, and had attempted 2 ot..