Just to echo a few posts; it was great to be part of this. Thoroughly enjoyable, and, as always, incredibly educational as a writer. I regrettably missed the Teleport Us! comp as I was in the middle of essay writing for a course I was taking at the time and wished I had made the effort to submit after the blast that was the Scare Us! competition. I'm still ploughing through reading what I can of the submissions and still enjoying immensely. However, looking forward to hearing the results now.
Just so you guys are in the loop, we ARE actively working on comparing scores and selecting winners. There are emails, and spreadsheets! I'm even wearing a lab coat and playing with flaming beakers, just to make it all feel a little more official.
Anyway, just wanted to let you guys know that the gears are still turning.
Quick question, Nathan.
Are you guys reading a selection of the highest scoring stories and voting for the winners yourselves, or are the overall votes from users deciding the winners?
For the grand prize, we're looking through the stories for score and number of reviews to decide which/how many will get sent to Thuglit for their consideration. Ultimately, it's Todd's choice who is going to end up in his magazine, not ours. I'm not sure we're going to release the list of nominees, but we are sending Todd quite a few of them from which he can make the ultimate selection for the grand prizes.
The celebrity critiques are being pulled at random from the top 50% of the submissions.
And the top reviewers are... those who were the top reviewers. This is actually the hardest one for us, since it's not so much a numbers game as it is subjectively assessing the productivity of each reviewer by both the number of reviews left and the quality of each review left.
Hope that demystifies some of the process for you guys.
That's great, Nathan, thanks for the information!
Question: How do you determine the prettiest?
Answer - by their profile photo Hector, by their profile photo.
Today we figured out most of the winners. All of our star readers have been chosen, as well as those who will be receiving celebrity critiques. Once we have all affairs in order (very soon, in other words), expect an announcement in the newsfeed.
The grand prize winners will likely be announced in a post later on once Todd has had some time to read through the pool of candidates. Nobody here knows who he's going to choose, so you can stop with the bribes. I mean, I'd totally take them if I actually knew anything, but I don't, so it's just depressing to be offered money and have to turn in down, you know?
Don't forget to announce the winner of the prettiest. Hector is chomping at the bit! (The bit of what, though, I'd rather not say...)
I like to preemptively thank everyone who made my story be the winner.
Alternatively, screw you all, you have no taste, and I'll see you when I'm hanging around Jonathan Franzen and Stephen King.
Hanging around? I believe the official term is 'stalking'.
This was my first time being part of something like this and it was enjoyable! Thanks to all the readers that gave my story a chance and thanks for all the writers that shared their stories.
Read And Be Read
So was it number of votes, or percentages, or a combination or... ?
Winner announcements incoming...
A week later... are the winner announcements also outgoing?
They were announced, Liam - http://litreactor.com/news/arrest-us-and-the-winners-are-part-1
Just the Thuglit ones to go.
Ah! Thanks... but was expecting it here, so was more than a little lost! Guess I probably missed any tweet sent about the same time as well...
Sorry about that. I figured all you crazies would be refreshing the newsfeed every few seconds. I'll make sure to cross-post next time.
My apologies if I've missed the post elsewhere but is there a timeframe associated with the announcement of the Thuglit winners?
In the latest community spotlight http://litreactor.com/columns/litreactor-community-spotlight-august-2014 it says that the stories were sent to Thuglit, but they were finishing the latest issue. The winners will be in the next issue.
Sorry, I meant to reply earlier. Adam is correct. As far as I am aware, we will be sent the winners as soon as Todd has decided which three stories made the cut. Again, as far as I know, we will announce the winners soon after we receive them from Todd.
So for the moment, the LitReactor staff is waiting with the same anticipation as the rest of you. Once we get the results, I'll make sure they get out to you guys as soon as possible. Cool?
Also, as noted in that spotlight post, some of the prizes have gone out, some of them have been received, and some of them have yet to be sent. As of this post, every prize is accounted for and somewhere in the process. If you're an announced winner and want to check on the status of your prize, feel free to shoot me a PM, and I'll make sure to get you the info. Also, if you've received your prize, you're welcome to let me know, though it's certainly not required (thanks Adam).
I started a thread for Writing Event Ideas, and a couple of people have directed me to you, Nathan. Where can I send those ideas?
Also, not to harp on this, but any word on the thuglit winners? I haven't had the best track record of finding these posts on my own so I was just curious.
There hasn't been any news posted yet.
But there is about to be.
In the Community Spotlight they encouraged feedback on this thread regarding the Arrest Us challenge, so I come I figured I'd throw in my two cents.
First of all, this was my frist time being a part of a LitReactor challenge, and I think it's an amazing experience overall. It inspired me to write something I'm really proud of, and I look forward to future challenges.
That being said, I had three points of contention (only two of which could be addressed in the actual rules) and one suggestion. Nothing I had a problem with, but could provide an opportunity.
#1 and #2 (they sort of go together): Submission/reading dates and home page exposure: One of the things I think everybody noticed was that, in general, the stories that got submitted earlier got more reads, which makes sense. But it also put many stories at a disadvantage, especially with the high volume of submissions. Stories submitted earlier got read first, on the home page first, thus more reads from the exposure, thus stayed on the front page even longer, and it went on from there. I think throughout the entire contest, I only saw maybe six or seven different stories out of the 150ish submissions listed on the home page (consistently, at least, which is an important distinction). There were others that were on there for a few hours, but the majority of the time it was the same ones. That being the case, some submissions got a truckload of reads, while others only got a few. Of course, there are other factors. The number of reviews a person gives will obviously increase the number of reads they get in return (ideally, anyway), but I still feel like giving greater exposure to the stories that already have the most reads is a questionable procedure. It's like giving a rich person money just because they already have a lot of money. My recommended fixes would be 1) to have a set reading period. Writers can still submit in the proceeding month, but stories can only be read and/or rated during the reading period. I understand there may be a method to the current set up - motivate writers to submit early so not all the submissions come in right at the deadline and crash the site, perhaps - but I think most of the submissions came pretty close to the deadline anyway. Also, I imagine that most us, once we're done with a story that we intend to enter into the contest, will want to submit it as soon as we can just to get it off our plate (but that could be just me). And 2) have a randomized list on the home page. Even if you keep the submission/reading procedure the same, this will still help give the stories that are struggling to find readers more of a fighting chance.
#3 Reader/Rater expectations: Not much can really be done about this except maybe as a request, but I'd like to air the grievance anyway. While I like the idea of having a workshop format to the contest, it's still a contest, and I was a little dissapointed to see that people were voting based on something other than final draft standards. I would see things in the comments section that said something to the affect of, "this needs a lot of work to be good, but I upvoted because it's a good first draft and I want to encourage you." One of the things I value about LitReactor is the encouragement that the community provides, but it was a little frustrating to see stories that, by the reviewers own admission, were only first draft quality, getting upvoted in a real contest with actual publication available, as if it were any other workshop. Obviously, if something isn't worthy, it won't get selected for ThugLit (not to say that not getting selected means it's bad, of course), but it does take up space in the rankings for stories that reviewers feel are good, final drafts that should be contention. It was hard for me to take the contest seriously sometimes when a good final draft got ranked the same as a good first draft, just because the reviewing standards adjusted for sake of encouragement.
#4 I didn't have an issue with the comments system, but I wonder how people would feel about making comments private only, so that they can only be viewed by the writer of the story. On one hand, open comments allows reviewers to play off each other, generate a discussion, and could be really beneficial to the writer of the story. On the other hand, sometimes if I peaked at the comments section before I read (I tried not to, but sometimes I couldn't help myself), there were some stories I passed on based on what I saw in the comments, even if it got a decent upvote percentage. Not too proud of that fact, but it happened.
My goal with bringing up these points is to give more stories a chance to be read, allow more writers to get the most out of the challenge (which will make it more fun for more people), and bring the best contenders to the top of the rankings while still providing encouraging feedback to those stories that reviewers feel are in first draft form.
I know this was one long-ass comment, so if you read this far, thanks for taking the time.
Forgot to cross post, so if you're looking for news:
As for me, I'm going to get back to drafting a very special announcement post. It may or may not have something to do with the weird noises you've been hearing outside your windows the last week or so.
Thank you for your comments. Let's see if I can address them in the order you provided.
1) The order that the stories appeared on the page were related to their overall score, not their submission date or number of reads, so a story with one upvote could displace a story with a 96% from thirteen votes (and I'm not doing the math to see if that's possible right now). As time goes on, the stories typically stabilize in the list as most stories get enough readings to provide a more accurate snapshot of their quality. So it's not that the stories with most reads got the exposure, just that the more successful stories got placed near the top.
That being said, I'm not crazy about the concept of any story "getting exposure" constantly, which is why I suggested last year (before I was on staff) that the leadership implement a "random story" button (which they did). I'll chat with the staff about it, but honestly, I think most stories got enough reviews to paint a good picture. Remember that the score only provided a guideline for us; nobody who won a prize won because they were necessarily "the best". Todd selected the winners based on which of the best that he liked for his magazine, and the celebrity critiques were selected randomly from the top of the pack. Future contests will likely follow this more subjective and semi-randomized model, which rewards quality without making quirky hiccups and minor issues drastically affect the final outcome.
2) As for the reading period, we have people a couple of weeks notice before the submission window opened, a whole month to submit, and then the whole following month to read after the submission window closed. I'll take another look at it, but while I do think there were certain factors that affected how many reads a story got (such as length or pre-existing rating), I think that even people who submitted at the last second had plenty of time to get their stuff read to paint an accurate picture of the story's quality. Again, the score wasn't directly related to the number of reads you got, so exposure shouldn't have been a huge problem as long as you had at least a few reads. However, I would advocate a system that would, instead of listing only stories with no ratings, to instead implement a system that lists stories with less than five ratings.
3) Something to remember is that you can't necessarily take what some people say at face value. Many writers (including myself at one time) have said, "this is only a first draft" in order to protect ourselves should our precious little piece end up sucking, as well as to make it easier for other people to give negative feedback. It's much easier to criticize a first draft than a final draft, and I highly doubt that even half the people who claimed they were submitting a first draft actually were.
But you are correct that, ideally, people would have graded the stories as they were, and not for the potential they held, since this was a contest, and not a workshop. We'll make sure that expectation is made clearer next time, so thanks for pointing it out.
4) I'm not a huge fan of making the comments private; much of the time, I've used the comments to see what other people said so I know that I don't need to address that in my own comments. On the other hand, I totally get what you're saying. My opinion is that the comments aren't the problem. Rather, I would like to hide the rating the story has been given until after you've voted. That way, you aren't tempted to initially pass on a story simply because it has a low ranking (or a high one). I'm not sure if this is technologically possible, but it's something I do want to try next time if we can.
Again, thanks for your comments, Josh. And anyone else who wants to chime in, feel free. It's never too early to start taking notes for the next event.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the Teleport-Us challenge more than the Arrest-Us challenge. Perhaps that's because more people seemed to submit, but not to review. (An untested observation, as this time I tried to check that before reviewing their story). Perhaps it's because I seemed to put quite a lot of work into reviewing, and ultimately while most reviewers seemed to like it (and some said they loved it, which is nice!) those who didn't tended not to be able to provide criticism I could work with to improve it (quite a few - "it's not my sort of story" comments). So it's difficult to feel the work put in (which wasn't, a hasten to add, overly onerous - I LIKE reading stories - mostly!).
But what I think lets things down a little, is that for a contest to have prizes given out randomly, seems a bit peculiar. (This for the Celebrity critiques). And - also like the reviewer prizes, there are far fewer of them this year. So, again, treating it as a contest, things have moved to bigger prizes (publication in Thuglit) but less of them. And I think that's dangerous, as even if most prizes are very small, it's still a good pat on the back.
Having said that, since there's no fee to enter, I can understand that prizes at all is pretty spectacular, its just that I'm comparing last year to this!
Would I enter next year? Probably. (check back with me after it's announced!) But I don't think I'll be able or willing to put in as much time reviewing. I reviewed 55 stories, probably averaging just short of an hour each, (that's partly a factor of the length of the stories, and partly the length of the reviews I was writing) which makes for roughly a full working weeks worth of effort. Which is a lot, right?
Here are some quick ideas / discussion areas :
Should people be forced to review a number (small ish) of stories? Say 5? Perhaps only after doing so do their stories show up "somewhere else". This doesn't guarantee that they do a good job of reviewing, of course.
Should the Litreactor "Achievements" have a set for these contests, to encourage people to review more? An award at 5, 15, 25 reviews?
I agree to scrapping the "leader" board on the home page - people can always sort the whole list, and the random is a pretty good way to go if not being a completist (all hail the completist reviewers!). The "These stories haven't had many reviews" could be tweaked to keep it populated throughout the contest by least reviewed, or least recently reviewed, or whatever.
Do we want to make voting more transparent? Is it good or bad that someone can say they upvoted, and then actually downvote? (Not that I know how often this happens). Is it bad that people can downvote without comment?
Should people be allowed to enter more than one story? (Pretty sure there were some such in this years event).
Should word count limits be enforced? (Ban PDFs?) Saw at least one 6.5K story...
Should people be able to vote, who haven't entered a story? (If anyone out there is grooming their votes feedback, this would presumably stop that?)
Anyways. Another epic comment. Thanks (again) to those who read mine, and gave feedback, even if it was indeed not to your taste!
I enjoyed the contest again this year. The quality was pretty impressive, but I agree with Liam that there was more interaction in Teleport Us. There were a lot of people who posted and were never heard from again, and that does get a bit frustrating. I don’t think there is an easy answer to that though. You can’t make people stick around and take part.
There is a definite advantage to getting a story in early. Anyone posting on Day 1 has given their story two months to be read and commented on. Personally I think that is a good thing. If anyone feels disadvantaged by this, learn from the experience, and write something for Day 1 next time round.
Like Liam I find the idea of random prizes a little disheartening, though I understand the reasons for it. It is a lot of work to read and judge that many stories, as I can certainly attest to. It does grate slightly that after putting in a lot of effort the prizes are awarded purely by lady luck. I do understand it though, and it wouldn’t put me off entering again.
The one change I’d love to see implemented though is an end to the overly simplistic thumbs up/thumbs down voting. There were a couple of stories in the contest that really did stand out for me, and they deserved more than the same up vote that I gave to the solidly competent stories. A five star rating system as we have in the workshop would be ideal.
EDIT - the guest reviews don't seem to be up yet. When are these expected to be done?
As some who has participated in the last three events, I agree that the Hot Stories list doesn’t seem fair. In Teleport Us, it included a person who was disqualified early on in the event, but still showed on the list forever. I’d get rid of it and randomly highlight stories to up the traffic.
I’d also suggest doing more than an up/down vote, maybe replace it with 3-5 stars. With the up/down vote, you don’t want to down vote someone who has a good story, but it’s not as polished as it could be. So as a result you up vote them and then they have the same rating as someone who had a stellar-ready-to-be-pubbed story.
I’d remove all entries that don’t vote/critique others work within 7 days. I’ve seen lots of people who enter the contest and then disappear until it’s time to pick up a prize. I know you can’t force them to return the favor of everyone who voted for theirs, but a little participation should be required, and it’s not asking for much.
I think it’s important to keep the comments going, even when they hurt. I learned a lot from the feedback I got, even if the message wasn’t the kindest.
I think more should be done to create excitement with the contests. It shouldn’t run on autopilot. There needs to be someone out there creating discussions, troubleshooting problems, and building a sense of community. This event felt a little stale. For one, I didn’t like the subject or the parameters of the event. It seemed too geared towards macho guys. I’d make sure future contest have a broader scope to appeal to more writers. That being said, I loved the stories I read this time around and was happy to support the awesome writers here at LR.
One last comment, the time from start to finish takes forever! I’m going gray waiting to see who won and I’m sure it’s going to feel anticlimactic when the announcement actually happens to everyone else but the winner. That’s it for my bitching. I think the contests are great and I’d love to see more of them and on a regular basis. I think you’ll find it runs smoother if there is more consistency.
If you're going to vote, you have to leave a comment.
I understand that some people are gunshy about being critical, or fear that a negative comment/downvote will lead to the author paying them back in turn, but since this isn't only a a contest, but also a way for all of us writers to improve, critiquing, and in turn receiving critiques is a valuable lesson that needs to be encouraged more.
How about some kind of mandatory voting thing? Maybe you can only review stories with less than five votes, and you need to vote (and comment or your vote isn't applied) on five of those stories before you can comment on the rest. At that point your story will be publicly available, and not just visible to those who have uploaded a story. That way everyone has to critique everyone else's story and everyone should get at least five responses.
The five star scoring system sounds great - no one would get zero, the lowest would be one star, which is a lot more positive than no up-votes.
I also think SamaLamaWama is onto something with the subject matter. Perhaps romance or erotic would be a good move for the next one, getting all the crime and thriller writers out of their comfort zones. As long as we have a 'no slash-fic' rule. I don't want to read twenty stories about Bella and Edward's enduring love. Or Harry and Ron. Or Thor and Captain America. Or whatever.
As for the prize system, I think it works as it is. The top reviewers get prizes, the winning stories get published (you must achieve higher than a three star average to be considered?) and random stories that scored between two and four stars get 'celebrity critiques'. The problem I think was the momentum died out after the last story was uploaded. People stopped reviewing, which was a shame. How about instead of Hot Stories having a space highlighting new stories that have just gone public? Or a weekly (instead of monthly/occasionally) magazine feature about the popular/high scoring stories, leading reviewers, new stories, editors pick, etc.?
Those are my thoughts, somewhat undiluted.
I disagree that a genre immediately pigeonholes writers/stories. If that's the case, then people could complain the teleport us gave us too many rayguns, or the scare us gave us too many monsters. There were plenty of stories that were outside the 'macho' perspective. I'm predominantly a crime writer, but my story was me stepping out of my comfort zone-First person, hardboiled narratives.
Another suggestion, and this might be me only, but I actually value a 'celebrity' critique more than some of the other prizes-so I don't necessarily like the random element of it. But that's just me.
Fair point Hector. I was going to enter Teleport Us but couldn't focus on a story within the rules. I much preferred Arrest Us, as the rules said what not to write, instead of what to write. I'd much prefer continuing with that style of rules.
Well, that's that. I greatly look forward to the next VERB US! competition.
Alright, I just sent out the debriefing email to the staff with all of the feedback I saw in this thread and received in PM form. There was some really great stuff, and I threw my support behind some of the ideas that I thought were particularly good. Once we start building up to the next event, perhaps you'll see some of your ideas in the rules...
Anywho, I'm now unstickying this thread.
Also, I just wanted to address something that I saw come up a few times. If I made it appear like luck had a huge impact in who was selected, I apologize, so let me be clearer. Even in the case of the celebrity critiques, stories were absolutely looked at for quality. We didn't just close our eyes and choose. It's just that quality wasn't the only thing we considered.
See, what you may have noticed is that the first five or so pages of stories were all ranked above 90%. It's also important to keep in mind that this 90% may come from only a few ratings, or it may come from hundreds. This resulted in many, many stories with rankings that indicate they are high quality masterpieces.
Given those conditions, it's very difficult to objectively choose "the best" story from that bunch, especially considering that a story with 70% could be only a single upvote from the top page. So instead, we decided to keep things objective just to narrow our focus, and then shift gears a little. After objectively sorting for a desired quality, we then would choose randomly (in the case of the celebrity critiques) or choose the best three in the opinion of a judge (in the case of the Grand Prize).
Hopefully, this demystifies things a little bit. I apologize if you felt slighted; it just was rather impossible to come up with a purely objective system for grading five pages of essays with ratings over 90%, see? That's why I'm suggesting modifying the way we rate stories in the future to make objective grading a little easier, if possible. Of course, if any of you have other suggestions, feel free to make them.
Hope this helps,
When are the celebrity critiques going up, Nathan? If I haven't missed them, which is perfectly possible.
You didn't miss them, because they never "went up." We decided this year to send each winner their critique privately. They are perfectly allowed to share them if they wish, but we wanted to give them that choice. That way, it a story merited a particularly harsh critique, the celebrity reviewer wouldn't feel like they were embarrassing the author in public.
Thanks Nathan for running things - can't have been easy, and it IS appreciated! And to think, if you'd just said "we'll be picking the critique winners by an arcane method involving full moons and chicken sacrifices" no-one would have complained! ;) (Next year, hey?)
I'd love to take credit, but the rest of the upper staff did a ton of work to make this happen (ie, Rob was the prize master, which I think was the toughest job of all). My role was mainly nagging them about stuff you guys were saying and reporting back to you. So I'll pass your compliments up the chain.