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Thread: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

  1. #1
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    Submissions for the MCWC XX (our 20th Monthly Creative Writing Competition) opened in January. We've had one entry so far, more entries would be welcome!

    As I see it, it doesn't matter if a competition doesn't run for a while. At times, writers are keen to compete and, at other times, writers just want to post stories and encourage each other. It's normal for the MCWC to only run occasionally. However, the MCWC hasn't run yet in 2019, so I'm inviting everyone to say what you'd prefer to happen. I'll suggest three options:

    1. We keep things as they are: we have a submissions thread open for the MCWC, the competition runs when we get three (or more) entries.

    2. We suspend the MCWC, without replacing it with anything else. If people request a revival of the competition in future, we'll re-open it.

    3. We merge the MCWC and MAARC, allowing both creative writing (CW) and After Action Reports (AARs) to be entered in the MAARC.

    While I could be wrong, I imagine that the third option is the most controversial. Perhaps we shouldn't do this, because creative writing and AARs are different and different styles of writing should enter different competitions? However, in the same MAARC, we could have a novel-style AAR, an AAR of screenshots with brief comments, an AAR of text with no screenshots, a history-book AAR, an AAR which shows the game-play in a game or mod, an AAR which demonstrates strategy and a video AAR (which could be in any of these styles). If an AAR with no screenshot can compete with other styles of AAR, then would it be different to allow CW to compete with AARs? Perhaps it would be - I'd be interested to hear your thinking on this and the other options.

    Which option would you prefer and why? Feel free to suggest additional options.

  2. #2
    Hitai de Bodemloze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    Maybe shelve it for a bit and try something else. I've opined before that the MAARC and MCWC can get pretty stale, month in month out. Why not try six months of individual themed or challenge competitions? Or have a 'from start to finish' competition, where everyone has to start from scratch with a new story and then compete against eachother every month, with the goal of everyone having finished a (short) story by the end of a six month season? The one which wins the most monthly 'checkpoint' competitions along the way is the overall winner, but everyone wins by having finished their own story too by the end of it. That would be cool to see.

  3. #3
    Cookiegod's Avatar Primicerius
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    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    Quote Originally Posted by Hitai de Bodemloze View Post
    Maybe shelve it for a bit and try something else. I've opined before that the MAARC and MCWC can get pretty stale, month in month out. Why not try six months of individual themed or challenge competitions? Or have a 'from start to finish' competition, where everyone has to start from scratch with a new story and then compete against eachother every month, with the goal of everyone having finished a (short) story by the end of a six month season? The one which wins the most monthly 'checkpoint' competitions along the way is the overall winner, but everyone wins by having finished their own story too by the end of it. That would be cool to see.
    You'd need enough people with an interest to do this. And 6 months are a very long time. People would forget about it long before.

    The easy solution would be the following:
    Do a universal submission thread no matter what (Creative Writing & AARs go there no matter what) and add a "Category:" line. If at the end of the month you see enough people have joined for both competitions to be held, they can be held separate. If not, you do them united, and call it the "MAARC LXXXIII/MCWC XX".

    This is the non-committing, easy approach, because if ever there's enough sentiment to separate them again, it'd be easy to do.
    Both competitions also come with what appears to be a lot of traditions/baggage. Given that we're at 88, one could argue surrender is no longer possible.

    On the other hand, I also think that the separation is somewhat artificial. The differences in the competing AARs are vast, e.g. the one between Dercs & mine.

    So the other approach would be to simply call it the M(onthly)W(riting)C(ompetition) 88.
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    Imperator Majora's Avatar What's under your mask?
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    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    Perhaps have what is being done now shelved for a while in favor of the following, either one or both. When something doesn't work, the answer is to try and get the word out or adjust it to meet appeal. I think the problem is just the general lack of participation in these quarters - I know that while I am able to participate, I just can't settle down and actually write down events in my campaigns. I can't imagine I'm the only one, and the reasons are much more vast. However, perhaps with different focuses, a new core of participation can be built up, at which point this can be restored or the new stuff can continue.

    Idea one is indeed a longer running event, one that takes into account AARs written over a longer period of time. Perhaps something taking just a few smidgens from NaNoWriMo with a longer time, but with the idea being that in the span of x amount of months, you create an AAR based story from start to finish and then submit it on its own merits. Reward completion and cohesiveness as much as or more than simply throwing a few updates in and calling it a competition entry. I sacrifice the above 'compete against each other every month' in favor of simply letting people operate in the longer span as they need to, so they may be judged by the results and not the journey. That said, the 'checkpoint' idea isn't bad either. I personally prefer to have substance and completion when judging and creating, and not be basing tournaments off particular 'episodes' so to speak. But that's just me.

    Idea two is also a follow up on above; challenge people, give them themes, have them produce things for certain contexts or in certain ways. You may lose people by having month-to-month changes between humor and dark and highly contrasting contexts, but perhaps this can be remedied by concurrent or shorter events, or having more broad metrics. Perhaps a competition that challenges people's grasp on character development, or have them make something out of particular time periods, or have something where players work with and convincingly present multiple factions/sides to a particular game. Perhaps the creative energies of this community could be harnessed into a project starring multiple authors per entry, or using a game's multiplayer functions to compose a multi-sided AAR. Perhaps even that idea, but the victor isn't necessarily who makes the better moves, but who achieves the better writing.

    All this requires more thought and planning than I've given, just spitballing concepts as someone who lurks, but never quite plunges for lack of motivation and vision in committing to a particular project.

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    Derc's Avatar Centenarius
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    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    I have no problems if you'd merge them. Just please give this a more simple name if you do so. Abbreviations make it weird.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    On the other hand, I also think that the separation is somewhat artificial. The differences in the competing AARs are vast, e.g. the one between Dercs & mine.
    Yes. Mine is clearly the better.

  6. #6
    Swaeft's Avatar Drama King
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    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    Oooh, a good thread! I'll jump into this tomorrow, am too tired to think as clearly as I'd like atm. Very good opinions have been written so far.

    So, after thinking on this for awhile, here are my thoughts:

    It wouldn't be a good idea to merge the MCWC and the MAARC, mainly because the entries are quite different from one another. Whilst it is the easy way to get more submissions overall, it would make casting the votes quite difficult, at least for me. I wouldn't know how to compare some of the CW pieces to the current AARs.

    Alwyn, you mention that the types of AARs competing against each other are sometimes very different, and perhaps a CW piece wouldn't be that hard to fit in. Whilst this is true, I've always felt that AARs often had some ties to the game, perhaps by writing about a campaign one has played, or following the stories of a certain set of characters found in the game. That's still something that ties all of the AARs together, which cannot be said the same for the CW pieces, which can differ from poetry to song lyrics and original stories. The CW section always felt more 'free-form' and the AAR section more structured.

    If I were to pick one of the 3 choices, I would stick to the 1st. I don't really see the need to suspend the MCWC, there are still some CWs that are eligible or semi-active, and suspending it might discourage potential CW writers as well if they intend to participate in the MCWC at some point.

    This is all my personal opinion, do with it what you will Thanks for putting up this thread!
    Last edited by Swaeft; June 23, 2019 at 09:14 AM.

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  7. #7

    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    Thanks for the thread Alwyn, as this is a topic that is certainly worth discussing.

    Now, though I've groaned and moped on some threads about being alone in the MCWC thread, I would agree with Swaeft's points in favor of "solution" 1. My reasoning (which is close to Swaeft's), would be the following:

    Against solution 3: The CW pieces really can be massively different from AARs. I mean, things like Old Dragoon's Ad Usque Fidelis or Basileos Leandros' Swords Made of Letters come somewhat closer to the feel and genre of AARs, but there are other things that are a world away. Some of it is just pure narrative fantasy that can't be compared well, some are real-life shorts (e.g. NorseThing's Cat Tails), and some are only partly CW in the first place, but still perhaps interesting to post here (I'm thinking of my Whisky Reviews). Lumping these in with the AARs would, I think, do a disservice to them both, and make it hugely difficult to cast votes across things that have no common ground. Moreover, from a quick glance at the CW forum (which I admit to not perusing often enough), it seems that there are a couple ongoing pieces there that are eligible for the MCWC. Given that, I think a better recommendation than pausing the competition would just be for readers in that forum to point writers (old or new) toward the MCWC. It could well be that people posting there just don't know about the competition, or don't realize what value the competition holds (even if you're not looking to win, or don't care about such things, the publicity is something all writers would love to have).

    For solution 3: The one point that I think goes in favor of 3 (but which I find to be not strong enough) is that it could improve the overall publicity and readership of CW pieces. This is because there seems to be generally more readership in the AAR fora than in the CW forum, and merging might lead to some cross-pollination. That would indeed be a good thing, but I think that is the only good that would come out of a merge, and I think it is not strong enough of a reason to dump the old competition.

    Against solution 2: Same as Swaeft, I think this may go toward discouraging some CW writers. Obviously, if someone wants to write, they will, but the competition is a nice way to motivate more regular posting of updates, or to give unsure writers a nice boost in readership or confidence (when they see they're work is being appreciated by voters). More than this, like much of the site, there are periodic upturns and downturns, both in content production and viewership participation, and I think a measure like eliminating a competition due to current (apparent) lack of interest might entrench the current downturn, possibly furthering a stagnation of the CW forum. The competition, even if only occasionally run, serves as a reminder that this is also an area of the site that can flourish and has in the past, and I think it is up to us more experienced members to encourage budding writers to enter competitions and to push one another to produce more (and more varied) works. Finally, though the MCWC hasn't seen much life yet in 2019, it's presence is not really taking anyone's time or creating a nuisance, so there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to drop it (unless there is sufficient interest in merging the competitions).

    For solution 1: Much of the "For 1" points are just natural follow-ups of the "against 2/3" points. The competition provides a platform for publicizing newer works, which is good for new writers or writers embarking on new projects. There also seems to be enough activity in the CW forum to get entries into the current MCWC, it is just that people aren't entering. This seems to me more a problem of experienced members (myself included) not encouraging newer writers to submit their work. Many of these people probably don't even know about the MCWC, and some indication of that in their threads would be a boon! I also think there is value added in us keeping a separate space for writing that is highly creative, and not bound to some game storyline. Obviously AARs are massively creative as well (anyone who's read mine knows I put great value in letting your story develop in great depth, even if the game itself becomes just backdrop), but an AAR is still bound to a world that is already developed, and to a plot that is evolving in specific ways. Poetry, song, or little experiments can indeed be worked into these larger pieces, but it is, in my opinion, also valuable for us to encourage these things for their own sake as stand-alone pieces, and that requires the CW section (with all of its trappings).

    To conclude, I would leave the site and competitions as they are. There is, however, one thing I think we should change, and that is the participation of more experienced members in the CW section. I see Alwyn and Swaeft romping around there all the time, but the rest of us (again, myself included) do not do enough to explore those threads and encourage those writers. I think we can all improve there, but I also think that just getting the newer people to submit works in the MCWC provides a nice "bump" to the readership. I for one sometimes forget about the CW section, but I always see when a new piece is submitted for the MCWC and then I check it out. If we get more people to submit, readership in general may increase, and the problem will sort of "sort itself out". Just my two cents though (or rather 296 cents).
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    Imperator Majora's Avatar What's under your mask?
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    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    To pick on a small piece of the conclusion, my ability lies in critique and honest feedback, not so much raw encouragement. But, if there is a need for it, it's open pretty much anytime.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Consultation: the future of the MCWC

    Quote Originally Posted by CommodusIV View Post
    To pick on a small piece of the conclusion, my ability lies in critique and honest feedback, not so much raw encouragement. But, if there is a need for it, it's open pretty much anytime.
    Well, by encouragement I don't mean the "You're the best. Keep it up!" kind of stuff you get from parents. I mean more us readers telling writers when we like things (which I assume is usually the case when we take the time to provide critique), and also more importantly us pointing newer members in the direction of the competitions, or us even nominating their works (provided they consent to that). I think a lot of younger or newer writers are unsure of themselves or don't want to put themselves out there, but if you like someone's work, then ask them if you can nominate on their behalf. That can be a good way to get competitions rolling, and to bolster the confidence of less experienced authors.
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