I have gone back and forth on writing this, my first piece since a seven month hiatus, during which time, I was hanging out and posting stuff on a site named FanStory.
But, here I am, so I Must have decided to write the piece.
Fanstory was a recommended site for writers several years ago by the Preditors and Editors web page. It promised good, sometimes harsh reviews from accomplished writers. So, with my ego in hand, I signed up. It was not as described.
What I found was that there are a lot more poetry than prose—whether it be essay, short story, memoir, novel or journal.
The site uses a 1 – 5 star rating scale, 5 being the correct rating for something that is “Excellent: Enjoyable and no revisions needed.” Each person was given so many 6’s each week to hand out to exceptional pieces. These were distributed each Sunday and usually used up by Sunday evening.
I found out rather quickly that awarding anything less than 5 stars usually resulted in blowback, especially if given to a poet. Yes, there are some excellent writers on the site who give good reviews.
However, the way the system works results in too many nit-picky reviews. To me, a nit-pick is a review along the lines of: There is an extra space between two words, there is an extra space between paragraphs, or similar things—the most annoying was when the site would have periodic mental health issues and convert em-dashes to question marks or something similar. These are nits to me, and not what I was hoping to get from the reviews. Also typos and other assorted things that would be fixed easily in a second draft. There were good reviews, pointing out plot holes, anachronisms, and just flat-out grammar errors (like where a comma goes for a direct address—”let’s eat, Grandma” vs “let’s eat Grandma”. Because of this site, I think I finally have this rule down cold.). Other nuisance reviews were along the line of: I don’t like your subject matter or your point of view or the device you used, therefore, I am going to hammer you in the stars awarded
My average ratings were something north of 5, and my raking quickly rose to the top ten and stayed there (there are hundreds of writers on the site), so I shouldn’t complain much. The rankings are separate and distinct for poets, screen-writers, novelists an short piece writers.
Each story can win awards, which are based on the number of reviews it receives. There are contests (some of which are free, some require member dollars to enter), and the site has classes to help people learn.
After awhile, I began to wonder about the system itself.
Here is the system:
Whenever a piece is reviewed, the reviewer is “paid” with member dollars and points. Member dollars can also be purchased. The number of dollars and pints awarded for each review is dependent on the position of the piece in the reading list—the higher up it is, the more points and dollars it awards. The way it rises in the listing is not based on quality, but on how many member dollars are spent promoting it. Buying them could add up quickly, so a lot of people just do drive-by reviews to snag the “free” dollars, then they spend them to move their most recent piece up the ladder. There are more twists to it than this, but this is the basic model.
Nothing wrong with this. Everyone knows the score. One person on the site even caused me to start writing a story which grew into a novel, and the urge to post new installments for review, did help keep the fingers on the keyboard in a productive manner.
Like a lot of web homes, many of the people go there for friendship in addition to writing and reading. This, I think is good for many reasons.
The main benefit to any fledgling writer is it will make you want to write more, and the more one writes, the better one gets.
In the end, except for the one thing I get to in a minute, there is good and bad in paying the rather nominal monthly fee to join the site. Buying member dollars in the forums there, no one admits to doing that—can add up. Some of the writers will amaze, others will annoy. Kind of like the real world.
The reason I left is due to a new “product” offered by the site called “The Eternal Flame.” This is described as follows:
The Eternal Flame account upgrade will provide the account with the following features.
- Your writing will forever have a home here on FanStory.com. If a payment is missed the account will remain active. If your account is unpaid, the ability to post will no longer be active, but your account will otherwise remain the same.
- If FanStory is contacted by a family member about the death of the account holder we will “light” the Eternal Flame for the account. This special status shows that the author is no longer with us but the writing will continue be available to be read.
This was put in place in response to the death of several members in one month and the request of others to have these deceased members’ writings preserved. The problem I had was the price to do this was $200. For me, it seemed outrageous to charge this for what essentially is online data storage, especially in the case of a long-term customer. It soured me on the site because to me it was craven. The site owner has the right to do as he pleases and I have the right to leave and not put any more money in his pocket.
The last piece I posted (before the “so long” piece) there was this:
There is a breakfast restaurant near where I live. Like a lot of them, people have gathered for years every morning, buying biscuits and gravy, or waffles, eggs and bacon, or just coffee. While the food is good, one of the primary draws were the patrons themselves, the friendships developed.
Recently, Gene, an old-time, well loved patron died. His wife made a big deal out of paying for all his friends’ breakfast one day after the funeral so they could all just sit and talk about Gene one last time. I thought it was one of the greatest things I had seen done in memory of a loved one or friend.
After the meal, the group asked the owner if they could put a picture of Gene on the wall so they could all see their friend when they came in. The owner said, sure, for $50 he would be happy to do it.
A little flummoxed, his wife paid the money,but wondered why the owner needed to charge for something that cost him nothing in remembrance of a long-time patron.
This was a couple of years ago, and since then, a few of the others have died. The group has since disbanded.
I wonder if this would have happened in Mayberry. While I generally think society is better now, there are some things we would do well to hang on to.