Couched away amid a hundred branches of Other Important Things, the Literature Forums on dA remain a hidden haven for...
Okay, that's just ridiculous. Let's be frank. The Literature Forums on dA, comprised of the Poetry and Prose Forum, the Fantasy Literature Forum, and the Lit Workshop, have long been considered a clique-riddled wasteland, unfriendly to newcomers and nonconformists (irony) alike. Threads tend to degrade rather quickly into a ream of inside jokes and insults, with every other post lauding the beauty of the "good old days" when there were actually "good writers" on dA. Historically, rather than being a place for writers helping writers, it's a case of writers baiting writers--and even the most well-intentioned topics get spun into nonsense and unrelated drama.
The (unfortunately) common approach is for "people who've been here a while" to mass reply to several threads in succession, generally with (not so) witty one-liners and subtle (or outright unintelligent) insults or comments based at the original poster or someone else in the thread; these are deliberately argumentative. At the same time, a tongue-in-cheek "let's revive old threads to show newcomers what this place really was back when" occurs on occasion, with threads from years and months ago resurrected as some piddling statement of how much things have(n't) changed (again: irony).
Now, this is going to hurt, but it has to be said: despite belief to the contrary, the Poetry and Prose Forum has always been a drama-filled, insult-driven waste of someone's time. The "good old days" simply weren't that good.
Um. Is this part of the Lit Gallery Education?
Yes. Yes, it is. Because in order to go forward with something, you must know where you've been. You see, the forums do not have to be this. They actually can be productive, effective, helpful, interesting places for real discussions about things that really do matter to writers. They can accommodate professionals and beginners alike, with each person's opinion being valued and accepted and challenged in respectful ways without everything always resulting in condescension and insults.
No, really: they can. I've seen it done.
But in order for our Literature community to have a "hidden haven" in our forums, it has to be a community effort to revive and review them.
What needs to be done, though? What can do done?
First, it's important to recognize the purpose of each of our forums and lay down some ground rules and standards that all users are subject to following.
The Poetry and Prose Forum
How to Get there: The Poetry and Prose Forum
Nicknamed the "Writers" forum in dA's own code, the purpose of this forum is to provide writers with an outlet to discuss their craft and all related issues. It is 13+, much like the rest of dA, and while we work hard not to police your language (etc.), we do ask that common decency be in effect when you choose to post a thread or reply to someone else's thread. Sometimes inappropriate comments are great for comic relief, and sometimes a good curse word is the best thing to get a point across, but many times erring on the side of civility is just as effective and should be equally considered.
Guidelines for Being Well-Received in the Poetry and Prose Forum
Spell-check and proofread your posts.
We all make mistakes, and we were all really awful writers at one time, but when a person posts unintelligible threads in the Poetry and Prose forum filled with easy-to-fix/easy-to-catch spelling errors, it tends to turn others off and act as an insult to those writers who choose their words carefully. Always keep in mind that you are approaching other writers, and we're a temperamental and egotistical bunch. We do not like to waste our time with people who can't be bothered to take the time to check over their own work. This is not elitist; it's just practical.
Pose a question.
Many threads that tend to read as long rants, jumbled statements, or a general commentary on the world seem to result in people commenting and ranting right back--and rarely in productive ways. One of the best ways to help keep your post above water is to make sure that you are asking a question of your fellow writers, whether hypothetical or concrete, that they can feel comfortable answering without the threat of an attack.
Expect (and accept) that someone, somewhere, is simply not going to agree with you.
If you are going to pose a question on a topic you feel very strongly about, be warned that you may get responses from people who see things entirely different from you. There is nothing wrong with healthy arguments, debates, and discussions, but if you are posting a question you must be prepared to receive answers you are not going to like. This does not mean someone is attacking you, but it may mean they come rather harsh against your idea.
Separate ideas from people.
One of the easiest things to do, when getting in a heated argument, is to resort to personal insults. We've all done it on occasion; it feels a bit like human nature. However, it's important to realize that personal insults will only make you look like the pathetic party, no matter how strong your argument is on the topic.
Be prepared to ignore the nonsense.
Avoid getting self-righteous when someone attacks you or your post. That's like giving the bullies exactly what they want. Instead, if someone does post something ridiculous on your post, try your very best to ignore it. People like that need an audience, and if you don't give it to them, they will eventually go away.
Keep it relevant.
The Poetry and Prose Forum is designed for writers to discuss things related to writing. This sometimes includes the reading-writing connection, conversations about critique and types of comments, and welcomes input about genres and issues concerning storytelling or poem construction. Discussions about publishing also come up, along with all the concerns that go hand-in-hand with breaking into the business. Sometimes writers like to approach published works and encourage criticism and commentary, though there is a Books forum designed for that purpose as well (unrelated to the Literature Gallery).
Challenge other writers.
Some of the best threads in the Poetry and Prose Forum actually come in the form of challenges to write in a different way or to some oddball requirement. These can be fun and conducted right in the thread comments, and they are often there simply for the sake of inspiration and writing. If you've come across a good challenge or neat idea that you'd like to present to other writers, feel free to post it up and see what results you get!
No, this has nothing to do with the anti-acne solution. If you see something entirely inappropriate or feel as if you (or someone else) have been inappropriately and indecently targeted, take the initiative to tell someone. The MN@s and GDs cannot be in all places at all times, and sometimes we miss things. If you have been made uncomfortable, even if you are not sure it is a policy violation, please feel free to note someone for clarification and/or closure. There's no shame in standing up for yourself or other people. And really, it's time to take back the forums!
(That last bit may have been a slightly overdramatic--.)
What the P & P Forum is NOT:
It is not a place to ask for critique or comments on any of your texts. The Lit Workshop was made for that particular purpose. Self-promotion of any kind is discouraged and against the rules in the Poetry and Prose Forum, and threads that are created for self-promotion or critique requests will be closed.
It is not a place to bitch and rant about deviantART. There are other forums for this, including the Complaints forum or the Suggestions forum, and you should make use of them. You should also feel free to note your GDs or the Administration about your most severe concerns.
It is not the place to advertise your contest or project. Please use the "News" to submit information about upcoming contests and to drum up support or feel free to post in the Contests forum or the Projects forum. You can also note your GDs for advice.
It is not a place to "call out" individual deviants or discuss policy violations, bannings, and other issues. If you have a personal problem with someone, or you feel someone is violating a policy, then contacting the administration or one of your GDs will end in better results.
It is not your journal. If you have a rant brewing about a personal problem, the Poetry and Prose Forum is probably not the place to post it.
The "Official" rules of the Poetry and Prose Forum can be found here.
What about the other forums?
There are two other Literature forums on dA: the Fantasy Literature Forum and the Lit Workshop. Both were created for specific purposes, and both should be respected for those purposes.
The Fantasy Literature Forum
How to Get There: The Fantasy Literature Forum
Long-since the quietest of the three forums, the Fantasy Literature Forum was put in place due to a large demand of dA writers wanting somewhere genre-specific to discuss their writing. Here, all things "Fantasy" are discussed, including how one approaches writing a fantasy story, novel writing, character names, plot devices, and any other issues directly or indirectly related to this popular and lucrative genre.
The forum has recently begun a revival to see if there is still a demand for an entire forum dedicated only to Fantasy Literature, and there are quite a few diehards who are passionate about the genre and have been working hard to keep the forum alive. If you, too, are passionate about Fantasy Literature, I'd suggest wandering over and making a statement (or a thread) to be heard.
Relevant Links regarding the Fantasy Lit Forum Revival:
Fantasy Lit Forum: The Test Trial
Poll: What Should Be Done with the Fantasy Lit Forum?
Keep in mind that the same general rules and expectations apply to the Fantasy Lit Forum as to the Poetry and Prose Forum and all Gallery Forums on dA.
The Lit Workshop
How to Get There: The Lit Workshop
Way back when, there were two stickied threads in the Poetry and Prose Forum where people could ask for critique on either their poetry or prose. This thread encouraged writers to critique 2-3 texts for every text they chose to post, and occasionally got to the point where there were so many comments and replies and sub-threads that a new sticky thread had to be made, giving the Critique Posts a clean slate. As this was both inconvenient and disorganized, an idea came about to create a forum entirely dedicated to Lit Critique (not unlike the ThumbShare Forum). And thus was the Lit Workshop born!
What can I expect in the Lit Workshop?
It may sound pejorative, but expect critique and commentary on your work! Also expect to wait a little while for those critiques and comments to trickle in. Worthwhile critique takes some time, and the deviants who are taking the time with your piece might have other equally important tasks to accomplish in their day-to-day. Immediate feedback is not synonymous with critique, after all, and a person asking for something should be patient and gracious in accepting it.
Warning: If you are fishing for compliments or page views, the Lit Workshop is probably not the place for you. Here, writers are expected to be open to pointers and suggestions from other members of the Literature Community and, while you may not always agree with what someone has said about your text, you should always be courteous and humble in thanking a person for spending the time to offer some insight about your writing.
General Guidelines for the Lit Workshop
Do not ask for critique on a piece you have no intention of revising.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most frustrating experiences in the Lit Workshop. If a text is offered for critique, the critic expects that you will take the time to consider the suggestions and revise the text in the future. Critique does take time--sometimes a lot of time--and no critic wants to feel as if their time has been wasted. If you're not serious about improving your work, don't post it to the Lit Workshop.
Do not expect the critic to proofread or edit your text for you.
The Lit Workshop is concerned with revision, not with editing. As an editor, I can attest to the fact that these are two very, very different things. If you expect someone to check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar--except in passing or picking up the occasional, accidental typo--you should probably not post your piece to the Lit Workshop. Critique is serious business (no lie), and if you can't be bothered to at least spell-check your text, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?
Only post one text for critique at a time.
When posting a thread request for critique, please do not say "Take a look at my whole gallery and choose a piece!" or "Hey, here are three poems. Pick one and tell me what you think!" as this comes across, not as a serious critique request but rather a request for more page views. Because critique is time-consuming, and because it is often difficult to revise more than one text at a time, it's often best-received if you only ask for feedback on one piece at a time and, beyond that, one specific piece that you have every intention of working on.
Do not post thumbs. Where possible, try to put the entire text in your thread instead of a link.
Unlike in the ThumbShare Forum, thumbs do not work in the Lit Workshop. Leaving the thumb# of your text will not result in a link, but rather a line of numbers that go nowhere. If possible (such as with a shorter text or poem), post the entire text or poem in the body of your thread. Some critics are discouraged by links, not because they are lazy and do not want to visit your page, but because there are many people out there who simply post a link so that more people will come to their page. These are usually the people who balk at the critique once it's given or respond poorly to anything perceived as negative criticism. However, if the text is very long or has a challenging format, feel free to post the link to the original deviation with a comment that the text is long and/or the formatting cannot be copied to the forum. This, if nothing else, shows the potential critic that you are serious about receiving critique.
Critique 2-3 texts for each critique you ask for.
The Lit Workshop is a true give-and-take. If you constantly ask for critique but never offer suggestions to others, then it appears you are being selfish and using the Lit Workshop as your personal sounding board. A workshop implies that many people are working together to help each other improve. Constantly getting feedback but never learning how to give it will not help you improve, nor will it help you improve others. In fact, most people say that they learn more from critiquing than they do from receiving critique. Take this to heart. For each piece you post to the Lit Workshop, be sure to leave in-depth comments with real suggestions (no one-liners here) on at least two other texts (by other writers) in the forum.
Strive to be courteous, regardless if you are receiving or presenting a critique.
A little human decency goes a long way. Critique should not coddle, but neither should good critique insult. Instead, critique should be approached as honest, well-intentioned advice that often takes the form of constructive criticism or structured, focused feedback. Whether receiving this feedback or attempting to offer it out, try to keep this old adage in mind: "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
Things to Keep in Mind When Asking for and Receiving Critique
Critiques are subjective, meaning that they are a person's opinion and evaluation of your text. Sometimes you are not going to agree with this opinion or evaluation, and that's okay. However, before you take something too personally, understand that the critic is not attacking you, nor are they "attacking" your writing. They are simply trying to offer honest feedback on something they were kind enough to spend some time with.
If you are hurt by what you've read, walk away from the critique and come back to it at a later date. Sometimes, no matter how mature and rational we are, critiques can hurt. Resist the urge to act rashly and "defend" yourself against this internet injustice, as it will only make you appear ungrateful and give other critics an excuse to disregard any of your future requests. Instead, if you feel you want to respond vehemently, try to simply thank the critic for their time and acknowledge that you will think about their advice. This is not a lie, after all. You should be grateful that they took the time and you are probably going to be thinking about their feedback, even if you don't like it.
If, at any time, you feel you have been the victim of unfair "flaming" or insults, please contact one of your GDs or a member of the MN@ team. We will evaluate the post and take the necessary action. Let us fight your battles for you. It's much less stress on you.
Things to Keep in Mind When Giving Critique
Try to adjust your critique to the level of the writer. Some people do not have a strong educational foundation or a lot of background knowledge in poetry or prose, and sometimes extremely technical language can lose a growing writer. Also, our understanding of spelling, punctuation, and grammar evolves as we become mature in our language, and sometimes a writer is making honest (not lazy) mistakes; it's important, as a critic, to be able to recognize the difference. Where possible, adjust your critique to the writer and the text, and try to point out at least one positive aspect of what you've read. We're not asking you to lie if you can't find one, but sometimes starting or ending with a compliment can help boost a writer's confidence and make them more open to using your suggestions to improve--which is the ultimate goal, after all.
For the "official" rules of the Lit Workshop, check here.
More critique resources can be found at the following links:
A Guide to Good Critique (Literature) by !lovetodeviate
Critique: How To by ~rowenabrennavart
Critique Resources by !lovetodeviate
Receiving Critique by `apocathary
And those are our Lit forums.
Any additional questions, feel free to contact one of your GDs: !lovetodeviate, `StJoan, or me (`GeneratingHype). Below you will find some FAQs significant to posting on dA in general:
FAQ #708: I found a forum thread that I believe violates policies, where can I go to report it?
FAQ #709: Can I close or delete my forum thread?
FAQ #801: Are there any rules for the Forums?
FAQ #263: What is "spamming"?
FAQ #696: How does deviantART comply with COPPA?