Suggestions for improving groups.

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#1 Posted by wildvine (14888 posts) - - Show Bio

This is something I wrote for something, but some people felt it wasn't appropriate for the project, as I suspected it may be. So this is my proposal for dealing with something that has been a recurring issue for a while.

The short-lived group.

Now two things we should get out of the way first; No group lasts forever. Groups die, and this is normal. The other thing is that just because a group ‘dies’ doesn’t mean it stays dead. Marvel Mayhem has come back from the brink at least twice.

Here’s what happens. A new group with a cool premise is formed, people get interested, write a few issues, and drop out. Some write more than others. Some are interested but never write story one. Why?

First we have to ask why make/participate in a group to start with? Couple reasons. It’s fun, and people in groups (usually) read the works in the group, e.g. being in a group can get a writer some comments, leading to a much needed confidence boost. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.

So if groups are so beneficiary and fun, why do some die on the vine? While some failures to launch, and even post launch failures can be attributed to writers block, or sudden disinterest, I think the main culprit is lack of direction.

Imagine, if you will, three to six people trying to write one novel on Google.doc at the same time, with no clear understanding of what is supposed to happen, or where the story is set to go. It would be total anarchy.

That is similar to how the current group system works. We have been using formula X for so long we don’t even consider there could be a formula W, or Y, or Z.

‘Well, it’s always worked in the past…’

Yes, but the forum has evolved. We have new users, new mentalities, and a spectrum of writing abilities. For groups to survive then we need to evolve our methods of managing them. Now, I’m not suggesting one cure-all here. And I’m not saying the current system couldn’t work for certain group themes, but to rigidly stick with something that clearly isn’t working as well, while decrying the fall off of participation is silly.

Hang on, let me emphasize a line there, because it was brought up when I posted this in the PM.

Now, I’m not suggesting one cure-all here. And I’m not saying the current system couldn’t work for certain group themes,

Are were clear there? If the current system works for you, then don't change it. But if you find yourself trailing off, or losing writers, then a new way of doing things should be considered.

Now, Marvel Iron Age, and Marvel Mayhem were both presented as arguments for the current system. I'm not saying the system never worked, I'm saying it's time to update the system.

Now imagine this. What if instead of having a bunch of writers write whatever with no guides or goals, and maybe having a crossover somewhere down the road, why not set story arc goals? Instead of grinding out issue after issue, do a three part origin to set up the character, and the immediate universe. Then plan the next three-five part story arc.

This would allow crossovers and major events to be planned, led into, rather than wedging the story around the event/crossover awkwardly, which I have seen happen.

Here’s another idea. Stop sitting on characters. This may be harder to do with an original character, I understand. But if you are stuck why not let someone else do an arc? And by that, I mean they get your permission, and work with you on the story. Killer Rabbit is my character, but I have let Imp and Tommythehitman write her, and they have done fine. Better then fine.

What does all this do? It gives writers goals, therefore reducing the chance of writers block. Posting in short arcs takes pressure off, and reduces the likelihood of the story/series ending abruptly. Seeing how another author writes your character could give you fresh inspiration.

I can see some people not jumping on this immediately, but changing the established way is often bumpy and not instantly accepted. Really, I'm not posting these as the only alternatives. I'm saying we should look for alternatives to group management in general.

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#3 Posted by cbishop (15745 posts) - - Show Bio

Planning is definitely not a bad idea. For years, the Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men titles all had to have summit meetings with the various creative staffs to keep everything going in the same direction. Going in the same direction is what groups try to do here, so summit planning (in PM) would not be a bad thing... but the entire group has to be in on it.

On the other hand, DC and Marvel both are getting away from tight continuity right now, because a) they can't manage it successfully, and b) it has been killing some great stories. So titles are pretty much on their own for the most part (or so they've been saying).

For building a group though, it does seem like planning should be involved.

I think a good example of exception to that idea is Horror Inc. All the stories carried the Horror Inc name rider, but none of them were connected (at least the ones I read anyway).

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#4 Posted by wildvine (14888 posts) - - Show Bio

@cbishop said:

I think a good example of exception to that idea is Horror Inc. All the stories carried the Horror Inc name rider, but none of them were connected (at least the ones I read anyway).

And the sad part of that was I believe the original intent was to have crossovers.

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#5 Edited by Alexander_Wolffe (349 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting thoughts brought up. Might try some of these ideas in the future. Thanks for sharing, doc.

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#6 Posted by joshmightbe (27562 posts) - - Show Bio

Yea, I have to take most of the blame for Iron Age and at least 2 other group projects dropping off. Sometimes I get too many ideas going at once and I try to get them all out but it becomes a big mess then real world concerns interfere and I guess I just lose inspiration or motivation.

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#7 Posted by cbishop (15745 posts) - - Show Bio

@wildvine said:

And the sad part of that was I believe the original intent was to have crossovers.

Lol ...and :(

...Sometimes I get too many ideas going at once and I try to get them all out but it becomes a big mess then real world concerns interfere and I guess I just lose inspiration or motivation.

I think that's true of everyone. In as much as none of us are getting paid for this, it's a pastime, so is going to play second banana to everything else in our lives. That probably has a big impact on how groups go. At least three of our regulars that I know of have heavy commitments in real life- how they post as much as they do is a mystery to me. That's going to have an effect. I call that no harm no foul though.

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#8 Posted by Delphic (1705 posts) - - Show Bio

It's not a bad idea, but it heavily relies on each individual writer's ability to be a team player. Also communication is key. I've personally always liked the idea of shorter arcs. The problem you run into there is each writers personal commitment ability. As a general rule though, this method could work well, just as in everything, different factors will effect outcomes differently.

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#9 Posted by RedHood13 (256 posts) - - Show Bio

Nice write up. I generally tried to do some of this when I started the short-lived DC Re-Invented, but that fell off because I lost interest.

I particularly agree with the sitting on characters part. Especially when someone claimed it without the intention of writing it soon, when someone else has a fresh idea and is ready to go.

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#10 Posted by dngn4774 (5600 posts) - - Show Bio

Nice write up. I generally tried to do some of this when I started the short-lived DC Re-Invented, but that fell off because I lost interest.

I particularly agree with the sitting on characters part. Especially when someone claimed it without the intention of writing it soon, when someone else has a fresh idea and is ready to go.

I think it's harder to let go of an established character than an original one because with an OC you can always add new details to the character to make it your own. When an established character is re-invented it is harder to put your own personal flare on the character since you are dealing with the ramifications of the previous author and the original cannon of the character.

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#11 Edited by The Impersonator (8501 posts) - - Show Bio

There are certain cases that this might happen. One reason comes to mind that people are probably busy doing other things. They have a life, which is why they don't have time to continue working on fan-fic groups. But does it mean our fan-fic groups are dying? No. This is Comic Vine. You can come whenever you want and continue the stuff that you usually do, if you have time that is. I work hard at my new job everyday, which I don't have the time to continue writing. Plus, I get so tired after coming from work.

I've been writing Marvel Genesis stories ever since the day I started my Wolvie gig. Until then, I was the only one who still wrote a Marvel Genesis story. The fan-fic group isn't dead or any other. It's just that there's no time for it.

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#12 Edited by TommytheHitman (6940 posts) - - Show Bio

Good post. However isn't type Y similar to what Batkevin tried with CORRUPTED?

With my current Wind Duster series I always have been planning a few story arcs ahead. Same with the Response really and they seem to be doing pretty well.

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#13 Posted by wildvine (14888 posts) - - Show Bio

Good theory, except "people are busy" does not explain why they turn around and jump on a new group.

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#14 Edited by Delphic (1705 posts) - - Show Bio
@wildvine said:

Good theory, except "people are busy" does not explain why they turn around and jump on a new group.

No what explains that is that is that most writers have fickle minds and fluid imaginations. When the writer has the sudden burst of inspiration they automatically want to hop onto the new idea. Kind of like a squirrel that excitedly gathers acorns from a new tree and then all of a sudden forgets where they hid the nuts. So writers are just quicker to go to a new tree rather than dig up the nuts they've already hoarded.

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#15 Posted by YoungJustice (7318 posts) - - Show Bio

I completely agree, I know personally, I get extremely lost with a lot of my stories and end up at a point where it's way too much. To this day, I still have no idea how to end "Avengers Academy". I tried for a long time to finish but there was a great deal of plot holes created because I did not plan things out and used impulse and shock factor rather than a paced and lined out story arc. This idea could most definitely help.

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#16 Posted by dngn4774 (5600 posts) - - Show Bio

There are certain cases that this might happen. One reason comes to mind that people are probably busy doing other things. They have a life, which is why they don't have time to continue working on fan-fic groups. But does it mean our fan-fic groups are dying? No. This is Comic Vine. You can come whenever you want and continue the stuff that you usually do, if you have time that is. I work hard at my new job everyday, which I don't have the time to continue writing. Plus, I get so tired after coming from work.

I've been writing Marvel Genesis stories ever since the day I started my Wolvie gig. Until then, I was the only one who still wrote a Marvel Genesis story. The fan-fic group isn't dead or any other. It's just that there's no time for it.

I'm going to skip your whole "if you have time to write you must not have actual responsibilities" implication, primarily because it makes no sense to attack you on a post you've made months ago. Other viners have done that to me and it rarely inspires a continuation of dialogue.

I will, however, say that though your point makes a lot of sense on an individual basis in a larger group it doesn't hold water in cases where 5/6 or 10/12 group members are all indisposed at the same time. What the OP is describing are groups that have not released a single title over months and possibly years.

Furthermore, having one of the writers come back isn't enough to revitalize the group. I know this because of the brief month that DC Mayhem tried to come back, and Imp's solo period where she was virtually the only writer keeping Marvel Mayhem afloat. Groups can survive if they maintain a steady amount of posts and comments but when one of the components ends the other is doomed to follow eventually.

@delphic said:
@wildvine said:

Good theory, except "people are busy" does not explain why they turn around and jump on a new group.

No what explains that is that is that most writers have fickle minds and fluid imaginations. When the writer has the sudden burst of inspiration they automatically want to hop onto the new idea. Kind of like a squirrel that excitedly gathers acorns from a new tree and then all of a sudden forgets where they hid the nuts. So writers are just quicker to go to a new tree rather than dig up the nuts they've already hoarded.

It's always easier to start a new story than to write through a roadblock. The latter is more rewarding because even if you hit another rough patch you can say to yourself "if I got through that last one, I can clear this one too!"

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#17 Posted by cbishop (15745 posts) - - Show Bio

@dngn4774 said:

I'm going to skip your whole "if you have time to write you must not have actual responsibilities" implication, primarily because it makes no sense to attack you on a post you've made months ago. Other viners have done that to me and it rarely inspires a continuation of dialogue.

I will, however, say that though your point makes a lot of sense on an individual basis in a larger group it doesn't hold water in cases where 5/6 or 10/12 group members are all indisposed at the same time. What the OP is describing are groups that have not released a single title over months and possibly years.

Furthermore, having one of the writers come back isn't enough to revitalize the group. I know this because of the brief month that DC Mayhem tried to come back, and Imp's solo period where she was virtually the only writer keeping Marvel Mayhem afloat. Groups can survive if they maintain a steady amount of posts and comments but when one of the components ends the other is doomed to follow eventually.

I think you read your own implication into what he said. He cast no aspersions on people actually doing their writing.

I know that personally, I write so little because I get wiped out pretty easily after work. I come home, catch up on several things online, including new stories posted to CV. Unfortunately, by the time I've done that, I'm ready for bed. So for myself, it's a time management issue.

I know that one of our regular folks is a full-time parent, has a part-time job, and hosts a social gathering at least once a week, if not twice, and still writes like a machine.

So it's all in your time management and motivation. The OP was posted at a definite lull on the boards, but it wasn't as dire as folks were making it out to be. It was a lull- happens about once a year. It sucks, but we eventually bounce back.

As many times as you've quit and come back yourself, you definitely know how it is- life takes precedence at times. ;)

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#18 Edited by dngn4774 (5600 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the best way for groups to move forward is acknowledging which writers are Outline People (OPs) and which are Non Outline People (NOPs). Some writers can churn out 15 chapters in a month while others might map out which side of the bed their main characters wake up on. When OPs are outshined by NOPs it can easily lead to dibs and stalling rather than having both types of writers fully utilize their strengths. The NOPs should set the tone for the universe's canon and the Op's should work on episodic writing for arcs that create major events such as crossovers, archvillains, alternate universes, timeskips, etc;

Whenever a writer finishes an arc the entire group (excluding alt accounts) should vote on whether an arc makes it into canon or is recognized as an elseworld story. If a writer knows that they will no longer have the time needed to finish their story or is absent for a period longer than 2 months, the group should form an emergency council (preferably one OP volunteer and one NOP volunteer) to end the story. The OP would pm the writer if possible and draft up an outline that would end the arc with some sense of closure and work with NOP to quickly churn out a finished product.

Lastly, but most essential, all active group members should regularly comment on the issues. This can be hard to do, especially when stories don't distinguish themselves early on, but if fellow members do not feel like they are hitting an audience they will not be motivated to continue their stories. I'd say that since OP's (like myself) do not produce as many chapters, they have a greater responsibility to produce audience feedback, however, fan-fic only really thrives as a whole community, so NOP's and interested users outside of the group should not make themselves strangers to the comments section either. Just like any indie title, if you love it you should let the artists know, otherwise it could vanish tomorrow.

That's all I can really come up with for now. I'd have to experiment with more groups to find out any better ideas.

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#19 Posted by batkevin74 (15450 posts) - - Show Bio
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#20 Posted by dngn4774 (5600 posts) - - Show Bio

@batkevin74: As Mr. Twain once put it:

"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

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#21 Posted by cbishop (15745 posts) - - Show Bio

@dngn4774: You work way too hard at trying to impose an order on things. Creatives are inherently here-and-there about the things they create. There is no building the better group. They are experiments in a theme- extended what if's- with no final goal in mind and therefore nothing left to do except peter out when the writing collective loses interest.

Try just having fun with the group you're in, and when it inevitably ends, know that there will be another one along any time now.

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#22 Edited by TommytheHitman (6940 posts) - - Show Bio

Deserves a bump.

Gonna @waezi2 just in case. :)