Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Writing: Online Community Engines

I've spent a lot of time working around and sharing my art through online art communities, and so I've taken a good look around, and seen what there is to see, some of it good, some of it bad, and some of it ugly.

Short
Small pieces, in terms of word counts and chapters (most notably single-chapter pieces, aka stand-alones) work best on art communities that cater to visual artists.

While pictures may be worth a thousand words, most members on these websites don't have the attention span to read a thousand words. It's difficult getting yourself established as a writer, but once you've managed to dredge up a following, it's important to do everything you can to keep it; better to have a few loyal readers than a large flock who might only glance at the first couple of words before moving on.

For this reason, websites like deviantArt, sheezyArt (currently under construction), and FurAffinity are terrible for most types of writers, even if you are capable of doing the best way of marketing yourself on them: producing many short but catching pieces and posting often.

Long
If you're going to commit to writing a longer piece, stand-alone or many parts, your best bet is to share it somewhere where you know you're going to find people who are willing to read it.

For this reason, longer pieces seem to draw more potential readership on art communities focused specifically on literature. People who browse those galleries are doomed to spend a lot of time reading, so they're more likely to allow you more time to capture their attention.

Websites like Lemonfingers (though mostly dead), FanFiction.net, FictionPress, and PaperDemon are ideal.

Segmented
Most art communities are designed to display individual pieces of art instead of series. However, there are a few out there who cater to segmented passages.

FictionPress and FanFiction.net are built on the same engine. While these are terrible for poetry (unless you're writing an epic), they are both excellent for many-chaptered pieces. Protagonize uses a very different engine, but is also excellent for segmented literature.

Multi-Authored
Most online art communities are dedicated to the one-author-one-art idea. Some collaborating groups choose to create a shared account on these communities to share credit, but these can fail to bring attention back to their separate, independent accounts, forcing them to struggle to build two or more separate audiences instead of one united.

There is, however, one community that I have found that has built their engine specifically for the purpose of allowing collaboration: Protagonize. This not only allows multi-authored pieces, but downright encourages them. Also, additions are not necessarily created by friends: complete strangers are capable of building onto your story as well.

Sometimes, this can destroy the story. Sometimes, it can make it grow all the stronger.

Fan-Art
If you're creating literature based off of somebody else's universe, FanFiction.net is hands down the place to do it, unless it's furry-based or for one of their "banned universes."

Banned Universes are created when artists specifically go out of their way to request that FanFiction.net not allow their users to post creations for their stories. If this is the case, I recommend deviantArt as a first back-up choice, and SheezyArt as the second.

If you're creating furry-based stories, regardless of their length and number of parts, furry-based art communities are the way to go. There is so much negative press around the furry culture that the best way to avoid is it to keep those pieces as much out of generic art communities as possible. FurAffinity, SoFurry and the like will be the places to be.

Explicit
There are two online literature communities that not only allow, but also encourage explicit content. One is Literotica, for which explicit content is preferred over family-friendly content.

The second is part of PaperDemon, which I mentioned above under "Long." Now, the primary face of PaperDemon is family-friendly content, but if you're over 18, you can choose to have access to the RedCurtain, behind which they hide all of the naughty bits.

Choices, Choices, Choices
If you tend to write mostly one type of literature, I recommend you stick to the community that caters best to your primary area. If you tend to dabble (like I do), I recommend setting up multiple accounts under a common user name across as many communities as you can handle managing, and spreading your creations out as appropriate, and then cross-linking them so people can always easily find more.

You can, of course, find all my accounts to all of these art communities (except for the explicit ones) on my Around the Web page, and if you know any others to recommend for writers, please share them in the comments below.

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