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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Flash Challenge #6 is OPEN (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Flash Challenge #6 is OPEN
TaShaJaRo
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Thanks to Kathleen for allowing us to post these announcements here.

The Challenge has closed. Thanks to all who participated!

EDIT: The voting will end at 11:59pm Wednesday, May 11th. Winners will be revealed Thursday, May 12th.

The winner of the best flash overall needs to contact Mike Munsil sometime Thursday with the trigger for the next flash so that he can forward it to the moderator.

Thanks again everyone!

[This message has been edited by TaShaJaRo (edited May 10, 2005).]


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Rahl22
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Weekend is going to get really, really crazy. I'm going to submit something now, I think, but if you don't want to include me in the voting, that's okay, because I'm not sure if I'll be able to read/vote on time (though I'll try). I'm flying home for my nephew's baptism.
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mikemunsil
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Everything is up and running and the instructions are posted at Liberty Hall.
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Christine
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I've always received my response within seconds, but this week I've been waiting for five minutes and counting and have no trigger. Hopefully it'll show soon....
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Christine
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15 minutes...
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Christine
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Got it.
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mikemunsil
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Make sure that your email software is not set to check email every 10 minutes plus or so, or you may have less time to write.
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mikemunsil
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We have 9 flashes so far. If this keeps up, we'll have about 20 all told.
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cklabyrinth
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Probably a stupid question, but is the flash challenge an ongoing storyline? ie will I hvae to read the previous challenges to do flashbacks and what not in my story?

Also, where is the forum located at where the submittals are posted and critiqued?

Thanks,
-ck


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cklabyrinth
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I was right on one account. My second question was stupid; I just logged in to the forums and now I see all the extra forums. I should probably read more carefully. :>
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autumnmuse
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Just in case you didn't yet have an answer to your first question: no. There is no thread which runs through them all, or anything. The image or word is different each week, and the goal is to write a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.
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mikemunsil
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It is also important to note that your entry is YOUR story. Putting it up for comment and voting at Liberty Hall does NOT constitute publishing, so your rights are protected. We delete all the old stories from Liberty Hall after a week or less. So, if you flash, make sure that you have your story and if you find the comments valuable, make sure to copy them off the forums before the following weekend, or they'll be gone forever.

There are numerous forums at Liberty Hall that you cannot see until you register and others that you will not see even then unless you are invited.


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TaShaJaRo
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We have 11 entries so far with 2 more in progress. Should be a busy Monday and Tuesday again.
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mikemunsil
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Well, I flashed, but I have to admit that I found it hard to come up with something. Anyway, I was done in 45 minutes, so I spent the remaining time fixing the problems I created. But it was fun, and in only a little over an hour I have another story written!
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onepktjoe
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I finally made the deadline...more or less. Wow. That was a great flash trigger; nice choice, Mary. Thanks again to you all for these, especially TaShaJaRo for moderating this week.

Oops, simulpost--sorry, Mike, I wasn't trying to goose you for having trouble with this one. This trigger just worked for me.

[This message has been edited by onepktjoe (edited May 07, 2005).]


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mikemunsil
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That's the way it goes, Joe. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Mostly it does, and when it does, it is REALLY fun!
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mikemunsil
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Looks like we have about 17 so far.
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TaShaJaRo
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So far we already have 22 entries and it's only Saturday night.
Well, Sunday morning. I just looked at the clock.

Great turnout!

I'm heading to bed so I will send confirms in the morning for any submissions sent overnight. Have fun!


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HSO
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Wow! 22 entries! We may need to do one of the following to accomodate further entries:

1. Extend the voting and crit time.
2. Collate the stories already submitted and send them out for "early" reading (did this on FC4, btw, and many liked it).
3. Impose a challenge cutoff of 25 participants max.

We never expected the FC's to take off like this. This is great, of course! And that everyone is getting stories written instead of gabbing on the boards all day (looks at self) is awesome.

But we need to ensure the challenge is wieldy for all involved. Lots of entries means a lot of time people have to spend reading and critiquing; time that some may not have much of to begin with...

Hmm...


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onepktjoe
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The 5 or less rule sounds great for the crits, I always spend three times longer giving a crit than reading the piece anyway--quite time-consuming. But since the emphasis here is on the challenge and on the voting (at least, behind the fact that you're getting people to actually write), it might not even hurt to urge restraint on the crits until the reading and voting are done. I mean, we can always slip right over to F&F for a crit, right?

As for the 25 story cut-off, HSO, I think the theory is sound (reading 25 flashes in a few days works out to a meaty novelette...more or less), but I think it would stunt the growth of the challenge. The regulars would wait for fridays like hawks waiting for the rabbits to be released, and it would probably be discouraging for those who miss it. Eventually you'd just have the core of regulars, and the eventual attrition might kill the challenge's momentum.

Maybe (and I have NO CLUE what the logistics of this are, so please don't whimper if they're insurmountable, blessed moderators), if there was some way of compartmentalizing stories into, say, blocks of ten, potential voters could get their block and vote, essentially setting up for like a semi-finalist round. And then you could do one day for final voting. In theory you could have a hundred stories come in, and in the end, readers would only have to read 20 stories. If most who submit participate in the vote, you'd get 6-8 people per block--probably not too terrible for a fair consensus. It's not like we're competing for residency or anything, just having some fun. And anyone who wanted to could request more than one block. (More logistics? I heard that whimper!)

Just trying to stir the idea pot, is all.

Joe


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HSO
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Joe,

Mike and I discussed grouping up stories into blocks almost exactly like you mentioned. Then, we considered the logistics and baulked. It would add more work than it would save. We don't want to limit participation, and enforcing a cutoff does just that, but we've been running on the assumption that some people would eventually drop out as the popularity faded. That hasn't happened, and with the exception of a few new people each week and the previous week's overall winner, we still have the same core of people participating that we've always had.

Here's what I think about limiting crits: Good idea. But I feel it needs one more piece to the puzzle:

During crit time, each critiquer is allowed up to 5 stories to critique. If it turns out that some people haven't been critiqued once, then that would be an issue, and we'll Sticky those and ask for folks to critique them, even those who have critiqued their 5.

Further comments?


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Beth
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I think crits are important. Or, rather, I think reading the stories critically enough to do a crit is important. I think deemphasizing crits and emphasizing voting would be a mistake. I think that the crits that get posted aren't typically in depth ("This was fun! I liked the part with the monkey but the POV shift at the end was confusing. Good job!") which is appropriate for flash, you don't expect deep crits. I would hate to see the crit part slip away, because I think doing the crits is almost as important as the part where you sit down and write the story.

But geeze, 25 stories is way too many and I have zero interest in doing that much reading next week. Just hearing that there will be over 20 is enough to convince me to sit this one out, because I don't want to read that much.

I'm sorry, I don't have any answers on how to make this manageable.


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HSO
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I don't want to deemphasize crits, either. They are the most important aspect of the Flash Challenge next to the writing the story bit.

And really, an ideal number of critiques is about 4 or 5 in-depth comments. Any more than that is usually unnecessary to help an author make reasonable decisions on how to approach her story. So...

If we limit the amount of crits per story and per critiquer, we would then, one hopes, be increasing the usability of the critiques given. Critiquers can focus writing in-depth and unhurried critiques. And authors don't get a whole lot of "Yep, I agree with the above" type comments.

To make sure this works, I volunteer to ruthlessly and fairly moderate the process. If someone's crit is not in-depth, I'll send them a private message through the site politely asking to expand their crit. If they choose not to, I'll flag that post as not counting toward the crit limit (I won't delete it, though, that would be rude).


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TaShaJaRo
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I agree with Beth that voting should not be emphasized over crits but I think a crit limit is a good idea because, honestly, after about five crits they get repetitive anyway. Everything has been said already. What about making a post asking voters to crit AT LEAST five stories that have less than five crits already? Make a note to try and bring out something that has not been commented on yet.

I personally strongly dislike the idea of having my loser story subjected to a sticky saying, "this poor pathetic story has not received a single crit, yet. Someone throw her a bone and give her a crit."

I also feel that the entry numbers should be eliminated or more generalized so that readers choose by title. That way you don't have people going, "ok, I'll crit stories 1-5."

My personal opinion is to crit stories that I have something to say about them. Some of the stories do nothing for me and I have nothing to say but I still feel the need to write a crit for every one so...it usually turns out lame. Whereas someone else could read that same story and have a lot to say about it.

Those are my ideas.

EDIT: Whoops, simulpost. My only concern with forcing in-depth crits is what is your definition of "in-depth?" These are rough drafts and most people don't submit their piece for a full crit until it's fairly polished. I think the crit should be more than, "good job" but a full crit seems inappropriate for a rough draft.

[This message has been edited by TaShaJaRo (edited May 08, 2005).]


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HSO
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quote:
My only concern with forcing in-depth crits is what is your definition of "in-depth?" These are rough drafts and most people don't submit their piece for a full crit until it's fairly polished.

I only submit my first drafts for crits, but that's me. My final draft (or 2nd) is finely-tuned based on the comments, and if it ain't right then, it ain't never gonna be right.

An in-depth covers at least the following information:

Believability
Plot
Overall Idea
Character(s)
General style

And keeping in mind these are written and sumbitted in such a short time, of course.

But, one of the things the Flash Challenges should do for an author is to be able to quickly conceive and flesh out a complete idea in a short amount of time. It's a writing exercise, and clearly, those who have been participating are steadily improving with each new Challenge. I don't have any qualms about critiquing harshly when necessary, because it will help the author avoid making errors on their first drafts of other stories.


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MaryRobinette
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I don't think you need to limit the number of stories. I mentioned this once when there were only 19 stories. I skim them. If a story catches my interest, I stop and read it. So really, the only ones I'm voting on are the ones that I remember. I think that's pretty close to how slush piles must work, and I don't know that it's a bad thing. It might not be fair, but I don't think it's out of keeping with how the market works--except of course I'm reading rough drafts.

And that brings me to the issue of critiqes. When I critique the flashes, I skip the things that I think an author will see once they read it. (I mean, I put up early drafts of my stuff on Fragments and Feedback too, but I almost never put up rough drafts.) There are a lot of critiques that say, in essence, "the ending felt rushed." I am certain that all of us, when reading that about our own story, thinks "Yeah, I only had five minutes left!" In HSO's Oven Repairman, I didn't bother mentioning the laundry bag until other people brought it up repeatedly, because it's the kind of thing I thought he would catch when he went back through. I mean these are rough drafts.

quote:
But, one of the things the Flash Challenges should do for an author is to be able to quickly conceive and flesh out a complete idea in a short amount of time

I wholeheartedly agree with this. Reading the challenges and the two I've participated in have driven in more writing lessons than most of the books I've read. But, I personally want different things from a critique of flash challenges than a critique a story posted on F&F. Mostly I want to know about the overall idea--What catches your interest? What makes you yawn? Is it worth refining?

I already pick the stories to critique that have a lower number--wait. I pick the stories to comment on that have a lower number. I don't think any of the stories I've read have been ready for a critique. It might be a semantic point, but I think there is a difference between commenting and critiquing. So--this might only be me personally--rather than HSO's list of points for critique, I'd rather hear OSC's Wise Readers' Comments.
Huh? - don't understand
Oh, yeah? - don't care
Don't buy it. - don't believe
Cool! (wbriggs addition, I think)

I think if you just give people permission that they don't have to critique all of the stories, that we're all intelligent enough to gravitate toward the stories that don't have comments. And we'll all probably still comment on the stories that really excite us.

After my little diatribe here, I think I could have summed things up to say: We're smart. Give us permission to not respond to all of the stories, and things will sort themselves out naturally without needing to resort to rules and forms and...you get the point.

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited May 08, 2005).]


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HSO
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All right, Mary, you've convinced me. I hereby retract all previous comments.

And, for your insightful comments, I hereby nominate you to take on the high consultory position of "official common sense thinker" for the Liberty Hall Flash Challenge idea bank.


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Beth
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please don't take away the numbers; I can't keep track of them in my head by title alone. I need numbers.

agree with mary on comment vs crit.

but I think 25 or 30 or 100 stories is too many and it kind of makes my head blow up to even think about skimming them all. I was going to stop playing when LDS implemented the numeric score instead of commenting, anyway; guess I'm just bowing out a little early.


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MaryRobinette
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Thanks for your vote of confidence HSO but I think I was just expanding on what TaShaJaRo wrote.
quote:
My personal opinion is to crit stories that I have something to say about them.

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Lord Darkstorm
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I had never suggested not commenting, just having a way of rating different categories of each story. I think I'm cursed to have everthing I say misconstrued and twisted and thrown back at me incorrectly for life.

Every time I go to thanksgiving to my in-laws, I hear the phrase "oh, he don't like turkey." But the original statement years ago, is that I prefer ham over turkey. And even my wife says it now. Ok, I do generally get ham at thanksgiving and Christmas because of it.

I would ask that people try and remember what I'm saying if you wish to bring me up as saying something.

As for the number of flashes, instead of finding ways to cut back on the various items, crits, stories, ect. What if we started putting them in blocks. So if we have 25 submissions, then we have 2 blocks of 13 and 12. Whichever area your story is in, you read and critique the other block of stories. Those not participating can do one or the other...or both. This way no one has to read and critique them all, but can if they wish. There only needs to be a magic number of stories that define a block. So if there are 30 submissions, it could be 2 blocks of 15 or 3 of 10. And determining which goes where? #1 - A, #2 - B, #3 - A, #4 - B...and so on. Once they have been sorted, an email could be sent to each person telling them which set they need to work with.


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mikemunsil
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Oh, and Flash Challenge $6 is closed and there were a total of 25 entries!!!!

Thanks, Tasha for moderating!


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Beth
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Your original stated intent, as I recall it, LDS, was to implement a numeric system so that "people wouldn't have to use words to say what they thought about a story." If you believe that a character rating of 45% is more useful than comments, there's nothing I'm going to be able to say that will convince you otherwise.
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Beth
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Didn't you people ever read the Lorax? All this biggering is eliminating about half of what made flash worthwhile for me. This is becoming a factory.
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MaryRobinette
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Is it just me or is the only real problem with "too many stories" the issue of not being able to read them all and vote? (Aside from increasing moderator efforts) Is there a reason that someone can't participate if they don't have time to read all the stories and vote? I don't think there should be a penalty for that.

It seems to me, and I could be wrong here, that the reason Mike started these challenges was too encourage people to write and explore flash fiction. So, it seems like choices about how to deal with larger numbers of participants shouldn't revolve around the voting issues. The voting is fun, but what does it provide for the process, and by process I mean: how does it make us better writers? At the moment "Best Flash" gets to choose the next trigger, but you could just as easily say that the first completed flash gets to choose.

All I'm saying here, is that it might be good to look at how to support the original goals of the challenges, rather than how to support the existing structure.


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Lord Darkstorm
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Good point Mary. I had an idea, one that would make it easier to determine which flash was concidered better by way of rating diferent aspects of the flash. Instead of having to read them all, then try and remember which one was better for each possible category, each flash would have it's own set of values. The back end system would keep up with the numbers and work the magic of calculating who would pick the next trigger. Also, if someone had nothing of value to add, they wouldn't feel they had to. I never said that we should remove the capability of placing comments, just adding a way to rate areas while you were right there.

The biggest problem to having this done and ready to roll, is I have to work with a system someone else created. It is complex, and doesn't have a nice detailed explination of all the things I need to do it quicker. So I have to look, ask questions, hope for answeres, and just figure it out. So it is going to take a little time. Time I could spend reading or writing.

I am working on a temporary solution to assist the moderators and cut down on some of the email problems. The temporary solution is getting closer to being finished, and it might be ready for next weeks flash. If not, then hopefully the following week. If it isn't working reliably then it will wait till it is. If cutting up the stories into blocks is something that people could live with, then I can most likely help the moderators there as well. Just remember, I'm just trying to help Mike and the kind people who moderate to make their time easier. I have been enjoying the flash challenges and have no desire to be a moderator, so I decided to put some effort to help those brave/dumb enough to be one.

We can all complain about how we don't like something, but if you complain enough what's to stop it from going away? Instead of just bashing what is happening, give some solutions to the problem. Anyone can find fault in almost anything, but if you don't have a possible solution that works for more than yourself it isn't a solution. If you don't like my ideas, that's fine. Let's hear your own ideas. I'm open to anything that will not include dumping more work on the moderators. It isn't fair to them.

So let's hear some solutions. Also, it is probably a better idea to move this over to the forum's on Liberty Hall, since this doesn't really belong here.


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mikemunsil
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I've read 13 stories so far. 12 more to go. So far at least 5 of the stories are as good as or better than many I've read in magazines. I have no doubt that as these stories get through the rounds of critiquing and editing and polishing and submitting, that we'll start seeing them as published pieces.

This is like having a weekly subscription to a magazine! An endlessly inventive one, where imagination runs riot and the thought-police are scrambling for cover.


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Minister
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I've finished reading them all. And I'm glad I did; even if we get 50 entries a week, I'll probably read them all. You never know which one will be a gem you would regret missing.
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Three Minute Egg
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I've read several (around 10), based on the intros/hooks (which is a great idea, BTW).

As a 'flasher', I personally don't think I should vote, but that's just my opinion.

I don't have the tools or vocabulary to give the authors any pointers beyond spelling/ punctuation, so I'll keep my trap shut for right now. Better for y'all to suspect I'm a moron than for me to confirm it!

I have learned a ton just reading what many of you have written about the entries.


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Beth
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Why shouldn't flashers vote?
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mikemunsil
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I second Beth. What is your reasoning?
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Three Minute Egg
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I just don't think I can be fair/objective. Right or wrong, that's how I feel. I might be wrong, but trust me, it wouldn't be the first time.
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Isaiah13
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Don't overcomplicate things. Just vote for the one you enjoyed the most.
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mikemunsil
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Okay, I've read them all and voted. 25 is a lot to read.

I made sure not to peek at the votes before I cast my own, and it was interesting to see that in every case where I had trouble deciding between two stories, that the story I did not vote for, also garnered a lot of votes. So, it wasn't just me.


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djvdakota
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I actually very much liked the concept of posting the first few lines of each one. Thanks, whoever did that. MCameron, was it? Excellent idea.

Since it's important to establish a hook in those first few lines of flash fic, maybe it could help us also choose the ones that hook us into reading.

That's a bit cold for those whose stories don't get chosen/read/critiqued. But I don't see much alternative if this challenge gets much bigger. There's no way I can justify the time to read and comment on 50 flashes.

Oh, yeah. How are we defining flash? Some of those submissions seemed awfully long. It would be a LOT easier to read 30 1000 word flashes than 30 2000 word flashes. Do we have a word limit? Has that been discussed and I missed out because I was too stupid to get in on this from the get-go?

It's been SO much fun, guys! Thanks!!

[This message has been edited by djvdakota (edited May 10, 2005).]


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Beth
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It has come up, dakota, and some people argue for a word limit and some people argue against it. I don't think it's been settled.

I think Christine had the most reasonable approach - she just doesn't read the longer ones, or vote for them. That gives people who write long the freedom to do so, but rewards the people who write short.

I tend to write long on these, and I'd hate to have to try to amputate an otherwise good story to meet the limit. but it is flash, after all, and short is part of the point.



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MCameron
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quote:
I actually very much liked the concept of posting the first few lines of each one. Thanks, whoever did that. MCameron, was it?

Can't take credit for that one. TaShaJaRo was the one who did it this time, and I believe that HSO was the one who did it first. It is a good idea though.

--Mel


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mikemunsil
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The winners of Best Flashes, #s 1-5 have all been females. Will a male win this time?
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Lord Darkstorm
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Mine isn't going to win.
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HSO
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I hadn't noticed that stat, Mike... until you brought it up. Hmm. It's a conspiracy!

Or, more likely, their stories were just better than the men's so far.

Nevertheless, it has been noticed that the "light-hearted" stories have been winning consistently.

I'm not even going to broach what that implies... other than it's a conspiracy!


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Beth
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But it does look as if the tyranny of the light-hearted has been overturned this time. I am delighted to see the dark masses rise up and overthrow the hegemony of the light-hearted. LONG LIVE DARK STORIES!
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