Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hosting a storyblogging carnival

NOTE: This is a really old post, so some of the details have changed, but it does explain the general idea of hosting a Storyblogging Carnival.

Robin Jones is now soliciting entries for the next Storyblogging Carnival. I probably should have given him my advice on how to do this earlier, but I'll go ahead and do it now.

First off, I suggest posting the announcement with the complete rules about a week before the Carnival takes place, although Robin advertised a bit earlier. At the same time, you need to send out the announcement to the e-mail list. If I had the resources, I'd have a listserv list, but right now my list is just a bunch of e-mail addresses. That reminds me, I really need to send the list to Robin. I very much suggest that the host send out the e-mail, otherwise whoever sends it out will get a bunch of the entries.

The rules are still under development at the moment. Hey, we've only done this twice so far. Right now we're asking for a lot of information. In addition to the usual for Carnivals: blog title, blog url, story title, story url, and description, we also want a word count, a suggested rating, and author name or pseudonym (this is a new one, since I was uncertain what name to use for some of the entries I got last time). We use all of this in the Carnival entries, so none of it's extraneous, but it is a lot.

Once all the entries are collected, the host has to read all the entries. Yes, all of them. This allows the host to adjust the ratings as needed. (I've decreased the rating for a couple of stories when I thought the author was too hard on the contents, and I may have increased it once or twice.) It also allows him to comment on the stories if he so desires. Because the host needs to read all the stories, and because there's no length limit, I suggest a cut-off early enough to give him time for it. I make it on Friday night so I have the whole weekend, but I'm pretty lenient if people get an entry in late. That's also the reason why I take a maximum of twenty entries on a first come, first serve basis. If I had to read fifty entries, I'd never be able to do it. So far, we haven't received even twenty entries, but we've just begun, and we're growing. If we start regularly exceeding twenty, we may have to come up with a different solution. This is, of course, up to the host, and if he thinks he can handle fifty entries, he should go for it, but my rule is twenty, first come, first serve.

Then on the scheduled Monday the host puts up the Carnival. I think the format of the previous storyblogging carnivals works well.

The description of the story--the blurb--comes straight from the author's mouth, in order to avoid editorializing and spoilers on the part of the host. (If the author has a spoiler in his blurb, that's foreshadowing.) Occasionally I want to use a different blurb from what the author proposed, if the author's is too long or too vague, and sometimes the author asks me for help, and in this case I try to discuss it with the author until we come to an agreement.

I don't double check the word count unless it seems off to me. Trust me, once you've read five or six stories of various length, you can usually tell where a story falls, and I don't think it's necessary to be exactly right on the word count... five words here and there won't make a huge difference, although it can place one story ahead of the other in the Carnival, as the entries are listed in order of length. It's not terribly important, but I also put stories in categories. Stories 999 words or less are brief stories, 1,000-24,999 words is a short story, 25,000-59,999 words is a novella (only one of these so far--mine), and 60,000 words or more is a novel. These are somewhat arbitrary, and in the first carnival I defined anything less than 2,000 words as a brief story. The basic definition of a brief story is that it is not much longer than a typical blog post (a non-Steven den Beste blog post, that is). This post, by the way, is 1,034 words long [before the update was added]. I list the stories in order of length. I do both of these because this is the Internet, and on the Internet, people have short attention spans, and I want them to know what they're getting into when they start to read a story.

Both excerpts and stories in progress are exceptions to the rules. In some ways they are similar--they are both incomplete stories. For excerpts, however, the complete story is available somewhere--preferably online, but not necessarily, while stories in progress are not yet finished. Their word count is whatever is available in the blog, although with an excerpt the full length is included (again, so the reader knows what he's getting into should he decide he wants to know how the story goes). Since a story in progress has an unknown length, and sometimes the author doesn't even know what category it will be in when finished, I don't even give an estimate of the final length.

Any comments the host gives on a story are his own. I wasn't particularly impressed by my own commentary in the previous Carnivals. I do not comment on every story, or even most of them, and you shouldn't take the lack of a comment positively or negatively. I never comment on my own stories, for example. I also do not pan stories in my comments, although I won't rule out additional warnings for mature content (beyond the rating system). Sometimes I don't comment simply because I'm worried doing so will give too much away. If I feel I can comment without spoiling, and something in the story particularly struck me, then I may say how it did. I don't know how other hosts will comment on the entries, but I look forward to seeing it, since it's one area where I could use improvement.

So that's all there is to it. Any questions?

Update: Since the carnival began, there have been a couple of changes, but not many. These days the deadline for accepting submissions is Saturday night, rather than Friday, but that's still up to the host. And in addition to the two e-mails mentioned above, the host sends out a reminder e-mail a day or two before the deadline just to make sure people don't forget. I also ask that the hosts link to my Carnival category, as that contains links to the last twenty carnivals. Finally, since we've gotten a listing on Conservative Cat's Carnival submission form, we get entries through that webform as well. Those entries go straight to me, and I forward them to the host. Typically these entries don't have the full information we usually ask for, but I usually let that slide, although I may ask the author if something important is missing, and I'll be less willing to overlook it if I've added them to the e-mail list, in which case they should be getting the e-mails telling them what information to send. Being part of Conservative Cat's Carnival submission form also means that we should ping the trackback to make sure the most recent entry's on the carnival link list. I send the necessary information to the host.

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