I am little bit loath to raise my view on this again, as when I raised it in the Forum some months ago it got fairly short shrift...some seemed to think I was denigrating other members who led groups, I wasn’t. It's just my opinion...but the Site Experts were a big draw for me. I think having some key groups (but not all) led by Site Experts can make a difference to levels of activity in the group – it’s not the only factor of course, but I do think it matters.
When I started writing, I hadn't met any published poets, novelists or short story writers at that point - and I really wanted to. I hadn’t heard of any of the WW experts, but their CVs spoke for themselves. The educational strand of WW matters I think. Setting writing challenges can get people thinking and motivate them to stay in touch.
I never have had any issue with the fee - I don't think it's too high. I think a free site might encourage plagiarism, and there are issues around putting a piece of work up on an open website for criticism and then submitting it for publication as an ‘unpublished’ piece of work.
When I joined, in 2003 briefly, then again in 2005. I felt like I could easily see what I was getting for my money anyway.
Aside from the warm, welcoming and supportive environment (a safe place to upload work and get commentary, which WW undoubtedly is and this is the most important advantage to it), I was also getting all these things that I lacked and desperately wanted:
- Critical feedback from fellow writers -published and unpublished
- Interviews with figures from all areas of the industry
- The opportunity to ask questions of other writers on any area of writing
- Jobs and opportunities
- Handy lists of publishers and competitions
But I wonder whether the lack of Site Experts (and the Interviews) nowadays has made the site quieter.
It's absolutely true that all the comments we writers on WW receive are just as useful, it’s having a range of views that matters, and some members continue to give amazingly detailed feedback, but generally speaking I personally have received the most detailed feedback from groups with a Site Expert. By that I mean on-going commitment to comment and engagement with the same piece of work, detailed advice about how to rewrite and redraft. And this (alongside the generally supportive comments) is the sort of feedback I was after.
It's a real shame that the Short Story Group is stagnating but it is an example of what I mean. Becca was great – but now that she has left I think it might take someone like her who has the time and expertise to help people work on their writing to make it live again. There are many flourishing groups which aren’t run by Site Experts, but just as many have died. It takes a lot of time and goodwill to run a group, as well as willing, contributing members. Not everyone has the time and energy to work on keeping up the flagging motivation of others.
Will more Site Experts and Industry interviews re-energise WW? I don't know.
Other suggestions that occurred to me:
Did you think about having an online magazine linked to WW which publishes member’s work? I know there are various magazines that members run or are involved with on the poetry side, that might give people a platform to publish work and reviews and attract support and membership.
Could some of the WW fee be funnelled into an annual competition? Competitions do seem to get a lot of attention, and on the poetry side, many small presses have replaced open calls for submissions with competitions. I don’t say that’s the best thing for writers, but competitions do bring buzz.
Edited by FelixBenson at 14:05:00 on 17 June 2015
Whatever you do, I will stay a member regardless. I need somewhere to get feedback on my work, and I still think WW the best place to get it.