Forum: Getting the Most Out of HASA Stories

Discussing: Managing Stories and Discussions

Managing Stories and Discussions

While it is tempting to create a different discussion for each one of your stories, here are a few things to think about:

1. Fewer discussions means more visitors. People have a limited mount of time. If you make people go one place to discuss this story, and another place to talk about a different one, your users are going to start picking and choosing where they go. This means some of your discussions will be less popular than others, and a story might not get the attention it deserves.

2. More visitors means a livelier discussion. If I only have to go to one discussion to talk about three or four stories, I'm likely to stay there. The longer I stay there, the more likely I am to post a message and give people my opinion. The more people who do this, the more active your discussion will be. People like to join discussions where things are happening.

3. Fewer discussions means less work for you. Ask an admin! Keeping up with a lot of discussions is hard work. If you are not having to check six or seven discussions, you can pay more attention to a few, and interact more with your vistors. Fewer discusions mean fewer user lists to keep an eye on, fewer threads to track down, and a greater possibility of getting users to participate in more threads.

I'm going to give a few examples of how you might wish to organize your discussions to maximize comments and readers.




Use One Discussion

If you have a only a couple of stories that are short or medium length, the best thing to do is link them to a single discussion. This puts all your work in one place, but still allows you to have as many topics as you like. This makes it easy for readers to comment in one place, and for you to read their comments.

For example, I might start a discussion titled "Anglachel's Stories" and in it I could start a few topics like "Working on Ch. 3 of 'Best Story - Comments?" and "Some ideas I'm playing with" and maybe, "The Life and Times of So-and-so - complete - comments".

More topics can be added whenever I like to reflect current work. This is the absolute easiest way to do things. If you are not much of a technical person and/or have a low volume of writing, this is the best option for you.




Organize by Series

Some writers have many short or medium length stories that can stand alone, but are part of a series. They may have more than one series going, too. In this case, it makes a great deal of sense to create a discussion that focuses on a particular series.

For example, I'm writing a projected five-part series about the Shire, focusing on Frodo and Bilbo during Frodo's early tween years. I could create a discussion called "Anglachel's Shire Series". Using my own name first makes it obvious who the author is. Then I give a description of what things are being discussed in there.

Inside the discussion, I could create topics that are specific to any particular story, perhaps even to particular chapters of stories, as well as have topics that are for discussing the series generally. This encourages people to think and discuss the stories as a collection, and may help me understand patterns and ideas that span the stories.




Organize by Story Status

If you are a prolific writer with a number of stories in various states of completion, you might want to organize things by work status.

The advantage of this is that finished work is on one place where regular end readers can comment, while unfinished work is sectioned off, and beta readers can really dig in to what you're putting together. It is very easy to switch any story from one discussion to another using the "Edit Story Info" form in "My Stories".

The disadvantage of this is that you may end up with two sets of comments about one story - WIP comments while it is under development, and then comments on the completed work. Also, users might be a little confused if they stumble on one set of comments, and then cannot find them again because they are using the other discussion.

For example, I might set up two discussions. One is called "Angalchel's WIPs" and all my beta and incomplete stories are linked to that discussion. The other is called "Anglachel's Finished Work", and my completed pieces link to that Discussion.

While I'm working on "Best Story", I have it linked to the WIP discussion, and I get a lot of beta reader comments. After I have finished it, I switch it over to the Finished work discussion, and people can talk about it in a new context, without going back through the development notes - though I'd probably stick in some notice that early comments are still available in the WIP discussion.

If you do things this way, you really don't need more than two discussions, which makes taking care of things fairly simple. The other advantage (to be discussed in more detail below) is that you can have a restricted access discussion for development comments, and an open discussion for finished work.




Novel Length - Single Discussion

Some of our writers put together novella/novel length single stories. These are the kind of works that really need a discussion devoted to them, as they can be discussed in so many ways. They also tend to be works in progress, with the beginnings quite settled, but new material coming out on a reasonably regular basis.

For example, I might create a discussion called "Anglachel - Best Story". This identifies me as the author, and then shows that this discussion is devoted to one particular story.

Inside the discussion, I can go crazy with the topics. I'd probably set up topics for each chapter, indicating completion status on that chapter. I'd probably have a general comments topic, and another for ideas and suggestions. I might have a "If you liked this..." topic for people to let others know about stories that they might like, if they liked this one of mine. Maybe I would have a research topic, letting people know how I found some fact, or what logic I used to decide thigns should go this way instead of that. It really depends on how you like to work.

So, have a big story? Give it a discussion.




Open and Restricted Discussions

This option is for people who wish to create a protected discussion, and who do not mind doing some extra work to get it done.

It is possible to set up a limited access discussion. There are two reasons why you might wish to do this:

1. You are discussing topics of an adult nature and you wish to restrict who may read it. This is a courtesy to others, as they cannot accidently click into a discussion that is not acceptable to them. It also ensures that under-age HASA members are not accidently exposed to adult subject matter.

2. You wish to have a private comments area for a selected group of beta readers and editors to make very critical comments on a WIP. I do not think many people would want to do this, but the option is there for you.

For example, I might want to leave my discussion "Anglachel's Finished Stories" open for the general memebrship, but would want to keep the discussion "Anglachel's WIPs" restricted to the ten people who do alpha and beta reading on my unfinished stories.

1. Using the discussion management links under my WIP conference lisitng, I would click the "Close" link. This prevents new people form signing themselves up.

2. Then I would click on "Manage Users"

3. I see a page with three lists of people. I go to the list in the lower left-hand corner "Full Participation Users"

4. I click the button "Remove Users". This means no one except me can get into the discussion.

5. I scroll back up to the main list "Available Users".

6. I hold down the "CTRL" key and click on the particular people I want to have participate in my WIP discussion. When I have picked everyone I want, I click the "Add Users" button. Now the only people who can post in in the discussion are these people.

It is generally a courtesy to modify your discussion introduction to make it clear that a particular discussion is limited to a few participants, and why. This will keep people from thinking that things are broken. You may also allow people in to read comments, but not add to them. Do this by adding people as "Read-Only participants.

Again, this is an option, but probably not something you want to use very much.




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