The Yellow Brick Road

As we approach another NaNoWriMo and people set up their projects on Rough Trade, it is inevitable that new readers will stumble upon the site and join. Most often, they’ve strolled into RT from fandom. They’ve followed a favorite writer, or they saw the sign-up, or they saw a recommendation on some site regarding a previous story, and they’re looking for it. We’ve had about 500 people join RT since October 1, 2016.

Once they get into RT though they are faced with a very unusual situation in fandom–Rough Trade is a writer’s site. Readers react a variety of ways to the structure of RT, and most of the time it is positive, if not hesitant. There are nearly 7k members on the RT site, and the vast majority of them are readers. This might make you think that RT is really a site for readers. After all, 99% of fandom is for readers.

Fandom is built by writers and artists, but it’s really for readers, right? It’s for the reader’s enjoyment.

If you look at the majority of fandom-centric sites, they are designed to be more reader friendly than writer friendly. Ask a single writer about fanfiction.net, and they’ll tell you that posting on that site is a nightmare because of the back end. The site owners don’t really care, either. Writers are a second class citizen on FF.net — readers are free to abuse them in the comment section with very little fear of being thrown off the site for it. They can troll writers, insult them, threaten them, etc and TPTB doesn’t often do a damn thing about it. After all, a place like FF.net makes their money from advertising, and reader activity drives that. So FF.net makes the money, the readers get to do what they want, and writers either suck it up and do their thing or they retreat to another site.

Then you have an inclusive place like Ao3 who has done a lot for fandom even if their stand against censorship has created some situations that put people off. No matter how you feel about their TOS, you can’t say that AO3 doesn’t stand by their principles. They wanted to create a site where writers could feel free to post without the fear of being censored due to politics, homophobia, etc, etc. They’ve succeeded — for good and bad. I don’t post there; that is my personal choice, but I don’t fault anyone who does, and I even allow the writer translating Tangled Destinies into Russian to post there because it’s easier for us both.  We also have several RT collections on A03 for different challenges because contrary to what some have told me in email, I don’t actually “hate” A03 or anyone involved with its creation/maintenance. I think they’ve done some amazing work for fandom.

With an archive A03’s size, no one could realistically expect the maintainers to be hands-on regarding reader activity and feedback. So, it’s not a surprise to see abuse in the comment sections of various stories and it was a relief to see the team respond to that with comment moderation in 2015. Still, you only need to look at A03 to recognize that it is a site designed for readers in mind–they had subscriptions and ebook downloads before comment moderation hit the table. It’s about priorities, and I’m not faulting the staff at A03 in any single way for this — readers have been coming first in fandom since the dawn of fandom.

When I started my site — my first thought was readability and organization so it would be easier for my readers to read my stuff and to find my stuff. I didn’t turn on comment moderation until about two months in because I got tired of assholes complaining about me leaving FF.net. I made ebooks, I answered questions, I built a comment form for those readers too shy to respond in public. I made my email address public. I did all of this for readers. I made announcements in groups, I had a mailing list at one time, I set up subscriptions on my site. I flitted through the SGA fandom like the Pied Piper, shaking my OTP enticingly at readers. Come read my stuff! They did. It was nice. I had readers!

Readers wanted Facebook notifications–I joined Facebook.
Readers wanted Twitter notifications–I joined Twitter.
Readers wanted Tumblr notifications–I fucking joined Tumblr.

Even now, I spend a great deal of time on my personal site doing maintenance and organization and checking posts, and correcting issues, and settling account problems (since I went members only) because readers come first, right?

Right?

Except there came a point in Rough Trade’s evolution when I realized that on that site, writers had to come first. The very nature of our challenge environment demanded it. It’s difficult enough to write and post in a rough form–the startling intimacy of it is hard to explain–without having to worry about some entitled reader coming along and pointing out a plot hole or a fucking typo.

You’d have thought I’d punched all these readers in the dick (theoretical or otherwise) when I told them they couldn’t ask questions. How dare I not allow them to ask questions of a writer in the middle of a time-sensitive challenge! What did I mean when I said that their plot advice wasn’t welcome? Why can’t they tell the writer what pairings they prefer?

It must have been so startling, honestly, to come into an environment where the writer wasn’t the second class citizen.

For the readers on RT, I would say–you’re not in Kansas anymore, darlings, and the rules for Oz are a bit different so watch your step and look out for flying monkeys.

-KM

 

Keira Marcos

In my spare time I write fan fiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on Facebook. It's not the usual kind of hobby for a "domestic engineer" in her 30's but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people's expectations.

69 Comments:

  1. A someone who has such a hard time just commenting on someone’s wonderful work (I just hate “being out there”). I understand completely I just love all the hard work that you put into this and all the wonderful writers it’s nice to be able to get on and read all these wonderful works. Thank you for your hard work.

  2. I genuinely admire how you take a stand and never let anyone try to push you or bully you into their own ideals of what they think your work and your ethics should be. You stand tall and firm and take no bullshit, and that is absolutely the best thing ever.

  3. All of this.

    Thank you for a place where my craft is more important than those who would consume it.

  4. I am now picturing you as the much misunderstood and maligned “wicked witch of the east.” In the movie she is pissed off because the sister who supported her is killed by a house landing on her, a child steals the sister’s slippers, and Glenda the “good witch” helps the thief/murderess, then incites a whole village into taunting the “wicked witch.” And your minions, me included, would be the flying monkeys. It’d be awesome to be a flying monkey. Able to fly around and fling stuff at idiots? Awesome.

  5. Applauds long and loud from the reader’s bench. For all the reasons stated IF I ever decide to post again, this is the ONLY place I would do so and feel safe.

  6. Nicely said, and a thought provoking view of the other archives and fandom. Also, great use of OZ! I love your new site graphics and design, and would like to thank you for the time and attention you have devoted to re-doing it over the past few weeks…not that it was necessary or anything!

  7. Thank you for all that you do!

  8. Today, when I find that yet another fandom author is moving her stories due to crap from idiots (and we are all enormously fortunate that she is moving and not REmoving), this post seems particularly timely.

    Thank you Keira for being so protective of writers (including yourself). I would prefer not to be able to comment AT ALL (although I would miss being able to directly thank writers) than to lose such a treasure of reading magic. After all, for many, many years growing up, the only possible way for me to have contacted a favourite author would have been via a letter sent care of their publisher, and not having that immediate access never prevented me enjoying the books. Greater contact is a total privilege, but very much not a right.

    Thank you, to you and to anyone who is planning to write on RT now or in the future.

  9. While I have yet to attempt one of the challenges, or dip my toes into the water at the Rough Trade workshop forum, I heartily appreciate all that you have done to create a safe space for writers. Thank you for that.

  10. I tend to lurk here, and even as a reader who has never written a story of her own, I do appreciate the safe haven you’ve arranged for writers. The only thing I am sad about every time is that the stories get deleted, and either are not posted again anywhere else, or at least I don’t find them anymore. I tend to read favourite stories again and again, and that habit of mine collides somewhat with this RT principle. I would like to point out though that I do see pragmatic reasons for deleting past RT challenge stories, plus some more ideological ones, and I will defend your right to set up your website any way you please to any comers. As a reader, I can always go elsewhere.

  11. I never thought of it quite this way before but it’s true. Thank you for giving us a safe place. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to start writing if not for RT.

  12. Wow, never really thought of all the work you were doing just to share your ” free ” fan fiction works. I don’t think I have ever left a negative review or comment because my mother taught me the golden rules 1- treat others as you wish to be treated and 2- if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say (or write) anything. I don’t comment as often as I should because I do feel a little foolish just saying nice chapter or thanks. I think I may have to change that yeah?

  13. As a mostly lurking reader I really appreciate what you have done for writers. I enjoy RT a lot and usually make note of my favourite stories, from time to time I try and see if they have been posted anywhere else after RT. If yes I enjoy reading it again, if not that is writers decision.

    Also I have to say that as a reader that really didn’t have any courage to post anything commenting to the story RT helped with that as well. I like it when I can just comment which parts I especially enjoyed and just thank the writer. Without having to think about any “creative feedback” in which case I just don’t comment and continue to lurk.

    So thank you for the amazing work you do for the writers.

  14. I’m a lurker. I love reading stories by other people about my favorite fandoms to see their take on what the characters could be like. If I ever give feedback it’s always a “great job” kinda feedback. I would never have the gall to give feedback that was bad because I KNOW I can’t do better and I’m just grateful as all he’ll that there are people brave enough and wonderful enough to share their stuff with the world. So to all the writers out there, awesome job everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. You state very clearly that RT is NOT and archive but a writers workshop. I’d say “can’t people read?” but they obviously can’t, or don’t think that warnings apply to them. The sense of entitlement some folks have is truly amazing to me. In the end–your site, your rules. I appreciate all the hard work you do. Thank you.

  16. Thank You, Keira. One of us should make some Safe Space artwork – like the signs and stickers you see in LGBTQ+ safe public places. Hmm. Sounds like a new method of distracting myself from cheating on NANO.

    Thanks to you and the moderators for your hard work.

  17. The author’s work is a gift and should be treated as such. As readers we should support and encourage ( appropriately and leave the self entitlement at home.) Ultimately the author is the captain of their ship and we the readers are just along for the ride. Act like an asshat – The Keira giveth and the Keira taketh away;) So looking forward to November and hats off for all that you do!
    By the way your new site looks AMAZING!

  18. I am amazed that despite your clear policies, people still act like they have a RIGHT to see what they want from an author. I will always want to read more from a good author, and while I admit to frustration on slow updates … but that is on me, not the writer – and I know I can’t write worth crap. I do love stories, and I am in awe of the quality of some of the work that comes from people who are not paid for their time and effort. So….. Kudos to all who are participating in Rough Trade, looking forward to your efforts!

  19. Thank you for all this! As someone who posted in the RT workshop for the first time yesterday, the writer-centric worldview was essential to being brave enough to post. (qbee4evr over there)

  20. Thank you, your safe space for writers is what enabled me to start writing again.

  21. You are awesome! (deep breath. calm down) Thank you so much. I haven’t been a member of both your home site & RT for that long yet & I will admit to being shocked, yet also very happy, the first time I read your policies. Haven’t gone too far with my own writing yet (I have 2 stories posted on A03) & the writer’s block I’m currently dealing with has become somewhat more of a maze wall. So the idea of having a place where I can post something that could be very rough while I try to blow up that maze is very comforting. You’re one of my favorite writers & I don’t know where you find the time to write with all the work you have to do on your sites. Please, never leave us.

    • I completely agree with Hawk and the other comments above. I am mainly a reader, as I don’t think anything I’ve written is good enough to post, but I believe that when a writer is happy and feeling content in their writing (and where they are writing), then the experience is so much better for both parties. So RT being a place primarily for writers, allows the aforementioned to produce the wonderful work they do. No one has a right to complain or abuse anyone, and I like the firm stance RT and Keira take on the issue. I have a friend who is only 16 and she posted her first fic a month ago. After two weeks, the comments were so upsetting and hurtful that she felt that she had no choice but to delete it, and it really hurt her. I’ve recommended RT to her if she ever wants to post again.

      • And she’s welcome, as soon as she turns 18. We have too much porn on the site for an underage writer. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • That is so sad for your young friend. Everyone has to start somewhere and no one is perfect. They should have been encouraging her not tearing the poor girl down but unfortunately trolls are shallow, worthless jerks who just love to hurt people to make themselves feel important. I hope that she can eventually get past their cruelty, we lose too many authors because of such treatment.

  22. Really I have never understood entitled readers, the only thing they should do is thank writers for writing.

  23. Agreed

    As someone who consumes and don’t create I really do not understand the people who complain to the writers. I absolutely suck at giving feedback but the few times I do I always thank the person who has decided to share his or her talent for FREE !!!!!

  24. I appreciate all the work you put into writing and know it is a privilege to read, not a right and it could be taken away at any second.
    This is your kingdom and I am but a lowly subject. All Hail Queen Keira!

  25. Thank you for all the hard work that you do. Thank you for creating a space where it’s safe for a writer, for the first time or for the nth time, to give birth to that story that’s been percolating in their brain without the fear of someone complaining about typos or that they don’t like THAT pairing, why can’t they write THIS pairing, etc. If the writer was looking for a beta, they’d request one. Unsolicited ‘advice’ isn’t helpful and can be downright hurtful. Thank you for protecting writers and giving them somewhere to fully enjoy the process, while still allowing those who are capable of respecting your rules to enjoy the stories right along with them.

  26. I’m a reader and a lurker. I applaud every writer who participates in your challenge.

    As someone who currently takes screenwriting in a film college, I know how hard writing can be sometimes. When I found NaNoWritMo, it was like a goldmine for me. the quality of the works there are beyond lovely. I’m sad to hear the authors are being harassed so much for doing what they love.

    I remember reading the comment rules once, and I thought that’s such a good idea! I know people will always have questions, but it’s just distracting, and sometimes a comment can throw you out of the zone. I don’t even want to talk to people when I write. XD So I am in AWE, when someone writes a fantastic piece of work under those deadlines.

    I hope you/the authors will continue to be patient for us readers. I know how entitle and demanding we can be, but we do love and appreciates your works and the effort you out into it. I hope future comments and readers will understand you guys frustrating and back off. You have given us so much. Lovely reads, guilty pleasures, hard-core romances and more. I hope you’ll stay and stay open to us. It’ll be a huge loss if you decide to leave us.

    Wow, this turned out to be a long one. Sorry for the rant. XD

  27. I’ve literally spent this week finding a balance between taking care of myself as a writer, and making my stories reader friendly. Unfortunately, I actually had to decide WHICH readers I wanted to be friendly to, as it turned out some were attacking others. Easy choice in the end.

    During the decision process, I thought it best to keep my readers informed that my stories might be moving from one platform to another. I got an overwhelming show of support, some worried that they wouldn’t know how to navigate the new site. However, I also got MASSIVE backlash from readers calling me a coward for “running” from trolls, an egomaniac for thinking that my work was mine to post where I wanted it to, and a thin-skinned (insert any number of insults). What an eye opener. I ultimately found a balance between FFN and Ao3 (though my long-term goal is to save money to get a site like yours).

    Thank you, Keira!!! It’s the support and example of you and other writers that helped me to stand up for myself this week. My last give a fuck flew away, and boy do I feel free!!!

  28. Every single time I read fiction on the internet I’m awed that a writer took so much time and effort, and then just put their work out there in the world for free. I’m the lucky one, and am happy to have found a place were talented writers share their work with me.

    Thanks for providing a safe place for writers to play. I’m very happy to be along for the ride.

  29. Thank you, Keira. I’ve written more in the last four years, challenged myself more, learned more about the kind of writer I want to be, all because of RT and the way it’s set up. It means so much to have somewhere safe to try out the plots that are a bit ‘out there’, delve into world’s that are more complex, and write to a word count (which I still totally fail at). Sure, comments from readers are nice, but I come onto RT to write and push myself that little bit further without feeling pressure to please anyone but myself, something that isn’t possible on the more reader led sites.

  30. Your site, your rules. No debate. If some readers can’t deal with it then tough. When I go to a site I may not always agree with the rules but I do my best to follow them. I do agree with yours, they are logical and compassionate. Writers need a safe place to write and experiment with their work and you give them that. We readers need to let them and give them encouragement.

  31. As a lurking reader only, I fully appreciate the safe haven you have provided for writers. It may be harder for us readers but if you truly enjoy a story you should be willing to put the effort in to reading it. The fact it will probably encourage writers to continue their work is frankly just a bonus.

  32. Wow. Thanks for stepping up and mentioning that. I know several writers who feel the same, despite never saying anything. And I’m glad writers have a place where they get put first.

  33. I totally agree with everything you wrote. I appreciate that fact that you do allow those of us who are writing challenged to still read the amazing authors that call this site home. Thank you for making a stand and looking out for those publishing here. You have my full support and I am in awe at the creativity that abounds here. You’re awesome!!!!

  34. I appreciate all the hard work you put into RT, in order to keep it a safe place for writers.

  35. I am a long time reader ๐Ÿ™‚ lurker ? perennial re-reader of long tales, (Thank you Keira, your site is a long term favourite) and I confess that I don’t comment as often as I ought :blush: I find it hard to think of words that truly reflect the pleasure I get from reading, and repetitively saying only, “Thank you”, doesn’t do the author or their writing justice.

    To be perfectly honest I find Rough Trade a delight. It’s like power walking through a shopping mall, with money to spend, but with only a limited time to see everything, and no residual guilt because I didn’t write fulsome praise.

    I hope writers do take from my occasional comments that I genuinely appreciated their efforts, my thanks that they posted where I could read, that I had a lot of pleasure reading, and that they feel encouraged too.
    I don’t want them to feel pressured or criticised or distracted from ‘their’ story, their plots, their style of writing.

    Variety is the spice of life; long live Rough Trade ๐Ÿ˜€

    Kind regards,
    Mary

  36. greywolfthewanderer

    yow yow yowza! gawd people are asshats sometimes! for me, RT has got me writing again after nearly a decade of not writing cos the fire went out. the fact that the site is free of “please review so I’ll write more” and “why don’t you write *insert stupid pairing of choice* instead of these guys?”, etc, etc, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, is *the best ever*!!

    scribophile is the only site that even comes close, and they have their own annoying rules. RT is the best, da bomb, and totally rules!

    w00t! once more we rise to do battle. all hail!!

  37. As a reader I am always in awe of you writers- you brighten up my life with your creativity and I count myself lucky that you share it with us.
    So if you write something that is perhaps not to my taste, that is my fault and not yours.
    In that case, I simply quietly leave the fic, since that is the back buttom and Uncle Google are there for. It is my duty as a reader to find the stories I like and not the duty of the writer to provide them. in my opinion, the only duty a writer has is to have fun playing with their creativity and we readers are blessed that they are brave enough to share it with us.

    Any readers that think otherwise make me sometimes ashamed of being part of the community.

    So as a often silent lurker and reader here, my biggest thanks and admiration goes to the writers among you- we all know there are a**hole readers, but hopefully for every a** there are hundreds silent and not-silent readers supporting you and cheering you on.

  38. I’m glad writers have a place to go. You do good work, Keira.

  39. Its often really hard for me to comment……but whats so difficult in dont ask question dont give advice ( as I coud) I really enjoy RT and as you say your side your rules. Please continue as you like and the same for the writers at RT. THANKS FOR YOUR GREAT WORK AND THE TIME YOU SPEND TO MAKE MANY PEOPLE HAPPY. Thanks a lot

  40. All of that post is why I adore this site. I’ve been a reader for a while through the challenges and it’s because of how you protect the writers that I finally managed to suck up enough guts to finally sign up and attempt to write something (or at least something fanfiction) for the first time in almost 3 years. Especially something that was longer then 2k. I can handle constructive commentary…unfortunately that’s not usually what fanfic writers get. It’ll be nice to put something out there, know it’s being read and not have to read emails that make me want to throw rocks at teenage girls or kick start an ulcer in me.

  41. Maybe there should be a rule to charge the asshats for being… Asshats. Like, maybe the more rules they break in a comment the higher the fine and if entitlement is there double the fine? Hmm… I cannot believe that people still think it is allright to demand more/give unwanted advice etc etc for storys they aren’t even paying for. And really they should know better by now.

  42. I don’t understand readers’ sense of entitlement when it comes to fics. Would I love to see my favorite fics updates, of course, just like I love to see a new book by my favor authors. That doesn’t mean I have the right to hound, or worse, abuse, writers to try and get that update. Besides, it’s counterproductive anyway you look at it. Abuse doesn’t make one want to make the abuser’s every wish come true, now does it.

    I wish people would either get a fucking clue and be better about things like this or just keep their mouths shut. Either option would work for me.

    I don’t comment much at all, but I do appreciate all the work you put into this site and into Rough Trade (as well as all the other writers on Rough Trade).

    Thank you.

  43. Thanks I read your page and fics since 3 years ago, at first when you don’t have yet the crack about avoid copy and paste of you page, I was much help because I was still learning English. Now I have almost 95%understanding reading and only need to learn to write correctly. I appreciate all the help in your forums and of course I love your fiction and deeply engage in RT I hope soon learn enough for put my ideas in writing. Thanks for your time Luna

  44. All I can say is thank you.
    Thank you for a safe place to write
    Thank you for a safe place to read
    And more importantly
    Thank you for teaching, not only me but I hope many others.
    Old and new we can come into fandom with a sense of entitlement that has been fostered over the years, usually commonsense and decency wins out, but some become keyboard warriors and end up destroying not only someones work, but their very soul.

  45. Well said. I haven’t worked up the courage to start writing again, but I love the fact that the writers come first on RT. WIthout writers, there would be nothing ro read. The idea that you or any other writer should be treated as less important is sad. Thank you for all that you do.

  46. Reader entitlement was the main reason I stopped posting my work on the internet. I never stopped writing, but waking up one morning to over 2000 comments over half of which were flame-y or troll-y, well I just put myself first.
    I love that you have created such a safe space for writers, and knowing that I wont have to put up with that shit here, when I’m ready to take part, just feels like a nice warm hug.

    Thank you, Keira.

  47. When authors write fanfcition and post it on the net, they do it because they want to, and are entitled to write what they want when they want, and readers should be honored to be allowed to read it, and they shoudn’t harass the authors about plots or pairings or whatever. If you don’t like it don’t read it, but leave the authors alone, they don’t owe us anything but we owe them for the amazing stories they let us read and enjoy. A little respect wouldn’t be amiss.

  48. The way I see it most people write for enjoyment so, as a reader I can`t understand why you would abuse or stifle the author with your expectations. Why not just follow to where the author takes you that is what stories do take you places you wouldn`t normally go. It`s a good thing to have rules and guidelines as well as challenges everyone knows what is expected of them and those being creative and putting in the hard work can do so hassle free. I have to say thank you to Keira and all the other writers for the many hours of entertainment it’s always a pleasure.

  49. As a sometime writer, who has not written for a few years due to physical difficulties, I fully support your stance and the protection it gives to writers to create what they want.
    As a reader I am just overjoyed to get access to the work of some wonderful authors and do not think it my place to criticise other people’s ideas or efforts. I don’t like then I don’t read in the same way as I watch TV I like and stop watching if I don’t.
    Being mostly housebound and often bedbound I am tremendously gratefully to everyone who has the courage and generosity to share what is a very private thing in many ways and in doing so they brighten my days and shorten bad nights. So thank you for sharing your brilliant stories and giving others a safe forum to work in.

Leave a Reply