Some time ago I posted a feedback survey for the participants of the Size Riot contests. This flash fiction size-lit contest is in its third year, and people look forward to it both as a bounty of new and exciting stories to read, and an opportunity for motivation to create and complete their stories.
Because so many people are so involved and invested with this, it’s only responsible for me to hit them up for their opinions on how the contest should go. I’m only one person, coming from one background and entrenched within one perspective. It’s necessary for me to be open to feedback and solicit various opinions on how the contest should go. Mind you, I don’t reflexively embrace every idea that comes my way, but nor do I automatically shut down every suggestion. And with this recent survey, some really excellent ideas have been floated.
Who responded? The pie chart generated by Google Forms shows 20 writers and six readers spoke up this time. Most people learned about Size Riot from Twitter, slightly fewer from DeviantArt and Giantess City. The rest was Tumblr (RIP), Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus (amazingly), my blog, and word of mouth. One person even said they heard about it at SizeCon and followed up here! That’s fantastic.
What do you like about the Size Riot contests?
Everyone’s heard me enthuse and gush about how I feel it’s turning out: writers are coming together and supporting each other over a month, generating four new stories each year. In some cases, that’s more than they’ve written before, and they’re energized by the mutual support and encouragement to do what they’ve always wanted to do.
Common threads for what people liked was the variety of themes: not just for writers to try something new, but for readers to be exposed to perspectives and values outside of their familiar paths, written by writers they know and like.
- The variety of approaches to the prompts.
- Gives me a chance to stretch my writing legs.
- The chance to practice a variety of writing themes and to find excellent new content to read.
- They encourage writers and readers to think beyond their own personal preferences.
- I love the ability to stretch my wings. The challenge of a due date and constraints make it interesting and I want to push my boundaries.
- Forcing myself to write outside my standard genre/niche.
- The fact that writers, especially those who don’t write about straight white men or giantesses that are just sex objects, can put their work out in a publicized setting.
People also cited the community around this event, from writers sharing the sense of writing together to the discussions afterward. I’m looking for some kind of resource, actually, to facilitate conversations and feedback on individual stories.
- Word limit and the feeling that I’m writing with a bunch of other people.
- Different folk in the community writing about a common topic and seeing how people think through it differently.
- The communal creative spirit. The sharing, encouragement and enthusiasm of so many participants.
- The sheer variety of stories and points of view, how writers give their best to offer short yet well-done pieces, always trying to stay true to the contests’ topics.
- I love the chats prior to and after the contest. I love the interactions it creates and how everyone supports each other.
- Getting the community involved, primarily inspiring those to give writing a chance.
People also like the structure of the contest, the limits, the standards. Personally, I like the philosophy that creativity is what happens within constraints, though I know not everyone agrees with that. Some people prefer a wide-open and unfettered landscape in which to work; others appreciate the challenge of limited resources and set parameters, and the creative thinking that requires.
- Attempting to write under a 2,000-word limit teaches you to trim the fat. I also look forward to reading what everyone else did. The interpretation of the subject from each writer comes as a wonderful surprise.
- An opportunity to experiment with a format I typically don’t write with themes I don’t often write. It stretches my creativity, which is always good for a writer.
- It’s good motivation to write within new and unexpected parameters.
- How it incentivizes writers within the community to write a mix of things both in and outside their comfort zones. Also the fact that there is a deadline and in some cases requirements on what should be included in the story as an extra challenge.
What do the contests do well?
My initial goal for the contest was to challenge myself, and I thought other serious writers might feel the same way. Like I love to explain, it started with me challenging Giantess Nyx to a cruel-off. I’m normally a Gentle writer, but for some reason I thought I could face off with her on her turf. I was wrong, of course, she swept that contest, but I did win Most Cruel in the second year (when Nyx didn’t compete). If Nat Edgecomb hadn’t spoken up to claim a slice of the action, it might have been a one-off performance, but I thought the opportunity should be opened up to everyone, and people went for it. And over ten contests the structure, rules, demands, and exceptions have evolved and adjusted to give the most people the opportunity to enter.
People appreciate the contests for the community they foster, where everyone gets a shot at speaking and being heard.
- Engage participation of otherwise unknowable writers.
- Giving promotion to content creators.
- They provide publicity for authors who might not otherwise receive it.
- Provide a framework for storytelling ventures that promotes creativity over outright competitiveness.
- Getting different parts of the community that might not naturally be in the same circle (like folks who like blood and more gentle-sided folks) being able to unite at something!
- Build community. It’s fun not knowing who wrote what and being able to engage with the other writers afterward.
- Brings together writers.
- Pull this tiny community together! Over on DA images seem to be occurring but there is little in the way of literature. A picture may be a thousand words, but it doesn’t always replace words. You can capture feelings and thoughts with a picture.
As with the previous category, many writers value the opportunity to ply their craft in unconventional straits and attempt new things. The opportunity for feedback was appreciated as well, of course.
- The contest has great prompts and presentation on the site, and it is a wonderful way to receive feedback.
- The themes are both vague and limiting enough to promote creativity.
- Having a clear set of rules and an overall dedication towards writers’ creativity, to force them work harder in any of the topics, and specially working for a full respect to both writers and readers. Also, the evaluation system is a good way for people to give some feedback before the writers and properly credited for each entry.
- The variety each contest, and the variety of all the stories themselves. The problem with most of the content previously is that size change stories have been limited to poorly written, by the numbers movements of “and then she pick me up and squash me!!111” But everyone involved in these contests and every entry I read challenges the tropes themselves while being sexual, fun to read, and even being standalone stories separate from the fetish.
- Compare and contrast writers to each other in terms of style and focus
- They encourage feedback due to anonymity and foster a sense of being part of something. They take me out of my comfort zone.
- Diversification of topics, general consistency of being run, and chance to give feedback on the stories.
What aspect of the contests should go away or be changed?
The Size Riot contests aren’t in their final iteration. As events shift and times change, and as more, newer people discover the contest, so too must it evolve to accommodate the new information. Sometimes this is easier to do than at other times. One user asked that tags/trigger warnings be included with the directory of stories, as some writers don’t care for (and I’m putting this very gently) unpleasant surprises when reading material. Up to this point, I treated the contests as a book of short stories: all you see is the title and (eventually) the author. That’s fine. Just as writers have voluntarily bowed out when the presented topic sat too far outside of their interests, no reader should be compelled to engage with content that violates their sensibilities. That’s not to say they won’t: some people prefer the opportunity to make a decision rather than be slammed in the face with uncomfortable content. I think most people would find the sense in this.
And though I’m open to hearing suggestions and ideas, there are some tenets to the contest which are fixed and immutable. Would-be participants have asked for a larger word limit; no, the point is that writers are challenging themselves to rethink story structure and tell a complete tale within 2,000 words. A few have bucked at the original character stipulation, saying they’d be happier bringing in their familiar, previously established characters and settings. The point of the anonymity to these contests is to enable, in some small way, the stories to be evaluated without the bias of knowing the writer. Now, some authors have such a distinctive style (Taedis’s taut, unflinching tension; Undersquid’s lavish emotional connection; Aphrodite’s otherworldly, epic narrative; CrushedBoyWonder’s frank, unabashed embrace of the outré) that an experienced reader will recognize them immediately! But to ask to reject the constraints of the contest and keep doing what’s comfortable and familiar suggests one is not looking for an opportunity to develop their creative chops: that person just wants the publicity. That’s not how any of this works.
Some respondents asked that the entries limit be increased. I would love to do that, but you’ve seen how many stories we get! Size Riot has tripled its participation in two years, and it’s still growing. If writers were permitted to submit two or three stories, that’s a potential for 80−100 stories in one contest, and some people find the three-week evaluation period too little time to tackle 30 stories as it is! To that end, however, I’ve extended the reading period by a week—which means the results cannot be posted until the end of each month. There’s just no way around this.
Many writers have asked for more feedback, but this is entirely out of my hands. If I make feedback mandatory, some readers will skip the evaluation entirely: some people feel they’re not trained in the high and mystic art of sharing their thoughts; others are simply here to consume. But feedback doesn’t have to be a discourse upon the human condition. It’s enough to say “I loved this character because _____” or “That one scene sticks in my mind because _____.” I have to point out that feedback has been getting better: a few people have dedicated themselves to thoughtful responses and analyses, which is amazing and I’m so grateful for their contribution! Nearly everyone manages to find something to say, and I promise you, the writers appreciate this tremendously. This is what keeps them going, knowing not just that they’ve made a connection with a kindred spirit, but that anyone’s reading them at all. Because we wonder, sometimes.
I have to emphasize that it is very discouraging for a writer to see little to no feedback on their story. I can’t enforce mandatory comments on work, for reasons stated above, but I do my level best to encourage readers to provide feedback. At the fundamental level, if you’re a writer entering this contest and you want response, you’re obligated to give it. When a story goes uncommented on, that means at least one writer isn’t offering any feedback, and that means they’re just here for publicity, and you know how I feel about that.
“The Content Warning/tags system could possibly have a list of common warnings that authors could pick from.” Absolutely. I created a glossary for WritersOct18: Big Couples, but I didn’t use it for CruelJan19. It will be expanded upon and shared as a permanent document for GentleApril19 and future contests. Participants are encouraged to contribute with tags and definitions as well, because I’m just one person and my experience is limited.
“Perhaps having the same questions as a goal every time is somewhat limiting in terms of giving writers something to aim for or aspire to.” Excellent suggestion, but I’m not sure what the resolution to this is. I’ve assembled all the questions I’ve used in all the contests, and I try to pick different, theme-appropriate evaluation questions each time, but it’s an unchanging list. I could open this up to public feedback, but would many people know what to suggest? I guess there’s only one way to find out.
“Despite sharing via Google Docs, my formatting has been a little off each time.” I apologize for this, that’s entirely me. When people share a Doc with me, I have to cut-and-paste it into a new document, or else every reader could see not just the author’s handle but possibly their real name and contact info. I paste the story into a new page, and I format all the stories to resemble each other to assist with anonymity, as even formatting can be a giveaway. During this, sometimes I step in and give a light editing to the copy, only to correct egregious errors or oversights or assist the translation into English. (I think everyone knows I’m a professional medical/educational copyeditor?) That done, I do try to replicate the original formatting, but I’m only one person formatting and editing 30+ five-page documents and something’s bound to be missed. If I had more time…
“Long wait between contests.” Sure, I see that, but the structure really is a press as it is. One month for signups (and voting on topics), one month for writing, and one month for evaluations and results. That could seem like an unreasonable stretch of time for a reader, but for a writer it can be a rush. Someone can sign up to compete, and then they’re hit with finals, or they have a series of urgent family/personal issues, or they’re slammed at work. You never know what’s going to happen in a month. So, what then? One week for signups, two weeks for writing and two for evals? That would be a true challenge, and it would certainly limit the increasing amount of entries as very few people could confidently agree to that.
Like I keep stressing, I don’t own the concept of contests: someone else can start and manage that contest. It sounds like a great idea.
“I’ve never actually gotten around to reading any of the stories, I typically get as far as the titles so I can’t say.” Thanks for showing up.
“More people should be involved with moderation as having one biased person in charge creates issues.” Well, thanks. As for more people involved in the running of this contest, I would love that. I’m not sure how to divide the labor, however: I definitely should have recruited one or two people to read the CruelJan19 stories and estimate them for tags/triggers, because I couldn’t read those stories. The writers who look forward to this theme really shine and put out their best work, and it’s too much for me to digest. I left it to the writers to supply their own tags, and not everyone saw the point of that. That meant some stories had no tags, so they didn’t get read and evaluated; others had inaccurate trigger warnings, which was disastrous for readers. Most writers did try their best, but this required a group effort.
Another issue with allocating responsibilities is that I seem to have more time than most people (or else I’m more irresponsible and carve time out when I shouldn’t). I can sit down for a day and rebuild the new website, set up the new folders, rewrite the forms, and start spreading the word out over various social media platforms and the newsletter. I describe it as three months of sitting on my ass and four days of intense labor. Who else wants to reformat and edit 30+ stories? Who wants their personal information shared with more people? As a result, what I require in a collaborator is someone I trust beyond question, and someone who has a lot of time on their hands and can respond to issues promptly.
Now, if other people wanted to assist with promotion of the contests when it comes time to read and evaluate, that would be more than welcome.
“Don’t forget to notify the newsletter list. I’m not on Twitter…” Shit! Yes! Sorry! What I need to do is write up the three-monthly procedure in a flowchart, a checklist, in a notebook that I can refer to whenever I launch these things. I always forget something.
“Maybe some very sudden flash contests would be cool.” That would be very cool, and I’d love to see that, but that will have to be someone else’s project.
What would you like to see in future Size Riot contests?
I’m always open to suggestions. Anyone can email me directly, DM me on Twitter with their ideas.
“Some sort of prize, a piece of size art for the overall winner’s story.” “Perhaps prizes for winners or top categories.” Now, I don’t like to offer prizes, because that will change the mood of the contest. The anonymity also serves to encourage experienced writers to try new technique, which I think further levels the playing field somewhat. If I offered prizes, then writers would return to their strengths and the goal would be to attain the prize, not to write their best and develop as a writer. I promise you, hard feelings would result from this and new, inexperienced writers would be discouraged from even making the attempt. I have, in fact, tried to collaborate with artists in our community, but this proposition doesn’t seem to appeal.
“It might be interesting to try different approaches to the voting process.” Yes, I agree. This comment suggested several options that I will examine closely, and I hope the evaluation can be renovated. “Perhaps two voting forms? Have a simple and complex…” Wow, that’s a fantastic idea. I like that very much, and I’m sure evaluators would appreciate that. This is why I need feedback, I wouldn’t have thought of that on my own.
“I would like to see growth continue.” “More butts.” “One set focused on shoes. Another focused on insertion. Or Mega/Giga roles.” “Lots more butts.” This comes down to personal taste, and I realize this point is going to be buried deep in the copy, but (except for CruelJan and GentleApril) I don’t want to repeat topics. Some topics, like butts, are evergreen in their fascination and universally appealing, but everyone must get their turn. In fact, this point is addressed by the next comment.
“More stuff for people who don’t like giantess content.” Agreed. Absolutely agreed. It disappoints me that some topics will never get their turn in the spotlight, because July and October are determined by popular vote. When I open it up to nominations, believe me, an incredible spread of topics gets suggested. But when it comes time to vote, even when each person gets three votes to share the wealth, a few topics will always take the lead. I can eliminate some of these with the no-repeats rule, but other topics will always fall to the side. It would be wrong of me to disregard of the vote, because what’s the point of voting then?
…Except there might be a way. It might be interesting to accept nominations, and then have people vote among the least popular suggestions. One month of that might be a playful challenge, and it would shift control from the typically dominant topics. Of course this can be spoofed, but I’ll try to keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, participants are encouraged to boost for their topics on social media, when it comes time to vote.
And then it got complicated.
Please bear in mind that not every suggestion immediately goes into law. Some recent conflict occurred when a few people approached me with demands—not questions or ideas—about changing the rules for GentleApril19. They became angry when I didn’t immediately concede to their demands, and I became angry that people who had no prior investment in the contest, people I was completely unaware of, treated me like a public utility or as though I owed them something. I don’t charge entrance fees, participation is entirely voluntary. In the past, when a topic came up that a writer wasn’t interested in, their reaction was “shucks, well, maybe next time.” Certain members of this group, however, went with “you will change the contest to accommodate our requirements or we will vilify you in this community.”
You can imagine how well that went over.
Some of the Size Riot feedback I received addressed this conflict. To put it gently, writers who had participated for the past two years didn’t appreciate a new group arriving and declaring how things would be. One useful analogy framed it: “When you join this contest, you are a guest in Aborigen’s house.” For better or worse, that’s how it is. This is my contest, and no one is forcing (a word that came up a lot) anyone to join. I set the rules. I’m up for discussing them, I’m always looking for improvements and I’m receptive to other perspectives. Some ideas I embrace, and others I reject. I prefer collaboration, and when I don’t accept a suggestion, perhaps it’s not helpful to form a campaign to bully me into compliance. Your personal grievance doesn’t necessarily represent communal will.
Once again, I encourage anyone to start their own writing contest. I’m offering myself as a resource for anyone who would like to attempt this, as I have an amount of hard-won experience.
Praise goes to SillyLilBug as a tireless facilitator and peacemaker. Make no mistake about that: no one was as friendly, as thoughtful, or as willing to engage as she was. She never gave up, she asked questions, she thought her way around it and opened doors, and in collaboration I think an amenable reconciliation was achieved.
To be fair to all sides, the conflict arose when I announced the conditions of the GentleApril19 contest, one of which was that somewhere in the story, someone must have an orgasm. I thought this would be a daring challenge, and this was the first time in ten contests I’d established anything like this. Unbeknownst to me, there was a group of size fantasy writers who were looking forward to participating in their first Size Riot contest: they were new to Size Twitter, and CruelJan19 was clearly not their bag. However, their proclivity ran to SFW and asexual content, so the orgasm mandate was inherently off-putting. They felt excluded: not that I’d consciously acted against them, but the Gentle round was their opportunity, and right off the bat they were being asked to write about something they didn’t want to touch.
On the one hand, that’s the point of the contest. I met a masterful Cruel writer on her turf—to my discomfort, but I learned more about myself through that. I like the challenges, I like the constraints, I like encouraging serious writers to think in new and unconventional ways.
On the other hand… think about it. You’re a Gentle writer, and you wait for Gentle to come up as the theme. Let’s say you can’t stand the inethical practice of veal or foie gras, and the topic establishes a couple that goes on a dinner date and extols the virtues of veal and foie gras. Not a great analogy, but I hope my point comes across. Sure, there are ways around the topic (some writers love finding innovative ways to bend the rules), but what if you just don’t want to deal with it at all? And as people new to the scene, maybe some didn’t understand that the July and October contests are up for popular vote.
At first I stood fast and defended the contest for what it was; after a day of… after a really bad day, I wholly capitulated and removed all stipulations and even mandated SFW content. My first choice pissed off the new people, my second choice rankled the loyal participants. After constant application of SillyLilBug’s warmth and consideration, however, I feel a very reasonable concession to both encampments was reached.
The condition that one or more main characters must be middle-aged was restored, and nobody had a problem with that in the first place. Removing that was my emotional overreaction. Instead of requiring that submitted stories include an orgasm, however, it is clearly stated that stories are open to SFW/NSFW content and that tags/trigger warnings will be enforced. People can still abstain, of course, and I believe I’ve adequately outlined the potential repercussions for this on the website. What’s important is that I can read all the GentleApril19 submissions, so I can personally confirm the appropriateness of the writer-supplied tags and add my own. Every story will, of course, be listed as SFW or NSFW (except those that abstain: caveat lector).
To sum up: SillyLilBug is a hero, and I’m grateful to work with her in the future. Size Riot will only benefit from this.
Additionally, I must thank JDO and Undersquid for their friendship and support. You cannot imagine more fiercely loyal, more giving friends than these, and I am endlessly grateful for their presence in my life.
On a note of comedy, perhaps, I will point out that after three days of having removed the problematic restriction and acceding to their request, no member of the SFW/ace contingent has signed up to join the contest.