9

We're over 250 days into beta, and I thought it'd be good to take a step back and see how Writers.SE is doing. The beta is an attempt to see whether a SE Q&A site for writers is workable; we might be ready to answer some questions from experience now.

To this end, I'd like to ask: what existing questions best show off how good Writers.SE can be, and the direction you'd like to see it go?

I think by holding up a few great questions (or answers, I guess) as examples, we can get a better idea of what we do well and the type of questions we need more of. This can also serve as a kind of high water mark for what we've managed to accomplish so far.

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I believe in this community. I think we have great users who ask and answer great questions. To that end, it isn't difficult in my opinion to come up with a list of questions we've done really well.

There are more, lots more, questions that fit some of the general categories above. The important things that good questions demonstrate, in my opinion, is:

  • Relevance to writers or editors who are not the author
  • A base of questions that covered different types of writing and different paths to publishing
  • Answers which, if they were subjective, went beyond "whatever works for you" and into "this is what works for me" and "this is what a noted author/editor/expert has had to say on the subject" and especially delved into "here's why".

The kinds of questions I think we need to avoid/discourage are a proliferation of questions asking "Do you think I'll ever get published with background ?" or "What are my chances of selling piece ?" We can't answer those questions. Only time will tell.

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I've always found SE's strength to be its ability to answer specific, specialized, and even obscure questions at a very high level of both eloquence and expertise. So the questions I find most representative are the ones that are:

  • specific and well-focused,
  • dealing with a particular, perhaps unusual niche of the craft, and
  • difficult to answer easily with Google or "see what works for you" answers.

As such, here's my list.

I'm sure there are more, but these are enough to demonstrate what I'm most looking for.

Each of these copes with a specific tough problem that even an experienced pro could have trouble with; in all of them, a solution is not obvious to somebody who isn't familiar with that particular subject. We do great with lots of other types of questions as well, but it's these where I think that as a Stack Exchange site, we can stand out the best - these are great issues and questions that would be very tough to get answers for anywhere else.

Another question I'd like to see more of is Does my story structure for an ensemble zombie story sound effective? . I'm generally not a huge fan of questions, because I find it hard to critique effectively based on very small samples, and because they're difficult to focus well. But a request to critique a proposed structure works really well, can get great responses, and (again) this is a type of question that would have trouble getting a good answer elsewhere.

NOTE: The other thing I'd really like to see is more questions from segments other than fiction writers. Technical writers, biographers, reporters, editors, proofreaders, critics, copywriters... We've got plenty of room for 'em, but so far, we just aren't seeing much of any of 'em. That's the other area I see for potential expansion that'd be really great.

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There's good (and conflicting) discussion here on background needed for technical writing. (I agree that we need more non-fiction questions.) This question (with perhaps a sub-optimal subject line) on software tools also seems like a good example.

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