Think Outside the Hug-box: Inkvite

I love Inkvite. I’ll keep saying it until the day another portable, online, collaborative writing iPhone app breaks onto the scene.

Some folks are mad at me though. I gave their Inkvite entries 1 star, and they felt compelled to send me messages telling me to get off my high horse, and that maybe Inkvite isn’t for me, and such and such, and such and such, and blah blah blah.

I know how it feels. I had thin skin once myself. Hell, I still do, if you can find the right spots on me. So, if anybody is curious (though really it’s just to kind of lay out the system for my own benefit), this is how I rate entries in the Inkvite library:

1 star: This goes to attention whores and whiners. Any story whose title includes “CONTEST!” or “All About Me!” or “Plans for my next story!” gets this. Childish complaints about poor reviews or app faults get this as well. These are not stories. These are self-serving blog entries, and they get in the way of the good stuff. The people who post these wastes of time will argue that they’re “appealing to their fans,” but I think they’re just young ‘uns making the same mistake all young ‘uns make: overestimating their size in the Internet ocean.

2 stars: This is a rare one. I don’t usually give this rating. If I do, it’s to those stories written with budding, rudimentary skill. The last thing I want to do is damn a writing sprout with faint praise, though, so I’ll usually just avoid rating their stories at all.

3 stars: The teacher’s rating. I’m no English major, but I’ve read enough to know when a story’s got technical problems. Missing commas, run-on sentences, inconsistent tense (this is a big one), and conflicting collaboration can put serious drag on a good story. I give three stars to stories that have the engine of creativity chugging inside them, but which glare with niggling errors, like a muscle car with a bad paint job.

4 stars: This is my most common rating. It goes to stories that are written with skill, thought, and care. I know that the limitations of the app make writing a masterpiece a rarity, but when a writer has fun putting together a good story, the reader can tell. Those writers always get 4 stars from me.

5 stars: I give five stars to stories that do things I can’t do. There’s a lot of things I can’t do, so I give these out a lot. I greatly admire the writer who makes a story laugh-out-loud funny, or end with a clever twist, or develop into a unique scenario. Such admiration supersedes any other gripes, so even if a surprisingly smart story has grammatical problems, or ends with a sickening plea for followers, I’ll still give it a 5.

I know. Getting a bad review for anything can hurt. I know that. So here’s my ironic solution: don’t read ’em. Have fun writing, make good stories, and if that isn’t reward enough for you, the fans and followers you’re hoping for will still show up eventually. But you have to trust that your work will speak for itself. We can’t all be PewDiePie – and by God, what a horrible world it would be if we were – so you really shouldn’t waste your energy putting brand before production.

That being said, I still believe in speaking one’s mind. The world – and that includes me – still has to speak up about what it likes and what it doesn’t, so I’m going to keep putting up my reviews. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t even have to look at them. I don’t mind. After all, my true philosophy is that we should really just be happy doing what we love to do.

Inkvite is Still the Best Place for Writers

In an earlier post, I was too hard on the app Inkvite for the aims and goals of some of its users. I don’t think I was clear enough in my meaning, and I want to apologize.

Inkvite is still the best app for creative writing you can find. There’s no contest.

My issue is that I’m a crotchety old thirty-something who didn’t grow up with internet communities like YouTube and Facebook, and I never placed any value on likes and followers and subscribers. This Gen-Y/Millennial crowd, whatever you want to call them, has grown up in a different world, and that’s not really anyone’s fault.

I love Inkvite, and I want it to succeed and flourish among real writers. I just believe that true creative skill, and the confidence that fuels the all-important ACT of writing, doesn’t come from contests and votes and followers. All of that can blow away in a twinkling. When I need to write, but I have no keyboards or paper to write on, I get a stick and scribble in the dirt. I don’t care that no one will see it; the urge is just there.

I’m not sure that the children of the Attention Age, the age of Cranked-out Content, know what that means. Or maybe I’m being myopic. Perhaps I’m only witnessing the creative world as it turns through another cycle of millions.

I wonder about Cervantes, a man who wrote masterpieces and then died without a penny. Did he fret that his plays weren’t successful, that his family was falling apart, and that lords called him the worst poet alive? Or did he ignore all that and just keep writing? Would most of the users of Inkvite ignore all that and just keep writing?

Whether they would or not, I love Inkvite, and I know there are plenty of others who love it too. May it continue to find success.

From Inkvite :D to Inkvite :/

One of my favorite and most memorable exercises in my old Creative Writing class was the impromptu collaborative story: the students at the front of the class would each start a story on a sheet of paper. After about five minutes, they would stop where they were — mid sentence or no — and pass their papers to the students behind them. Those students would pick up the stories from there, continue them for another five minutes, and then pass them on again. When the stories got to the back of the class, the instructor would collect them and read them aloud. I found the exercise to be a fun and surprising way to test our skills. It gave us the opportunity to not only create on short notice, but to work with the styles and ideas of our peers without any contact or planning. It was writing improv.

If you have an iPhone, you can enjoy this exercise anytime you like, using an app called Inkvite. Well, at least, you could. The basic activity is still there, but with the app’s recent update from version 1 to version 2, the goal of the community has shifted from having fun writing to BECOMING AS POPULAR AS POSSIBLE.

Inkvite is a writing app that allows online users to collaborate on stories. One user creates a story, chooses its genre and length, and then “inkvites” up to three other users to partake in the project. The users then take turns writing the story in 280-character (or “two-tweet”) chunks, and the story ends once a set number of exchanges is completed. It’s then published to a library for all users to read and rate.

The free app provides a good number of genres to choose from, including fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, though you can make in-app purchases to use more specific genres. Some of them are quite particular, too: there are genres for Vampires and Werewolves, and One Direction fan fiction, so all your preteen make-out scenarios are covered.

You can also write solo stories, but really, why would you use this app for that? Some folks found uses for solo stories, but as you’ll see, they have little creative value.

The first version of Inkvite was pretty glorious. I had a lot of fun putting together stories of all kinds, from comedies to adventures, enjoying and adapting to the surprises and plot twists that my fellow writers tossed into their exchanges. The app had no channel for communication between users, so there was no way to plan. If a writer and I found we shared a certain chemistry, we would simply inkvite each other to create more stories. If the story went in a direction I didn’t expect or like, I just had to work with it. I understand that this half-blind approach might be frustrating for control freaks, but the point of impromptu collaborative writing is to share the reins, to play catch with the creative process. Inkvite 1.0 taught me to trust and not to take it all so seriously.

Then, Inkvite grew up to version 2.0, and something went wrong. The library became crammed with solo stories that weren’t stories. Instead, we got mini-blogs from the users that discussed their upcoming Inkvite “projects.” They apologized for not being active on Inkvite due to classes and home life. They complained to the Inkvite staff for account issues that caused their stories or followers to disappear. They made “shout-outs” to other users for the great stories they were writing. Most often of all, they whined about getting low star ratings on their stories without any explanation. The actual stories usually end with YouTube-like postscripts asking for follows and five-star ratings and fan compliments like “STAY AWESOME, EVERYONE!”

What the hell happened?

It seems like internet communities are treated like giant forests of billboards, where the goal is to slap your face on as many surfaces as possible. I saw this in LittleBigPlanet, in which many of the level photos were dominated by a handful of players. I saw this when my cousin said she wanted to be a “YouTuber” when she grew up. It all smacks of a twisted value to me; the value of visibility for its own sake, of being well-liked over all else. Is being seen by millions really the most important thing in the world?

Is that what we really want for ourselves anymore?