Big, Big Changes
First of all, I wanted to let you guys know there's been a huge backlog on my e-mail lately. I've resolved the problem, but I'm still receiving messages that were delayed by this issue. You should be able to e-mail me now, but if you already have, please know that I'm not ignoring you and I'm getting back to things as I receive them.

Second, I'm sure you'll notice that I've created new layouts. We needed a fresh change, a system that was easier to navigate and a generally cleaner, more spacious look. If there is an access issue for anyone, I can reformat one of our old layouts to provide for that. Just let me know. Also, please notify me of any bugs you might come across.

Third, there are new Submission Rules, Terms of Service and an updated Help page in the left hand navigation. I ask that all posting members read and review the guidelines, as there have been a few changes and clarifications on what we do and do not allow here. I'm still trying to be very flexible, but I feel like the system has been abused in a number of ways lately and since I haven't had the time to monitor everything, it's gotten a little out of control.
I'm going to be working on getting things cleaned up in the upcoming weeks, but in the meantime, please be sure you understand the rules.

Also, you'll notice that there are links to two other sites in the right-hand navigation. One is a new fiction archive I designed for more general writing and other fandoms, which you are welcome to join if you wish. The other is the long established forum that is connected with that site. I've wanted to give folks around here a place to post in a message board format for quite some time, but I just don't have the time or the resources to launch, monitor and maintain another one. With the existing message board, we already have plenty of users, a good moderation team and a comfortable environment, so if you're looking to be social, feel free to try it out!

For most of you this won't be an issue, but we are intending to monitor this site much more closely in the future after a multitude of recent violations. If you come across anything problematic or if you simply have suggestions on how we could improve further, please let me know. This site is a lot of work and it's extremely difficult to stay on top of everything, but I do want to make sure that this remains a comfortable site of high quality for everyone.

Thank you!

--Adora on 03/04/09 - 04:07 am 23 Comments
Ooh, what a surprise! :D I like the layout and the new clearer rules about what constitutes off-topic, as some posts (and reviews)are much more suited to blogs and forums.

Thank-you also for you remarks on wanting to continue to ensure this is a 'comfortable' site for all ratings and genres. The civilized and friendly atmosphere is one of the most important aspects of this archive to me, and is in huge contrast to some other larger fanfiction archives.
The fact that this site allows all ratings, all genres gives every-one a broad range of material to read, so we can simply read what we wish to.

Many thanks.
- Spiced Wine on 03/04/09 - 05:08 am

Oohhh finally some changes! I really like the new layout, it is far more practical and everything is easy to find.

I just read the new guidelines, and I must say, I am glad for the stricter and clearer rules concerning off-topic posts and hope they also include misusing reviews as some kind of chat board. I repeatedly deleted reviews given to me that had nothing to do with my writing at all. I felt they did not belong there, a message would have served the purpose far better.

I am glad you care so much about keeping the site civilized and friendly, and made it quite clear again. I like this place especially because all ratings and genres are allowed and because it is slash friendly, for both is a problem in other archives as it is either forbidden or you might become the target of flaming. This has always been the reason why I came here to read and post my stuff.

Thanks for all your efforts!

- Amaranth on 03/04/09 - 11:38 am
Ohhh, I like the new look and rules! And thanks for providing us with two skins for it, Adora - it might be my old screen, but my eyes are always glad if a black-on-white layout is offered as well. :)
- Esteliel on 03/04/09 - 03:53 pm
Very, very nice! I've only been here a month and this looks really heavenly in comparison to the old layout. (Not that the other layout was bad or anything.)

I think the rules seem very easy to read and understand, so hopefully people will be less inclined to go against them if they are able to understand them and the consequences FOR doing so.
- Bunny Plots on 03/04/09 - 07:38 pm

I really like the new look! It's nice to look at and easy to navigate. The rules and guidelines are so much easier to understand now. I've always enjoyed writing on this site, but now I like it even more!

Thanks for all the hard work!


- callerofcrows on 03/04/09 - 09:03 pm
I really like this new lay out for the site, It is very clean and it is a great deal easier for me to read now.

Having read over the new submission rules which I think are fair as I personally was getting tired of seeing the recent stories box cluttered by 'Rants' and other such off topic posts that were parading as stories as I have always enjoyed the atmosphere of this site and found it very comfortable yet also professional in the respect that writers show for each other but I come to share my work and read Lord of the Rings related fanfiction, not peoples thoughts on every single little thing that crosses their mind as that is what a blog is meant for.

Thank you for the great work put into revamping the site, It does look great and is very much apprechiated.

- Anwyn on 04/04/09 - 01:51 am
Most of the changes I think are positive (though the monochrome layouts are a bit hard on the eyes if tired), but I have a complaint to make about the sudden crackdown on rants and such.
I saw this site as a safe haven in which I could write more or less what I wanted to without being thought too badly of, and I’m pretty sure there were and are other writers who saw it the same way. But now, it seems we can’t write what we want to any more - first no MSTs, and now no rants. The homepage does say, “as long as it’s related to LOTR in some way, anything goes!”, and yet at the same time as you’re saying that, you’re also banning all sorts of things. Okay, I admit the rants are not necessarily LOTR-related, but then what is the “Off Topic” category for? And as for the suggestion of moving our rants to a blog, it’s a universally known fact that there are all sorts of safety issues related to that sort of thing. You can’t go a week without hearing about yet another internet stalker or pervert using blogs/social networking sites to track down victims. Nobody wants to put themselves at risk of that. Also, in response to Anwyn’s comment - our rants do not “parade” as stories, or, at least, that is not the intention.
I used to like reading (and in the case of rants, writing) MSTs and rants, and now that I can’t, the site is losing its appeal.
I know the rules are there for good reason, but it seems to me that now they’re getting pretty harsh. To be frank I’m beginning to feel suffocated, and sometimes when I’m writing I find myself worrying that I won’t be able to post my work without being told it breaks some rule or other. In trying to improve things, you may be unintentionally putting people off.
So that’s my two cents.
- atouchofhobbit on 05/04/09 - 02:02 pm
I love the new layout! It has a nice, clean look and seems much easier to navigate, along with having some lovely new features. Thank you!
- on 05/04/09 - 10:09 pm
I agree with atouchofhobbit, that's all I'm going to say.
- Lira_of_Imladris on 06/04/09 - 12:37 am
I just want to say it's been great coming on the past couple of mornings to see a list of actual stories on this site.
When I began reading in 07 it was like this, and that was what attracted me: it was an archive of stories, from General to Adult, which did not encourage flaming. (Not that I knew what flaming was then, but I got the idea). That acceptance of Adult was also important to me, since it's what I mainly read and write. Had I seen a lot of off-topic I would not have felt as if it was an archive and wouldn't have bothered looking for good stories, which would have been a shame, as I have found 99% of my favorites on here, and come to know some fantastic and talented people via reviewing them.

It's also good that you have put up links to a forum where people *can* chat or talk about themselves and so on. Even only permits stories and poems, and have forums precisely for venting, chat and discussions.

Off-topic was unclear, but I thought it was for essays on Tolkien's world, races, characters, battles, geography, etc.

There are some very instructive and well-written essays about, however. For instance, on the Silmarillion Writers Guild there is a canon character bio each month (written by an author who posts on this site)and they are the best I have ever read. Something like that is very helpful if you are writing about a certain character. Essays about writing, or Tolkien's world and peoples are always worth reading.

I took my own non-stories off and posted them on LiveJournal. I use a friend-locked journal (you have to add some-one to your friend list before they can see your entries) for speaking of more personal matters and for a longer discussion about an author's work. You cannot beat a blog for that, since when you talk about some-one's writing it can veer off in many directions. A review board is not ideal for that, it's simply not set up for that sort of traffic. Blogs and journals are, because you can answer more than one person who comments, and keep track of what you are talking about.

It's good that people have been given links to other sites where so they may chat and rant and *talk* but I'm glad to see primarily stories on here, as stories are what I want to read. I keep in touch with friends through LJ or a couple of forums, and am thrilled to have made friends through this site, but I like to read and review stories on here and take discussions elsewhere.

This site looks much more like an archive now, more professional, less like a blog.
I've recommended to a lot of authors and readers because, for it's size, it contains some of the best writers around, and you don't have to pan for gold, but I would not have been tempted to read or to post myself if 'most recent' was filled with off-topic, I'm afraid.

So again, thank you for the hard work you have put into this, Adora! It's a pleasure to click on this site. :)
- Spiced Wine on 06/04/09 - 07:24 am
I pretty new to this site, and this is actually the first time for me to comment on anything. I like the fact that the site has been given a new layout. It so nice to know that there are still people that love Middle Earth even though it has been years since the release of the movies. That this isn't one of those sites that is still around but not looked after. Keep up the good work!

There is one thing that bugs me a little though. I've got this rather wide screen and if I maximize the window the width of the text becomes quite large. That makes it tiring to read. Could you maybe enforce a maximum width? Oh and I just noticed that on this page it's a bit hard to figure out who wrote what.

Take care!
- Ndil on 06/04/09 - 11:39 am
I, for one, love this new layout. It is 1000 times easier on my poor eyes, which aren't terribly good to begin with. They take quite the daily pixilated beating between my academic activities, my blogging activities, and my non-academic writing activities. This doesn't begin to address my blog-reading habit, or my YouTube habit. Ahem. :-P

Thank you so much for further clarifying the submission rules. It certainly makes it easier to decide what stories/essays go where. There will be some divisiveness over the new rules, no doubt. Creating a sister site was a stroke of genius; it provides a place for folks to post work written in other fandoms as well as original work, which is super-convenient for authors and readers alike. I tend to attract the kind of readers who become interested in my work within other fandoms, and this new system makes all of my stuff easily accessible to anyone who wants to read it. I'm a big essay writer as well on all sort of topics, and this allows me to keep the Tolkien-flavored ones in their own special place and to keep the others close at hand. This is a community of conscientious readers and talented writers, and I've always found it a most pleasant pool to play in.

You've done a lovely job with this site. Best of luck.

- Pink Siamese on 06/04/09 - 11:08 pm

I really have to speak up again and second what Anwyn said about rants and in a way it is also comment to what atouchofhobbit wrote. Those silly everyday rants like ‘I feel so sick and my nose is running.’ or ‘I am so bored…just wanted to let you know I am bored.’ This stuff is really annoying and I cannot see what is has to do in an archive for Lotr Fanfiction where stories and interesting essays about Tolkien and his universe should be posted. Those rants are neither stories, nor essays, nor are they related with Tolkien at all, so I fully support the rules that say they do not belong here. This is indeed stuff that belongs into a blog or forum, an concerning the misgivings about security of blogs: Why should a fanfiction archive, where all posts can be publicly read by anyone who likes, should be more secure as a friend locked blog where you know who reads your stuff, or a closed forum? Anyone can read what you post here on the archive, you do not even need to be registered, so this would be just as inviting for ‘tracking down victims’ as a blog.

The MST thing seems to be a very old discussion, but the rules, as far as I understood them, do not ban MSTs and parodies, they are not forbidden. But the rules set terms to post such things, in order to protect authors from being harassed and flamed by mentioning their names, and quoting from their writing while making a mockery out of them. This is something that is not fair, it hurts people and I really cannot understand why some people seemingly enjoy it so much when other authors become hurt and are mocked. I am glad the rules make quite clear that such a thing is not allowed here. It is possible to write parodies without hurting or insulting other writers, parodies about general things concerning the fandom itself, not certain people. Those who write those MSTs could invent own OCs they can make look like complete fools if they enjoy such things, but they do not have the right to name and shame other writers.

Another thing that makes me wonder is why ‘Off Topic’ is so often mistaken as the ‘Rant & Mock’ category. ‘Off Topic’ is everything (concerning LotR, Tolkien, etc…) that does not fit in the other categories, poems are often difficult to place in the other categories, or things like essays on Tolkien when they are more general and do not concern the books or films, as well as general parodies or humorous things, so ‘Off Topic’ does indeed have a function even when rants are no longer allowed.

Rules never become tightened for no reason, but when people ‘misbehave’ and ‘misuse’ the archive and its functions for things that should be clear they do not belong here, then it is obvious they need to be reminded of the rules and the rules need to be clarified. The idea of a sister archive for all the not Tolkien related writing is splendid, as it offers space for posting interesting essays, writing concerning other fandoms or original fiction.

I always kept out of all the discussions concerning the above things in the past, but I really had to say (write) this now. I come here to read fanfictions, stories set in my favourite fandom written by fantastic authors; not to be swamped with immature rants about trifles or with harassing parodies meant to hurt. ~ Amaranth ~

- Amaranth on 07/04/09 - 01:08 pm
I think the site looks fabulous with the new layout, and I think the rule clarifications leave less 'what if...?' confusion for posters. The examples of different items were a great idea.

As for the removal of general discussion from the Off Topic area and the reopening of the forums, I could not be happier. Discussion should have a place, and that place is in an area separate from the actual stories. I think that the forums will actually be that safe haven, and what's more, they will promote extra interactivity. I admit, there are times when I have seen people make what I would consider a personal post on this site, and had it been in a designated area, I would have responded. I look forward to getting to know some of the other writers and readers better on the forums!
- Zhie on 14/04/09 - 02:09 pm

Regarding ranting and misuse of the "Off Topic" category....

I agree with what Adora has done. I know that I did publish some rants before, but that was before I really understood the rules of the site. It is true that if you don't want to see rants, you don't have to read them, but on a site that is for writing fanfiction for LOTR, it's important that things stay in that subject matter.

I think that TMoA is a wonderful way to divert that sort of thing without restricting creativity on the site. It's very thoughtful and wise.

This site is a great place for new writers to test the waters safely, without fear of being made fun of or humiliated. The new guidelines continue to uphold that idea. I support them 100%.

- callerofcrows on 22/04/09 - 06:43 pm
Adora, from what I've seen so far the updated site looks wonderful. Thank you so much for all your hard work. I am very much looking forward to exploring the rest of the site and TMoA. Again, thank you.
- sylc on 23/04/09 - 02:16 am
Man, the first time in a long time that I came back to this site, I thought it was a different site! Nice job on the modifications!

Dunedain Ranger of the North
- Dunedain ranger of the North on 23/04/09 - 01:27 pm

I've had an eye opener. I didn't realize that some of my things were wrong. I'm glad I found out before I got in big trouble - I love this site. I luv yall!

- Shadow Maiden on 30/04/09 - 03:47 pm
Hi Adora! I really like the new site, the layout is clearer and easier on the eye, and I think TMoA was a stroke of genius :-) the only thing I miss from the old site is the "Story of the Moment" feature; I discovered more than one of my favourites that way and I don't think I'd have come across them otherwise, so I'd like to see it back if possible. Other than that - I love it!
- TomBombadil on 15/05/09 - 11:39 am