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Let the UnderGuide revolution continue1.
The Edited Guide is, famously, for factual entries. It explicitly excludes a wide range of creative and experimental writing and excludes first person pieces, poetry, fiction, musings and opinion.
The objective of the UnderGuide is to provide a parallel outlet for excellent writing which for one reason or another does not fit the Guidelines for the Edited Guide.
Douglas Adams himself said:
You can create your own Guide Entries containing anything you want, from your opinions of world events to a description of your home town, and it all goes to make up the h2g2 Guide, the sort of guide which was not possible before we had the means of live, shared information resources.
No-one can know what he would have thought of the UnderGuide, but the UnderGuide certainly helps h2g2 as a site to fulfil this vision.
It is hard to provide guidelines for entries where the selection criteria are ultimately subjective. However we have put together a few pointers. The UnderGuide is dedicated to excellence, and since it also promotes experimental writing we hope that there will regularly be pieces which force the Miners to select them as a result of their quality despite the fact they break some or all of the following. These are, after all, no more than guidelines.
- Entries must abide by The House Rules - It almost goes without saying, because if an entry ignores the House Rules it will be hidden and moved out of the review forum, but entries that do not follow the rules will not be mined.
- Entries must be original - No plagiarism! Another no-brainer.
- Entries should be unsuitable for the Edited Guide - Entries might conform to the letter of the Guidelines for the Edited Guide, but by being, for example, pieces of humour or poetry, yet be unsuitable for the Edited Guide. Such entries would still be able to find a home in the UnderGuide.
The Judgement Calls
The following guidelines are more a matter of judgement. The difficult thing is that judgement calls are subjective, not objective. No check-lists here. The exciting thing is that anyone can make a valid judgement call and say 'This works for me because...' or 'This doesn't do it for me because...'
It is worth noting that some of the most successful UnderGuide entries do not actually conform to every single one of the following guidelines. They are guidelines, remember!
Entries should be readable
This sounds obvious but it includes several different factors:
- Entries should be grammatical and unambiguously spelled - The Polishers can correct spelling and grammatical errors, but they will not re-write entries. Non-British English is perfectly fine, so long as it is either grammatical somewhere on the globe or ungrammatical for a specific purpose (for instance, the dialogue of an uneducated character).
- Entries should be well laid out on the page - The Polishers will standardize the GuideML2, and if you're proficient in GuideML then, yes, use it. That way, the polisher won't have to make assumptions and changes. However, if you don't know GuideML, leave it in plain text rather than making bad GuideML (if you don't know what GuideML is, leave it). Polishers should always contact and work with authors when the authors are still on site. The UnderGuide prefers entries which conform in look and feel to the guidelines for the Edited Guide3, and so entries which include blobbed images, moving graphics or whacky fonts and colours are unlikely to be picked. UG entries can be slightly more flexible about internal links than Edited entries, but the principle that broken links should be avoided remains4.
- Entries should be well paced and not over-long - An 18 sylable haiku is too long, and should not be accepted! On the other hand, Russalka grips throughout its entire length if you like lyrical-mythic fiction. Basically, if you find an entry compelling reading then it conforms to this guideline and we invite you to stop by the thread and say so. If your mind and attention ambled off after the second paragraph then say so, but say it politely. The miners take the balance of opinions expressed in the thread into account when picking entries, so if you have an opinion, express it.
Entries should do what they set out to do
Presumably if you are writing something you have a purpose in mind. You want to amuse, or to entertain, or to tell a story, or to express an emotion. This guideline is going to spark a lot of debates about authors' motivations in the threads and there is no harm in that. It is pretty fundamental advice about writing anything.
- Entries should have something to say - If you read an entry and feel it was not worth either your time reading it or the writer's time writing it, then it does not conform to this guideline.
- Entries which are meant to be funny should actually be funny - 'Nuff said.
Entries can treat subjects traditionally or experimentally
The categorisation for UnderGuide entries are "Fiction, Musings, Humour, Other, Prose". These obviously give a great deal of scope for writing just about anything.
- There is no pre-set format for dealing with a subject - Seven Years On and Why deal with the similar subjects, (the death of a child, and the stillbirth of a baby), but deal with the subjects in entirely different ways.
- You can take serious subjects lightly - How to Climb Mountains and The Octopus - its Role and Identification in Society both take sideways looks at subjects which could have been treated more traditionally and Hellman's Anachronism discusses a scientific subject in a distinctly unscientific way.
- You can express your own opinion -
Why I Hate Sheep and Life in a Third World island are both opinion pieces, but widely differing in subject matter, approach and tone.
- You can write fiction - "A True Story" assures us it is not fiction, though it is narrated as if it were. Life, Death, Policemen and the Mole of Woe on the other hand parodies the style of a certain kind of memoire but is entirely fictional. Or so we hope.
- You can write in the first person and about real people - A Travel Story and Mo's both deal with real people and real peoples' reactions to them.
These examples are provided to give you a feel for the very different kinds of writing which have already been promoted in the UnderGuide. They all conform to these Guidelines, but they all do so in widely different ways.
The Guidelines beyond the Guidelines
Finally it is worth noting that like all other media channels within the BBC (including radio, television, magazines and publications) h2g2 is subject to the BBC's Editorial Policy. This means that these guidelines of ours are merely minor foothills at the base of ranges upon ranges of unexplored and sometimes seemingly inexplicable guidelines which are at present just a line of blue pencil on the horizon. Which is another way of saying "The Editor's Decision is Final".
A note on commenting in the Alternative Writing Workshop
The Alternative Writing Workshop is a playground, a workshop, a place to read and lurk, and a place to get feedback on entries.
If you are commenting on an entry in the Alternative Writing Workshop, by all means refer to these Guidelines in your commentary. But don't forget that, unlike Peer Review, entries here can end up in any one of a number of different places in H2G2. There is at present no fixed time after which an entry has to be removed from the AWW if it is not picked for showcasing by one of the groups below. As a result the quality of entries in the AWW is high, but there are rather a lot of them.
The best of the entries are harvested and presented on the front page by:
- AGG/GAG/CAC - if the entry has something special but is fairly rough and ready
- The Post - if it is topical, by a regular commentator, or appeals to the Post's Editors for some other reason5
- The UnderGuide - if the entry is reasonably finished, and appeals to a couple of the Miners enough to garner two votes.
This can seem confusing if you want to comment on an entry. Don't panic, the volunteers who vote for and pick the entries are clear on what kind of entry suits their specific outlet.
If you are commenting, then comment on the work itself and on your reaction to it. Refer to these guidelines by all means, but you can safely leave the picking problems up to those who make the picks.