Living MACE Campaign Contest – Eliminations

Going into this, I knew the elimination process was going to be difficult.  With authors writing for settings other than their own, the decision to decide what and who gets dropped presented an extra challenge.  Who do you eliminate?  The original writer and the setting?  Or the writer of the current phase?  There was a risk of killing a good setting just because of a bad entry.  Also there was a risk of a writer’s setting being eliminated while they stay in the contest.  All this had to be considered and in truth was fleshed out as we went along.

No matter what, a number of people had to be eliminated each phase.  The question was who and what setting would also be eliminated.  The original setting they wrote or the setting they were currently writing for.  If you think about it, it is a real challenge based on the model we created. However, my central goal was not only to have a setting created but make it a collaborative work between some of the best of our writers.

The one option was to eliminate the writer and the current setting they were writing for.  The logic behind that is that the eliminated writer has “corrupted” (for lack of a better term) this setting with a sub-par addition.  In an effort to avoid ham-stringing the next writer, the bad entry had to be eliminated.  The problem with that is good settings could be killed by one bad entry.  On top of that, it could be contestant A’s setting that gets eliminated, and he/she is still in contest.  What motivation does that person have to stay in the contest now that his or her setting is out of the running?  You can probably see my dilemma.

Despite all the questions and “wonkiness” of that option, that was what I was planning to do.  I thought it better to keep the good written entries in and avoid the “corruption” problem that would occur.  Why keep them in if it is only going to hinder future phases of writing, regardless of how good the setting is?

Another option was obviously to simply eliminate the writer with his or her setting.  The problem with that is that leaves some “bad entries” in the mix, which ends up causing problems for the next writer.  What do you do with the entry that the eliminated player wrote for somebody else’s setting?  Admittedly, it may not be all that bad, but there has to be a reason why the writer was eliminated.

Both elimination options have their merits but also have their issues.  I also fully recognize that the problems stem from the nature of our model – the collaborative nature.  Unfortunately, you can’t have everything.

One statement from a friend and one of our judges made it all clear to me.  Good writers will write good settings.  So no matter what, if you eliminate the writers based on what they wrote and the setting they wrote along with them, you are going to still have good writers and good settings.  That helped us see things a lot clearer and the end result was that we went with the second option.

One option to deal with the “bad apples in the mix” was to let the original writer of the setting fix it.  That’s the most ideal solution.  Unfortunately, with the time constraint I had set for the first time we tried this, I could not do that.  What I finally decided to do was edit them myself while consulting with the original author.  I reserved the right to do this for any “bad apple” that might fall in our bucket, in an effort to make sure the next writer was not at a disadvantage going into the next stage.  Not the most ideal method but it worked within our time constraints. What I am considering for future iterations of this is to allow an extra week for re-writes – send the entry back to the original writer so he or she can fix it.

So far this contest has been amazing.  Great ideas are coming out of it.  We did not get the initial 16 contestants but we did get 11.  One was dropped initially and then we had 10.  We have gone from phase 2 into phase 3, where we whittled it down to 8.  Eliminating people is hard.  I know it’s not a good feeling to be told that what you wrote is not what we like or not good enough.  But I heard one writer say at some point – you have to take criticism well to be a writer.  So I hope they take it well.