The End of the Road

Hello, Protaggers.

It’s been a while since we last spoke, and unfortunately, I don’t have good news.

Protagonize will be shutting down — permanently — effective June 3rd, 2017.

We’ve reached a stage where the site’s income has deteriorated to a point where it’s nowhere near supporting the cost of operations. Personally, I haven’t been able to actively maintain or upgrade Protagonize beyond the absolute bare necessities for the last 3+ years.

The site has been kept operational for the last year-and-a-bit partially based on the kindness of a handful of very generous individual Protaggers (to single one out in particular, Sharon, a.k.a.: moonwalker), but primarily out of my own pocket. However, we’ve hit a fork in the road of late, and the auspices are no longer favourable.

My wife and I came to a decision earlier tonight to shut the site down for good. We have three children under the age of five, and live in an expensive city, so every dollar we can save matters. We can’t afford to keep Protagonize running on our own dime any longer, and donations have dried up in the last few months. User growth has been stagnant for years and advertising income has dwindled as usage has dropped (not that it was much to begin with, although it did cover our costs.)

For me, personally, this is akin to a dagger in the chest. Protagonize was a great hope to me for several years. It did a lot of good in my life. It taught me a lot. I won’t go into it too deeply, but I don’t take this decision lightly, and have likely been putting it off for much too long.

I have investigated moving Protagonize to other environments or trying to get our ISP to lower our monthly hosting fees as the site is running on severely outdated hardware, to no avail (thanks for nothing, Cogeco Peer 1.) Moving to another lower-cost hosting provider may reduce our ongoing overhead, but it would cost us a significant investment of time and money that we just don’t have to complete the migration. Even then, the costs were not insignificant on a new provider, and the performance of the site may actually have been worse than it is currently.

I feel the need to apologize to you all for the short notice of this pronouncement, but it seems that while the spirit of Protagonize lives on, in its current state and outdated technology stack (developer speak for “it hasn’t been updated in a while“), it’s just not cost-effective in the least to keep operational. And I need to consider the well-being of my family over keeping our remaining users happy. I hate that this is purely financially-driven, but it’s not a great spot to be in, so here we are.

I hope that I don’t come across too harsh in this, and that you all understand that I’ve been (primarily) footing the bill to keep Protagonize operational since its inception. I had aspirations to build a successful business from it, and was encouraged by many to do just that, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I recognize my mistakes now, and accept that it’s time to close up shop and learn from the experience.

I’m still humbled by the fact that many of you grew to adulthood (or a reasonable facsimile 😉) here — over the last near-decade, just a few months shy of our 10th anniversary — reading and writing and contributing to our once-vibrant little community. I hope that you were able to harness a little of the creative energy found here and use it in your lives, both inside and outside of writing. But at the end of it all, I just hope you enjoyed your time here and made some long-lasting connections with other peers, both authors and readers.

I hope you’ll all accept my humble apology and move on to your next writing community with fond memories of your time here — and hopefully of your growth as a writer and community participant. I know that I’ll always remember you all for your contributions.

If  you’d like to get in touch with me with any questions or feedback, you can email me here. I can’t offer you any new ways to export your works aside from the existing methods — PDF, RSS, Kindle export, or saving a full story as HTML.

Good luck to all of you in the future. Maybe we’ll meet again, someday. Keep writing. Keep providing constructive feedback. And obviously, keep reading!

Nick Bouton
Founder, Protagonize (Dec 2007- June 2017)


Addendum: Exporting your works

Protagonize doesn’t offer any sort of mass-download functionality, but you still have a few options for exporting your works from the site. However, they’re all going to require some legwork on your end:

  • Author or Story RSS feeds: Click the “Author Feed” on your author profile to get your recent posts, or the “Feed” link in the top right corner if any of your story pages to give you an RSS feed of the entire story:
  • Export options: On individual stories, poems or other works, you can use the Story menu (the little gear icon) to export the whole thing to several different formats, including PDF, Kindle, and HTML:
    The View entire story option shown above will export the entire work to a single saveable/printable HTML page, and also lets you copy-paste the whole thing out elsewhere if that’s what you’re after. The Export to PDF and Send story to Kindle options will let you export to other formats.

Sorry that there is no way to export everything you’ve posted in one go — I wish I could offer this, but I just don’t have the capacity to add new features to the site anymore.

Image courtesy of kjcs on Flickr

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Roleplaying for Writing

Image under CC-BY license from Thomas Dippel
As those of you who frequent Protagonize may know, roleplaying can be a valuable tool for writing stories that have a larger number of characters. With a single author taking on the role of one of the characters, you can give each one a much stronger sense of having their own voice and personality.

However, roleplaying doesn’t just stop at the writers desk, roleplaying games are a huge industry both on the tabletop and in the computer game industry. Tabletop games in particular are built specifically for telling stories together, with some games making story telling the primary focus (as opposed to combat and tactics, that also make up a large portion of some RPGs). With both kinds of roleplaying ultimately being about telling stories, you shouldn’t be surprised that there are a lot of roleplaying games and tools out there which can really help serve you as a writer – and are just fun to play too!

Chuck Wendig, a writer and gamer makes a good case for why writers should play roleplaying games. This blog post is more about the specific games and tools from roleplaying I’ve found useful and why, but any game and any roleplaying utility can be useful to writers, so I encourage you to get involved with the hobby!

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Posted in Guest Posts, Tips & Tricks, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Writing About Magic,” a book review

Rayne Hall - Fantasy Horror Author - Portrait by Fawnheart
If you are a writer of fantasy, or plan on writing fantasy, having a grasp on magic is necessary to tell a convincing story. Magical systems must make sense, and to contribute to the plot of a story must not be a quick and easy solution to every problem the protagonist faces. Rayne Hall’s how-to eBook, “Writing About Magic,” is a great starting place for those unsure about the workings of magic in fiction. It is also somewhat useful to those more experienced with writing about magic, though more as a refresher and reference than as a guide. The eBook is part of a larger series of how-to guides titled “Writer’s Craft.”

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Plotting, Planning, Probably Perspiring

NaNoWriMo 2013!It’s that time of year again! Those of us in the northern hemisphere are searching for scarves, wrapping our hands around hot beverages, and pretending we’re dragons with each warm breath. Those in the southern hemisphere are… I’m not too sure what goes on down there, could someone fill me in? I’ll just assume the Australian crowd is busy avoiding spiders and drop bears as usual.

Whatever the weather in your part of the world, October brings a challenge to all writers: preparing for National Novel Writing Month! For those of you unaware, NaNoWriMo is a month-long marathon of novel writing held each November. Anyone can win this race, and many people do! Your only competitor is yourself, and simply finishing a 50,000 word story of some sort qualifies you for a nifty badge. (“Simply” might not be the best choice of adverb. I’m open to suggestions on that one.)

Most of the fun is over on the NaNoWriMo website, but that’s not to say you should abandon Protagonize on November 1st!

The official Protagonize NaNo group is dusting itself off in preparation, and offers lots to this year’s participants. You can find a writing buddy to keep you on track, get advice on preparing for your NaNo Novel, and maybe even get some inspiration if you become stuck along the way. Many authors also choose to post their novels-in-progress on Protagonize.

So, how prepared are you for this year? Will you be obsessively world building until midnight on October 31st, sugar-high on Halloween candy? Or are you going in blind with nothing but a few notes on a dirty napkin? Let us know how you’re doing in the comments!

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

Posted in Contests & Competitions, NaNoWriMo, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Protagonize, Spam, and You

Spammy word cloudBODY GET HEALTHY.
MAKE MANY MUSCLE.
GREEN HYPER NEED.

What fun phrases do you see? This word cloud was generated from the spam text of several dozen advertising profiles on Protagonize. Did you know our community attracted spammers? Whether or not you did, here’s a quick guide to “Protagonize, Spam, and You.”

What is spam?

Simply put, “spam” is any undesirable and unavoidable content on the internet. The name refers to the well known processed meat product, but we can track its current meaning back to a Monty Python skit. The more you know!

Alright, but what does spam look like on Protagonize?

Most often, spam on Protagonize comes in the form of advertising profiles. They’ll generally have paragraphs of nonsensical text containing buzzwords and catchphrases (to trigger search results) as well as a link to the website or product they are promoting. Sometimes these fake accounts will post a “story” containing the same gibberish.

However, spam can also come in the form of repetitive comments or direct messages to our users. A common example is someone asking half of Protagonize to add them on some social network, to forward them a manuscript for publication, or critique something they would like published. The last example can be tricky, since sometimes people are just desperate to have their work read and aren’t trying to generate spam.

So what do I do if I come across spam or a spammer?

Report it! One of the options when you report a user or content is “Spam or Advertising Material.” Any report you make will be sent to the moderators for review.

That said, the moderation team is usually pretty good at weeding out spam accounts before anyone else notices them. We’ll typically delete about a dozen spam profiles each week, though it isn’t unheard of to delete that many in a single day! But on the off chance we’re in the middle of writing a new chapter and you come across some spam, report it and we’ll delete it when we have the chance.

And that’s it!

If you have any other questions not answered here, you can ask them in the comments or send a direct message to one of the moderators.

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