The precise nature and scope of Writers.SE, as a Q&A resource for writers, is not always clear or intuitive to newcomers. Some types of questions seem appropriate, but through experience have been designated as off-topic.

What are the categories of questions that Writers.SE has ruled off-topic, despite their relation to writing? One reason per answer, please (to facilitate linking).

This question should serve as a resource collecting the results and current status of Meta discussions, for easy reference and to help newcomers understand the site's unique policies.

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3 Answers 3

Plot/Research Consultation

Writers.SE can help you with how to write, but not what to write. Writers.SE is not an appropriate for brainstorming plot ideas (brainstorming isn't Q&A) or for finding expertise in any non-writing subject (you might need historical research for your novel, but Writers.SE isn't about history questions).

Further Reading:

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I agree that questions about non-writing expertise are off-topic, but I think questions about how to do research in such areas can be on-topic. Research is just another tool, in some ways. But, as with all questions, the question need to show some effort; if it can be answered with a Wikipedia link or by saying "go to a library" that's a problem. –  Monica Cellio Jul 12 '13 at 3:45
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Rephrase Requests

"Questions asking for help rephrasing a sentence or passage are off-topic as they're very unlikely to ever help anyone else. See: Are requests for rephrasing on topic?"

Requests to rephrase, rewrite, or edit some piece of writing. While helpful to the original poster, these tend to be unhelpful to anybody else - what we refer to as being "too localized."

Further Reading:

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General Critique Requests

"Requests for writing critiques must include either a specific question about your sample or specific guidelines for the critique. See: What are the guidelines for asking for a critique of my work?"

While critiques are some of the best help a writer can get, they are usually not appropriate questions for Writers.SE. This is because the basic format of a critique request is not "Question/Answer" or "Problem/Solution"; instead, it solicits a wide range of reactions to various elements of the text. This fits very poorly into the Q&A format. Please see further discussions on Meta (TODO: add links).

Note that providing an excerpt of your work within the context of a direct question or a clear problem is perfectly fine. Avoid asking broad, opinion-soliciting questions such as:

  • "Is this piece good?,"
  • "How is my phrasing here?"
  • "Does this flow well?"

Whereas the following questions are examples of direct, answerable questions:

  • "Is this character's arrogance likeable, or annoying?"
  • "How can I get rid of this infodump?"
  • "This action scene feels boring; what can I do?"

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