1. Where do people talk about writing?
With LEGO, there's a ton of discussion about building techniques, people's work, conventions, etc. Flickr seemed to have really good mechanisms for facilitating discussion. Plus there were lots of blogs, including one main one, that really worked to facilitate discussion and information spreading.
In contrast, if you post something to ao3 (or worse, ff.net), all you can do is leave a comment on a work. But other people wouldn't be notified of conversations about something... and it would be so hard to find any conversation that is more than, "hey, nice job with (x)". There is no notification if other people comment and have insightful things that you might want to go back and read. So then you'd have to go back to every chapter of every work you've ever read looking?
Maybe I'm just looking a the LEGO community through rose-colored glasses.
LEGO is probably easier in some ways, too, because it is a completely visual medium, so it doesn't take long to look at someone's work. It won't take you days, like a long story would. There are also a lot more people interested in LEGO than in a small niche like Merlin fanfic. So there are more people everywhere, all wanting to talk and chat....
2. How to complete a story...
So, several years back I started multiple kids' stories, and then after awhile they trailed off into nothingness. There's a huge battle of "I can do this" vs. "This sucks", and eventually the "this sucks" wins out.
The only stories I've finished in my life are stories that had a deadline. Now I want to write something with no deadline, and it's so easy to just wallow in the joy of new ideas and not do the work to actually get them into a finished state.
It is better for me to finish a story completely before posting it, because as I write, I have to go back and change so many things to keep the story consistent.
I was talking to an author at ao3, who is posting a story chapter by chapter. She (I assume it is a she based on certain comments, but I could be wrong) says she has to post it chapter by chapter, before she's finished it, or she'll never finish. If she had to wait until it was all done, she'd get about three chapters in and then obsessively fret over it forever, trying for perfection.
I felt confident in reading her story, because it was part of a series and the first two installments were finished and awesome. I didn't worry about whether it would ever get finished or not. As a reader, you take a gamble when you read something that hasn't been finished being written yet. It might not ever get finished. I remember years ago when I first discovered fanfic, there was a Star Trek: TNG story, and I was in love with it, and it ended after two chapters. Completely unfinished. I felt so betrayed... how can anyone post something that isn't finished? How is that allowed?
But if you don't follow along with each chapter as it is written, you lose the chance to help encourage the writer. Which can feel good in its own way.
As a writer, it might be nice to post as you write it, before it's finished. You would get feedback, potentially, as you went, which would encourage you to keep going. As the author I was talking to said, it makes her finish the story, because she knows people are reading it. It's not the same as a deadline, but there is that sense of needing to get it done hanging over you.
For sheer purposes of getting attention, it'd be better to post chapter by chapter too. Because then your story would re-appear at the top of the new stories list, and people who may have missed it would see it.
Some people write the whole thing, and then post a chapter once or twice a week. As a reader, I appreciate this because I know that the story has been finished, and I won't be left hanging. There is also a better chance of there being a cohesive plot, with a build-up and climax. Some stories posted serially just go on and on and on and on, and it's hard to be left waiting for a climax that might not ever come. There are many stories I've started reading, have left kudos on, and then slowly drifted away from, because they seemed to never go anywhere. (Probably a lot like this post!)
So the author I was talking to wondered about a way on ao3 to post stories so that just certain people can see them. Then you can show your friends and get feedback and be held accountable to actually finishing something, but would still have the freedom to go back and completely re-write sections. Her first thought was to just post it publically, with the caveat that it was in-progress and might be completely redone. And then only people who liked that sort of thing would read it. But I think that might not work so well.... you would really want it to be your best work, right? If the random guy from across the net came and saw your so-so product, why would he want to come back?
I suppose that's what beta readers are for. But I also wondered if you could make an ao3 collection, which could be unrevealed. Then I think anyone who was a mod would be able to access works, and other people couldn't. Then you could read and comment and hold yourself accountable. And not just play games on your iPhone all day.
We might do it. I suppose I should make sure of the proper pronoun for any partners in crime... he/she/it?