A fest is an organized writing (sometimes art) opportunity. There's some theme and/or fandom and/or paring at the core of the fest. There's usually a solicitation of prompts, an opportunity to select a prompt and a deadline for submission. The fest mod organizes posting (sometimes there's self posting) and the mod chases after those who have signed up. But if someone opts out (even at the last minute), there's minimal angst, simply one less fic.
An exchange will have a similar initial setup, and authors are either assigned or pick from a list to create a fic that at least faintly represents the request of a specific person. Most exchanges have everyone put in a request and everyone is to write to someone's request. If a writer opts out, there's scurrying about for a pinch hit, to ensure that everyone who creates something also gets a gift.
There are variations on both, but that's my experience with 'typical' fests and exchanges.
The question on the comm is if you have a preference for a fest or exchange...
I've done both and the deadlines are helpful in helping me actually get a fic written. I've gotten to the point that I really try to be pickier about what I sign up for, mostly as a matter of sanity... ;-) I've gotten to like fests better, mostly because when RL kicks in, I can opt out without leaving mods scrambling for a pinch hit.
Do you do fests or exchanges? Do you have preferences?
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