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Constructive Criticism, does anyone know what this means? I sure hope so!

No doubt that there are a lot of talented writers out there. I have mentioned before, I feel so lucky that these people take time (out of their very busy lives) to share their stories with us. I am not a writer and I will not even pretend to have the talent they have. But I am an admirer and a reader, and I love being that.

With that said, I just wanted to share that it chaps my hide when I read that some people out there are so freaking immature and mean spirited. Why is that necessary? Sure if you have constructive criticism, please share. I believe most of the writers encourage that, they want to hear about constructive ways to grow in their work.

But why, why, why must some be so malicious!!! If you don't like it, don't read it and don't comment. What is the benefit of sending the writer some nasty PM about their work. It's their story; their work of art that they put time, love and energy into. It means something to them, and to the people that have marked it as a favorite and added it to their alerts.

My point is that the feedback should encourage, not discourage. I know that some of the writers have felt discouraged to continue writing because they are bombarded with negative comments instead of constructive criticism. Do we really want that? Do we really want the writers to stop sharing their stories with us?

Just as there are many stories that I love, there are some that I don't. I comment on those that I love and don't bother to read the ones that don't hold my interest. I think that is o.k. because there are so many different tastes on this site. That is what makes it such a great site! Different stories will appeal to different audiences and that is great. There is no need to be rude about it.

I can't believe how many times I have read an author's note in which they are apologizing to us for taking a lot time to post or in which they have to address negative comments. I mean WTF! These writers are sharing their gift with us! Let's not forget that. They shouldn't have to justify anything. It is their story!

Sure, sure, freedom of speech and all that junk, but at least learn how to be respectful and write a somewhat intelligent constructive review people. And lay off on the quit your job, school and your family and write this story full time and update now comments! The writers write to escape, just like we read to escape, but they still have an outside life away from all this, and the readers should too.

That's my rant. Maybe I am feeling brave posting this because I am not a writer and I don't have to deal with the BS of negative, rude and outright malicious comments. But I respect the writers here and I felt like something had to be said. I want the writers to feel encouraged to continue writing and growing in their craft, not abandon us completely.

Throw down with me if you want, I'll just stick my tongue out at you anyway!

1/21/2009 . Edited 12/27/2010 #1

Very, very well said!

1/21/2009 #2

I have to say I agree with you for the most part. Granted, when publishing something on this site, where reviews are encouraged and expected, an author should expect that not everyone will like their work, but people should be careful when criticizing. I know I work terribly hard on the stories I post, and I was more than a little insecure when I put up my first story, so the reviews meant everything to me. If I'd received anything negative in that first week or so, I probably would have been discouraged enough to stop writing.

On that note, I was a nervous wreck when I recently posted my first SVM fic---the high quality of the other SVM fics I'd read made the whole idea of writing my own more than a little intimidating. But the response I got was amazing. I can honestly say that the reviews were the only reason I'm continuing.

1/21/2009 #3
Roxanne Bird

I agree with all of you. But I do feel bad when I haven't put up a chapter or story for a while (which is a lot becuase I have to go to classes and do work). I always feel the need to apoligize for not having updates. I sort of feel like if you put up a story it's your obligation to keep going. It's like teasing people if you don't update for long periods of time and I know I do that so I feel bad about it, which is why I will probably be putting apologies at the beginning of every single one of my newer chapters.

1/21/2009 #4

But that is my point Roxanne, you do have a life outside of fanfiction! Why should you have to apologize for that? You don't. Writers post because they want to share their work and post when the can, when they have time. Who are we to hound them and demand that all their free time goes to posting update. Why send writers nasty PM and make threats? If they think it's funny or that they are being cute, well its not!

I could go on and on, but I already have ;)

1/21/2009 #5

You absolutely should not apologize! None of you should.

Seriously, would any of us write Charlaine Harris and complain to her that she's not writing fast enough? LOL Perhaps she has had some, I don't know. Either way, it's inappropriate to do it to any writer.

I am flabbergasted that anyone would be as rude as the comments Malanna mentioned today. I sincerely hope those posters will be dealt with swiftly by Eric's sword so we all can get back to reading what we have come to love.

1/21/2009 #6

I am absolutely horrified by what Malanna has had to endure.How dare people make threats like that. It is completely uncalled for.It makes me feel like we have failed her and writers like her.This is freaking fanfiction. It’s purpose is for fun and for fantasy.

These poster don’t deserve to be dealt with by Eric. That is an honor I would not bestow upon them.However, I would have no objection to putting them in the pits with Quinn.

1/21/2009 #7

I like the way you think!

1/21/2009 #8
Roxanne Bird

It realy disgusts me that people are that cruel. Fanfiction is a privilege. Authors don't have to do it you know. We could take our stuff away at any moment. Those nasty comments ruin it for everyone else. The same thing happened to the girl writing Wide Awake.

I agree...the pits with Quinn to all of 'em.

1/21/2009 . Edited by nycsnowbird, 11/28/2009 #9
Desiree Aston

I was disgusted by what Malanna shared with us. I cannot believe people would send such messages. Death threats. Over cliffhangers and short chapters. Seriously? People are insane. The writers owe us nothing. Period. It's their story and they can do with it what they wish. As for the chapter length, I'll go for quality over quantity any day. People can simply pass by the fics they do not like. It's really quite simple to hit the little X on the corner of the window if you're not feeling a certain story. And just because reviews are encouraged doesn't mean people have to be so nasty and vicious. It's not that hard to be considerate of others work or feelings.

1/21/2009 #10

Thanks for starting this thread. After reading what Malanna has been dealing with, it not only sickens me, but makes me have serious reservations of even posting my soon to be completed story that I have been working on so diligently, and with the help and encouragement from EricDreamer, I may still post it. It just saddens me, that there is so much talent on this site, that it takes one psycho f*ck to screw it up for everyone else. I just hope that Malanna will still post her stories, yet after receiving a death threat, i'm not sure anymore.

1/21/2009 #11
Roxanne Bird

You should definilty still post your story ebonyeyz1. I really want to read it! Don't let some stupid uneducated idiots get in your way of expressing yourself. What Malanna did get was pretty extreme because of the following she got from her story. Most authors don't get death threats. Or at least, I haven't gotten any yet. People are generally vary gracious in their reviews and you shouldn't hesitate to put you story up. I have a feeling that after Malanna's note those stupid people won't be reviewing for quite some time.

1/22/2009 #12

I agree! Please post your story.

1/22/2009 #13

It is unfortunate, but the poster who need to hear messages like these, about how wrong they are, don't hang out on the forums like us.

How do you get the message out when they are not likely to read it?

EE: It excites me to know you have been working with ED to create your own story. I do hope you post it. We love new stuff!

1/22/2009 #14

I am sure you are correct about that. I hope that the mods took care of whomever it was.

Is it possible to block people from posting or sending PM's? Perhaps that would be a first step, if a PM or message was as horrible as Malanna's were.

1/22/2009 #15

This is insane! Sorry, but I just figured out what everyone's so up in arms about. When I got the note that her chapter had been replaced, I ignored it, figuring it couldn't have changed that much. Boy, was I wrong!

As for blocking users, the only place I know that you can block a specific individual from is a forum. You can disable PMs entirely, but that would prevent the 99% of decent readers from contacting you. And you can of course, report review abuse. The only issue I see with that is that people can sign up for the site with anonymous emails (like yahoo or whatever), so something as idiotic as a death threat would be damn near impossible to trace. The site could cancel that user's account, but they could just sign up with another email address.

Then again, I don't see the point in PM'ing someone just to ask them to write faster or update more frequently. If I'm dying for the next chapter, I just put that in a review. In fact, I don't know if I've ever PM'd an author aside from maybe telling them something about a big typo so they could fix it---and in those cases I spend half the note saying I'm sorry to bother them but I didn't want to leave something stupid like that in a review. Of course, I've never received a PM like that either, so I can't say I'm used to that kind of thing. My readers PM me with questions, begging me to tell them some key plot info or something, but that's about it.

Ok, enough of my rambling. People are stupid. This is why I want to be a hermit when I grow up.

1/22/2009 #16
Pam's BFF

I don't know the harrassing comments being mentioned but I agree. I wouldn't bother leaving a nasty comment to anyone who's entertaining me with their writing which they do on their free time. The only constructive criticim I might have given is about grammer or spelling and then I would have only suggested a beta reader. Those are usually younger writers that aren't following a very easy to follow writing style and it detracts from their stories. I don't write either so I am nothing but appreciative to those that do.

I sort of disagree on the comments asking writers to hurry and update being inappropriate. I think it's complimentary that someone is so into a story that they can't wait to read more. I don't agree with harassing a writer to continue and PMing them about it though, but I've left comments to stories I've really enjoyed hoping they update soon.

For me I'm kinda picky about the stories I can get into, I like them really action based and light on the ESN so truer to CH form and so when there is a really action packed storyline happening it's really hard to wait to see what happens next. I check back everyday hoping for updates for a few of my favorite stories.

That said one thing I would really love some of the writers here to adopt is a recap from the last chapter at the top of the lastest one. I read one story where the writer did this and it was great and really helpful to get back into the story between updates. I find it so hard toremember one story from the next and have to go back to previously read chapters to find my place so it was really nice when this one writer had recaps at the top before the new chapter. I wish I remember which writer / story it was but I don't off the top of my head.

2/10/2009 #17

Ziggy shared this blog with us, it is a must read, and so funny!

3/8/2009 #18

I agree with this 100% all of it.. infact. I got a few posts of unwanted reviews and I had to delete them.. totally discouraged me and I have not been able to write. The only thing I was able to write are true fantasies for fellow friends with like. Alex or Stephen, or Bill and Eric. My first Eric And Sookie chapter was short yes, but I do not have a Beta. I pme'd one and seen if she wanted to be one, never got a pm back, then that discouraged me even farther. I would very much like to keep on writing but again, I have no beta, kinda hard to do that when someone tears it up. I know my grammar is not so good, but that is why I would like a beta. To help me out with that.

Anyways. it is sad. death threats are so f****** stupid..It is the authors story and they can make it any way they want it to be!

3/9/2009 #19

All good things must come to an end. Quite honestly, I could whine and go on about the reviewing “rules” until you all give me the ultimate internet diss by… no longer reviewing? Whatever. I just wanted to use the word “diss”. What I’m trying to say is that this is the last rule. Aww. Dry your eyes, little etiqu-ettes. WTVOC always has something up her sleeve. But we’ll discuss that after this week’s topic.

1.Don’t ask for an update.

2. Your words can hurt. Have a care before clicking “submit”.

3. We love it when you love it.

4. Constructive criticism can be appreciated as long as it’s not rude.

5. If you write a novel-length review, make it either: ~Fantastic ~Analytical in a good way ~So oddly skewed and word vomit-like that you just have to laugh ~Not contain the words “update”, “upload”, or any other not-so-clever synonym ~Especially not if it’s going to be the dreaded UPDATE SOON WALL O’DEATH (please see discussion for tip number 1)

~Any combination of the above.

Honestly, I can wax philosophical about this for some time. I love the rant reviews. They’re my favorite, for several reasons. First off… man, you paid attention. And you often catch the things I neglected to mention or weren’t clear on. This is me getting all big-ego, but when I get a long review that enumerates not only what worked for them but the issues that they want addressed, it reminds me of English class back in high school where we were supposed to keep a running tab of questions from a book and I’d mark out in the margins my comments and questions, then transfer to a journal-like notebook that was folded into three columns: page number, quote, and notes. Your keen observations can often make or break a storyline; when you get the “why is Edward being such a dick? Update soon!” review, you shrug it off. And yeah, I just compared my crap to a piece of literature. Like I said, ego. Anyway, when an articulate, observant, and well-written review comes in, you sit up and take notice. This is a person who is worthy of my time and effort, and perhaps I should address their points. One of my favorite reviewers is mommyofboth; she always writes these amazing summaries that leave no doubt in my mind that she thinks I am the greatest thing since grilled cheese sammiches or quite possibly Rob. And I almost never know what to say to these kinds of reviews, but I always try my best to respond.

These reviews make me gush and they make me smile. If I blushed, they’d make me do that, too. We’ve been getting some seriously amazing reviews for Scotch lately… and I’m not even gonna lie. They make my day. Another thing about long reviews is that they give the writer the impetus to write some more. All it really takes is two people to go on about how great the chapter was and I’m like “Aww. I should go give them a hug, a cookie, and a sneak preview.” Which I’ve been known to do. Minus the hug, of course. A lot of the longer reviews make the whole asking for updates thing tolerable, too. And lemme tellya something- if a person takes the time out of their day to tell me the aspects they loved and cites specific examples from the chapter itself, well. It makes the sentence “I can’t wait for the next chapter” sound not like an update request, but like an excited person who is dying to see what words I can type next. Which is what all update requests are, I get that. These ones are just worded better and more artfully. It’s the difference between saying, “Make that casserole again, Ma,” and “Wow, Mother. I can’t remember the last time you made such a tasty meal. I really appreciated the juxtaposition of flavors; the way you managed to artfully arrange both broccoli and red peppers in a creamy alfredo sauce while retaining the robust roast chicken element was nothing short of astounding. If you saw fit, I’d surely appreciate it if you could remember exactly what spices you used so that the next time you’re making it, I can invite some friends over to enjoy the deliciousness within. And please, Mother. Do make this again. I will love you forever if you do.”

8/12/2009 #20

Now, picture this: you have had a long-ass day. You woke up this morning and your kids had consumed an entire box of your sun-dried tomato Wheat Thins and drawn a cemetery on your living room walls in crayon. Your husband called and requested that you wash his work clothes, you have to go to the post office and it’s pouring rain, the laundry is glaring at you, mocking you with its height, and you just realized you’re out of milk, eggs, cheese- and, horror upon horrors- there’re only two Diet Cokes left in the fridge. Naturally, your response to Real Life is to flip on the computer to see what everyone thought of the update that you posted late last night.

omg, this ** is amazing. A-MAZ-ING. Please update... like... now.

can't wait for more please put up a new chapter soon!!

i more! please update! :] I

loved this chapter -- please continue,

I want to know what happens... :D update soon...

AH! cant wait for the next onE! Excellent chapter.

Can't wait for the next installment.

And so forth. These are all off the same page of reviews for Scotch. Now, granted. Not all contained the dreaded “update”. But can you see how reading the same thing over and over sort of… hurts? Maybe I’m being melodramatic, but the way I see it- you click a button. You’re overwhelmed by the chapter and maybe can’t remember everything you loved.

But dude. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to say this: So I spent the day with the in-laws yesterday and while my SIL told me I had gained weight (it's only 2 ** pounds dammit)and my MIL made snarky remarks about my cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing abilities I kept reminding myself that there was a Scotch update to read. You may have actually kept me from getting arrested. Really, thank you for updating during such a busy time of year.

This was from that same page of reviews. Funny, had details, and never once asked for an update. She gets it. This kind of review motivates me to write more. It also motivates me to respond, which I believe I did. While we’re on the subject, do not do this:


No, really. I’ve gotten this review. More than once. I know I’m not the only one. We call it the “Update Wall O’Death”. Who was it I told that you know you’ve “made it” when you get this review? I am never amused by it, ever. So yeah. We writers completely understand this need to want to know what’s coming like, now. But demanding an update or PMing for an update and only the update is just… it’s abrupt. It tells us nothing other than you are impatient and quite possibly inarticulate. Either don’t do it or do it in such a way that we’re left thinking, “You know what? For you… I will.”

8/12/2009 #21

Before you leave a review by Just Mallory

1. These people have real lives. They write because they enjoy it, and they post because we enjoy it. The other day I was checking in on one of my favorite fics, and it’s been forever since there was an update. So just for kicks I started reading some of the reviews. I was shocked by how many said things like “C’mon already! It’s been two weeks! Update!” and “I really need to know when you’re going to update again or if this is even worth my time. Please respond.” Sadly, the author did respond. From her internet enabled phone. From the hospital! Frankly, I hope the reviewer felt like shit. Me? I felt like a little more research. And what I found was that a good number of the top authors in the fandom have actual lives and real problems. They have special needs kids, spouses with serious medical problems, cars that break down, jobs that are laying people off, and a whole host of other issues that take up most of their free time. They deal with relationships, divorces, shitty bosses, and real life problems just like the rest of us do. We as readers are not entitled to regular updates. We are privileged to read the fantastic writing of some very talented people who choose to give us a little of their spare time.

2. Happily ever after is not guaranteed. I was also surprised at how many reviewers insist on knowing if Bella is going to end up with Edward. There are plenty of great romances out there, and there’s also plenty of tragedy. If you’re only interested in one kind of pairing, read the summary before you get into the story. And if the summary doesn’t make it clear, chances are the author wants that to be a mystery. Don’t like mysteries? There are currently thousands of other fics you can choose from. Better yet, buy a book instead. That way you can flip to the back (you know you did it with New Moon; don’t even try to deny it) and see if it ends the way you want.

3. Authors Notes aren’t always pleasant. Know why? Because dozens, or even hundreds of people leave unpleasant reviews. And I don’t mean unpleasant as in “I don’t like your writing.” I mean unpleasant as in “You need to update faster,” “When are they gonna have sex already?!” and “This chapter was too short.” Try receiving about a hundred of those comments and see how you react. These authors are devoting their own personal time to writing their own personal take on something, and more often than not, we as readers simply demand more. Honestly, I’m surprised some of them even bother posting. So before you take offense because an author went on a rant, think about why they did. If you weren’t the one who flamed them, skip on down to read the new chapter. It’s not aimed at you. And if it is aimed at you, going off on them again isn’t going to help your case.

4. M doesn’t equal lemons. In my ‘research’ I came across a review that really shocked me. The reader went off on a tangent about how the fic was rated M and the author needs to hurry up with the lemon. Here is the definition of an M Rating: ‘Not suitable for children or teens below the age of 16 with possible strong but non-explicit adult themes, references to violence, and strong coarse language.’ By that definition, lemons shouldn’t even be allowed, as they are definitely explicit. That aside, it’s clear that M can also just mean violence or the inclusion of the word “fuck.” So if it’s lemons you’re looking for, don’t count on M being a guarantee for it. It covers a lot more than just sex. This is another case where reading the summary first would be helpful.

5. Bad reviews = laughter. So you ranted and raved at an author because you didn’t like their chapter. Know what they did? They laughed about it. And then everyone else in the Twitter-verse joined in and made fun of you. Why? Because you used text-speak, misspelled several words, and were entirely too upset about a simple piece of amateur fiction. Maybe you hurt their feelings for about three seconds, but I guarantee you about 50 other people jumped in and told them how amazing their writing is and how stupid your review was. If you really want the author to take you seriously, be constructive, keep your emotions out of it, and use spell-check. They’ll turn a blind eye to you if all you do is attack. They might listen if it sounds like you have something useful to say.

6. Fanfic is a hobby, not a profession. Sure, there are a handful of fanfic authors who want to break into professional writing. But the vast majority of them are just having fun. I know of one who was a published writer and gave it up. I know of another who got an offer for publishing and turned it down. And I’ll bet there are lots more just like them. So before you offer them advice on what they could do better if they want to make it in the publishing world, find out if they even care about that. Otherwise, all your helpful words are simply wasted. And let's be realistic here. If you're not a literary publisher, agent, or editor, should they really be taking career advice from you?

7. Your opinion isn’t everything. A few months ago, I read a book that was nothing short of awful. It came highly recommended by several friends, the author is mega-famous, and it was a best seller. It sucked royally. I kept thinking it would get better, and in the end I just wondered why I’d wasted my time. Did I drop a letter in the mail demanding that the publisher give me my money back? No. Did I go to the author’s fan site and give her a piece of my mind? No. Did I tell everyone I knew how awful it was? No. Because thousands of others love it, and my dissatisfaction doesn’t hold a candle to that. But it seems we’ve placed fanfiction on a whole different plane. We assume that our opinion is something more than just a statement of preference. That little review button tempts us to think we are professional reviewers, and we take full advantage of that. Just one click, and suddenly we are the most important people in the world, and everyone should listen to us. Yes, the fanfic authors put themselves out there by posting publicly, but they’re not asking for demands and verbal abuse. There are a lot of readers that need to take it down a notch.

8. Writers aren’t conceited jerks who only socialize within cliques. I’m sure you’ve noticed that many top authors chat with other top authors. They do it for the same reason you hang out with certain friends. These are the people who understand them and support them. It doesn’t mean they are snobs. It just means that’s who they are comfortable with. If you want to be included, reach out to them. Follow them on Twitter and respond to their tweets. Leave them regular reviews so they recognize your screen name. They’re like that cute guy at the coffee shop. If you talk to them enough, they’ll notice you.

Obviously we all love our fanfiction, and thank God there’s so much of it out there for us to read. But we need to remember who we are and who the writers are. We’re all fans of the Twilight universe, and we’re all here for a little entertainment. If someone writes a story you like, thank them. If they don’t, move on. If you want to give them advice, word it as advice and not criticism. Think about what you’d say to a friend if you were offering an opinion on something they put a lot of effort into. Would you say, “That’s the worst shit I’ve ever seen?” God, I hope not.

10/12/2009 #22

Thanks for sharing that Meads!

10/12/2009 #23

Yes thank you Meads. Those are good guidelines to operate by. I've been lucky I havent had many bad reviews thankfully. My most common complaint is that my characters dont match up exactly with the book characters, lol, even though I post mostly in the True Blood section and put a disclaimer on my profile about that very fact, lol. And it is fan fiction afterall, lol. But I get it, the SVM fans are loyal. Oddly enough however, I havent had any of those complaints about the ficts hosted in the SVM section, lol. Anyway, I also think writers need to take the reviews with a grain of salt, I know most do. It's true a bad review can set the tone for the entire day but imo it's not worth it because one person in a sea of hundreds doesnt like your fiction. Dont let that one bad egg ruin it for you!

And as far as reviewing, I also agree, that old saying "If you dont have anything nice to day dont say it" works, imo. I think writers grow from being encouraged and if you have something you didnt like dont go about it in attacking the writer, perhaps suggest an alternative. Who knows, they might even take your advice. But if a fiction is so bad you cant help but hate it, stop reading, or if you have subscribed, unsubscribe. Then everybody is happy. Easy as pie. Hehe. Just my 2 cents! ;)

10/13/2009 #24
Team Jane

I don't think people realize how personally we take reviews and PM's. I noticed that the worst critics don't write their own work. Every time I get a really bad review or someone extremely negative I go to their profile. I swear, some people get a rise out of tearing others down. I had a few nasty critics on my first story and actually stopped reading the reviews for a while because I was afraid that I wouldn't write anymore chapters.

If I have a serious personal issue with something someone wrote I won't leave a review because I'm afraid of my tongue. Or I'll look at what other people left for reviews gaining a compliment that I might not have thought of. If it's something I don't enjoy, I don't read it. Why waste my time writing reviews and reading a story I don't like?

10/16/2009 #25

You guys make me feel bad, I apologize anytime it takes me longer than usual to update. For whatever reason. And I update often. Right now I have 2 stories going and I update both of them at least twice sometime three times during a week. So, I guess that means I should stop apologizing, huh?

The reviews that get me, aren't the ones that say update soon. It's the ones that beg and beg and beg for lemons. For example the chapter before my las post, I left it on the verge of lemons... (yeah, ok so I got a thing for cliffies) and I got 60 reviews. So in the next chapter I, of course, delivered the lemons and only got 15. WTF?

To me, I would rather have someone tell me I totally screwed up the chapter in a case like that, than to get nothing. BAH! I am such a whiner. What can I say, I write for fun and I don't get paid, but the reviews I get are like a form of payment. I love 'em and eat 'em all up.

I am so so glad I found this topic. I hope to goodness I haven't ever left anyone an insulting review.

P.S. Check out my new avi... Ain't he swexy? *giggles*

11/6/2009 #26

Just like there is the complaint that some people leave flames, there is also the complaint about readers/lurkers who dont review.

In a new blog post, Hoosier Mama, gives it to us straight! Of course, she writes about Twilight ff, but I'm sure SVM could appreciate this too!


Excuses, Excuses

By: Hoosier Mama

Nobody writes chapter reviews to fics that were completed months ago, right? I mean…I’m not the only one, right? Writing chapter reviews to a finished fic is like closing the barn door after the horses have escaped…it’s sort of pointless. After all, the deed is already done. Recently I was enjoying a leisurely read of a fic called “The Nymph and the Waterfall". (If you’re looking for a fic with smaller, more easily digestible chunks of angst, I recommend this one. It’s a cute romp in the woods…with a stop at this secluded pond…which has this waterfall…ahem…but I digress.) I was not reviewing it at all since it is a completed fic and I felt perfectly peachy and guilt-free about that…until I read the Author’s Note at the end of Chapter 29. Suddenly, I was drowning under a watery wall of guilt. For there, at the end of that chapter, the author Pastiche Pen had penned a surprise: a poem called The Lurking Reader. The poem’s all about a reader who enjoys fanfics, but never reviews. It was describing a selfish, inconsiderate tool. It was describing…me. I know it annoys authors big time when people read, favorite them and their stories, but never leave a review. I sheepishly admit that I’m occasionally guilty of this, which got me to thinking, why exactly don’t I write reviews as often as I know I should? Here are the excuses I came up with; feel free to help yourself to any of them.

1. I’m lazy.

In fact, I’m too lazy to be bothered with coming up with a meaningful or witty explanation. You’re on your own.

2. The story’s too good.

Picture this: you’re reading a book and you love it. You’re in the zone. Your imagination is focused entirely on the world the author has created. The story is gripping, funny, scary, or sexy. You come to the end of a chapter. You now have two choices. You can: A) continue reading, or B) stop reading and compose a thought-filled note to the author about how incredible her story, its characterizations, and the atmosphere are; how you about peed your pants with excitement, blah, blah, blah. How many people can honestly say they would choose B? I’ve read some fantabulous fics, but I could find only one instance where I stopped myself from clicking the next chapter button and instead wrote a review. It was for “Hydraulic Level 5". I spouted off to Gondolier how I had to interrupt my reading to tell her how awesome her story was. But usually, like that damn Energizer bunny, I keep going, and going, and going…

3. The story’s not good.

No, wait, actually what I mean is, the chapter’s not very interesting. Maybe it’s a short “filler chapter” with little to no action happening. I know there have been times when I wrack my brain for something to say about a chapter, and come up blank because there simply was nothing there for me to comment on. I also have a hard time being critical of people’s work; I’m leery of offending anyone. Hoosier Mama’s motto? If you can’t think of something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

4. The story is already insanely popular.

Case in point: tara sue me’s “The Training". I must have been one of the first people to read that initial chapter. I was home at lunchtime the day it was uploaded and I was watching my computer for it with hawk-like intensity. (tsm: I love you for your dependability. Tuesdays are my new favorite day of the week.) I read it, went back to the office while deciding what I would say in my review, and by the time I got home that evening, it already had some astoundingly high number of reviews…over a thousand if I’m remembering correctly. Honestly, what more can I add for the author’s benefit? I’m much more likely to spend time writing a review if a fic has a smaller number of reviews. Erinbatt’s “A Chance Encounter" has less than 100 reviews and that story is really starting to heat up. “Leaf Dances" by ShilohPR and “Breaking Edward" by browniechadowes both have fewer than 500. “Dances” has me tied up in knots wondering what’s really wrong with Bella, and “Breaking Edward” is a sweet romance with an OCD Edward. All three stories deserve way more attention.

5. I’m forgetful.

Ok, this is the reason that fills me with the most guilt. I finish reading a highly enjoyable chapter. But now, instead of immediately writing a review, I decide to think about it for a while. I’m conceited enough in my writing that I want my review to be meaningful or helpful, something more than, “I like your story. Please update soon.” It takes me a while to think of everything I want to write in a review since, as everyone knows, reviewers only have one shot per chapter. There have been times, more than I care to admit, where I honestly meant to return and review a chapter, but instead got caught up in another story. Two examples would be “Elemental" and “Eye Contact". I’m ashamed to admit I absolutely adore these two fics (to the point of rereading some of the chapters) and…I’ve never written a review for either one. My bad. (I promise TallulahBelle and silver sniper of night, I will correct this oversight!)

6. I embarrass easily.

I’ll never know how some M-rated authors can write what they do without combusting into red hot flames of embarrassment. I find some stories simply too hot to handle…meaning they’re too hot to review, Silly! Of course I’m gonna read them! Case in point: “Clipped Wings & Inked Armor" by hunterhunting. I reviewed the first couple of chapters, told the author about a typo or two, and everything felt nice and normal. But then the story progressed into something highly sensual and quite graphic. Unfortunately, I’m way too much of a prude to write:

Thank you for this chapter’s incredibly erotic imagery that will translate into smokin’ hot sex later tonight with my husband. Question: If I get my hoohah and both nipples pierced like Bella, would the pleasure actually be great enough to endure the excruciating pain? And wouldn’t I be setting off airport metal detectors right and…ahhh…left? And by the way, you spelled “penis” wrong in the second sentence of the fifth paragraph.

See what I mean? I’m way too inhibited to ever compose something as mortifying as that! So I don’t review CW & IA chapters much anymore. I just pour a glass of wine, put on some soft jazz, make sure the family is well-occupied, get comfy on the couch, and devour her words…hungrily. So that’s my list of excuses for not reviewing, and…Wow! Reading back through them I realized something. My excuses are totally lame! They’re crap! I have been selfishly taking and not giving anything back. I really don’t have any good excuses for not reviewing more. Tell you what; I’m going to try a little experiment. I hereby solemnly vow that for a period of one week, which will be the seven days following when this column appears in TLYDF blog, I will review each and every chapter I read on and on I will no longer be a freeloader, even though (grumble, grumble) this will severely cut into my reading time. If the price of reading a fic is writing a review, I’ll pay it…for one week. I’ll write a future article on how this little experiment turns out. Nothing will stop me from reviewing each and every chapter update I read during that week. My biggest obstacle, in this as in every aspect of my life, will be overcoming the omnipresent excuse #1.

This has been a Fandom Fluffy Moment brought to you by Hoosier Mama.

11/8/2009 #27

I'm pretty new to this whole fanfiction thing. I've made my first foray into writing fanfic (this has given my husband hours of material to make fun of me over) and I've yet to recieve a really pissy review. I've gotten some "why isn't Eric riding to the rescue" or reviews where the reviewers clearly don't see it my way, but nothing really mean.

On the other hand, I don't get a whole lot of reviews. I get a fair number of viewers 1.4k for the last post I put up -- and I got 15 reviews off of that. I figure I'm not giving my readers what they want: Eric & ESN. But hey, it's my story, we'll get back to Eric in a few. And I'm not writing explicit ESN.

Additionally I get more reviews when I ask for them. This leads me to believe that people just forget to review and then don't go back to doing it later.

Oh I will say, sadly (and I'm not sure what this says about me) reviews do encourage me to write more and faster. Otherwise I'm kinda just writing for me and honestly: I know how it ends.

11/8/2009 #28

Hmmm so my post might not be popular because I'm going to play readers advocate, but I thought I'd toss my two cents in :) I have to say I love the SVM community on here, it's so open and friendly. Speaking from a reader's perspective and sometimes writer, I can't stand when I read a terrible story, and by terrible I mean it has a great plot, but the writing is so distracting you can't enjoy the plot. I think everyone knows what I mean, such as: the formatting where everything is one big block of text, the punctuation makes it hard to determine where one sentence ends and the other begins, and a story that's made it obvious the author didn't spare it a second glance before posting. It is one thing if the author just doesn't have the grammatical skills or hasn't strengthened his or her writing muscles. It is an entirely different thing when you know a second read through would have fixed some of the basic issues. Another issue I have is the withholding story chapters for more reviews. I think that's a bit tacky, but again personal opinion :) I would also like to point out, when we click we understand the rules before posting a story (and this is a contract) FF states "I agree to proofread" and "I won't coerce people into reviewing" or something of the sort. I know it's definitely on the FP site and I believe it's on this site as well.

Secondly, the whole "if you don't like a story don't say anything" isn't healthy to the person writing the story. It's like telling our kids you're amazing and can achieve anything you want without coaching them on the steps to take to reach their potential (that's the psych major kicking in). I don't think an author should be flammed for his or her mistakes, but again, constructive criticism should be welcomed regarding grammatical errors, plot holes etc. It's doing a disservice to the writer to say "Good writing!" when it's not. I read a few stories on SVM, and there are several Labyrinth stories that suffer from this, where I can hardly make it through the first page because I don't understand what's going on due to the writing structure. So I click on the reviews to see what constructive criticism everyone else has put in the review so I don't repeat what's been said (of course constructive in an encouraging manner ie. "This doesn't seem to work so well, why don't you try this") and to my astonishment every review says, "Great Job!" "Can't wait for more" or "Easy Reading".

Now it's one thing if the author is just posting for his or her own pleasure and couldn't care less about what others think. However, many of these authors beg for reviews and bemoan the fact no one is reviewing their story. So clearly they want some sort of feedback, and they need to learn to take the good with the bad (not Malanna bad...that's just ridiculous and no one should go through that).

And just so everyone understands, I don't think I'm perfect, heck I've re-read my story I posted on here and cringe at some of the grammatical errors and typos I need to fix (and I'm terrible at commas as this post probably shows, but for my stories I do try to google the rules). But I also have pride and won't post anything until I know it's B+/A- range. I don't think there's anything wrong with constructive criticism (remember not to be confused with blatant hatred/rage posts) , and I think it's irresponsible as reviewers to let an author go on believing they have stellar work (especially because some do talk about going on to professional publishing) when he or she can't even write a sentence. And that's the end of my soapbox :)

11/17/2009 #29

Trixie, you raise some very good points. Unfortunately, too often, a reviewer mistakes insults for constructive criticism. Furthermore, certain comments really are, in my opinion, more appropriate for pm's and not to be left in the public forum where it could embarrass the author. Just as fawning reviews do nothing to help a writer improve, so insults masquerading as criticism do nothing to help. Too often people think the relative anonymity of the internet means they can leave what few manners their parents instilled in them somewhere else. Personally, I think since things like body language, sarcasm, etc., are lost in the ether of the internet, that we need to be even more polite and careful with what we say.

So, for example, a review that says, "wow, this sucks" or "I'm really not enjoying this" does nothing for anyone, except perhaps appease some sadistic streak in the reviewer. However, a pm that says, "Hi, I read your story and while I think it has great potential, some of your grammatical errors are really detracting me from enjoying it. Do you have a beta to help you? Can I perhaps help out, or point you in the right direction?" is a pm that is actually a form of constructive criticism.

A review or pm that simply attacks the story itself? Not really helpful no matter what. Sure, there can be some constructive criticism found in a pm that says, "hmm, interesting, but I think that, perhaps, the story could be strengthened by . . ." could be helpful. On the other hand, usually you are reading a story one chapter at a time, not having first read an outline, and you don't know where the author is going with it. This is something unique to the serialized nature of fanfiction. You wouldn't write a published author a criticism/critique of each chapter of a book, would you?

As for authors withholding chapters . . . I don't find that many authors do that, and certainly not for the purpose of garnering more reviews. I've only done it once, and it was because I was trying to use it as a motivational technique for myself - to force myself to write that next chapter so I could post one I'd already finished. Also, sometimes chapters are backlogged because it takes a beta time to get back to the author. Or, sometimes it happens because an author decides to make changes. For example, I am currently writing a story that is multi-chapter, multi-character, and multi-timeline. The only way to ensure that I don't contradict myself will be to have a store of chapters, go over them carefully, and then release them one at a time. You'd be surprised how often, despite my rereading of a chapter multiple times, and despite the use of one of the best betas out there, I've had a reviewer point out an error that contradicts with a previous chapter. Fixing the one chapter you've just put out is much easier than having to pull an entire story because "oops" you blew your own cannon.

I don't mean this to sound like an attack on Trixie's post. Far from it. I agree with constructive criticism, but that means it has to be constructive and not just destructive. I also think that there are different aspects to the methods in which authors choose to put out their stories. Finally, I believe that in this day and age of anonymity we need to take extra effort to be polite to each other.

Just MHO.

11/17/2009 #30
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