Author has written 20 stories for Lord of the Rings, Fairy Tales, Batman Begins/Dark Knight, Harry Potter, Outsiders, Twilight, StarTrek: The Original Series, Queen's Thief series, and Magnificent Seven.
For a lighthearted, fantasy adventure story, check out my original (co-authored) novel, The Magi Letters, currently being serialized on my blog (click the homepage link!).
Let’s face it – writing a review is not the most fun thing in the world to do. It can be hard to come up with a comment that’s not the same thing you’ve already said a million times. But those little comments, even the repetitive ones, are incredibly important to fan fiction writers, no matter whether they write quickly or slowly, whether they have lots of experience or are just beginning, and even whether they already have lots of reviews or none at all.
Those of us who write fan fiction aren’t going to be rewarded for it. We can’t make money off of it, we aren’t going to get a Pulitzer for the best story of the year, and we don’t even have the thrill of knowing that this thing we’re writing is our own – it’s based on somebody else’s original work. So why do we do it? Why do we spend hours and days writing these ridiculous stories? It’s because we have become entranced by a good story, and we don’t want it to end. We are desperate to let the fun continue.
Fan fiction writers do not have to publish their stories. I have known talented and prolific people who keep their writing private. But those of us who do publish do it because we don’t want the story to end for other people, either – we want them to share in this vision we have. It’s a risk to publish – we risk being ignored, being criticized, and being flamed. In return for taking these risks, we need some confirmation that our vision is being shared, that other people love this story too. Sure, we enjoy getting advice on how to improve our writing, and we like to be told that we’re good writers, but at bottom, what we want more than either of those two things is to know that there are people reading who understand why we’ve gotten so caught up in this story and these characters. This is what gives us the reason and the courage to keep writing.
I’m sure that most of you reading this do leave at least some reviews, and if you’re anything like me, after you read the above paragraphs you felt guilty about not having reviewed that last chapter you read. The truth is, no matter how much we promise ourselves we’re going to review, we’re just not going to make the effort for every single chapter of every single story we look at. I know that I don’t, and I just preached a sermon on the importance of reviewing! But there are three times you should always review.
1) When the story you just read has absolutely NO reviews. Usually (but not always) these kinds of stories aren’t very good. Don’t lie to the author and say the writing is good when it’s not, but politely give your honest opinion and try to suggest some way the story can improve. Even if your opinion isn’t completely positive, your review will mean A LOT to that writer – the knowledge that someone has noticed your writing is a gift you can’t put a price tag on.
2) When you’re following a story over a period of time. Even if you don’t review every update, you should write one at least every two or three chapters, to let the author know s/he is not writing into a vacuum – that there are people who are enjoying and thinking about the story and want to know what happens next. The more people an author knows are reading, the more s/he will feel an obligation – like they’ve signed a contract with the readers to get to the end.
3) When you really like a story. How many of you choose what stories to read based on the total number of reviews and the number of reviews compared to the number of chapters? (We all do it. I know I'm not the only one who wishes this site had a “sort by number of reviews” function.) Leaving a review is like casting a vote for a story. Pushing up the review count is a form of advertising to other readers on the site, like saying, “This is a good story, you should try it.”
I’m not just saying this for myself (although I love to watch that review count go up), but for all my fellow fan fiction writers and readers. Writing a review is ultimately doing yourself a favor – good reviewers make motivated authors who write better stories which make readers happier. It's easier to be a lurker than a good reviewer, but if you make the effort, it will come back to you in the end.
If you have any questions or comments about this article, please PM me.