Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reviews...the Crack Cocaine of FanFiction

When I first started writing fanfiction just over a year ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  But only days into publishing my first story did I get my initiation into the addictiveness of those little, tiny e-mail notifications that let you know that someone has left you a review.

Now, I'll be honest, my first story got very little reviews and those e-mails were few and far between, but they were like gold when I did get them.  A few months into my journey, I started conversing with Zyra.  Of course, we discussed reviews (or the lack of them).  In fact, my very first correspondence with Zyra was to thank her for her nice reviews and apologize to her for not leaving her any (she still likes to rub that in occasionally).

Yes, I had been a horrible lurker for at least five or six months, reading and enjoying but never reviewing.  Zyra's stories having been some of the ones I had read and loved.  I had 'favorited' her stories, which I reasoned was just the same, but no.  No it isn't.  It wasn't until I began publishing that I realized the importance of a review.

I can still remember my hesitation over reviewing when I was just lurking back then.  I looked at all the writers out there as people who were secure enough to publish a story so they obviously had to know that it was good without some unknown reader out there letting them know that, right?  Well, that may be true for some but I really don't think I'm in the minority when I say as a writer those reviews are just a very treasured commodity.  I guess the little traffic counters of could be maybe just the equivalent of nicotine or alcohol.  They are nice and slightly addictive, but just don't have the same effect as a written review.  (Please don't think I'm a crack head - I'm really not - it's just a metaphor.  Not that there's anything wrong with being a crack head.  But I digress.)

As writers, I think we of all people should appreciate the importance of a review.  I know since I joined your ranks, I've made it a must-do when I read a story that I like.  So what if I don't like it?  I thought of that just as I was typing it.  I won't say that if I don't review it means I don't like it, because there is a lot out there that I just have not had the time to read and review.  Especially all the stories I read back as a lurker and should still probably go back and review.  But I will say that if I don't have anything good to say, I usually just refrain.  Is that right?  I think it is.

There was a profile page of a writer that I can't remember who it was now, but she basically said that if you want to provide constructive criticism on her story because you liked it but had found some small flaws or had suggestions to make it better than that was fine.  But if you read it and you didn't like her story line, didn't agree with her characterizations and basically disagreed with the premise of her story, then just walk away and let it be.  She asked not to give a review that would basically cause her to rewrite her story to please you.  If you wanted to see a different story line, then go and write your own story.

I remember when I first read this person's profile page, I was a little taken aback.  But, you know what?  I actually agree with her and that's what I do with my reviews, and I'm fine if people do the same with my stories.

I guess that was all I had to say.  Here's a bonus pic.  Um, yeah.  Leia's one lucky Princess... 


  1. I kind of feel the opposite about reviews vs. favorites. I review a lot these days (because I know how nice it is to GET a review!), but I don't add many stories to my favorites. Of course my username is added to a review as well, but I feel that by adding a story to my favorites, I'm not only telling the author that I like it, but recommending it to OTHER people. As a reader too, I find that stories with lost of reviews may be really excellent...or may just feature a popular pairing or scenario, or be by an author who has lots of friends. If I see a story on the favorites list of a reader or writer whose opinion I respect, though, I've found that it's more likely to be a good read than something with 900 reviews.

    I do agree that you shouldn't comment on the fact that you just don't like the premise of the story. I think I've only had one review like that. It was for a different fandom, for a story clearly marked "angst" and rated M, and the reviewer basically said I shouldn't write about death and evilness, and should give her favorite characters a happy ending. That didn't really BOTHER me, because it wasn't anything specific about my writing style or characterizations or anything, but I did kind of wonder why she read the story at all, why she continued to the end when she saw the dark tone it took from the beginning, and why she THEN bothered to tell me that she didn't like the genre I usually write. *shrug*

    I wouldn't mind being told that certain parts of the story seem out of character, or that it's not clearly explained how we get to this point from where we left canon...since those are things that I wonder about myself, and I've definitely posted things that were clear to ME, but I wasn't sure if they would seem logical to anyone else (Han and Leia in my last chapter, which you reviewed so kindly, for example...I didn't get quite as much flack for that as I expected though. ;) )

  2. I would agree that plot should sort of be left alone in reviews. I've told you guys I am not into slash, but what good would it do me (or anyone) to leave reviews for those stories saying, "I don't like slash, you shouldn't put Han and Luke together." Obviously there are people out there who DO like it and those are the kinds of people who should be reading and reviewing those stories. It's the same thing as if the slash people came to my stories and started telling me how they just don't see Han and Leia winding up together. Really not much point in "reviewing" like that.

    Interesting, Hikari, that you kind of prefer favorites to reviews. I myself have very few favorites on my profile page. Though I know there are people out there who have literally hundreds. That blows my mind because who has time to read that much? But anyway... I feel like I need to be careful with going overboard favoriting stuff. If you have like 10 favorites then it would seem to me that those stories really said something to you and were especially enjoyable. See, if someone favorites my story and I look at their profile and they have 500 favorite stories, well, that just doesn't mean as much to me. I feel like they are probably pretty much just favoriting any story they even just READ. I get what you're saying about recommending stuff to other people and I know I've found some stuff that way, but as a writer, it just doesn't mean as much to me as a review.

    So, yes, if I get a story favorited by someone who hasn't left a review, I wonder why they couldn't take 15 extra seconds to say SOMETHING nice about it and WHY it is one of their favorites. Otherwise, honestly, sometimes it feels like you're talking to thin air. I got a review the other day for the first time in quite a while and even for a story I finished writing a very long time ago, and it just totally made me smile. Anyone who doesn't write has no idea how great it feels when someone takes the time to say something nice about your story. And again, this is why I do my best to say nice things about stories I've read.

    Number of reviews does make a difference to me at least checking a story out. I think that is a lot more obvious and easy to look up than people's favorites.

    Reviews are HUGE motivation to keep writing. The more stuff you post the more you want to keep writing. It's always tough in the beginning because nobody knows who you are and might be reluctant to try reading. But reviews definitely let you know that not only are people reading, but they LIKE it. It makes a huge difference.

    Ah, yes, Push sent me a message saying she was sorry she didn't review my stories. And then I told her "It's never too late." She did not seem to take the hint.... But seriously, it's NEVER too late. For any of you who have written, even if you posted a story three years ago do you think it wouldn't make you just as happy to suddenly get a new review? I know I'd still smile.

  3. Well, maybe I should clarify what I said a little bit. As a reader, adding a story to my favorites means more than reviewing it. For example, I reviewed quite a few (not all, I think, but more than half?) chapters of "A Certain Point of View," but I didn't add it to my favorites until the end. No offense to Push or anything, but some stories DO fizzle out halfway through and I wanted to make sure that the whole thing was worth recommending before I favorited it.

    But...I do agree with Zyra that it also matters who is doing the favoriting. If my story's one of ten on someone's favorites list, and some of their other favorites are works that I respect, that's hugely flattering. If it's one of three hundred and the other 299 aren't anything special, it doesn't mean much, and may not even mean that the person's read it (I know some people use their story alerts as a "to read" list, those people with 300 favorites may be doing the same thing?)

    And even though I think that (to someone who's selective with their favorites) being added as a favorite is a huge compliment, I'm happier to GET a well written review than a favorite. But happier to get a favorite than a "Good, please update." A thoughtful review says "I liked it, this is why" (or, "I liked it, except..."), a favorite says, "I liked it, and I liked it enough to have it on my profile page." "Good please update" just says "I liked it," depends on the review and on the favorites list, which is more flattering, I guess. :)

    I'm guilty of not reviewing "Forgotten Needs" yet either...I will review, I promise. Sometimes it's really easy to think of something to say. Sometimes there's nothing nice TO say. Sometimes your reaction to a story is so complicated that it takes awhile to come up with a readers, I guess the important thing is not to forget that last group, but to put in the time to write something!

  4. Well, in looking at my "stats" page on I noticed that one of my stories in particular, possibly the one I'm most proud of, has more than twice as many favorites as reviews. It's kind of irritating when only 9 people out of hundreds or sometimes thousands of people that have clicked on it took the time to say something. Maybe they didn't like it or didn't even finish reading, but it makes me feel like if anyone is looking for something to read, no matter how favorable the reviews, seeing so few of them might make them less likely to take a look.

    Of course one of my stories has only four reviews. But I knew that one wasn't really worthwhile when I put it up! Probably falls under the nothing nice TO say category ;)

    I try to give what I like to receive, which are thoughtful reviews rather than just telling the person I liked it. But I'll take whatever I can get