Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Reluctance to Review Sexy Time (...and Most Everything Else)

Let's take a ten minute break from all of this Episode 7 talk, shall we?  And let's talk a little bit about fan fiction, since it's been a while.  We've got a great mix of people on this site.  People who write, people who just read, people who write and read.  Probably not people who only write because that would be sort of strange and self indulgent.  But anyway, I know there are plenty of readers who have not posted stories either because they aren't writers and don't want to be, or maybe they're too shy to post anything or they just plain don't have time.  That's fine.  Nothing wrong with just reading along and enjoying it if you have no aspirations to write anything yourself.

So for those of you who don't write, you might not quite understand the kinds of things we go through as writers.  It's probably easy to imagine us at our computers typing away and spending time writing and editing our stories.  Sometimes a considerable amount of work can go into it, or sometimes I know I've written a story in twenty minutes and just gotten the silly idea out of my head and posted it before I came to my senses.  We do it just because we enjoy doing it.

So what do we get out of posting these stories?  Obviously not money.  I really wish almost anything I enjoy in life would actually produce a viable income, but so far, not so good.  I honestly don't think we do it for the accolades, either.  We mostly just do it because we enjoy it.  But, I will say that it is a heck of a lot more fun posting stories when you get some sort of acknowledgment.  Or, more accurately, I would say that is often what keeps us writing. 

I'm sure I've said it before, but to those of you who don't write, you have no idea what it means to a writer to get even just a few kinds words about something you're written.  Obviously the ultimate is when people point out several specific things that they liked, but even just taking two seconds to write that you enjoyed something can be meaningful.  When a story is posted on fanfiction.net we can check and see how many people read it.  We see the traffic stats.  We get notifications when people favorite or follow a story.  You wouldn't believe how many people favorite stories without ever saying a word to the author about why they might have enjoyed it. 

My favorite little quirk of the reviewing of fanfic is the fact that it seems like people are extremely reluctant to review sexy time fics.  Or, within a larger story, the sexy time chapters.  Even more fun is the fact that you can break the traffic stats down quite specifically and without fail the adult rated stories/chapters get far more hits than anything else, and they are almost always the least reviewed stories or chapters.  No, we don't know which people are reading the chapters, but we do know they get looked at quite a bit. 

So what is it that keeps people from reviewing these chapters?  Is it embarrassment?  Seriously, go look at almost any story on ff.net that is basically just a little sex scene, like the quickie challenge stories.  They rarely get many reviews.  I've many times posted a sex chapter in a larger story expecting to get some sort of response and then gotten.... basically none.  You can even see it on here in our first joint story, or even the second one, when we post some sexy time and only like two or three people are brave enough to step forward and admit not only that they read it, but that they liked it. 

We already know you read these scenes.  We know you all like them because the general trend according to traffic stats is that you actively seek them out specifically.  Come on, we're all (mostly) adults and we can admit that sometimes we feel like reading some sexy time.  So why are we so afraid to admit it?  Especially since this whole thing is anonymous!  A few of us here and there have met each other (and Push and I both think this is awesome, because we suspect without this blog not only would we have never met, but several of the rest of you who have met up) but for the most part, nobody knows you beyond a made up name and maybe a silly avatar, so go ahead and tell people that you thought that scene where Han and Leia did it in the shower was hot and you enjoyed it. 

For those of us who write, I'm pretty sure that the general consensus is that these are the most difficult scenes to write, and certainly the most difficult scenes to actually share with the "world."  I'm probably not the only one who winces when I click to post such scenes or stories.  I don't even know why, really.  It's just somehow more difficult to do than most other scenes.  I should really get over that because in my experience, you tend not to get much of a reaction at all.  Not good or bad, just nothing.  Or one or two comments, often from people you talk to all of the time anyway so they just feel obligated to review for you. 

So come on out and admit it that you don't review these scenes.  Do you feel weird admitting you like to read about sex?  Have you met someone who doesn't?  Or maybe you don't like the scenes and are just trying to refrain from saying anything at all because if you can't say anything nice, then you should just keep quiet. 

Aside from just the sex scenes, really, please take the time to review if you can.  If you enjoy reading fanfic, and you enjoyed reading a particular fanfic, let the person know.  If we post and nobody says anything, it starts to feel an awful lot like you're talking to yourself.  At which point, what's the point of publishing anyway?  And reviews make the author more excited about writing in general.  So if you enjoy something, review it!  And don't be afraid to review the sexy stuff either.  We already know you read it.


  1. I know all about not reviewing stuff, because for a good few years I was reluctant to leave comments for anything. I think the main justification for this was that I didn't think I had anything important to say, so best not bother. But having long seen the error of my ways I now know that even if you don't have anything important to say, just saying you liked it is all it needs and that's enough to make an author happy and think that writing is worthwhile.

    Of course, now that I am a writer myself, I can fully appreciate the wonderful feeling of someone saying that what you've written is good. Unless you've written a fic, I don't think you will ever know how just a couple of complimentary words can mean so much.

  2. Good post, Zyra. I can attest to what you say. My two stories with the highest number of hits are M rated and have the lowest number of reviews. So thank you for the reminder. I don’t think people realize what a few nice words can mean to author. Even a “that was hot” would be great to hear. And it’s very encouraging to know that others are enjoying my work. The best way to know they are is through reviews. And it’s funny that the sexy time stories will sometimes get a ton of favorites but not many reviews.

    Wanted to remind people that a lot of times you can review anonymously on fanfiction.net. It’s up to the author to allow anonymous reviews. If they do, you could log out of your account and post as a guest. Then no one know who it was.

    I know I am guilty of not reviewing at times. A lot of times it’s because Darth Real Life got in the way and I’m behind in reviewing. Occasionally it’s been because I’m not sure what to say. But I like to encourage the authors that I enjoy reading if I can. Got to keep my Han/Leia fix going. ;)

  3. Ahhhh, my days of lurking, how far behind me they are. I have previously admitted how shamelessly I lurked when I first found fanfiction. Maybe it was because there were already so many reviews or the story was already so old by the time I found it that I didn't think the author would care about hearing from me. Mostly, I think it was because I was too intimidated by their writing to think that I had anything meaningful to say about it. And as for sexy time? Well...you know.

    But now I do know how important it is to give feedback, even if it is just an "I really enjoyed this". Even on older stories and stories that already have many reviews. It still feels good and it still matters and (most importantly) it still inspires and encourages the fragile egos of these people that call themselves writers.


  4. Well, I am heavily guilty. I admit it. I first discovered XF fic in high school and never even thought to review. I didn't even put the author on the documents I saved. It wasn't until I was reading and writing DH fic that I started reviewing.

    Now, I'm 'better' though. I make sure to get author names in there, and I posted more comments/reviews for H/L than I ever did for all the fics I read in my high school/college years combined. I'm still not good enough, and I'm tasting my own medicine seeing people read my non H/L fics, and the staggering contrast between reads and reviews, if any.

    I get nervous about reviewing because I want to sound intelligent and give some articulate feedback. I write and reread through my reviews before posting them, worried they'll sound silly or stupid. (So, all those silly/stupid sounding reviews you find from me were actually really thought out remarks.) That's a poor excuse, I know because I'm sure you're just happy to hear "I loved it" or "Great work." I'm getting better. I've been going through my favorites to make sure they're all reviewed. I think a problem that might come up, though, is that I copy and paste the fics I'm interested in and read them possibly days to weeks later. This causes a disconnect, probably. You're not at someone's page post reading their work. You're reading it on your nook or microsoft word and don't have the immediate ability to comment/review. So, some of us can be lazy and not review because there's a distance between the writer's post and how/when/where we're reading it. Yet, again, an explanation, but a very poor excuse, I know. I'll be trying to more reviewing, though, I promise.

    I don't differ in writing reviews for sexy time or not sexy time, though, I can see why people would. You're right, though. These are the hardest scenes to write and get the least vocalized positive responses. And, we all are under assumed names. Who'll ever know we stated our enjoyment except some hard working fic author, right?

  5. Well Zyra knows how I struggle with commenting... I have to tamp down my "editor" voice when reviewing fanfic because ff authors don't need or want a real editor. They do this for fun not sales. So I tend to err on the side of don't critique rather than driving some poor ff author away from the boards because I was as brutal with them as I was back when I edited for scifi mags and books.

    That said, I realized a few years ago that some poor fledgling authors with promise just needed that "nice job" or "I enjoyed that" to give them a boost to keep working. So I stopped lurking and started giving some feedback to those I felt had real promise. I do still struggle with giving meaningful critique that isn't going to sound harsh but I am trying more.

  6. Don't think I don't recognize the irony in people not commenting on the post about not commenting!

  7. A few comments, first generally on reviewing/commenting and then on sexytime from a relatively new and still sporadic commenter ...

    First, I am very concerned about keeping this side of me and my real identity separate. I am sure many of you can understand. This is probably what took me so long to leave lurkdom in the first place. I have a completely separate email account - not linked in any way to my other email accounts - for this profile. To comment on a post, I have to sign out, sign back in, comment - making sure the entire time that I haven't somehow screwed it up and and that my real name will show up here (as it did for someone the other day), sign out, and then finally sign back in to my "real" email account. With Google and others (facebook) on this constant push to "link" everything, I am very vigilant about this. To be frank, sometimes I am lazy and just don't feel like doing all of that to comment, especially if the comment is just "nice job." I particularly do not like losing access to my main email account - even if for a few minutes. I still haven't really figured out how to sign in to fanfiction.net safely - hence no reviews there yet.

    Second, sometimes I have so much I would like to say, but I know I don't have enough time to write it all out. So, combined with #1, I don't write anything. The idea also that sometimes long comments are "lost" and have to be redone is also discouraging.

    Third, sometimes, I just don't have a comment. Honestly. For real.

    Fourth, there is a fairly strong informal norm to not ever provide any negative or even constructive feedback for stories in this community (the H/L community). OK, I get that. I respect that. I also read - as I am sure many of you do - a lot of stories that are just not good and good stories that have bad parts. The contradiction is then that everyone wants comments and reviews, but they only want good ones. I am just not going to say "nice job" if I don't think it is one. Since I also - due to the social norms of this community - can't say "good job, but in this part, maybe this could have been different/better if blah blah blah," the result is by and large I don't say anything. So yes, I guess sometimes silence means I didn't like your story.

  8. had to break into 2 comments for length!

    Fifth, I absolutely cannot stand it when - and thus will not indulge any - authors threaten not to write or not to finish a story if no one comments. And a lot of people do this. Don't. If you are only writing fanfic for feedback from anonymous strangers on the internet and are so insecure that you threaten not to finish a story without reviews, then I think you have serious issues. And I am just not going to reward that behavior with reviews. While I have not attempted fanfic yet, I do other things in my life (blogging, spots, music) that I do for me and the enjoyment it brings me. I'd do it regardless of whether anyone every came to my game/concert or commented on my blog. So the idea of threatenting to stop if no one notices or comments is at best immature and boorish and at worst quite offensive to me. I don't mind so much authors asking for or encouraging reviews (though even that gets old sometimes), but the threats really bother me.

    Sixth, well OK, maybe all the trolling for reviews/comments does bother me a bit. I mean, I'll comment if I want to. Stop harasssing me and making me feel guilty for not. The guilt factor may actually make it harder for people to change their behavior of lurking.

    Seventh, whenever a new person comments, there is always some attention ("haven't seen you here before" etc.) You are a welcoming bunch, yes, but comments like that actually reinforce the ingroup/outgroup norms and may actually discourage new people from jumping in because they know it will be a "big deal" when they actually do.

    Eighth and final, sexytime... I don't know that I comment any less for sexytime, but here's my theory: How many of you look at porn on the Internet? None or not many, right? That's because THIS IS OUR PORN! And commenting on sexytime would be admitting this, and most people don't want to admit to themselves or others that they experience or enjoy it.

    And with all that, I will try to be better about reviews and comments in the future.

  9. #9: Technical difficulties - mutliple posts, erased posts. I think I have fixed this now.

    1. Not your fault, they were spammed, I unspammed them, erased your deleted ones. You're good now :)

  10. For some reason it was flagging your comments as spam, I rescued them :)

    I can relate to your first point. Actually, and there are probably a few of you who caught this before I deleted it, I accidentally posted something meant for my "real" blog here. The one that is posted under my true identity. There wasn't anything 100% identifying in it unless you actually knew who I was, but I am familiar with the panic that can set in about the chance of being found out. I get that.

    As for the idea that you can't say anything negative, I'm not sure this should be true. Now, I will admit that sometimes something is just truly bad. Really almost nothing good can be said and you know that saying so isn't going to change anything, so there's no point. However, sometimes someone will write a good story but there are just some things in it that are either simple grammar mistakes or it's just not written in a good way or maybe you think something needs to be changed. To me, if you can tell that the author otherwise actually has potential, it's worth pointing these things out. I could be totally wrong here, but that's my feeling. And, in fact, that is precisely WHY Push and I became "friends" online. She was writing a story, I was reading it and could tell she had real potential but just needed some help with a few little things. So I'd point out several positives in the story, but I'd also say something like, "Hey, but next time maybe..." or whatever. She probably hated me at first, but then she thanked me and asked me to beta her stuff, and now she's way, way better at this than I am. I think if a writer is mature enough, they will be able to understand WHY you are saying something and not just get all pissy because you dared to say anything "bad" about their "perfect" story. You do have to pick what you are criticizing though. I try and limit it to story structure issues or grammar stuff (which I'll sometimes point out through PM instead) because if you start saying to someone that something is out of character, then they might just not see it like you do. Although I may have said something like that once or twice, but never directly contradictory. More like, "Wow, I wouldn't have seen Leia responding that way..." or something. I think we do oursevles a disservice if we only allow blind praise comments. It doesn't get us anywhere.

    I also despise it when people threaten not to finish a story because people aren't reviewing. Yes, it sucks not to get comments. But don't blackmail your readers by witholding chapters. Post it because YOU want to. It may or may not get comments. That's just the way it goes. I myself sometimes mention to readers in an author's note that if you like something, please just tell me.

    I never really thought about calling someone out for being a first time reviewer as being a bad thing. I've always enjoyed when new people come out to play. We were all there once. Yes, there can appear to be an "inner circle" kind of vibe in these communities but we're all here talking about the same stuff and it's always good to hear from some new people. After acknowledging a new person, I don't think I ever say anything else after that about them being new, they just continue on in conversation.

    And you caught me, this is my porn ;) Seriously, sometimes I have to remind myself that I shouldn't really be embarrassed about this because just about everyone has "porn" of some sort that they look at on the internet, and this is probably one of the less embarrassing versions.

  11. The irony wasn't lost on me. ;)

    The negative review or constructive criticism is kind of a strange beast. On one hand, I'm fine if it's constructive. But because the web is anonymous, people think that gives them a license to just blast other people if they feel like it. Maybe not in this fandom, but look at some of the comments on CNN and the like. It also makes it harder for me to judge how the other person will take any criticism. So it's just easier not to say anything at all than risk a flame war.

    I would agree that we should write and post because we want to and not for accolades. But it is nice to know that people are at least reading and enjoying. Would we keep writing if there wasn't an audience? Would any of us give a concert if we knew no one was going to come? I don't think society is engineered that way and we'd probably find something else to do with our time. Just a thought.

    I get you on the new poster thing. Thanks for weighing in on that. I just get excited when there is someone else joining in the fray. :) Certainly don't intend to make someone feel uncomfortable.

    Lol. This is most definitely our porn.

  12. I procrastinate. I always want to say more than just 'great!', even though I'm sure most people would be happy to receive it, I feel like I cheated someone out of an actual review. A lot of times, I have problems turning my critical thoughts into words. I can sit there for while and eventually I give up and intend on doing it later. Then later sometimes never comes.

    Not a good behavior, but I'm working on it. Boo.

  13. Actually, speaking of this being our porn, have any of you tried to read adult stories in other fandoms? I'm sure some of you are more well rounded than I am, but for me, I just don't care if it's anyone but Han and Leia. Seriously, there has to be something wrong with me! "Oh, there are stories on the internet about OTHER couples having sex? Um, so what?"

    I'm quite monogamous ;)

    1. Oh this is sooo true! I've tried other couples and it just doesn't work, not even slightly. There's just something inexplicably hot about Han and Leia having sex.

    2. Everything else is zzzzzz for me as well.

  14. Wow, so I'm like one of the specials who review always when I have something nice to say! :D No matter sex stuff or not, nobody knows me anyway... Besides, who goes to analyse the reviews like "Hmmmmm, who might that person be..."

    But that was a good advice to tell what part you like particularly. I haven't thought about that. One reason when I haven't always reviewed is that I thought I have nothing important to say or somebody else said it already. But now I understand it's important to the author to know if it's many people who likes that or just one person. And it's probably easier to find something "important" to say when you tell what parts you liked the most.