Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Art of The Review

If fan fiction were its own nation, reviews would be the currency.

The above statement is one I would venture to guess almost every author (and probably reader) of fan fiction could agree with. Writers love it when readers leave them a review at the end of a chapter. After all, what human doesn’t like to receive some type of acknowledgment after working hard on something? Reviews are a way for authors to know what people loved, what they hated, what stuck even after the chapter ended, and whether or not the plot bunny in question will carry out like the Energizer rabbit or fizzle away relatively quickly.

Unfortunately reviews are also a way for authors to get hurt, to lose motivation, and sometimes they’re one of the driving factors in an author choosing to pull and discontinue his or her story.

I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic by any means, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m still relatively new to the whole fan fiction game (I only started posting a year ago). I have been told, however, that I write good reviews that critique without being cruel and that offer praise and suggestions when applicable. That being said, I was more than happy to volunteer to cover this topic. It also happens to be an area I’m pretty vocal about and that I sometimes struggle with as a writer (I think we’ve all wanted to throw our computers out the window after reading a scathing review).

When it comes to reviews, there’s the good, and then there’s the bad and the ugly (which I like to group together). There can be some good in a bad/ugly review, and some bad/ugly in a good review, but for the most part, when I think of reviews, a few common characteristics come to mind for each of these groups.

A good review…

Highlights what the reader liked. It doesn’t have to contain paragraph after paragraph of praises for the author, but if a certain phrase, scene, character, or moment struck your fancy, don’t hesitate to share that! Authors always know what they liked best about a chapter, but every time we click “post new chapter” we’re left wondering if readers will love what we loved or if they’ll completely hate everything we’ve written. I don’t believe in nor am I a fan of stroking someone’s ego, but it’s nice to know that the time spent writing meant something to someone outside of our small writing bubble.

Critiques, but does so in a constructive manner. I’m sure we’ve all read (and some may have even written) a scathing review in which the author gets chewed up and spit out over grammatical errors, portions of the plot, a character’s features, or another detail from the story. I understand and love the fact that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but there is a respectful way to deliver that opinion, even when it isn’t a positive one. Rather than saying something like, “This Bella is such a spoiled bitch and if I were Edward or any other male character in the story I’d run far, far away,” a reader could say, “Bella hasn’t exactly been the poster child for respect when it comes to how she treats Edward. I wonder if he’ll stay with her or if he’ll end up leaving?” Delivery is just as important as content when it comes to reviewing, and good reviews are delivered in a tactful manner. 

Reviews the story, not the author.
Making comments on a writer’s style and skills is one thing – reviewing the author’s character is entirely different. They’re not common (thank goodness!), but I have seen the occasional review that gives a rundown on the author’s character but pays no mind to the story itself. Perhaps an author has made a comment on Facebook or Twitter that you don’t agree with, or they replied to a review in a less-than-tactful manner. It’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to want to say something to them, but there is a time and a place where that is appropriate, and it’s not in the review section. A large number of fan fiction authors are also set up on some social networking site, and can be reached privately there to discuss wrong doings. In addition, popular sites such as FanFiction.net and The Writer’s Coffee Shop provide readers with the option to send authors private messages (PMs) if they choose to. The fandoms are a place where people come to enjoy something they love, not a place to foster judgment and hate. Readers and writers alike are responsible for keeping things that way.

Is passionate. Did a particular part of a story or a scene in a chapter leave you feeling incredibly happy, sad, angry, or excited? Tell the author that! If a piece of writing can elicit strong emotions from readers, it means the author is doing something right. Readers are very quick to tell an author what he or she is doing wrong, but it’s a far less common occurrence for us to hear when we’ve done something that really left a mark. As always, classy review is better than a trashy one, and being tactful in your delivery is a good thing.

A bad/ugly review…

Is filled with one rude sentiment after another. Spending twenty minutes writing a review that tells the author how terrible the plot is, how the characters are all stupid/dull/stereotypical/any other irritating quality, how the author’s update schedule isn’t what the reader wants, etc. etc. is not only rude, but it’s also not tasteful at all. Just because someone posts their work and puts everything out there does not mean readers have the right to be disrespectful. If you’re filled with that much hatred for a particular story, perhaps it’s best to simply stop reading.

Is written with the intention of hurting the author. Wait, what’s that you say? You don’t like a particular author? You don’t like the person who betas a story? So what? Move on! Don’t spend your time composing a deliberately nasty review simply because you dislike the individual behind the story. Find a different story to read or connect with an author that you do like. By composing a vile review, you’ve done nothing but caused an author to waste a minute reading the review and another five or ten minutes stewing over it, and you’ve wasted your own time that could have been spent doing something more constructive or enjoyable. There are thousands of stories from hundreds of fandom’s out there to read. Why spend even a minute being callous when you could be busy falling in love with one of them?

Are demanding. Telling an author to “please update soon” is one thing. Demanding that they “update or I won’t read this story anymore” is completely bogus. Fan fiction authors write for free. They take time out of their schedules (some of which are already jam packed) to work on and post stories that readers can enjoy. They aren’t required to post a specific number of words or chapters at a set frequency. Each and every one of us has a life outside of the realm of fan fiction. Authors and readers are also students, professionals, parents, husbands, and wives, and have daily activities to attend to. Be patient. If you’re curious about the status of a particular story, send the author a message or a tweet. If you feel like you just can’t wait anymore, put the story on alert, add it to your list of fics to be read in the future, and move on to the next piece. Providing an author with nonstop proverbial kicks in the ass usually does not have a positive or desired effect on the story.

Tells the author how to write the story. These reviews may very well be some of the most infuriating ones authors have to read. Our stories are like our babies; we all work hard to craft a set of characters and a plot line that we can fill with scenes and situations our minds dream up. To have a reader come along and tell us that something should have happened a different way or that two characters should not be in a relationship with one another is the last thing we want to hear. It’s even more difficult to stomach it when the reviewer has never written anything of his or her own. In a perfect world, everyone who wanted Joey to end up with Dawson could have pushed a button on his or her remote to hand-craft an alternate ending. Unfortunately that was not how the writers of Dawson’s Creek wanted things to come to an end, and it was their story to tell, not the audience’s to write. Be respectful of the creativity people choose to share with you. And if you really want to see a fic where Bella ends up with Jacob and Edward falls off a cliff … open your word processing program and start writing! The fan fiction universe is an ever-expanding one, and we’re always happy to accept new writers!

This list could go on and on, and I’m sure that some of you will have more to offer up down in the comments section on the post. But for those who are new to the game – or even those who are seasoned veterans – I think this is a good place to start.

Reviews are a touchy subject for most, but they don’t always have to be. With a little time, attention, and some TLC, readers can craft reviews that not only express their thoughts on a story, but also provide the author with some constructive criticism, and maybe even include a few humorous points as well!

I’ll leave you with my definition of the “3 R’s”: read, review, and most importantly, respect.

Happy reviewing!

Author: Nikki Storebo, Guest Blogger


Excellent start and every word was true.
I personally don't write for reviews but I would be lying if I said i didn't feel a twinge of nervouseness if it has been twenty four hours since I updated and I hadn't gotten at least one! I never try to let that stop me from updating though.
I personally review every chapter I read on whatever site I am reading on because I know as a writer I appreciate it and would think the next author would too.
Another good tool to utilize is thd sandwich method. Positive-Negative-Positive. Start the review with what you like. Then address something you didn't like, confused you, or whatever negative but always conclude with a positive. Its not about strocking the ego but letting the author know how they can grow but that they aren't all bad!
Happy reviewing!!!

Another good tool to utilize is thd sandwich method. Positive-Negative-Positive. Start the review with what you like. Then address something you didn't like, confused you, or whatever negative but always conclude with a positive. Its not about strocking the ego but letting the author know how they can grow but that they aren't all bad!

Exactly Challah! I never write for reviews, the story is always for me, but it's impossible to not get a bit apprehensive if nobody wants to say a word.

I love the sandwich method! What a great idea! I will have to try that in a review in the future!


I write because I can't help it. But hell if I am not edgy one I put it all out there.

It feels like... I am wasting my time when I could be writing something else.

The other kind of review that I think is kind of bad is the two or three word review. "Good, More please" ugh I think... what was so good about it?

Writers are sooooo critical of their own work that "Good, more please" just doesn't work for us.

Though an ocasional one word response of "Wow" does the trick sometimes. LOL

I'm not a writer but I read a lot of ff. I didn't review until this year because I think I don't have any right to comment really. It's their story, they can write whatever they want but then some writer include in their a/n almost begging for reviews or they don't write. The same writer also rant about some not nice reviewers. I think as a writer you have to have thick skin, not everyone will love your story and you have to have take the good and the bad. Ranting about it in a/n is like high school, "look everybody this guy wrote nasty review, comfort me". I will have. More respect for a writer who didn't respond in a/n. You have your chat rooms to discuss things with fellow writers and besides we are just readers not professional reviewers, all we can say sometimes is I like this chapter. Sometimes it's just the feeling. I also find it confusing when writers said I write for my self but then asking for reviews but only expecting good reviews. When I start reviewing this year, I was very mindful of what I write because i'm scared of writerre responds but we are also normal people who are govern by our emotions . So, sometimes the reviews are emotional especially after you follow a story for many chapters, reading everything and the story just doesn't come to your expectation and you waste your time reading it. Also, please don't say write your own story because not everyone can be a writer otherwise there'll be more crap stories out there. It is very confusing this ff world, to review or not and what to say, will this hurt the writer if i'm being honest.


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