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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

On Reviewing

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

On Reviewing

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art not war
Reviewing (meaning leaving comments on stories) is one of the more anxiety-provoking and frustrating aspects of fandom participation, in my experience. I frequently see newbies lament that their stories aren't receiving comments; authors sometimes stop posting to or leave entirely from sites where they feel that their work isn't receiving adequate comments. I know few authors who haven't marveled (or lamented) over the discrepancy between their read count and review count and wonder what made those precious few readers decide to comment.

As an author, of course, I am interested in reviews because I like getting feedback on my work. As a site owner/moderator, I am also interested in reviews because I want the sites I'm involved in to feel like active, welcoming communities to those who choose to share their work there, and I know that a site where stories are answered with only silence will not thrive.

I have umpteen theories about what motivates reviewing and even more opinions on the issue. I'm going to resist stating them now because 1) I am more interested in seeing how others' experiences/opinions align or don't align with mine and 2) I don't have the time right now to give adequate attention to the discussion I know will ensue. I'd very much appreciate fannish types--whether you're an author, reader, or both--answering the poll below about reviewing. FYI, I have set the poll so that individual responses are not visible to all and sundry. (Dreamwidth won't let me set it so that even I can't see individual replies, else I'd do that; instead, I can only ask participants to trust that I'm not interested and won't be viewing individual responses.) Please do feel free to elaborate in the comments as much as you'd like! For the record, I'll likely be using this poll data and comments (with permission, if I mention individuals, of course) for a Heretic Loremaster post sometime in the near future.

This is cross-posted to Dreamwidth, as always. I'd appreciate if you'd reply to the poll in one place only! :) Also, because I built this is Dreamwidth and then replicated it here, some of the questions had to be divided into two parts, since LJ doesn't allow as many items as DW does.

Poll #1794704 Reviewing Poll

How important are reviews/comments to you when determining where to post your writing?

Very important--I don't post on sites where I don't receive adequate reviews.
0(0.0%)
Important--the number of reviews I receive is a primary factor in determining where I post.
9(17.0%)
Somewhat important--the number of reviews I receive is a consideration in determining where I post.
17(32.1%)
Not important--I don't consider the number of reviews I receive at all when deciding where to post.
27(50.9%)

How frequently do you leave comments on the stories that you read?

Always or almost always (90-100%)
12(20.7%)
Frequently (60-89%)
11(19.0%)
Sometimes (40-59%)
18(31.0%)
Infrequently (10-39%)
7(12.1%)
Rarely (<10%)
10(17.2%)
Never
0(0.0%)

Which of the following are reasons you comment on stories? (Check all that apply. Please comment with reasons I didn't include.)

I enjoyed the story and want to tell the author.
56(16.1%)
I didn't enjoy the story and want to tell the author.
3(0.9%)
I want to provide concrit to help the author improve.
14(4.0%)
I want to ask the author a question or engage in a discussion with the author.
30(8.6%)
Commenting on stories is an important way for me to contribute to the community.
34(9.8%)
The author is a friend.
41(11.8%)
I enjoy the author's work and want to encourage her to post more.
42(12.1%)
I want to encourage the author.
39(11.2%)
I want other readers to be able to see what I thought about the story.
9(2.6%)
I want my comments to help other readers to decide whether or not to read a story.
8(2.3%)
I would like the author to read and comment on my stories as well.
12(3.4%)
The author commented on one of my stories, so I am returning the favor.
18(5.2%)
I want to respond to other comments made on the author's story.
6(1.7%)
I found a typo or mistake and want to point it out to the author.
10(2.9%)
I would like to build a friendship or open up communication with the author.
26(7.5%)

A reader you don't know leaves a lengthy and insightful comment on one of your stories. What are you most likely to do? Check all that apply.

Reply to or thank the person.
54(24.9%)
View the person's profile.
42(19.4%)
Look at the list of stories the person has written.
41(18.9%)
Read a story by the author, if it interests me.
45(20.7%)
Read a story by the author, whether or not it interests me.
3(1.4%)
Comment on a story by the author, if it interests me.
31(14.3%)
Comment on a story by the author, whether or not it interests me.
1(0.5%)

Do you think you're more likely to comment on a story written by someone who frequently comments on your work?

Yes
24(43.6%)
No
18(32.7%)
Not sure
13(23.6%)

Which of the following are reasons you choose to read a particular story? (Check all that apply. Please comment with reasons I didn't include.)

The summary sounds interesting.
54(16.8%)
The story is about characters, plot events, or time periods that interest me.
54(16.8%)
I generally enjoy work by the author.
55(17.1%)
I have heard others recommend the author.
37(11.5%)
The story is nominated for or won an award.
14(4.4%)
I read all stories posted to a particular community, list, or site.
2(0.6%)
The author is a friend.
41(12.8%)
The author has asked for feedback on the story.
16(5.0%)
The author has read and commented on my stories.
19(5.9%)
Comments left on the story pique my curiosity.
29(9.0%)

Continued: Which of the following are reasons you choose to read a particular story? (Check all that apply. Please comment with reasons I didn't include.)

I have heard that the story is really badly written.
7(6.9%)
I want to learn more about a particular character, plot event, or time period.
18(17.6%)
The story was recommended to me.
43(42.2%)
The author is popular or generally well-liked.
7(6.9%)
The story is controversial.
17(16.7%)
I generally dislike work by the author.
1(1.0%)
I want to form a friendship or open up communication with the author.
9(8.8%)

Which of the following are reasons you DON'T comment on stories? (Check all that apply. Please comment with reasons I didn't include.)

I don't have time.
30(15.6%)
I don't feel like I have anything important to say about the story.
29(15.1%)
I don't want to think hard enough about the story to come up with a good comment.
8(4.2%)
I'm just reading for relaxation or enjoyment.
17(8.9%)
I don't know the author.
4(2.1%)
I didn't like the story.
39(20.3%)
I don't feel like I have anything nice to say about the story.
35(18.2%)
I don't have any concrit or suggestions for the author.
12(6.2%)
I enjoyed the story so much that I don't feel I can put into words why I liked it so much.
12(6.2%)
The story has a lot of comments already.
6(3.1%)

Continued: Which of the following are reasons you DON'T comment on stories? (Check all that apply. Please comment with reasons I didn't include.)

The story has a lot of insightful comments, and I don't feel like I can say anything comparably insightful.
15(42.9%)
The author is popular and my comment won't matter to her.
5(14.3%)
I liked the story but I don't like the author.
4(11.4%)
The author has never commented on my work.
1(2.9%)
I don't want to encourage the author.
2(5.7%)
I don't believe the author will care what I think.
8(22.9%)

Do you think you're more likely to comment on a story written by someone familiar to you (either a friend or someone very active and visible in the community)?

Yes
25(43.1%)
No
17(29.3%)
Not sure
16(27.6%)
  • Hah. This is actually a subject I've wondered about. I used to be a silent reader mostly because I didn't know what to say. Then I decided just not to mind and blunder my way into it anyway, mostly because I wanted to express appreciation, sometimes because I had questions and sometimes because I'd like to talk to the authors. That's basically it. I've not really published a whole lot yet, so I'm not sure how I feel about receiving ( or not receiving) reviews. They're mostly unexpected as of yet, and I certainly wouldn't post on a really large, busy site. I'd rather avoid anonymous flames at this point. When I post something on LJ, it is mostly still in the works, so help is of course very appreciated. I suppose that could be concrit, but I'm not really sure how all this works in the fan community really. Actually, I'm still not entirely sure whether some reviews break some unspoken fanfic reviewing rule, because whether or not an author actually responds to questions in one really, really differs.
  • Not sure I figured out how to participate in the poll, sorry. (*edit, nevermind)

    It sometimes pleasantly surprises me when an author whose story I have recently reviewed returns the favor and reviews one of my stories. I try to always thank and respond to reviewers (if possible - anon reviews on ff.net cannot be replied to; some sites will not send an e-mail notification when the author replies to a review, so the reader may never see it), but reading/reviewing my reviewers' stories is not an automatic response on my part. I do it occasionally, perhaps if I have some extra time for reading when I happened to get their review, or if we write for the same fandom/characters (not always the case!) But if a reviewer leaves comments on multiple stories/chapters, or writes long reviews, then there is a very strong chance I'll eventually check out their profile and at least see if there are any stories that may interest me.

    Because of this, I think that if a person is discouraged by a lack of reviews for a particular story or on a particular site, one thing to do is to go review a bunch of other authors' stories and see if that attracts new readers to your story (who might be more apt to comment). It might not, of course, but it's the kind of good karma/ be the friend you'd want others to be type of action. It's a lot more proactive than just bemoaning your lack of reviews, at least. If you're new to a fandom or archive than interacting with other authors (by leaving thoughtful reviews for them) can serve as an 'introduction' to the community. But it's also true that if I find an online archive where none of the stories have any reviews (or extremely few and far between), I'm unlikely to post my own stories there - since that is a sign that the community is 'dead'. Entering stories in contests or participating in fic exchanges or something like that can also help to get feedback in some cases (not all).

    I am more likely to leave a review if I loved a story than if I thought it was 'meh', but then, I'll also leave a review if I think it's a new author who would like some encouragement (*particularly* if I think the story is terrible). Everyone has to start somewhere. I don't have 'rules' for when I review, really; I just read stuff, and if I have something to say afterwards, I leave a review. If I don't...I don't.

    I have an online friend who will faithfully read every story that I post to my livejournal account, regardless of whether or not he's familiar with the fandom. It's very clear that he does this to support and encourage me as a writer and friend, and I'm very appreciative of the encouraging reviews he leaves me. It's almost like having a real life friend read your stuff, because a reviewer who cares more about you than the story is a little different from what you usually find in online fandom. There really are all types of reviewers out there, though!

    But the best way to get reviews is to write an awesome story that your readers will go gush to all of their friends about! ;)
    • I have an online friend who will faithfully read every story that I post to my livejournal account, regardless of whether or not he's familiar with the fandom. It's very clear that he does this to support and encourage me as a writer and friend, and I'm very appreciative of the encouraging reviews he leaves me.

      I have a friend who does that as well. She's not familiar with my primary fandom (Swordspoint) at all, but she reads and comments thoughtfully to every one of my stories. She's even participated in discussions in other people's journals when I've posted links to them in mine. The gift of her time is more precious than rubies.
    • (no subject) - dawn_felagund - Expand
  • I tried to approach this unemotionally because I believe that everyone has the freedom of choice to read stories and comment as they like without feeling pressured. Personally, I post fic because I am interested in (1) sharing my views and (2) receiving at least a little feedback so I know if I'm doing OK or not. The appreciation of writing and reading as recreation are such subjective things. I've seen fics that were terribly written grammar-and spelling-wise, yet received more than a few positive comments, either because the story itself was interesting, or because the subject (and author) were popular. Yet I couldn't understand why so many people loved it. However, I put this down to possible age discrepancy. Obviously, there are stories loved by 16-year-olds that would not be necessarily loved by 50-year-olds who are looking for something that does have correct grammar and spelling.

    I love to leave comments. When I first started in fanfic, both reading and writing, I dove in with both feet, and being an inexperienced writer, I charged ahead at first without being too careful about what I was writing. I'd just plunk it all into my journal and hope for the best. I learned to use beta-readers (as you know) and did some of that myself in order to give back to the communities I was in. However, the problem with me is that I always want to be nice, and I just cannot ever leave a negative comment. I have tried to leave concrit or make it as a beta-reader, and was kicked out of that person's life because she couldn't handle even my gentle questions/suggestions. That made me even more afraid to leave anything that questioned any aspect of the story whatsoever. So I always try to find something nice to say, no matter what, or if the story is really badfic in every possible way, then I won't leave a comment at all, but that is very rare for me.

    I hate to be partisan and read only my friends' works, but I don't have a lot of time to venture as far as I'd like into different areas of fanfic. I read published stories as well, and occasionally leave reviews at Goodreads and other sites. And I always appreciate recommendations.
    • Obviously, there are stories loved by 16-year-olds that would not be necessarily loved by 50-year-olds

      Whenever I find myself thinking, "WTF?!?" as far as why young readers love a particular story so much (whether fanfic or original), I remind myself that, as a teenager, I clearly remember thinking that I would be happy in life if I could ever write as well as V.C. Andrews. ;)

      I have tried to leave concrit or make it as a beta-reader, and was kicked out of that person's life because she couldn't handle even my gentle questions/suggestions.

      This makes me sad. I've worked with authors who are hypersensitive (and usually self-aware enough that they warn me ahead of time of that fact) and have been snarked at and (I suspect) briefly loathed for my beta comments, but I've never had one end a friendship with me for providing concrit that they asked for. That's rich.

      Dunno if you're familiar with Andrew Burt's philosophy of the diplomatic critique that is required reading on the Critters workshop and deeply informed the SWG's Site Etiquette, but I've found it so useful in providing concrit in a way that is minimally painless for the author and, therefore, for me as well. I find it works well with writers at all ability levels, from my students up to the professional-caliber fandom writers I'm sometimes privileged to work with (even the shrinking violets ;). Anyway, if you're interested:

      The Diplomatic Critiquer
      and
      Critiquing the Wild Writer: It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It

      I don't personally leave concrit publicly, no matter how diplomatic. I prefer anything negative that I have to say be between me and the writer; making it public can feel passive-aggressive or be embarrassing to some people, and I respect that. (Even as I never mind negative comments in public on my own work! :)

      I hate to be partisan and read only my friends' works, but I don't have a lot of time to venture as far as I'd like into different areas of fanfic.

      I wouldn't even think it would have to be partisan; in a lot of cases, I know my fandom friendships have formed around shared interests, which makes it natural that the works of my friends would gel more with my own interests as a reader. :)
  • As a reader, there are three main reason I don’t review so much is time, mostly because when I really like a story, I want to say something more than ‘Nice’ or ‘I liked it’. That is tied up with I enjoyed the story so much that I don't feel I can put into words why I liked it so much.… putting into words why I liked the story is difficult, especially when I have to translate it into English.

    I think wanting to ask questions/hear the writer’s opinion on some matter is important when I review, but it doesn’t matter much if the writer doesn’t answer. I mostly write lengthy reviews because I like something and want to share it (with the author and everyone else). I don’t know if it helps other people, but in my case there have been times when reviews were the reason I read a story (sometimes the summary can be misleading).

    Being friends with the author doesn’t guarantee a review, but it’s more likely I’ll leave at least a ‘Liked it’. So yes, familiarity makes it likely I’ll review, but it doesn’t mean I won’t review if I don’t know the author.

    Why would I read a particular story? Summary, reviews… If I enjoy the works of an author then it’s more likely I’ll read something I wouldn’t normally read.
    • I've gotten that comment before: "I don't have much to say about it but I loved your story and can't quite put into words why." Personally, I love those reviews too. :) It's wonderful to know that I've reached someone and given them a few minutes or hours of enjoyment, even if they can't find much more to say than, "I really liked this."

      I've incidentally learned quite a bit about another pet topic of mine--summaries--in the course of the results and discussion of the poll and post. Also, I've heard the term review criticized because it doesn't serve the function of a review for most people, i.e. helping them to decide whether or not to read a story, but it seems that it actually does, for a good many of those who have responded here.

      If I enjoy the works of an author then it’s more likely I’ll read something I wouldn’t normally read.

      This is an excellent point, and I suspect it's true for most of us. (I might have to make another poll later to find out! ;)
    • (no subject) - curiouswombat - Expand
  • I'm always curious about the number of hits versus the number of reviews. If I divide chapters into read count for something like EQtDoubt on SWG I come up with nearly 300 readers, yet it was reviewed by three people, and I think all three had read it elsewhere. The lack of reviews in itself doesn't put me off the site, I know there aren't many on the SWG, but I'm not sure I understand it.

    Something I understand even less is 'Reasons for not leaving a review: I don't have time' Dawn, is it just me? If you have time to read the story, how can you not have time to type: 'Read your fic, really enjoyed it, thank you for sharing'? Just - let the writer know who was reading, instead of a whole lot of anonymous hits. That one has always confused the heck out of me.

    Edited at 2011-11-13 08:26 pm (UTC)
    • I just went through my own stats on the SWG and did some quick figuring of the ratio between readers and reviews, and I often had 500 or 600 readers for a story with 3 reviews. Then I had a story (part of a challenge for another site, so promoted more widely than the SWG) with 150 readers for 3 reviews, but that was the only one that wasn't comparable to or higher than your number. I realize this is like the most unscientific analysis ever. :^P I was too lazy to even count reviewers, like you did. I might make a graph someday to see if I can find any actual patterns. If I have time. Ha.

      Something that occurred to me is the similarities between your EQTtD and my By the Light of Roses. Both are longer stories but not epic-length (102K and 68K, respectively, with 15 and 25 chapters, respectively); both received comments from three different people, had about 300 readers total, and both were posted beyond the SWG. BtLoR was reviewed quite heavily on LJ, so the lower numbers on the SWG didn't surprise me, since there's a lot of overlap between my flist and the SWG readership. I don't know if something similar might be at work in your situation.

      Anyway. :) The larger question of why so many people read but so few pause to say even, "Hey, I enjoyed this" (and if they keep reading through to Chapter 25, I refuse to believe they're not enjoying it! :) is a good question and one I have often angsted over, as a site mod. How to turn more of those readers into commenters? The SWG averages 3 reviews per story, which isn't bad for a small, niche site, but it isn't great either; I'd like it to be higher. But how to get achieve that, I don't know ...

      If you have time to read the story, how can you not have time to type: 'Read your fic, really enjoyed it, thank you for sharing'?

      It is baffling! :) My hypothesis is that many people don't think that kind of comment is "good" enough, and they don't have or want to take the time to write something they feel is good enough. (Or they can't articulate why they liked something, which I'll admittedly feel after reading a truly amazing piece.) I think that the "no time" excuse really probably ties in with some of the other reasons for not reviewing that have to do more with insecurity about the "quality" of the review.
    • (no subject) - dreamflower02 - Expand
  • I think there's definitely a sort of 'maternal economy' in some ways behind most of the people I review - most of them are friends, most of them comment on my work as well. I'm more likely to read their work and comment on it as a result. I'll occasionally leave... hm. Not precisely a negative review (although I suppose that's up for debate), but one that might point out what I think are plot holes or factual errors. I've gotten a bit more cautious about doing that as a result of experiences on one particular website.

    When I first started reviewing, I think I did look on it as a way to open communication and make some fandom friends, too.

    And I'll confess that I occasionally read fic that I think is dreadful largely to make me feel a bit better about myself. I know that's horrible, but it's true.
    • I like the idea of the maternal economy. :) I'll definitely comment on a story if I know that a friend has worked really hard on it. When I had lots of reading time, my time was split between those writers I was closest with, who supported me and whom I supported in turn, and newcomers to the SWG. When my reading time became more limited, I was oddly reading the least among my circle of friends because I was still trying to read and welcome newcomers as my priority. (Now I have no time to read at all, which I hope will change. Someday. :)

      I also read and commented in the early days as a way to almost network with other fans, to see what friendships would develop.

      If a story is talked about as being particularly awful, I'll admit that I sometimes do go and read it out of sheer curiosity. I would never leave a comment to that effect, of course, or even criticizing the story.
  • Awesome poll, and great post, Dawn! This is a discussion we never get tired of, isn't it?

    My main reason for commenting (especially as my muses have been on a months-long hiatus) is right up there in one of the first questions.
    Commenting on stories is an important way for me to contribute to the community.
    And that brings me to one of my very favorite LJ posts ever: "Better to give - on the subject of fandom economics". It's an old post, but it continues to inspire me. Briefly, it says that comments are part of the currency of the fandom economy, just like fic, meta, fanart, video. Comments are how we pay the creators for their time, talent, energy, and devotion to the fandom. When there's not enough currency floating around, the economy dries up.

    Another post I'd like to bring up here (since you've got me all wound up on one of my favorite subjects) is alliwantisanelf's Al's Fantastic Fanfiction Feedback File with hundreds of suggestions, from one or two words - "Fantastic", "Lovely", "You rock!" to phrases that are guaranteed to never get old, no matter how many times an author reads them: "You made my day", "I love you for this", "Absobloodyloutely fantastic!"
    • This is a discussion we never get tired of, isn't it?

      Never! :D For me, I think it is, in part, because I remember how terrified I was, upon deciding to participate in fandom, waiting for my first feedback. I used to become physically ill on Fridays, the day I posted the next chapter of my novel AMC. When members of this community decided to embrace my stories and, as a result, me as well, it changed my life as a writer, from having decided that I didn't want to write anymore (the two years before I started in fandom) to where I am now, where writing is very central to my life. I see newcomers to fandom experiencing this same anxiety, and I want to help them along as I was helped. So it's an endless quest for me to figure out the "secret" of getting feedback on one's stories. :)

      I very much agree with you on your main reason for commenting. It was mine as well. RL has left me with little time for reading stories these days, but everything I read, I try to comment on, even if just a few words.

      One of the things that makes me grit my teeth a little is when an author will express dissatisfaction on one of the sites I mod because she's not getting the number of reviews she expected. Sometimes, the site was recommended to her as a good place to post, and she's understandably disappointed, having invested time in archiving stories there only to have them ignored (in terms of review count). Then I click on her account and see that, despite the fact that she's posted sometimes dozens of stories, she's only commented a handful of times on the stories of other people. I think that if she'd saved herself the time of posting dozens of stories and put up one or two instead, then invested the saved time on reading others' work, commenting, and building the community beyond what benefits her, then she would have had a more satisfying experience on the site.

      My motto (in fandom and out) is to be the community/organization that I want to see. If I want people to comment on my stories, I must comment on theirs. If I want in-depth discussion of my work, I have to be willing to offer it to others.

      Thank you for both links! :) When I get around to writing the actual post or posts discussing the poll data, I'll likely include both links, with credit and thanks to you, of course! :)
    • (no subject) - just_ann_now - Expand
    • (no subject) - spiced_wine - Expand
  • Took the poll, have opinions:)

    I almost *always* leave a review or comment. Even if it's only a short "I read it and I loved it" (when I'm totally lacking time and inspiration). I know that for a lot of lurkers "I have nothing worthwile to say" is a big argument for not reviewing. But I'm pretty sure all authors will agree with me that all signs of "life" are welcome, even if they are short. Of course I love insightful and long reviews. But I'm also thrilled when, after the fifth installment of a series I get the first review by a reader saying she's been reading faithfully all this time and now worked up the courage to leave a comment. That's great and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

    Personally, I like to tell myself that I don't care all that much about how many reviews I get. I'm almost certain that (at least some of) my stories could do a lot better review-wise on FFNET. And my RPS could do a lot better on LJ. Still, I have reasons for not posting fic on FFNET or LJ and I'll stick to them. If a reader can't be bothered to make the extra click to my archive... oh well, their loss. I know a lot of readers never look past FFNET. Again - their loss. I always try to accomodate readers by making it easy and all-inclusive to review, but whether they take up the invitation is up to them.
    • Took the poll, have opinions:)

      You?! *is shocked* ;)

      I agree that I appreciate any sign of life in the form of comments. It can be more frustrating to see a story has 500 clicks and no reviews than a dozen clicks and no reviews. The latter tells me that the story just isn't a good fit for the audience on that site. In the former instance, I have to wonder what is going through the reader's mind when they see the review form and decide to enter nothing. Is the story awful? Confusing? So bland that they're not even making it through the whole thing?

      Given the size of the audience on ff.net, my stories actually don't do that well there. I do better on the SWG or my own LJ. I know others have had exactly the opposite experience. I also find that I get a lot more of those "I liked it! Plz write more!" on ff.net ... and like I said above, I appreciate any review, but I find reviews on other sites lead to more conversations and friendships. Again, others have the exact opposite experience.

      I sometimes look at the number of authors and readers playing largely in the Silm sandbox and wonder that they've shown no interest in the SWG ... but then, we're very different sites, and they're clearly happy where they are. You're spot on that it's up to the person to decide if/when they want to branch beyond ff.net.
  • Part of what makes fanfic so very appealing to me is the ability to review/comment on a story or to receive reviews/comments on my own stories. I love the give and take of it, and the chance to discuss my One True Fandom with others, and the opportunity to communicate with like-minded people.

    The first few weeks I was reading, I was a little clueless about how to leave reviews; once I caught on I became a review junkie. I love to get them, I love to read them-- not only mine but those of others, I love to give them. That's one reason I love the MEFAs. I spend nearly as much time reading the other reviews as I do commenting on stories there.

    I do not leave negative reviews. If I have concrit, I will PM the author unless it's a really good friend who I know won't mind if I point out a typo or an incorrect date. I don't mind getting concrit myself as long as it is done tactfully and politely, but I know other people are more sensitive and I don't want to leave something negative in public.

    I even sometimes leave a new review for a re-read of a story I've already reviewed, although not always.

    About the only time I don't review an LotR fic is if it is so dreadful that I can't find anything positive to say OR if I am pressed for time after finishing and "mean to come back later" and then don't. That second reason (and once in a while not even SEEING a review in a timely manner due to lack of notification or other reasons) is the ONLY reason I don't reply to one. I even respond politely to negative reviews, though I receive blessedly few of those, none thankfully of the flaming variety, but once in a while a snarky one. (In the latter case, I may snark also-- but politely).*grin*

    I always try to comment or review a new writer if I found ANYTHING to like in the story in any way whatsoever. It's important to encourage the newbies and to make them feel welcome. If I think a new person is especially promising, but see a few nits that could be improved, I may PM them with a little gentle probing to see if they are amenable to advice. I used to offer to beta, but my time is more constrained now so I don't volunteer that anymore.

    As to the friendship factor and friends commenting mostly on one another, I find that very natural. Virtually every fandom friend I have made is because either they liked a story of mine and commented or I liked one of theirs and did the same. Clearly friends I make under those sorts of circumstances are going to be people who like the same sorts of stories that I like and who write the sorts of stories I like. My tastes and tolerances have expanded over the years, and so I now find myself enjoying the occasional Elf story or First Age story or whatever-- I don't necessarily expect the friends I make then to feel the same way about my hobbits, but I am very pleased when they do.

    When I have less time than usual to read fic, I am much more likely to read a friend's story than someone I don't know, simply because it's a known quantity and I will probably enjoy it.

    In some ways my reviewing habits have changed. I used to obsessively review every new chapter of a multi-chapter fic; however, since figuring out how to put fic on my e-reader, I will usually wait until I've finished now, and then give one comprehensive review when I am done.

    I have noticed that reviews/comments on the archives I frequent are down in number considerably from when I first started; even at Stories of Arda, where most stories used to garner double-digit reviews back in the day now only receive a few. I count myself lucky to get 3 or 4 even there. MPTT unfortunately has not managed to achieve a culture of lots of commenting, and as a mod, I would love to encourage more.

    ALL OF THE ABOVE APPLIES ONLY TO TOLKIEN-FIC!

    I do not always feel called upon to comment on fic I read in other fandoms, as I am wary of treading upon toes. Other fandoms have different reactions to certain things. So unless the story was truly spectacular, or I know the author, I rarely review or comment outside of LotR. Some fandoms that I enjoy reading in I would actually be afraid to comment in, as they have reputations for being rather volatile.
  • At the moment I don't care about "reviews" AT ALL. If I get them, if I don't get them ... I am happy if I do, I'm happy if I don't. I still reply to nearly all comments and favs, though. I save them up for a few weeks, then wade through what has accumulated.

    Right now the most interesting fact about the so-called reviews is that I've actually reached a point where I really, honestly am so far away from my own writing that I just cannot even begin to care. Which does NOT mean that comments don't mean anything to me, they still do, absolutely. But they don't bother me in any way ... nor do they make me giddy with delight ...
  • Hi Dawn - I arrived here via Spiced_wine's page.

    This looks an interesting poll and I wonder what it will reveal.

    Onto some thoughts. I will always leave a comment after reading a story. The writer has gone to considerable lengths to entertain me so I feel it is polite to tell them how much I enjoyed it. Even if I did not enjoy it I will try to say something good about it. I do not see how someone would not have the time to write a comment when they had time to read the fic.

    When I first joined the fandom, I commented on every story that I read, for the reasons above. In those days, I was a voracious slash reader and my comment rate was high, this was in the days when most people did not lock their LJ's. Eventually there was a corresponding interest in my page, which might not have happened if I had not commented so much.

    I do not mind receiving concrit because I can nearly always learn from it. When I first started posting fics, one of my readers sent me a punctuation lesson and told me to use it or leave it. I knew my punctuation was crap, so I used it and it served me very well until I could learn more from other sources - mainly beta readers. I thanked her and she replied that most people whom she sent the lesson to were offended and she was delighted I was not. No one likes criticism, but if it is valid then surely it is wise to consider it.

    Finally, if a writer posts in places where they know they will get a higher comment rate and disregards the sites where comments are lower, do they really write just for the love of it?



    • Thanks for stopping by and participating and commenting, Binky! :)

      Eventually there was a corresponding interest in my page, which might not have happened if I had not commented so much.

      I find this interesting. This was my theory as well--that one should leave reviews in order to get reviews--but I didn't want to bias the results, so I didn't bring that up. It's been intriguing to see how many people had similar experiences to mine in this regard. I read and reviewed many stories before posting my own; once I did begin posting, I still kept active and tried to keep up with others' work. I think it definitely helped to get an audience for my own work.

      No one likes criticism, but if it is valid then surely it is wise to consider it.

      I agree. The only problem I have with fandom is when people find it seemingly impossible to have a difference of opinion and remain respectful. Then I reserve the right to snark right back! :D

      Finally, if a writer posts in places where they know they will get a higher comment rate and disregards the sites where comments are lower, do they really write just for the love of it?

      My take has always been that I write for myself and post for my readers. I had completed most of my novel AMC without intending to post it before I decided to test the fandom waters and see how the first few chapters were received. I wrote it because it needed to be written at that point in my life. Later--once it seemed others were enjoying it as well--I posted it on LJ for them.

      Once it was up on LJ, I decided to revise it (for the first time) and post it more broadly. I chose four sites to post it at, one chapter each week. Although that was just a chapter per week, that was quite an effort, especially since none of the four sites used the same software and so had slightly different quirks. (For example, OSA--one of the four sites--used BB code instead of HTML, so I had to reformat each chapter to post there.) About midway through posting the story, I was receiving feedback on the story in some places more than others. On one site, in particular, page clicks indicated that the story wasn't even being read. I ended up not posting the whole story on two sites, based on the level of feedback I got. Both sites I dropped were time-consuming to post at, so it wasn't worth the time spent when so few people seemed interested in the story.

      So I write for myself but do post where I think the story will fit, a judgment made using comments and page clicks primarily. :)
  • I feel I need to say more about this. I have been in fandom (not this one) for over ten years, and I have seen and learned a lot about its behavior.

    I like comments and feedback. I don't believe one would post in a public forum if one didn't. But I know that when I come to a new place where I don't know most of the people there will be few comments, especially if the fandom is not new, as is the case with Tolkien.

    About well known authors, I have been such in a few fandoms, and even in Tolkien one is "well-known" by her friends and fellow writers. So this well known thing is relative. If I comment and the author doesn't say at least thank you, I don't read or comment anymore. I dislike divas.

    I never comment on the work of people who ask for comments or feedback, and I don't even read if they say they won't write more if they don't get feedback.

    It's nice to know that our stories are read, and that is something great about SWG.

    Finally, most authors don't really want concrit, no matter what they say, so I never give it unless asked for it.
    • If I have learned one thing from this conversation, it is that I really need to get better about replying to reviews left on my stories. I do neglect this sometimes. I don't want to be seen as ungrateful, and I'm well aware that being an archive owner (and so a prominent name in the fandom) might lead those who don't know me to conclude that I'm being diva-ish. :(

      I don't believe one would post in a public forum if one didn't.

      I agree. I write for myself and post for my readers. That means choosing sites where I actually do find readers, which I judge through page clicks and reviews. I have stopped posting at sites where, by all appearances, there was no interest in my work. (I do leave my existing work up, so if the site suddenly has an influx of Silmnerds, I'd reconsider, if it seemed my work was being read. I've never understood the take-my-toys-and-go-home response to low reviews/clicks ... to each her own, I guess!) I'm not resentful when I reach that conclusion: I recognize that I write stories that are very niche in the Tolkien fandom in general; some are very niche even in the Silm fandom. They won't fit on every site, and I'm not spending the time to post them and pretend they will.

      I do post on some sites where I believe very strongly in the site's mission, so I'm willing to remain active on the site, even if I don't get much in the way of feedback.

      I never comment on the work of people who ask for comments or feedback, and I don't even read if they say they won't write more if they don't get feedback.

      For the first, it depends on the manner of asking. If someone posts in the author's notes, "This is my first story, and feedback about what works/doesn't work would be greatly appreciated" or "Comments and concrit are welcome," then I'll comment, if I feel inclined to comment. If I feel pressured into commenting, I'm with you: I won't. That definitely includes stories where the writer holds updates hostage until meeting some magical number of comments. I refuse to reward writers with abhorrent manners! (For the same reason, I won't comment on the work of authors who act like asshats in their comments on others' work.)

      Finally, most authors don't really want concrit, no matter what they say, so I never give it unless asked for it.

      :D So true! I've often noticed a bothersome (to me) preference for the rights of readers/reviewers over those of the author, and I think authors feel like they're not allowed to turn down certain kinds of comments on their work when they're offered. So we all have to pretend that we love concrit from someone who read the Silm once and learned the rest from stories on ff.net. Sometimes (especially on ff.net) a reviewer will mention giving me concrit, and I'll admit that I feel a little shaky in telling them, "Actually, I'm done working with that story, so while you're welcome to say what you want about the story in a comment, please understand it should be just to get it off your chest, not because you expect I'm going to do anything with it on this story." I'm also bothered by the expectation that writers should endlessly revisit and revise their work. Now that my portfolio is around 100 stories, I realize that I will spend the rest of my life on what I've already written and create next to nothing new, if I don't put my foot down at some point and refuse to do any further revision.
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  • There's a major reason I don't review: social anxiety. Not just the normal "will the person care?", but flat-out fear and inadequacy that my opinions are stupid, don't matter, and no one wants to hear them. It now takes me major effort-- or the story has to be absolutely fantastic to the point where I have to say something-- for me to review. (It's also why I don't always comment on LJ posts.) I am far more likely to comment on a friend's story, simply because I know them and know they won't snap if my review wasn't to their liking.

    In between getting heavily involved in other fandoms and the Roisin situation (which burned me badly to the point where I'm still gunshy), I'm less likely to reach out to people. And that's what reviewing is for me-- reaching out and maybe establishing a dialogue for eventual friendship. Because what goes through my mind now is: "what if it's Roisin back in yet another disguise?" or "do I want to get to know this person because I'm not terribly active in Tolkien fandom and don't want to disappoint them by talking about other things?" Plus, it's been quite a while since I've done in-depth, fannish readings of Tolkien, so I've forgotten a fair bit of canon information that I used to know off the top of my head. Makes me feel very inadequate, to the point where I, um, don't read a lot of Tolkien fic anymore. (For Doctor Who, my second fandom, I don't review either, but that's mostly because I'm honesty scared of the fandom. There are so many minefields, it's not funny. And my favorite character-- a woman named River Song-- is one of the most hated, for pretty much the usual reasons.)

    Concrit: I like hearing what I can improve, but I don't like the expectation that I'll go back and fix a story. The story's posted, which means it's done. Unless there's formatting problems, I won't touch it again.

    I do reply to everyone who reviews, though I may not do it in a timely manner.

    I used to review more, back when I was confident and excited. I liked reviewing. I don't know how to overcome my social anxiety. I feel inadequite with just "I liked it," especially since I used to leave more in-depth reviews.
  • I used to review and read a lot, for some author's whose work I have always enjoyed get a notification when a new work or a story is updated. I just don't have the time to read anymore. Reading to me equals to review, I would never leave a story or chapter without a comment, but there are just not enough hours in a day.

    For my task that I do for the newsletter, I do get to see every new work posted to the archive every month. I know that there is plenty of material to read, some summaries are really tickling to read it.. just no time. :( That saddens me, however very recently an author who briefly left the fandom (for one of the reasons I cannot be involved as I'd like to), left a review reply to a review I left years ago. Just to know that even after all these years I made a writer smile... that's why I do it, to encourage, to let them know it was read and appreciated, no matter the style/language/bad or good grammar ect. A story is a story that needs to be told, no matter if someone is highly skilled or not, I still leave a review. Or left a review, once upon a time.

    Just my two eurocents.
    • I'm kinda in the same camp. I also have very little time for fannish stuff these days, and that which I do have goes to what I have to do.

      What strikes me as interesting in your comment (in part because it parallels my own experience) is the feeling that one must comment, combined with a lack of time. Do you think that the feeling that one must review adds an extra time burden that discourages those of us already pressed for time from reading altogether?
  • This is an interesting poll, Dawn. I comment often on stories, and through the tales and the interchange have made friends that I hope will stay for years to come. I started out as a reader/reviewer and beta. And for almost two years, that's what I did.

    In March of this year I started writing. The reviews and feedback I received, as well as the concrit that I get from LC, has allowed me to fine-tune my writing and improve it. Even a response as basic as "I loved your story," or "I hate the way you portray Feanor," work for me.

    Comments are life-blood. I don't get a lot of them, but treasure each one. I leave as many as I can because I know that it is a help to each author to know that they have touched someone enough to have them take the time to write in return.

    - Erulisse (one L)
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