Saturday, September 19, 2009

Your Reviews

You do know what a writer of fan fiction feels when [predominantly:] she receives a review?  So many profiles on and so many chapter notes on show how desperately appreciated reviews are.

Even one word reviews.  Even just one word of encouragement.

Do you know how an authoress feels when she receives a review?  She wants to receive another one.  She keeps checking her email.  She checks her watch.  Thirty seconds have gone by ... she checks her email.  No new reviews.

The high of getting those encouraging words are replaced, for a while, by despondency and despair.  But then she bucks up.  She knows there's only one sure way to get another review, and that is to publish that next chapter or story.  So she grits her teeth and looks at that G-D blank computer screen for hours.

But then she starts typing, and then she types some more, and then she gets into it, and the words start flowing, and she loses herself in it.  She gets lost in her world, and she gives herself over to it, completely, and she writes now, and she writes and she writes and she writes, and if she's truly lost to herself ... completely ... in this world, then, maybe there's something that touches a reader ... touches another girl somewhere in the world who needed to read that before she did something or before she didn't do something, and reading it make her stop or reading it helped her to go on and to go forward and to live and to read some more, and maybe even to write something and to share that with the world and to save another girl.

Do you know what your review does?  Maybe it helps an author to write one more chapter.  Maybe it helps a reader to read that new chapter and to love it and to decide: I need to do this.  The words are burning in my mouth, and I must spit them out onto my keyboard, and I must put that first chapter out there.  And she gets her first review ever.  And she knows, she finally knows, that she's alive.  She finally found her voice, she finally had something to say.  She finally had something to say to somebody who told her "luv ur story, update soon plz," and it gave her a reason to write her next chapter until she becomes accomplished and confident in what she writes, and that confident, accomplished writing touches someone's soul somewhere.

And that fire burning in her mouth inflames the heart of that soul that had turned cold or sullen or despairing.

Do you know what your review does?

Maybe it saves somebody's life, did you ever think of that? Maybe somebody was dead, even though they were punching their ticket at school or at work or at nowhere doing nothing, and your review encouraged a writer to write and what that writer wrote, because in part of your review, gave somebody hope.

Your review is hope, and that is the most precious commodity in the world.

And of the 80,000 members of only a quarter of them ever review a chapter.  You, by your review, have put yourself in the top quarter of all twilighted.

Now, your review doesn't make the writer write.  The writer writes, or the writer does not, no matter how good your review is, no matter how many entreaties she receives (and, boy, have I begged writers for their next chapter, and a year later ... nothing).

Frankly, although you may say in your review "update soon!" it is actually I who is the one who cannot wait to read the next chapter in my story.  What happens during quiet time?  And why, oh, why! is that next chapter not out yet? 

Won't somebody please write it?

Oh, that falls on me?

Why — oh, why! — can't I just be the reader and somebody else write "My Sister Rosalie"?

Writing is hard.  Writing is so, so, ... so very gut-wrenchingly hard.  I hate writing.  MSR's "Mirror, Mirror" nearly killed me.  "Vasilii" in "Thirteen Ways" nearly did me in.  And RLT?  OMR!  Nearly every single chapter was a finisher for me, except, of course, the birds and the bees talk by Gwendolyn.  Gotta love Rosalie's mother, ... no wonder she has such a twisted view of Esmé, eh?  And then Rosalie turns right around and becomes what her mother is to a totally innocent girl ... her maid, that is, but ... hm, that description fits for our Bella, too, now, doesn't it?

Since writing is hard, then why write? Well, there's the compulsion of it (I must write), there's the act of creating something that's tangible (I wrote that), there's the pleasure of reading something that you wanted to read (that's why you wrote it, no?), and there's the reviews where somebody, somewhere, finally said to you:

Good job!

How often do you hear that at home or at school or at work? And you have three reviews for your story that says "Good job!" ... isn't that three more times you've heard that, like, ever, like, in your life?

You write, no? If you do write, and you've received a review, then you know what it's like. If you don't write, then write! But if you're not yet ready to write, leave a review and trust me on this one, there is nothing like it, and you are giving the authoress a priceless treasure ... a priceless treasure that only costs you one mouse click and a few words.

Do you see what your review does? It breathes life into the authoress' story: she keeps writing because there are readers saying that they like reading it, and so the story does not die on the vine, but continues to grow, organically. Your reviews are the rain that water the plants; your reviews are the sun that allow the flowers of our stories to open to you.

So, write a review (again), please?

But what do I write in my review, geophf? you ask.

Glad you asked.

Here are the rules:

  1. Doesn't matter, just select the "submit review" option when you finish the chapter — and not a second later — and write a review. Even if that review is just one word: "good" or "more" or whatever. You read the chapter, so write the review. Right now.

  2. See rule number 1.

So those are the rules.


But there are a few lemmas to writing reviews. And they are these:

  1. Every word you write is read by your employer or a judge of a twific contest you are entering. And, even though you are using an alias, they know it's you. So keep it clean and courteous. Don't believe me? I didn't either, until three employers laid out copies of everything I wrote on the 'net (including aliased works). Good thing I kept it clean.

  2. A good review is any review. And any review is a good review. Full stop. A substantive review says something about this chapter and tells the authoress what you thought about that something or how you felt about it and why. A good review is nice; a substantive review may help the authoress write a better chapter next time.

How important are reviews? Oh, pretty, very, essentially important, I'd say.

Case in point. I was ready to pack it in: at the end of "Compulsion" chapter of MSR I was going to write "... and then Rosalie returned to find Bella dead. The end." Because why? Because I had just written ten chapters with no feedback even though I had one hundred readers per chapter. I figured, why continue if none of the readers were interested enough to comment on what I had poured my heart into?

But later, after I pushed through my despondency and continued writing, anyway, came out of that story the idea of "Thirteen Ways," and then I received a PM from an authoress saying that story had inspired her to write her own fiction. If I had quit, she wouldn't have read that story that wouldn't have existed, ... would she be writing now?

But eventually I did receive some encouragement and some reviews, and I did continue, and somebody did see something in that continuation that inspired them. That's what your reviews do: they encourage. Your reviews encourage, and they are so easy for you not to write, aren't they? "Oh, I'll get to that 'later.'" you say, where you know full well that 'later' eventually means 'never.' Don't say that and don't do that, please. All it takes is for you to hit the 'submit review' button, write some words, and, guaranteed from me at least, you'll get a thank-you PM response, and you'll have encouraged the writing you enjoy reading, and you'll show others that this particular work has something worthwhile in it to read.

When you review, you win (you get more chapters to read); the authoress wins (you send happiness to the authoress), and somebody else wins (you just may, indirectly, touch somebody else's life). A review is a win-win-win.

A review is full of win.

Thank you for your reviews. Please, please, please: keep'm comin', eh?


Anonymous said...

Umm . . . is AMEN appropriate here?

This is the bread and butter and you couldn't have explained it any better!

And I have to say, I'm completely guilty of the classic, "oh, I'll get back to it." Even, gasp, as small-time writer myself.

We just forget sometimes, you know? What it's like, on the other side of the fence. So THANKS for reminding me which side of the I should be on.

Anonymous said...

You expressed it perfectly! I started writing a long time ago in a personal blog for family. That morphed into joining NanoWriMo and writing my first story, and then my second...and then I thought to convert it to fanfiction and get a reader base, and it was AWESOME. I was giddy every posting day, carrying my phone with me all day so I could check my email for reviews.

And then I got some, and it was even more awesome.

And then I realized I'm a huge punk for never giving this to all the stories I'm reading constantly. I was a huge lurker, but now I do try harder. I still don't hit reply every time, but when I read a story I really like, I try to, and I also spread it around as much as I can to other forums.

Thanks for reminding me it's important.

Lisa said...

Thank you so much for this! I say over and over that reviews are not about a pat on a back, authors aren't really looking for that, just a connection between herself and the readers. I live for that connection! In fact, one day I encouraged a consistent reviewer to write her own story. I am her beta, her story is excellent, and we are close friends who will be now meeting in RL in July. So add to that list of 'why review?' YOU JUST MIGHT FIND A BEST FRIEND (love ya Di).

IslandWoman221 said...

Love ya back, Lis!! Those few moments I spent sharing the love were the best spent of my life! And ya know what, I've met a series of people (though mostly women) who have enriched my life, made me smile, commiserated, and become the best friends a person could ask for (I met them with Lisa last July!) and I would never have had the pleasure of the best friend of my life and along others just as dear who finally "get" me!

And it all started with a review.

Bless you for sharing this Twi Daddio!! ;D