Hey, all! Amy here and feel free to skip this, but I noticed a huge thing going around with fanfiction writers and fanfiction readers. Kinda throwing arrows at one another over mistakes and how they should be addressed.
Okay, first off: stop. Ew. It’s gross. Y’all are big boys and girls and y’all can act like it. You don’t need to attack each other at the knees behind the safety of your screens.
Secondly: there are points on both sides. People who write have a right to be proud of their work and can choose not to accept criticism. On the other hand, people who read and absorb the work have the right as well to point out mistakes they noticed if it’s meant to be helpful.
So how can people interact civilly when it comes to fanfiction and it’s accompanying critiques? By following a few internet rules, plain and simple. No, I’m not gonna tell you to forgive and forget or just roll over and let the other person have their way. That’s not what you do IRL and that’s not what you do online either. Instead, both persons have a series of rules to follow in order to try and make the most of their experience.
FOR THE WRITERS:
I start with you because you’re the ones who have poured your heart and soul into this baby. And I get it, I do. When you spend hours and hours slaving over your baby, going over the idea thousands of times in your head, trying to get the idea on paper, and trying to make it look good, then oh heck to the yes it’s your baby and you’re gonna defend it to the death. I expect that and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when it interferes with your ability to check in with the situation and see if they actually meant harm, so here are a few rules I’ve started to use over my years of fanfiction writing:
- Read the entire comment for content. This is a bitter pill to take, especially if
they sound condescending or snarky. I’ve
run into a few of them, and they’re never pleasant to deal with, but some of
them have good ideas. Try to filter out
the junk of the comment and get to the meat of it all. (I’ll get to what to do if there’s no meat
- Take a
break from the comment when you get angry.
And chances are that if it’s an unsolicited comment, you’re going to get
angry. This is your baby and you’ve
worked hard on it. If the crtiquer isn’t
at least taking that into account, you may even get furious. Get up and walk away. They do not deserve your wrath.
for yourself if they have a point.
Most critiquers tend to leave their comments because they’re trying to
help in their own (somewhat obnoxious) way.
If they’ve got a point, thank them, but also try to express if the
critique was delivered well. If it was,
tell them so they can help more people.
If not, tell them so they can work on it. IF THEY DO NOT HAVE ANY POINT AT ALL AND ARE
JUST BEING RUDE, get rid of it. They’re
not worth your time.
or toss. This is up to you. If they had content that was actually useful,
then they were being helpful like they were trying to be. If they had content and it wasn’t useful,
it’s up to you what to do. If they had
zero content in their critique or it wasn’t relevant at all, skip it. They’re not worth your time.
I actually formed these rules after an encounter with a critiquer who was completely neutral in tone, blurted my mistakes for the world to see, and essentially made me feel like the absolute worst writer in the world. They weren’t harsh, but their critique did hurt me, especially because I’d still just been starting out.
The first thing that happened was I got angry. I was livid, furious. Like, how dare they? Couldn’t they just sit back and enjoy the story? I spent a good week or so avoiding my fanfiction account just because I was so pissed off. I ended up talking to my mom and she asked me if they had any points. I think she was going for “if they don’t, then they’re not worth your time”, but they did. After that, I went back and tried to see it from their point of view.
Didn’t mean I suddenly wasn’t mad at them. I was mad, but I also realized that they, in their own roundabout and hurtful (to me, who reads inflection into typed words and winces at every loud noise and criticism) way, were trying to help me.
I worked on it, and I don’t think they ever commented on my stuff again, but the people who already loved my stuff? The people who said that my stuff was ‘cute’ or ‘genius’? They loved it all the more! The critiquer may not have stuck around, but those who did benefited.
(It really took me a long time to stop being angry at them. Now I just kind of take a lesson from them. As a fanfiction writer, and as a critiquer myself.)
FOR THE CRITIQUER:
I’m saying this as someone who has pretty high standards for what I read. I look into formatting, tenses, plot, characterization, spelling, and even comma usage! These little things do actually bug me, and sometimes enough to the point of wanting to comment, but I’ve been on the other side of it and remember the frustration and the anger that can come from a wrongly worded comment, so there are a few rules that I’ve formulated in order to be the best critiquer I can be and help as many people as possible get as amazing as they can as a writer!
Note: These rules are for critiquers who actually do want to help writers get better and improve the overall quality of internet written works. If you’re here because of some superiority complex, these rules may be difficult for you to follow. I, however, encourage you to do your best and perhaps one day you’ll be a good critiquer. *^_^*
- Find a
way to figure out if the author even wants your critique. One way to do this is to respectfully ask
them. Always open with a positive. Something like “Hey, I liked ___ about your
story, but I noticed something was a bit off.
Can I give you a constructive critique?”
Typically, an author would be happy to know you cared about their
opinion, so this will go either one of two ways. They will either (A) allow the critique and
actually listen to what you have to say or (B) politely decline the offer. This means they have made up their mind and
you are to let it go. The back button is
a wonderful friend at this point.
the sandwich format. This is a tried
and true method for getting people to actually listen. If you start in with the critique, the author
will feel attacked and immediately get defensive. Instead of wondering if you’ve got any point,
they will find ways to contradict you and argue. Instead, open with something you liked about
the story. There was a reason you read
it all to the end, wasn’t there? Mention
that first (AND BE HONEST! NO ONE LIKES
SOMEONE WHO GIVES OUT FALSE COMPLIMENTS), and then get to the critique, or
‘meat’, of your critique. When that’s
done, exit with a thank-you for being willing to listen to your comments. It takes a lot for a creator to listen to
someone point out the flaws in their baby, even if they’re trying to
learn. Remember that you want this to be
a positive interaction, not a demolition derby.
insults or other derogatory comments.
Unless explicitly stated otherwise, the writer is trying their
best. Insulting them makes them less
willing to hear you out, much less accept your comments and get better.
elevating yourself over them. It’s a
no-brainer. You’re not there to school them, you’re there to help them. Helping requires a serving mind, which puts
their needs before your ego.
- Do not
hound the author. If they listen but
don’t take your comments, you’re not allowed to harass them. Most likely, they don’t see a point in your
comment and have elected to ignore it.
And that’s fine. The point is
that you managed to bring it to their attention once. Maybe they’ll come back to it later, maybe
not. Either way, once your critique is
given, it’s done. Unless they come to
you asking about it, your job is to pack up and vamoose, or simply to sit back
and enjoy watching the rest of the story unfold.
- Make sure
your comments are objective. Like,
if there’s a comma problem, tell them about it.
If there’s verb tenses being messed up, inform them politely. If person A didn’t get with person B, then
you’re not critiquing. That’s a matter
of opinion and doesn’t belong in the critiquing category.
respectful. They’re going on a limb
and listening to you, and it’s the author’s choice whether or not to continue
the correspondence. You don’t have to ‘kiss up to them’ or ‘serve them’, but
you have to make sure you’re not being a jerk and that all your comments are
I know there are a lot of rules, but critiquing is hard, especially with how a lot of people view them. But you, the critiquer, ARE NOT EVIL. You’re not the bad guy. You’re not messed up. You’re not ‘sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong’. You’re human and you’re trying to be helpful. These are just tips and tricks on how to go about it the right way and maximize your helpfulness.
The last thing I’ll say is that not everyone will follow these rules. They will think they’re stupid or pandering or all-around dumb. Some people who claim to critique will continue to slander our good name by acting like holier-than-thou snits. Some people who write will continue to get outrageously angry for persons daring to say something went wrong.
Here’s how to deal with them:
- Leave the computer. Or the website, just for a bit. Enjoy the sunshine, take a walk, talk with your best friend, eat some ice cream, go play. See if it just blows over. They don’t get to take away your happiness because they’re angry.
- Delete the hate. When you’re good and happy, you can delete the hate mail, or maybe grab a friend to laugh at it. But don’t respond to hate with anger. As my good friend Warlord Okeer said, you shall inflict “the greatest insult an enemy can suffer. To be ignored.”
- If they chase you down in anger, block them. This is okay to do. For fanfiction writers: if they continue to pester you with their comments after you say ‘no thanks’, block their tails. For fanfiction critiquers: if they got angry over a critique you gave, provided that they said okay and provided that you followed the rules of critiquing, you’re allowed to block them. You did it right. Don’t even stress.
And then there are the times where we forget to follow the rules and insult someone on accident. It happens. If you realize you’re in the wrong, it’s just one rule.
- Apologize. No, you don’t have to grovel for forgiveness,
but understand that your actions may have hurt someone else and react
accordingly. If they won’t take it, at
least make the promise to yourself to be better in the future.
And that’s it. I know it seems like a lot to swallow, but it all boils down to making sure your words are respectful, kind, and true.