Feedback. Everyone loves feedback. It lets you know that people are reading, and lets you know what they think of your work. It is second only to beta reading as a learning aid. Or it should be anyway.
Why is it, then, that feedback has become the candy of fic rather than the meat and potatoes that it should be?
The answer is that people just don't know how to give it, and even when they do, some writers don't know how to receive it.
"Wow, I really loved this story! Please write more."
Well that's very nice. Thank you. I will. What is it that you liked? Was there anything you didn't like? Did you think that when he did the thing with the thing it worked, cos I was worried about that...
Raves are nice, don't get me wrong, but they really fail to give the writer anything other than a smile. If someone's work has touched you - really touched you - then let them know how and why. Be specific about what you liked.
"I hate this story and I hope your computer blows up and takes you with it."
Well screw you, too.
If you think a story really sucks, don't get mad. It won't make the author any better and they will continue to produce work that you hate. Instead, take some time to analyse why you hated it so much. If it was just a matter of 'ship etc., then more fool you. Every story carries summaries and warnings about the content. If I had a pound for every flame I've read that was directed at slash fic that was clearly marked as such (sometimes even housed in slash archives), well, I'd have about a tenner but you know what I mean...
If however, there was a problem in plot construction or characterisation then say so. The writer doesn't know what they're doing wrong unless someone tells them, right?
There is little more disappointing than the one liner. I recently posted a new story, and while the majority of my feedback was of the good kind, there were one or two of the above type of message.
When you go to your inbox in the morning and find mail with feedback in it's subject line, it's quite nice if the message is actually longer than the title.
"Your work is interesting, but I feel it could be improved if..."
Wrapping up your crit in the right words can make it so much easier to take. Be polite. After all, even if you hated the story, the writer worked hard on it and probably thinks it's good. Just because they're a sucky writer doesn't make them a bad person so there's no need to hurt their feelings with harsh words.
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