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So, I posted my Harry Potter fanfic to all my usual places and...

...I got an actual bad review on ffnet with actual constructive criticism!! Not that I mind people saying that they like my story, mind you, but to actually get someone willing to say, "Hey, this part is wrong," or "This didn't work well" - now THAT is actually helpful! I am ridiculously happy to have received this review, and I replied to the reviewer to tell her how much I appreciated it (and that I wasn't being sarcastic).

The reviewer pointed out that I got the events of the books in the wrong order, that Severus' and Lily's falling out must have happened before my story, and therefore they shouldn't be friendly at all in my story. I know exactly how I'm going to re-write the story, and it might actually make it much more meaningful. Hopefully I'll get it written and updated in the next couple of days.

She did also criticize the timing of the first two parts, thinking that they were meant to be simultaneous (Severus in Potions class while Lily was in Charms class). I certainly didn't intend that, and canon-wise, it's not possible (the books make it pretty clear that there's only one Advanced Potions class and that Lily must have taken it along with Severus), but if it has to be made clear, then I'll add some time clues, like describing the first part as being in the morning and the second part being in the afternoon.

It does really bug me that so many reviews, especially on ffnet, are of the "That was awesome!" variety, without much thought beyond that. It's nice to get them (quite the ego-stroke), but even for good reviews, it would be nice to know what they liked. And I think I've only received one bad review (more on that in a moment), even though I can point to a number of my stories that are actually not very good. On one hand, I understand why, since I don't like leaving bad reviews either, but on the other hand, when I think I really need to leave a bad review, I PM the author privately, so that the review doesn't appear publicly, but I've never received a private bad review either.

About that bad review, I still don't know what to think about it. It was on The Actor, left just after the last chapter was posted. (Hmm. Major spoilers ahead if you haven't read it. Just sayin'.) The reviewer wrote, "I am just so freaking disappointed at how you ended this. The story was going great, and then you just stop it all going with some boring generic actually-a-time-lord plot twist. This had so much potential, and then you just threw it all down the trash can. Good job. *slow clap*" I wrote to her to ask her what she was hoping would happen, or how she would improve it, and she never replied. I think the thing that bugs me the most about this is that I don't feel that the ending was boring and generic. Yes, using the chameleon arch has been done before, but that wasn't the point of the story at all. The story was about why the Doctor used the arch and how it affected David.

I'm also at a loss to figure out what else I might have done with the story. It might have been about this regular human traveling with the Doctor, or settling down in a new life, or going back to his own universe - and those are all "boring generic" storylines; it's all been done before. (And honestly, if it had been about a simple human doing one of those things, there would have been no reason to involve David Tennant at all; the character could have been anybody.) Well, at least to me, writing isn't about coming up with new things that no one's ever done before. It's about creating meaningful stories and communicating them effectively. Ah well, I suppose I'll never know what she wanted.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 20th, 2014 08:30 pm (UTC)
That's a shame, leaving a review like that and never responding to your honest query about how s/he would work it. I take reviewing very seriously and try to be detailed about what I liked or not. If I have something seriously wrong,I PM them and maintain a dialogue as long as they want. Writer/reader relationships should be a collaboration. You never know where a good idea will come from,or a tangent that you never thought of.

Edited at 2014-08-20 08:32 pm (UTC)
Aug. 21st, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
Yes, I definitely agree. I don't review as often as I should, but I try to make it reasonable, and make myself available to the author if he/she wants a dialogue. I think, though, in general, most readers just like to gush or bash, and that's what they think the authors want to hear.
Aug. 21st, 2014 06:21 am (UTC)
Oh, I get you—and it's pretty great you're able to react to it like that :) Constructive criticism is very valuable indeed (though it can be a bit hard at first ;)). And yes, very short reviews are sweet, but not very helpful. I often feel spoiled these days because I got used to reviews from friends that were a bit more substantial, so I just pay a lot less attention to very short reviews ;) But I guess that's understandable.

Honest reviewing can be hard. I always try to get as detailed as possible in my reviews (and they get big… XD) but I always feel really awkward with negatives. Most of the time I'll point out typos, sentences that should be reworded/made clearer, but I'm not as comfortable with actual content things—which I know very well is a rather bad thing, since it would be actually most helpful to let someone know if their character is OOC or a part of their story feels too fast or skimmed over! XD But I just hate to say unpleasant things and it makes me awkward and worried and all kinds of negative things, so I just make an effort if it's friends and I feel like there's something big that really needs tackling, else I stop reading if I don't like the story much, and figure I don't owe it to anyone to play Perfect Reviewer, either ;P (It's not like I could be perfect, ROFL…)

Wow. That review for The Actor is rather unpleasant—the person has every right to voice their surprise/displeasure/disagreement, but they did so in a rather rude manner if you ask me. If you're going to criticize, at least be polite about it instead of just bashing. I get they were disappointed, but that's not a very good excuse. And they didn't even respond when you reacted in a pretty open-minded and communicative way—better and better =P Looks like that person wasn't very constructive at all, they were just displeased and had a go at you before moving on… Everyone has their own views of what a good story should be like, and readers are entitled to their hopes and expectations about the fics they read, but if the author's choice differs, they might damn well respect it. But respectful disagreement is a little-known notion these days =P
Aug. 21st, 2014 10:30 pm (UTC)
I feel awkward with negatives, too. I think the worst thing is that I'm afraid that what I say isn't fair. For example, there's this fic I'm following on ffnet which has an interesting premise, but while I don't think the author is handling it very well (I'd take it in a different direction, but like you said, that's what the author wants to do with it, so that's ok), the thing that bugs me is the author's style. He (I'm assuming it's a he, could be a she) is obviously young, and among other thing, has a tendency to insert his own comments into his story (one was, "See what I did there?" in bold). This is kind of an extreme example, but I'm never sure it's fair to tell a writer that you don't like his style of writing.

Yeah, after a couple of days of worrying about that review, I just decided it wasn't worth thinking about and moved on. It helped that it was the only bad review out of a mountain of good reviews. :)
Aug. 22nd, 2014 06:30 am (UTC)
Oh, yes! I often have that problem, too. And it's especially difficult with young and inexperienced authors, because they're just starting; it doesn't mean they're bad, they need to grow and improve, and it can be very hard to find the points to advise them without discouraging them. And sometimes you've got specific points you can clearly see to make the story better—but sometimes, like you said, it can be a matter of where the story is going aka author choice, or else you can just be like "…I don't like the writing style… there might be a thousand reasons, or no reason I can pinpoint, I just don't like it". And how do you tell someone that? XD

"Is that comment fair?" is really a concern I have, too. That's why I often stick to grammar and phrasing suggestions, or sometimes try to express disagreement about characterization without being downright like "I'm right and you're wrong" ;) Some things are downright OOC, but there is also room for interpretation in every character… can be difficult!

Good for you :) Moving on is the best thing in that case. But that's The Actor's one, right—you were planning to tweak the Harry Potter story a bit, if I understood well? Just asking because I was planning to read that one yesterday, so I wondered if I should go ahead, or wait for it to be edited or even reposted :)
Aug. 22nd, 2014 05:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, I feel it's really important to phrase any disagreement with what the author's written as a suggestion. I remember Richard Feynman (a physicist who later in life learned to draw) said something like, "When you're teaching someone to draw, you can't point at something and say, 'Your line's too heavy,' because some artist somewhere has made heavy lines work.'" Maybe someone's style or characterization is something you don't like, but it's possible they could develop it into something that does work (maybe not for you, but for someone else). It's so hard to critique fairly!

I've just posted the second version of "Liquid Luck," so now you have the choice of which you'd rather read! :) I decided to repost, instead of edit, because I think the first one is pretty good, and I like seeing how it changed to fit into canon.
Aug. 23rd, 2014 06:00 am (UTC)
Indeed! Creativity has a strong subjective side. Except when things really are heavy-handed, it can be hard to judge, and even then it can be a matter of taste… (Like some basically classic authors use a very dry style, which could put off some people…)

Great! Indeed, leaving the first one up and seeing the evolution sounds like a good way to handle things. I'll be checking out the new thing ASAP, then :)
Aug. 21st, 2014 10:26 am (UTC)
Glad you got an actual constructive review!! Whoot!! I still wilt even with those, lol. Dunno why I keep setting myself out there. *Headdesk*

Och!! Sorry about that bad review! Wow...what were they looking for?!

Aug. 21st, 2014 10:38 pm (UTC)
I think my reaction was tempered by the fact that the review was completely fair - I agreed with the bulk of it, and disagreed with part of it. I would probably have hated it if I felt that the reviewer's opinion was wrong all the way through, because I have a tendency to think that I must be the one who's wrong and why don't I see what that person's seeing. You know what I mean?
Aug. 21st, 2014 10:40 pm (UTC)
I know exactly what you mean!!

Still, you are more fair to you than I am to myself. The slightest criticism has that little black imp inside going 'See?! YOU SUCK!' which is...not very constructive in the end, lol!! But then, I am a weak sister. I always admire those who can take criticism with a grain of salt and just roll with it.
Aug. 21st, 2014 11:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's taken me years to get to this point, let me tell you. I think I've also developed an attitude of "well, if they don't like it, they can jump into the time vortex naked" with respect to my writing, probably because I don't take it as seriously as I do, say, my job. Writing is just a hobby for me, but I get pretty upset if I get bad reviews on my paid work. Criticism is harder to take the more you really care about what's being criticized. But I will say that that bad review on The Actor really had me upset for a while, because I had no idea why and had no way to find out.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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