Great! I’m glad you want to reach out and start a conversation with the many creative, giving people who take time out of their busy lives to pen the stories that have captured your imagination. This post is going to cover leaving reviews, giving constructive criticism, and a few do’s and don’t’s.
If you like a fic, leave a review! You can do this a couple different ways.
Reblogging with tags. Every single creative person I know, be they writer or artist or musician, religiously stalks the tags when people reblog their work. Tags are an amazing way to communicate with a creative, especially if you’re shy about sending them a message directly or are afraid your comment will go unnoticed in their inbox.
Don’t know what to say in the tags? Think about the moment you decided you were going to reblog this piece instead of just hitting the “Like” button. Was it a particularly well done piece of dialogue? A description that made you feel like you were a part of the story instead of just reading it? A scenario you’d never considered before but changed the way you thought about [character a, situation b, or fandom c]? There’s a reason you’re taking time to reblog instead of like, so let them know why! Not every reblog needs to be a tag flail.
Alternatively, you can send the author a message. Fanmail if you’re shy and don’t want your adoration made public. Sometimes, if I don’t have time to tag a fic the way I want for whatever reason, I’ll like the piece and then shoot the author a fanmail or an ask telling them what I liked. This is also acceptable. Who doesn’t like getting mail? Crazy people who don’t use social media, that’s who.
Ok, but wait. What if you DON’T like what the author has done with their fic? What then? Yes, there are options.
Option #1: You ignore the fic. You neither like nor reblog the story. You and the author both move on with your lives. You may choose this option at any time. It is not necessary to let the author or anyone else know you have chosen this option.
Option #2: Ask the author why they chose to go that route. Politely. We’ll go over what that means later.
Option #3: Give constructive criticism. Now. Be careful with this one. Creatives are sensitive people. Make sure the author is open to it before you go barrelling into their ask box. If you message me, even on anon, saying, “Hey, I just read your latest fic and I have some concrit I wanted to run by you. Is that ok?” that is perfectly fine. If my answer is yes, go for it. If not, see Option #1.
What is concrit? Glad you asked.
This is concrit: “I totally get the vibe you were going for with that scene, but I was a little confused about the angles of the body parts. I don’t think you meant for them to be doing xyz there. It just took me out of the moment a little.”
This is NOT concrit: “You’re actually not very good at writing smut. You should probably just let [other person] write it and stick to what you’re good at. Which is not smut.”
What’s the difference? In the first one, you acknowledge what you think the author was going for. You explain what has you confused. You explain how you interpreted it. And then you leave a way for the author to contact you to respond to the concrit. You could be right. Maybe the author’s beta was having an off day and missed that awkward elbow maneuver. Maybe they don’t have a beta. Or maybe it’s you that’s missed something. The second example is rude. This criticism is not designed to help the author. It is designed to tear them down and discourage them.
Some people adore concrit. Some people only want it before they publish a piece. Some don’t want it at all. None of these are wrong.
SIDE NOTE FOR AUTHORS: If you ask for concrit, do not be upset, offended, or throw a tantrum when someone sends you a respectful message. You did not want concrit. You wanted to ask for concrit and revel when no one sent you anything. Those are not the same things. Concrit, when given correctly, is designed to make you, the author, a better writer.
Ok, let’s go back to Option #2 now. Where you liked the piece overall, but the characters are acting a little wonky. Something’s not quite right, you think. You don’t really have any concrit, but you want to say something. Here’s what you can do, especially if the author is posting a work in progress.
Acceptable: “Hey! I just read the latest chapter of [amazing story you’ve been following since day one]. I’m enjoying the story so far, but this last one has me a little confused. Why did [character a] do [this]? I feel they would have done [that]. Am I missing something?”
Not acceptable: “Your latest chapter was a big disappointment. I feel like you just don’t know the characters anymore. There’s no way in hell [characters a and b] would be [doing xyz]. I’m sorry, I’m unfollowing you.”
In the first example, you let the author know you like their work. You are making an attempt to understand their vision. You give them a specific example of what’s bothering you. You acknowledge that there may be things coming that you aren’t aware of yet. In the second, you’re an asshat who is wasting bandwidth. The tone has shifted from commenting on the story to commenting on the author.
And here are a few general DO’s and DON’T’S:
DO tell an author you are excited to read the next chapter.
DON’T send an author a message saying only “update soon” less than five minutes after the new chapter was posted.
DO speculate on what’s going to happen next.
DON’T tell the author how to write their story.
DO ask your author how the writing process is going.
DON’T ask your author why they haven’t updated yet.
DO send your author love.
DON’T send your author anon hate.
THERE ARE NO PROFESSIONAL FANFICTION AUTHORS.
(We’re not gonna talk about she-who-must-not-be-named of the fifty shade variety).Every single fic author has a job, family, friends, school, religion, other hobbies, or sleep equally vying for their attention. Respect their time, respect their work, respect them as human beings, and we’ll all get along fine.