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Fanfiction Writing Tips - How to Get More Constructive Reviews

Fanfiction Writing Tips: How To Get More Constructive Reviews

Wow, never did I think my previous post about reviews would get the response it did. Apparently anything to do with reviews – getting them, receiving them, good ones, bad ones, too many, not enough, etc – is a big subject.

I’m very happy that so many people came by to give their opinions. I’m just a fanfiction writer and reader who comments on the fanfiction world as she sees it. It’s great to hear from my fellow readers and writers to know how they feel about things and all of this info will help me to write better (and more helpful) posts for you guys. So keep it up people!

After getting the first couple responses, I decided to write one focusing more on getting more constructive reviews.

So here’s a new slant on the subject…

Write a great story.

Duh, everyone knows that right? Well sometimes I’m not so sure. I’ve seen half-written stories strapped together with the literary equivalent of chewing gum and paperclips thrown up onto fanfic forums in the hopes that someone will read them. As much as I want to encourage writers, no matter what their experience, to go ahead and write because they love it – sloppy work (especially when you, the writer, know it’s sloppy) will not do when you’re trying to get quality, constructive reviews. When a work is haphazardly done, a reader is likely to see the first few sentences and move right on to the next one.

Finish your story.

We’ve all had it happen – that horrible moment when you’re stuck in a story and, even worse than not knowing where to go next, you have no desire to continue it. Somewhere along the line, you lost the spark – that thing that was keeping it going and now the idea of writing more makes you want to run to the hills. So you give up and move on to something else. Now one of the great things I love about fanfiction is the fact that it lets you post stories before you are done, allowing you to get feedback while still in the work-in-progress mode. As a writer, it’s awesome. As a reader? Not so much. So if you want more constructive reviews and comments that help you to become a better and better writer….finish something! Use it as a test of your resilience. If you want to make it as a writer (or even if you don’t, but just want to prove to yourself that you can finish something you’ve started) then suck it up and finish that story that you have no desire to see ever again. Figure out what went wrong and start writing. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get a review that will point you in a whole new direction and give you the enthusiasm for it again.

Be specific if you do ask for feedback.

Yes, I’ll agree with the readers of my last post who said that an author who constantly asks for reviews can get annoying. In my defense, when I wrote that I wasn’t picturing that type of person. I was picturing my friend who was so terrified to post her stories she didn’t know what to do with herself. The idea of her asking once was a stretch, I didn’t think of her doing it more than that. So if you want to avoid annoying your readers but still would like some feedback on a specific part of your story that you’re not sure worked, then be specific about what you’d like the readers to look at and comment about.

Reply to your comments.

First off, I know there are probably two camps on this one. There are the people who say “Yeah! C’mon, I comment all the time and I never hear back!” and the ones that say “What are you nuts?? Have you seen how many comments I get? I can’t possibly reply to them all!”. I’ve been on both sides so I understand. My answer to that is reply to as many as you can and, especially when you’re just starting out, I highly suggest you reply to all. First off because in the beginning you’re bound to have fewer reviews, making that task much easier, and also because I have met so many new friends that way. Speaking personally to your readers is an awesome thing, not only as an author but just as a person who loves fanfic and loves discussing it with others who do too. Once you get to the point where replying to each review will take away from writing your next chapter, then I suggest that you at least reply to those who take the time to write a long review or have a particular question, issue, etc. Then you can include the rest in your A/N’s (author’s notes) with a general “thanks for the reviews!”. When I see that a writer is getting hundreds of reviews, I am more than happy with that type of acknowledgement.

Write a good summary.

There is nothing that will turn off a potential reader faster than a bad summary. Things like “I suck at summaries” and “I promise, the story is better than this summary” aren’t how you make up for it. Read other summaries to get an idea of what makes a good one and try and emulate it. Ideally your summary should give an idea of what your story is about without giving everything away – it’s kind of like a movie trailer. The good ones leave you excited about what’s to come and wanting more.

So there you go, some more tips that I hope help all my fellow fanfic writers out there. Got any others you’d like to share? Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. I love hearing from you guys!  :)

Got a fanfiction issue, question or problem? I can help! I am now offering fanfiction consultating/coaching services to anyone, in any fandom, writing any type of story. If you’re interested in a consultation, just email me at Moki@mokisfanfictionblog.com to get a free evaluation and find out what I can do for you.

Want to know every time I add a new post? Be sure to subscribe to Moki’s Fanfiction Blog!


More on Moki’s Fanfiction Blog…
Hurt/Comfort Fanfiction, Why Do We Hurt The Ones We Love?
Moki’s Latest NCIS fanfic “The Cavalry Rides Again” – chapter 7

More Fanfiction Writing Tips…
How Writing Fanfiction Prepared me to be a Freelance Writer
Fanfiction Tips: Writing a Good Action Scene
Fanfiction Tips: Keeping Your Characters In Character

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  • Laine

    One of Moki’s main priorities when starting this blog was to share her love of writing and of FanFiction with others and to provide encouragement and writing tips to new or would-be writers. I think this is a wonderful idea and couldn’t resist adding my thoughts on each of the topics raised in this post.

    WRITE A GREAT STORY – Or at least the very best you can. I’m sure that many of us out there look back at our early stories and cringe a little. I know I’ve been tempted to go back and re-write mine from time to time – but I think (at least I hope) that feeling reflects my growth as a writer.

    FanFiction is a wonderful forum for new writers. One of the greatest advantages is the assistance that is freely offered in the form of Beta’s. These people offer their time, talent, knowledge and experience to assist others to improve their writing. How good is that?

    I must admit that I am at a loss to understand why any new writer would “slap” a story together and not care about the fundamentals that are crucial to the enjoyment of their would-be readers. To me, it shows that they either don’t believe they have a problem, are too shy to ask for help or simply have no real desire to improve as a writer.

    As Moki can attest to, we often “bounce” story ideas off each other to ensure we’re on the right track or to get a different POV. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced writer, it is essential to ask for help when you need it – especially when there are so many people willing to provide assistance.

    FINISH YOUR STORY – I think I am among the minority in that I prefer to finish my story before I start to post it – most people seem to “post as they write.” It’s certainly a personal preference that is mainly attributed to the fact that I seem to be forever tweaking and tinkering with dialogue or narrative. Sometimes, mid-story, I get a better idea that I couldn’t change if I’d already started to post.

    There’s nothing worse than getting engrossed in reading a story – only to find that it’s been abandoned. If I find a story I like that is a “work in progress,” I have a look at the author’s profile to see if that person finishes their stories. If they have a habit of abandonment, I tend to move on.

    If you happen to get “blocked” and don’t know how to move forward with your story – don’t abandon it, ask for help!

    BE SPECIFIC IF YOU DO ASK FOR FEEDBACK – I am not a big fan of someone asking for reviews but I don’t mind someone asking for specific feedback. I would do that before I post but it’s a personal choice.

    One thing I would suggest is that if your story contains any specialist detail – medical, legal, forensic, etc. do some research to ensure your story is plausible. Even then, it’s good to put a little waiver in your A/N, stating that you are not an expert. There’s always someone “out there” with greater knowledge or experience and they can be quick to let you know if you made a goof!

    REPLY TO YOUR COMMENTS – FanFiction not only provides me with an outlet for my writing but I have also been blessed to receive many reviews for my stories. Whether these reviews are positive, offering constructive critique or even when I feel they are a little harsh, I always reply to every review. If someone has taken the time to read my story and offer their feedback, then the very least I can do is thank them for their effort. In doing so, I have established many “on-line” acquaintances and a few very special “on-line” friendships.

    As a personal sideline, when news of my struggle with my health spread around the FanFiction site, I was overwhelmed by the amount of emails and good wishes received from other FanFiction members. These messages continue to filter through and mean the world to me. There are thousands of lovely people out there and replying to your reviews can help open the doors of communication and establish some great friendships. (I wouldn’t recommend getting sick though. lol)

    WRITE A GOOD SUMMARY – A good summary is an absolutely crucial part of enticing readers to read your story. If the lure isn’t attractive, the fish won’t bite! If I don’t like the summary, I won’t read the story. I’m certain I have missed many good stories because the summary hasn’t interested me. Don’t just slap up a summary – take a little time with it or ask someone for help – it will make a big difference.

    OOPS! I’m now quite embarrassed to realise that my comments are longer than Moki’s post. (Sorry Moki.) Of course, these are just my personal views but I think the common thread is that FanFiction and blogs like this one, provide the tools to help you become a better writer – all you have to do is ask.

  • Penny

    Your post and the response were both very helpful. Being very new to FFnet, I must admit that I did not know what a Beta was until I read this. I would like to write a story and have a rough outline in my head but I know I will need help with my characters and refining my story line. Maybe someone can help me decide the best way to choose a Beta?

  • Mokibobolink

    My dear Laine, please don’t ever feel bad for writing a longer comment than my original post. I took that as the biggest compliment ever. You have such great insight into the fanfic world and I appreciate every single bit that you’ve added to this blog. Heck, I’m starting to think I should list you as a “contributing writer” now. :)

    Hello Penny and thanks for dropping by and commenting. As for your question about beta readers, yes that can be quite a tough decision. I’m sure you’ve noticed that ff.net includes a whole section on beta readers and they’ve made it easy to narrow down the search by choosing people who are interested in the show (or movie, etc) you wish to write for, as well as the genre, etc. Still,, even after you’ve narrowed it down you might find that there’s a large list of people available. If I were you, I would perhaps look to see what those people have written and get an idea of their style to see if it’s something that you enjoy. Then after that, try sending them a PM and just see how you guys “hit it off”.

    I’ve been lucky that I have other fanfic friends now that I can bounce ideas off of, but this wasn’t always the case. So another suggestion I have is to start talking to other fanfic writers. The best way I’ve found to do this is just by reading and reviewing. Like Laine said above, many friendships have started that way (including hers and mine). With more fanfic friends, you’ll have an easier time finding someone to help you out.

    At some point I’m planning on adding a forum up here on this blog, to allow fanfic writers and readers to have a place to chat and share ideas, etc. Hopefully that will help people even more.

  • Tiffany331

    I’ve been reading your stories on FFN for a bit, Moki, and just discovered this and your other blog. They’re great! And congrats on being hired as a Daemon’s TV.com writer.

    I have to say this is some very helpful and accurate advice, both in your post and in Laine’s comment. I started writing my first fanfic last year, and particularly with replying to reviews/comments I too have made quite a few online friends and acquaintances, and I think this has helped me as a writer to have people to discuss ideas with and get quality feedback from.

    Anyway, keep up the great work with your writing and blogs, etc. :D

  • Mokibobolink

    Hi Tiffany and welcome! Glad you’re enjoying my stories and thanks for the congrats. :)

    So happy to hear that you found this post helpful.

  • http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/ Gaelicspirit

    Hi there! I’m on a Moki blog binge at the moment as I’ve been remiss and have been away for a bit. And by a bit, I mean…oh, two, three months? *ahem* Apologies.

    I saw the guest post by Laine, but haven’t read it yet as I was sidetracked to read the “reviews” posts you recently added. Rather than reply to both, I’ll just add my two cents here, if that’s okay.

    As are many of us here in the fanfic world, I’ve found myself rather addicted to reviews, comments, feedback of any kind. I’m very aware that if/when I get brave enough to venture into the “real” world of publishing, the feedback will be nill and/or most likely “constructive” in nature (unless I’m miraculously wildly successful and then the feedback will come in the form of money, not words) and so I thirst for any word that what I’ve put out there has been received favorably and enjoyed.

    My personal goal with writing fanfic is both to practice the craft of telling a story and to spend a little more time with characters I love to watch. My public goal with writing fanfic is simply to entertain for the moments any one person spends with their computer and my words. If I’m told I’ve done that, then I’m a happy girl.

    I find myself cringing slightly at the term “constructive” critiques or reviews because more often than not that word is defined to the masses as a charge to “find something wrong with the story and/or writing style and point it out to the writer.” When I receive such feedback, I always appreciate it in the form of a PM where I can have a conversation about the observation with the reviewer and have an opportunity to fix it. It’s not ‘wrong’ to put it in a review, if done respectfully and with the knowledge that you’re dealing with a creative individual that has just (like your friend) taken a leap of faith and put a little bit of their hearts out for the world to see.

    Aside from that small personal quirk, I couldn’t agree more with what you and Laine have said here. I saw on the other post that Sensue mentioned you need to leave reviews in order to get them; I agree with that as well, though, sadly, I don’t have a lot of extra time to read — therefore, reviews from me are in actuality few and far between. It isn’t because I *don’t* review…it’s because I haven’t read it. Yet.

    Regardless if I get 20 reviews or 300 reviews, I reply to each. Even if I have to reply to them *after* the next chapter has been posted. As I see it, there is no obligation with fanfic: you post for free, you read for free and both are exchanges of ‘gifts’ (some more welcome than others). I am acutely aware of how much time people do NOT have, so if I’m gifted with a review (and therefore with their time to have read as well) they will be thanked.

    This give-and-give exchange has garnered me a good many friends and some loyal readers that I actually find myself watching for each time I post.

    The posting often or at least consistently also resonates with me. I got hooked on an extremely long (over 25 chapters) but extremely good WIP in the Supernatural fandom a few years ago and it took the writer over a year to update between chapters once. The story was amazing when it was completed, but I’d lost interested between chapters and actually had to be reminded by someone else that I’d never finished it. I know that life happens, and there’s nothing for it. But if your goal is, in fact, reviews, I totally agree with this assertion. My goal is — even with WIPs, because I am one of those who posts-as-I-write — is to post a new chapter every two weeks and I make that claim at the beginning of the story.

    Occasionally, I’ve had finished stories to post, but when I’m in the WIP mode, I always have a completed outline I’m working from so that I know where I’m going and how it will end. Short of a catastrophic event in RL, I’m able to hold to that schedule when posting a story simply because I know what it’s like to be on the waiting end. And if there’s no obligation on the part of the reader, then it’s on me to keep them engaged if I want their feedback.

    I also agree with the Summary whole-heartedly. I saw that Supernaturalgeek said, on the other post, that it is frustrating when you see “better summary inside” or something of the like. If you can’t let me know even a smidge of what your story is about in two short sentences, then I probably don’t have the time to invest in it. But, also, make sure your summary actually *matches* your story. I’ve come across a few that I simply stopped reading because I felt led astray.

    I thoroughly enjoy any feedback — even the “good story, thanks for writing” dashes. But I simply adore the reviews where people have actually taken the time to quote me back to me and let me know how that particular part or line from the story made them feel as they read. That kind of review doesn’t necessarily hone my grammatical skills nor does it help me shave off unnecessary descriptions or lengthy dialog. But it does encourage me to continue and it does let me know what I’m doing right (at least in their eyes).

    And both of those aspects keeps me writing, and through writing, I continue to learn.

    I have seen some of the “slapped together” stories that have been referred to here, and again, I cringe, because I’ve also seen a “this is marvelous” review attached to those such stories. In some (rather selfish and shameful) way, it feels as if those stories have lowered the bar and belittled some of the positive energy sent my way. But, then again, it’s a free exchange of imagination, and I don’t have to read or review those stories.

    I applaud you, Moki, for this blog and for providing a platform for fanfic writers to share information as well as gather input from you. You certainly do have a clear head on your shoulders; you know what you’re in this for and what you want to get out of it. And that is very refreshing.

    Thank you.

  • Mokibobolink

    Wow, thanks Gaelic. I do know what I want from this blog and to see it coming to fruition makes me very happy. I love hearing from everyone and really do want this to turn into a place where fanfic writers (and readers) can voice their opinions and get help. I’m even toying with the idea of adding a forum at some point, if the interest is there for it.

    Like I said over on Laine’s post, I’m working on writing even more posts about the subject of reviews, the next targeted at giving advice on how to review. I can’t say enough how every word written by you guys is helping me to make this blog better.

    So thanks again Gaelic, not only for your kind words about my blog but also your insight into this subject as well.

  • Aleiker12

    Personally speaking, I’ve found that reviews don’t always have to be constructive to be helpful. Hear me out. When you have young writers like me or a story with no reviews sometimes the best thing to do isn’t always give a speech about what could be fixed, but instead just say you liked it. That espexially goes for short stories that are already good. It helps a lot to have someone say they liked it, because then it rebuilds your confidence and doesn’t make you feel so bad about only getting two reviews. If I had to choose between getting a review that says they liked it vs one that goes into all the flaws, I would usually choose the earlier, unless I already have a lot of reviews. Okay, my rant’s over.
    ~~Ismeme

  • Mokibobolink

    Thanks for the reply! I completely understand what you mean about getting positive reviews. They definitely helped me out in the beginning when I first started writing fanfiction myself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get positive reviews. :)

  • MacMhuirich

    Native English speakers have the advantage over fanfic writers who are ESL (or, as in my case, 3rd language). It isn’t easy to compete with those amazingly good English writers when your vocabulary, especially in US dialogue, is limited. You give it your very best, but even that often isn’t enough to merit any kind of feedback. ANY comments, as long as they’re constructive, are welcome. Even more so for those among us who are insecure, self-conscious about their writing. Should we stop writing fanfic because we don’t get over 100 reviews like the top writers do? Because we (think we) suck? Writing has become an addiction to me (NFA) and I’m not intent on giving that up because I don’t get the massive amount of reviews on FF.Net.
    Also, I’ve found the reviews a story gets often depends on:
    a) characters
    b) ships
    c) hurt/comfort (the longer you keep it going, the better)
    d) slash
    e) bash (believe it or not, but these are getting plenty!)  ;D
    One thing I can’t stand are writers who beg for reviews in every story (or tell their life story), every single update… I now tend to ignore those stories and move on to others.
    @c0acbcfbdd2c432c92ed74b2cf264205:disqus I fully agree with you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692821131 Xarah Dax

    I cannot tell you how many – awesome – stories I have read only to find the writer has not finished it. How frustrating! I think a writer should finish the story before posting it anywere. Or make it very clear that it’s not finished because then i might not bother reading it. Or have a couple of friends for feedbacks. Great article!

  • Mokibobolink

    Yes, unfinished stories can be frustrating. Though if a new writer is looking for encouragement to help them finish, reviews can often do that. It’s a double-edged sword, that’s for sure. Even I had had times where my stories have been neglected due to Real Life rearing its ugly head. 

    Thanks for commenting! Glad you enjoyed the article. 

  • Mokibobolink

    You know, the interesting thing abut both your and Aleiker12’s comments is that they mention the idea of getting any review, and the first article I did in this series was about that. Just getting any review to help a writer feel encouraged to continue to write. As you both said, they can be quite helpful. 

    But then I got a lot of comments (which sadly have now disappeared due to changing to a new commenting system) about how I was teaching people to do nothing but troll for reviews, when that wasn’t my intention at all. 

    So it appears that there are people on both sides, so I’m happy that I did do both articles. That way, everyone can get the help they need to get the kind of reviews they want.  :o)

    For anyone who is interested, here is the other article:  http://mokisfanfictionblog.com/blog/2010/06/11/fanfiction-writing-tips-how-to-get-more-reviews/

    Thanks so much for the comment!  



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