Honestly speaking, if AO3′s cold culture had been my first introduction to writing fic? I can’t guarantee I’d still be writing it.
Livejournal was a lot of (mostly bad, towards the end) things, but at minimum it was a community of readers that were excited to read and talk about your work. Their feedback was essential to my early evolution as a fic writer. Absolutely essential.
So I’m not posting numbers in an attempt to whine or look for more attention. I just want everyone to consider dropping some Kudos if you take the few minutes to read the entire story, and maybe leaving a comment if you liked it – especially if you’ve read it multiple times. Many of these writers might not even know how talented they are, since AO3′s not the kind of place that’s very keen on revealing your worth.
But we can help change that, you know? We can all do something about it. We don’t just have to accept it as “that’s the way it is” and shrug it off. That’s how you lose writers. That’s the kind of lonely, quiet environment that makes someone facing a writer’s block instead choose to close up shop. Then you’re wondering why they never continued their epic series, when all they ever got were about 3% of people leaving Kudos and five comments for days and days of work.
And I just think that’s a damn shame.
I’ve seen this discussed a few times recently, so I think it’s something that’s finally hit its limit with a lot of writers. I agree that what’s hard about it isn’t just feeling unappreciated, or that readers are uninterested, but the silence that takes away a large part of how fic writers engage in fandom.
I know people are not short on headcanons, and they can write essays on symbolism. I hope they come to understand these are things writers want to see, and not things they have to keep to tumblr. If a reader can’t go into detail, a simple, “Great fic!” suffices. Literally anything to let a writer know you heard them. It’s appreciated.
Also, it’s so much more fun to feel like you’re part of the community that creates fic, and commenting is an incredible way to do that. I love the feeling of telling someone that I loved what they created, and hearing back from an author is exciting.
It’s easy to be lazy and just graze from fic to fic, but it’s more rewarding to be engaged.
I’ve been having this problem a lot lately, and it isn’t a “omg whine no one likes me” sort of feeling, but just… for me personally it just feels draining to keep putting out work, to keep committing a little part of your creativity, a little bit of your heart and soul and a bit of your creative stuff out there, and not really knowing if it’s resonating.
And maybe it is just me showing my Fandom Age, but fandom for me was always about community, about engaging other people and writing fanfic was always a part of that, that there was a certain give-and-take with fanfic that you couldn’t have with Real Books or whatever. Which is why even now, long after LJ and fanfiction on LJ, I really still feel compelled to go and answer every comment, to not just simply acknowledge someone had written something nice to me, but to be like “oh hi you like the thing I also like the thing let’s us both like the thing together”.
And I’ve had friendships that literally grew out of fanfic comments, that there are people whom I consider good fandom friends whom I met because I would flail in their fics’ comments sections and they would flail in mine and we would end up following each other back on LJ or here on Tumblr and it just felt so much more personal then, so much more like I’m writing not just for me but also for someone else’s enjoyment and not just because I really like carpal tunnel. Hell, I’ve sometimes been inspired by the comments to write new fic, because creativity doesn’t come out of the vacuum. It comes out of sharing and sometimes all it takes is someone going “man I loved that and it brought this other thing to my mind…” and suddenly the spark is just there, the “oh that’s awesome/awful I’m gonna write it”
I think feedback nourishes a fandom as much as fanwork does, that “yes! you’re not alone! you like the thing! I like the thing too! have you considered this other thing?!” drives creativity as much as any kinkmeme as much as any prompt call.
I mean just yesterday, I was feeling exhausted, I was feeling like my creativity had run dry and there was just nothing coming out of the tap, no words no love no spark. And I was exhausted. Wondering if it’s time to give up on writing for a fandom, because I was getting hoarse from shouting into the void. And then I woke up to an incredible pair of messages from a reader, from someone who was reading an older fic of mine who was clearly enjoying themselves. And I won’t say it fixed everything, because feedback is magical but it’s not that magical, but it made me smile. And it reminded me that writing fanfic could be fun, that it could be a way of making things fun for someone else.
And you know, that’s really important sometimes.
And I always wonder why people don’t bother to comment or leave kudos when they like something – AO3 especially makes it SO EASY. Like the box is RIGHT THERE. The button is RIGHT THERE.
I always get so excited when I see the number of kudos on a fic growing or when people leave comments! We write stuff because we love it enough to spend hours on character analysis and research and basically we’re all major nerds so if you liked it come talk to us! Please! It feels really good talking to someone that enjoyed our stuff. I met an awesome group of people through my fanfiction and now we all talk about that game together and it’s awesome!
If you enjoy the thing, reach out and leave a nice comment and you just might get a friend.
YES I totally agree – most of my mutuals on tumblr have been because they’ve commented on my stuff or I’ve commented on theirs and we’ve brought the friendship over here! So don’t be shy ^.^
I love all of this! Leave kudos! Leave comments! Your writer has spent days or weeks writing that chapter – give them 2 seconds of your time to click a kudos button or take 30 seconds to write a comment. It means so much to know that people are reading and enjoying our stories. And if you’re a fellow fic writer then you know what it means! Make someone’s day and save a fic – leave a comment! Tell your writers you enjoyed it!
Comments are fandom’s lifeblood. Kudos do very little to build community. Comments, by reaching out to creators, show that people care specifically about something, that our fanfics are not just another commodity. Comments inspire conversation and friendships in the way that few other things can.
Comments I remember for years and they can utterly change my mood for the better for the day when I get them. Kudos I forget after I close the email.
So please tell authors you liked something, whether it’s a simple “I liked this” or incredibly detailed. The silence that seems to be the norm now is disheartening.
And before anybody says “you should just write for yourself”:
Writing is a medium that depends on public opinion to survive. That’s the measure of success in writing. If enough people liked your thing to buy/read it, then you are successful. And many, many people who write fic–like myself–do so because they’re interested in becoming published authors. So to them, seeing no comments, no feedback? It means nobody cares. It means they won’t be successful.
life hack: be best friends with a slytherin. they will steal cupcakes for you from work and tell you to drop toxic people from your life with no reservations. they will be the ones ordering you to stop and breathe and call in sick, to screw your commitments if they see you’re sacrificing your mental health. they’re the ones to say “don’t you dare settle” and “you deserve better” in a ruthless, matter-of-fact tone. they’ll be the ones saying it’s okay to put yourself first, the voice you need to hear after a long day or week or month. trust me, be best friends with a slytherin.