On Feedback and Perspective




Recently I’ve seen a number of posts on the subject of giving feedback to writers / artists / creators, and I wanted to add a few thoughts of my own.

First a confession: For the longest time, I was really, really bad about leaving feedback. Not because I didn’t enjoy the stories (I did) or because I didn’t think the writers deserved some appreciation (they do!), but purely because as a reader, I really had no insight on what it’s like on the other side of the “Comment” button.

Now that I have started sending my own writing babes into the world, I have a very different perspective (and am now trying my best to leave feedback on everything I enjoyed). So I thought I’d make a little reference guide on “What I (the Reader) Believed Writers Think About Feedback” vs. “What I (the Writer) Now Know They Really Think”. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself somewhere in there, too…

Reader comments: I loved it 🙂

The Reader believed: Eh. Why are you bothering me? I have important writer things to do.

But the Writer knows: I am so happy to hear that, thank you for taking the time to tell me!

Reader comments: This was so funny / sad / hot!

The Reader believed: I know. That was the point. Why are you bothering me? I have important writer things to do.

But the Writer knows: I made you have a feeling! I made a thing and it touched you! YesYesYes! Thank you for taking the time to tell me that!

Reader leaves kudos / comment on a story that is older than two weeks

The Reader believed: Geez, that one’s ancient. Why are you bothering me? I have important writer things to do.

But the Writer knows: Someone is still reading and enjoying that story! That is so awesome! Thank you for taking the time to tell me that!

Reader leaves kudos on every story in the series / comments on every chapter in the story

The Reader believed: That’s a bit creepy. Please don’t be a stalker.

But the Writer knows: They read one thing and liked it so much they read the others, too, and they liked all of them! Thank you, lovely person, for making my day!

Reader writes long, burbling comment full of exclamation marks!!! and emoticons :-))))) because THEY LOVE IT SO MUCH

The Reader believed: What are you, three? If you expect me to take you seriously, try talking like an adult, please. Also why are you bothering me? I have important writer things to do.


(Okay, so I haven’t actually had that last one happen to me, but I imagine that is what my reaction would be. Except I probably wouldn’t be quite so restrained.)

Anyone else have that experience? Feel free to add your own 🙂

This is absolutely dead-on accurate.  No comments mean you probably thought it was OK but not worth the effort to type something about the story.  Kudos are wonderful, don’t get me wrong!  But comments?  There is nothing like hearing something you wrote touched someone enough that they felt compelled to write something back to you.  Even if it’s “I really liked this.”  or “This was cute.”

if i see your name a lot i might write for you, writers are so needy, we’ll take anything that isn’t go die in a fire as a massive compliment, and go die in a fire as a minor compliment








but like who started the idea that fanfiction writers are somehow bothered by enthusiasm for their work???? cause i see posts all the time like “do writers really want to talk with us about their fics? Do writers really want long comments? I dont want to bother them” and i just think its absolutely ridiculous????

ofc i want to talk to you about it, and would love to hear you go on about it. i took time out of my real life to write this stuff down so we could all share these characters!!! the idea that you’re bothering a fanfiction writer, a fellow nerd, is absolutely crazy

Wait, do people really think this?? Who are these crazy people? I want, like, thousands of comments. Nothing would make me happier.

People, if you like a particular fanfic – if you like fanfic in general – fucking leave a goddamn comment saying so. Writers don’t do this shit for money; we do it to show the ideas we’ve got and the things we love and the way we see the world (we also do it so we can write about two characters boning BUT THAT IS ALSO VALID). It’s not just that leaving a comment makes us feel good, it’s that not leaving a comment is basically your way of saying “nah, this wasn’t good enough to bother.”

Now, I completely understand how people might not mean it that way, but the fact is that if you read something on AO3 or fanfiction.net or wherever and you nope the fuck out of it because it’s Not Your Thing or you just honestly think it’s terrible, chances are you’re not going to leave a comment saying so – you’re not going to leave a comment at all. So silence becomes the writer’s indication that something about the story is wrong, or unlikable, or just unpopular. A lack of comments/kudos/whatever becomes its own red flag to a writer (ESPECIALLY NEW WRITERS, JESUS CHRIST), and they start to think “nobody liked this, because if they did, they would have said something.” You lose writers by not commenting on things you like, because writers aren’t mind-readers and they have no idea that you emailed your BFF a link to their story and stayed up until 2 am talking to her about how great it was. Not unless you leave a comment.

In part we’ve got our new fandom homes to blame: Tumblr and AO3 are great places, but one is incredibly fic-unfriendly and the other is considered purely as a fic resource, never as a place to start discussion or meta. Plus its incredibly handy download feature basically guarantees that no one reading your stuff on mobile is going to leave feedback, because it’s a pain in the butt. However, these really aren’t very good excuses in my book. 

I see it as a kind of farmer’s market, where the people manning each booth are happy to let you try stuff; if you don’t like it, you don’t need to buy, and you can move on. But if you’re scarfing down every sample you see and you don’t buy anything? They’ll let you do it, but they’re going to think you’re an asshole. And they’re right.

Basically, I have to put on my Emily Post pince-nezs and say if y’all don’t comment on fics you like, you are being rude as hell.

So, I get that some people don’t like to comment because they think they’ll fuck it up.

But there is no way to fuck up “I loved it!” Honestly. Saying what you liked about the story, picking out one or two things that hit you in the feels? ALWAYS RIGHT.

To some degree, I agree with leupagus when ze says that writers think, “well, nobody liked this because if they did they would have said something”. I think that all the time, and I have friends who I know read my fic and comment, and fans who tell me that my fic is great – some of them repeatedly, saying the same things over and over. (Thanks, guys; you really do keep me writing.)

If you love something set it free.

If you liked reading a fic, leave a comment.

Also: some of the best friends I’ve made in fandom have come from a) people who left comments on my fic who I then, b) struck up a discussion with. Admittedly much of this was back on LiveJournal, allowing people to interact with each other and connect with each other, like a discussion with a complete stranger who just complimented you on your shoes.

But seriously: we are writers. We love words. WE LOVE WORDS. Use your words in comments (positive words, not criticism, unless it’s been asked for) and I can practically guarantee that we will adore it, and you.

(Also: as a famous blogger once said to a group I was in, We notice who comments, who likes our stuff, who comes back for more; just because we’re not directly addressing you doesn’t mean we don’t notice.

We notice.)


I will keep reblogging these posts until they fucking catch on like every other cause that tumblr’s passionate about. Christ on a Cracker.