A Caution About Public Criticism

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Title: A Caution About Public Criticism
Creator: Nascent
Date(s): July 25, 1998
Medium: post at alt.tv.x-files.creative
Fandom: posted to an X-Files community
External Links: A Caution About Public Criticism; archive link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

A Caution About Public Criticism is a 1998 post by Nascent at alt.tv.x-files.creative.

It highlights the challenges of newly-public online communities against the age-old discussions about feedback. Some topics discussed are "writing to the crowd"—do writers write popular genres or pairings simply for the feedback ratio?, are pseuds training wheels for future things, and hurt feelings and the thin veneer of civilization.

This post may have been, in part, a response to FanFic Misdemeanors According To Us :), an essay with many comments posted the day before. That essay expressed many opinions about the do's and don'ts of writing X-Files fanfic.

For additional context, see Timeline of Concrit & Feedback Meta.

Some Topics Discussed

  • "writing to the crowd"—do writers write popular genres or pairings simply for the feedback ratio?
  • are MSR readers more likely to leave feedback to those stories?
  • hurt feelings, the thin veneer of civilization...
  • is this USENET community more polite and nicer than ATX?
  • "pseuds" as training wheels
  • do mailing lists and online communities snipe at each other more when they are in between canon-infusions?
  • the loneliness of the long-distance filker

The Post

I, too, have found many aspects of some fanfic amusing, cliche, melodramatic, irritating or downright dumb. And I'm guilty of discussing it with folks in private email, real life and on at least one smaller list. But I question the wisdom of doing so in public, or even touting in public how much one does it in private.

My handle, "Nascent," means, roughly, "not fully synthesized." I picked it because when I sent my first piece to atxc, I was afraid that I would get all kinds of critical, unconstructive email--I imagined all authors did. At that time, I hadn't discovered the wonderful world of mailing lists, and had learned about internet X-Phile culture from ATX, hardly a model for constructive conversation.

I'd decided if the first story got people yelling at me for being too shippy or sloppy or out-of-character, if I ever wrote again it would be under a more fully formed name. =) Now, of course, I know how rude that would have been, but I was a scared little newbie, give me a break.

However, if I had entered into fanfic and seen discussions like we've been seeing for the past couple of days, I wouldn't have written at all. Ever. I would've taken a quick look around and left.

I've been around long enough to know which kinds of stories folks are talking about, but for someone without a good idea of the breadth and depth of fanfic, these criticisms appear a lot more scathing than to those of us who've been around.

I'm afraid that by making this place seem more unfriendly than it actually is, we're going to lose new, potentially wonderful voices. I'm willing to shrug and hit 'delete' on a hundred flickfics just to find one superb one, but I'm afraid that superb one will never get posted if we scare folks away.

Finally, and I don't know exactly how to say this gently, though I want to preface it by saying that I have a lot of respect for many folks who've participated and I hope they'll take it...constructively. But. When one makes fun of others, it usually only makes them look like they're trying unsuccessfully to make themselves look better. Again, I'm as guilty as the next person, but I would gently suggest that it be done in private, where, among friends, the context is much clearer.

Excerpts from the Comments

[Dasha K]: I so agree with you, Nascent. If I was just coming into the fanfic scene and I read all those posts here in ATXC I'd be terrified to post my first story.

The thing is, we have to allow people to make their own mistakes. Am I ashamed of my first fanfic? Of course! But guess what, I've learned from the mistakes I made in my first stories and from feedback from my readers and I'd like to think (tell me if I'm wrong ;-) ) that I have improved since then.

My best advice to a newbie author is simply, read as much quality fanfic you can get your hands on. Watch the show, learn the characters. Use correct grammar and spelling. Have a beta look it over. Besides that, write whatever is your heart's desire. It's YOUR story, go ahead and tell it.
[Alyxzia Kendle]:

I too would have to agree with Nascent on the finer points of her message.

I guess it was best that I hadn't read that rather scathing discussion before I posted here, or else I might have been convinced not to send my story at all. No, I would have posted it anyway. If there is one thing I have learned from not only writing fan fiction but writing in general (and any other art form) is there is always going to be a certain number of people who don't like your work, just as there will always be a certain number who do. Some people will react positively to it, and others will do the exact opposite. Being a writer or artist of any kind you have to be prepared for this.

I personally believe that constructive criticism is much more effective then simply making humour out of or cutting down other people's honest efforts. Not everyone is a literary genious, I have never met anyone who was born with the gift of scribe, it is something that a person learns over time and by making mistakes. Aspiring writers should not be condemned for trying, they should rather be encouraged and supported, and allowed to mature at their own rate. After all, I think we can all look back and remember a time when we too were just starting out.

As usual, Nascent descends upon the murky dwellings of the past few days to slap some sense into us. Hey.... this ain't ATXF! We're supposed to be nice and supportive of each other.

The parodies were funny and entertaining, but most disturbed me was the amount of 'me too's and further criticisms (of which I am just as guilty) that followed. I wonder if I had seen such reactions earlier, would I have indulged into writing a novel length for my first serious entry into fanfic.

Although the cliches were funny and we try not to be too sappy, we are, above all else, amateurs. Most of us drawing on the remembrences of high school and college writing courses aided by computerized spell checkers and incredibly generous beta readers to help us out.

I know my first big release won't make anyone forget about Graves or Rambo or the plethora of other fine authors out there, nor would I want it to. However, as a community, we owe it to ourselves to encourage and support this creative art we endeavor to pursue. I've read stories that were canned and predictable, but that didn't stop me. Reading and learning what we like and others like can only serve to better the community.

I would also like to remind people out there of Sherry Davis's "Wounded Hearts." As a first time authour she came out with an awesome, wonderful story proving that there are so many stories left to tell and explore in the XF universe, we could never get to them all.

I've been reading X-F fan-fic for almost three years now, writing it for two and a half. As I've watched, the tenor of the group as a whole has changed. Back then, as long as an author had an interesting idea for a story and was reasonably careful about editing and polishing, the effort was appreciated.

When I look at my original version of "Sins of the Fathers", I see the major flaws in the technical presentation of the English. First and foremost, I was using an atrocious dialoging technique which I've completely eliminated (and was an misguided attempt to adhere to one of these 'English maven' posts). Although I ran it through a spell-checker multiple times, I'm certain there were probably mis-spelled words in it. I edited and edited and edited, but, there were *still* misplaced words or phrases that weren't quite the way I wanted them to be. I was using an almost-Hemmingwayesque narrative sentence length. I committed the fan-fic sins of having Mulder and Scully use each other's names almost constantly in dialogue with each other, as well as having him guide her through a door 'with a hand at the small of her back.' In fact, I committed that particular evil to show that they had reconciled with each other.

But yet, *somehow* people read past all that and liked it enough to nominate "Sins..." for a 'Best Action-Adventure' Spooky, and me for 'Best New Author.'

I pity a poor newbie author these days, especially one who tries to obey all the 'guidelines' that have been flying around the newsgroup for the past few months. Someone reading them all could come to the conclusion that his/her story *must* *be* absolutely perfect with regards to spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, run through a phalanx of Beta readers, editors, etc., etc.. Otherwise, the Hounds of Hell will crawl through the ether, leap out of one's monitor, and devour the poor newbie author whole. I'm fairly certain that if I were working on "Sins..." right now, given the current environment, I would never have sent it up to the group.

Now, no one misunderstand me here and howl because they assume I'm saying that 'anything goes' and that picky readers should just 'get over it'. I'm not saying that *at* *all*.

I appreciate the generalized grammar and language tips that have been posted to the list. They've improved my writing abilities in general, and I've improved my vocabulary as a result. 'Supine' is a delightful word, one I've enjoyed discovering so much that I've probably *overused* in later stories. I'm *not* an English major, nor will I probably ever try to write fiction professionally. But, I've worked to *improve* my writing abilities with each and every story I've released to the group. I've tried to write more involved plots. I've sought to develop more interesting secondary characters. I've diligently attempted to replace narration with dialogue. I've branched out to different styles and POV treatments (not always successfully, but still, I've made the effort). When posters to the list were bemoaning the end of Mulder and Scully as true mythic characters on the show, I combed through myth, legend, and history, so I could add those elements to my stories.

All I'm asking is that folks tone down the disgust that seems to permeate the list at times. Remember, no one is perfect; we all make mistakes. Further, we're getting these hours of entertainment for *free*! In 1996, we had as many novella and novel-length fan-written stories sent to ATXC as we had had episodes of the series at the end of the Third Season. Many of them were *better* than what Charles Grant and Kevin Anderson turned out. I've read non-fiction Historical texts from reputable publishing houses where several tens of pages were repeated whole (and numbered as if they were new material). I've also picked up a huge number of grammar and spelling errors, some in college-level textbooks.

Writers, make the effort to come up with something new to write about, use your spell-checker and edit your stories carefully before releasing them. Readers, don't take the world in general to task for small mistakes. We'll all be happier as a result.

What's the problem, here? Can't the person receiving the feedback simply forward it to the other author? If someone praises the story, is it important whose e-mail address is at the top? I look on feedback as a gift from the reader--it's not my place to say how or to whom it should be given....

A writing partnership is very much like a marriage. Feedback is a gift to that marriage. The partners share equally, just as a bride and groom share the toaster they got for their wedding. If the bride says, "well, that's a nice toaster, but I want a gift for myself, too," I'm going to think twice about the nature of giving.

Yes, I've collaborated with another writer and the feedback was sent to her. (She posted the story and it made sense to do the replies that way.) I didn't consider myself demeaned or ignored because she forwarded the notes to me; I considered myself blessed that someone had written about the story in the first place.

Feedback is becoming rare in the fanfic community. (Heaven knows I'm guilty of not sending enough...) My feeling is that we should thank the people who are sending it, not make requests for multiple posts, "be gentle with me," or "tell me how much you loved the story even though I know it sucks." Let our work rise or fall upon its own merit.

So, for everyone who sends feedback, thank you. Keep doing what you do; we appreciate it.

It obviously is--but then again--we can have a 53 post thread that rakes people who have the courage to post something of themselves here, but we can't find the energy to compliment someone on something they've written. This is so messed up.

This, too, is what has bothered me more and more around here. There are 200 posts on a single topic, which is not a fiction, there are 3 stories, and none of those people probably got any feedback at all!

I enjoy the intelligent (and I didn't see anyone being trashed, IMO) discussion, but it bothers me that people seem to read or lurk on this group only to jump into these threads, not to read and not to write.

Being an "old-timer" (since '95!) this place wasn't like this when I got here. There were about the same amount of stories, almost no threads like this one or the other, and lots and lots of comments! I wish I knew what happened to those people. I think the commenters are the ones who have been scared away, not the new writers.

And, realizing I'm adding to the clutter, I must pay penance with feedback now. If I can find a story...
[Erin C.]:

I have to admit to yous guys ([sic], revealing that I'm from Philly), that I first popped in on the original "fanfic peeves" thread by sharing a peeve of my own. In public. I realize now that that was very not nice of me. I apologize to anyone I may have hurt with my venting. We should be here to encourage one another, not pick on one another. And as a new fanfic author, I should have been more sensitive to that. Some of us are just so stubborn we have to learn the hard way. Sorry.

Then I saw others trashing many of the very things I write into my stories. This has been a very humbling experience for me. This has also been a very beneficial experience, because I've learned to keep my mouth shut & my ears open. I've learned so much from everyone on this ng, and I can't thank "yous guys" enough -- even for the not-so-nice words.

Hate to join the throngs, but I also agree with Nascent. People can only improve if they start where they are. I personally wouldn't repost the first XF fic I wrote, because I'm embarrassed by it. But if I hadn't written it, I wouldn't have learned the lessons it taught me - and I wouldn't have gotten that first feedback rush that encouraged me to write my second story, which was much better.

It's easy, when you're a new writer, to see general criticisms and think they apply specifically to YOU. And it can be discouraging. I think one thing we can offer the young or new writers in here is encouragement.

The stories I don't like are plentiful, but they're also very easy for me to delete, and that doesn't discourage another writer from taking her first baby steps.

For my part -- while I certainly understand the dampening effect that criticism can have on the beginner, I actually think the advice-style posts we've seen here lately are far preferable to private critiques, and here's why. First of all, while this is not invariably true, the vast majority of what I've seen has been polite, even written with humor. It doesn't strike me as the kind of thing that's going to strike terror into the heart of the would-be poster; I could be wrong -- different things affect different people. But it seems to me that enthusiasm for fic springs eternal.

Second -- I know that I, personally, would prefer to read about a gaffe either before I wrote the story -- in which case I wouldn't refrain from writing, but would do a rewrite to work around it -- or in an impersonal post on the board, NOT directed right at me. The smallest bit of criticism that's definitely directed at you, and you alone, through email is far more devastating than realizing, secondhand, that you've done something that's been done four hundred times more often.

Third -- there's more vicious people out there, and we all know it. No matter how often we call for courtesy, it's going to happen -- I guess it's the nature of the net. Major flames lie in wait for the unwary person who makes a too-tried mistake; isn't it better to have a warning post like the ones we've seen lately than to let new writers go out unaware of the pitfalls until they get an email full of vicious, highly personal insult?

Don't get me wrong; I do think new writers need to be encouraged. I know the first fic I ever wrote (mercifully, in the days before the net) was wretched; if I'd stopped there, I'd never have graduated to producing the mediocre fic I do today. :) On those occasions when I have sent a less-than-laudatory email or post to an author, I have tried hard to be polite, constructive, and ultimately encouraging. I think that warning or advisory posts, if done in the same spirit, can serve a very positive function.
[Nascent (original poster)]:

Several people have made a very excellent point--discussions like this let newer writers know what is faux pas in the fanfic world without lambasting them specifically. That these kinds of threads will eliminate the necessity of becoming familiar with all fanfic before writing. This is absolutely true. However, the tone of these discussions clearly indicates that to be informative was not the intent. I know the posters well enough to know that they're not mean, nasty better-than-thou jerks, but to people who don't know them, it appears their only intent is to laugh at other people, and whether or not they were named specifically, they feel they know who they are. (Whew, that was a long sentence! Was it grammatically correct? <g>)

I really like this place because, in general, it's intelligent (unlike, for example, ATX). Unfortunately, sometimes people confuse witticism with intelligence, and then witticism becomes sarcasm, and suddenly a perfectly innocent example of cleverness and humor (which was the tone of Kelly's piece, for instance) becomes bullyish. Come on, we were all nerds on the playground, right? We should be on the same side here.

And even if you DON'T perpetuate those deadly sins, you see threads like this and start to sweat, thinking, oh, shit, if I post and say something dumb without knowing it everyone is going to laugh at me, and that sucks even if it's not to my face. So you don't post.

This medium is wonderfully free and yet sadly restrictive at the same time. When we are limited to the written word for expression in such a cacophonous forum, it's easy to surrender to the perfect sound byte (pun intended). But please think about the tone and INtent as well as the CONtent. (was that a sound byte? no, not catchy enough. oh well.)
[Dave]: What I find ironic is that the group probably kills a lot more authors through neglect then 'mean threads'.

Take, for instance, an anonymous author whom I'll call UA. He hasn't posted in a while...a long while...so I'll assume he's gone. He wrote Mulder/Scully adventures with a strong dose of UST and some pretty original ideas (including one story that concerned a lost manuscript of Jose Chung).

Were his characterizations dead-on? No. Were his plots nail-biting page turners? No. Was his grammar particularly good? But he was trying - trying hard - and even though he had a couple of tired cliches in there, he was getting better. He posted three stories. I saw three pieces of feedback for the first one, none for the second, none for the third. Now he doesn't post anymore.

Take my short writing career. I tried a script file genuine-article type X Files script. How much feedback did I get? None. I tried a serial piece. No feedback. I should have just flushed my time down a toilet. I have five pieces of email in my box from my humor stories, combined (four of them are from the same two people). A couple more people posted on the group. Sorry - I don't think it's worthwhile; if it's not bringing enjoyment to people, I'm not writing anymore. I wasn't very good, so no big loss, but it certainly wasn't some mean, critical thread that made me stop. It was the fact that I got more feedback from a piece of crap MSR that I wrote as an experiment than off my genuine effort. That's depressing.

How many times have a seen a new author's original, weak effort ignored while yet another tired replaying of the same scenario from an established author receives loads of feedback? Admittedly, stuff from the 'greats' tends to be well written, but sometimes...sometimes it's simply mediocre. And the masses still bow down and kiss their feet, showering them with praise. "Another masterpiece!" is bandied about, and the crowd goes wild.

Am I saying that the established authors don't deserve their praise? Hell no. Am I saying that their name attached to the story garners extra feedback? Hell yes.

So, quite frankly, I don't think mean, critical threads are the main problem, here. It's the apathy of the group and the total lack of respect for anything that isn't MSR. And until that's remedied, you can forget about long term authors - most of them will get sick or receiving their paltry one piece of feedback mail (a short, "good job" most likely) and give up. This whole concept of giving writers a 'nurturing environment' is just so much double-talk unless people STOP ignoring certain genres and START letting authors know that they read the goddamn story and liked it...or didn't like it. Pretending they the group is a big lovefest and then coldly ignoring burgeoning authors is just plain bullshit...and there's a lot of that going on. It's certainly a bigger damn problem than a peeves thread. SPECIAL SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ALL YOU HYPERSENSITIVE PEOPLE OUT THERE: This is not directed at you. Go back to reading fanfic. :-)
[Paula Graves]:

May I toss something into the ring for consideration?

What if the reason MSR stories are getting more feedback is that MSR READERS are more vocal and supportive?

I don't read stories that have Mulder or Scully with anyone else. I don't read Mulder alone or Scully alone stories. I don't read character dies stories. I just don't have the time to read storylines I don't care for, even if they're well written. That's just the way it is.

There are probably a lot of people just like me in all genres. They read only certain things due to time constraints.

I know that slash fans have been very supportive of their writers--I read feedback about their stories all the time. More feedback, frankly, than any of my later stories ever got...

Maybe readers of non-MSR need to start being more diligent to offer feedback---here on ATXC and in email as well. If you want to keep reading those sorts of stories, you need to take care of the wonderful authors who give them to you!

I have very different opinions on this matter depending on whether I look at it from the perspective of an educator, or from the perspective of a fanfic consumer.

As a consumer, I say, the more criticism the better. Public, private, humorous, gentle, snarky -- whatever. There is too much bad fanfic clogging up the ether. The problem with the surfeit of bad stuff is that it makes finding the good stuff such a chore. Faced with overwhelming info (much of it worthless), I become much more limited in my reading. I tend to stick to the authors whom I know and love, rather than risking my time on new or unfamiliar authors. Thus, as a consumer, I favor anything that gets bad fanfic out of my life. Every author SHOULD take the recent criticisms personally. Everyone should question their own work. And if, after such questioning, an author has any doubt that his or her story is good enough, then the author shouldn't post it, because we really don't need to read it.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I favor anything that (a) gets people to write in the first place, and (b) gets them to improve their writing. From that standpoint, I really don't know whether the recent spate of humorous criticisms is a good thing or a bad thing -- other people have already debated the whole issue of impersonal criticism being easier to take, etc. But I do know that I agree with the always-plainspoken D. Moore on one thing -- how we react to people's actual stories has a MUCH bigger impact on their continued writing and their improvement than do these playful and/or snarky threads on the newsgroup.

Unfortunately for the struggling fanfic writer, the morass of bad and so-so fanfic makes it less likely that any one individual in need of improvement is going to get helpful or encouraging feedback. In an atmosphere of mostly good writing, I'm sure many of us would find the time and the good will to write to the authors of the few not-as-good pieces. But when faced with *so* many bad and so-so stories, to protect my time I basically dismiss anything that isn't excellent. So there are a lot of middling-but-improveable writers these days who will never hear from me. (Yeah, I'm sure they're heart-broken at missing out on my profound wisdom... ;-) )

I don't think it's some tidal shift in newsgroup feeling that's inspiring all this nitpicking; I think it's the same old summer drought, when we have no new episodes of XF to sustain us. I think the movie actually made things worse, rather than better; we're all dying to see where they're going from here! We don't have new episodes to chew on, so we turn to fanfic more -- and when the fanfic isn't entirely satisfying, it's more frustrating than usual.

Basically, we all just need to relax a little, keep repeating "November will eventually get here," and send feedback to the promising writers out there. (Not to mention, work doubletime on producing good fic ourselves!) In the end, that's going to do the newsgroup the most good.

I think Dave hit a couple of really good points here...but sore points nevertheless. I've only been involved in fanfic for a measly year, (And ATXC a pitiful three or four months.) but from what hear from all the old timers time and again is that the fine art of feedback is dying. Why? <shrug> Maybe we're spoiled. If it doesn't meet epic standards, I guess it goes in the ignore bin.

But that's not my problem here.

I have this teeny problem with the closed mindedness that leads to the snubbing of talent.

Yes, MSR's are good, all hail Mulder and Scully....yada yada yada. But people, how many of you have sold your soul to the UST god to establish yourself? I'm sick of seeing folks doing what they can't envision, (And to an extent, what they hate.) just to gain an ounce of notoriety.

And YES, I don't care what people say; we're in it for the love. Writing's a joy and all, but you don't slave over 500 pages of Lone Gunmen conspiracy fun just for sh*ts and giggles.
[Teddi Litman]:

While I agree we can all can give more feedback on the stuff we read, why should I feel obligated to read what I don't want to read... i.e.: "STOP ignoring certain genres." I've admitted several times on here, I'm pretty much an MSR addict. Some may have a problem with that, but it's still the truth. It's what I happen to enjoy. I do read some of the better (usually after they have been recommended) non-MSR angst stories, straight X-Files, slash and maybe even a dreaded<G> Mulder/other or Scully/other from time to time. However, while I'll tolerate mediocre MSRs, enjoy flawed ones, and wait with bated breath for a truly excellent one; there's just no way I'm going wade through a mediocre straight X-File beyond the first few paragraphs. (And no, I'm never going to send feedback to something I just skimmed. I just don't think that's fair.) I can watch a John Shiban episode instead. Also, I'm not going to read *anything* written in script form. I find reading scripts incredibly boring. (Unless it is something that has actually been produced; I've seen it; and I want to see how the script was different... or it's an actual spoiler for something that's going to be produced; and then the interest is only for the spoiler value.) I'm sorry, but I am just not going to read what I don't think I'll enjoy.

You can make me feel guilty about not sending enough feedback for stories I enjoy ... yes, I'm a heel there.<sg> But no amount of guilt tripping is going to make me read something I don't want to read just to give writers a nuturing environment. (Nor should any amount of guilt tripping make people stop supporting the authors they do enjoy reading, for that matter.) Sorry, that's just the way it is. I already have a job. I read stories here for enjoyment not to support burgeoning writers fragile egos. Frankly, I think if someone quits writing after just three stories because they didn't receive enough of the positive response they feel they deserve, it probably is a good thing. I think a good writer writes because he or she enjoys writing. If the determining factor on whether you will continue to write or not is the readers' response; well, you probably shouldn't be writing. Go find something you *really* like to do
[Dasha K]: You think? I agree with the writer (this thread is so long I can't remember who said what) who said it may simply be the case that the shipper crowd simply writes more feedback. There is room for all genres in fanfic. When I first started writing, there was no way I could envision myself writing slash, but here I am, having done 2 Scullyslashes and about to do my first m/m slash. Why? Because I've opened up to the possiblility of writing all types of fanfic, and I'm trying to read all types as well. We need to celebrate our diversity as writers and not go on about how the MSR clique earns love (sorry Brinson) or the slashettes are taking over or the case file is newly vogue. I think it's unbelieveably cool how many different ways there are to view the XF universe.
[Loligo]: This is a question I've always wondered, actually -- is there anyone here who has ever written a story with the specific intention of making it a crowd-pleaser? And if so, were you successful? I know it can be done -- best-selling authors do it all the time -- but with no money on the line does anyone bother writing something they're not crazy about, just to see it "sell"?
Red Valerian:

Hmmmmm.....I'm going to quote Maria Centrale here, and say that most fanfic authors are 'Feedback Whores' . I certainly know that *I* will commit almost any craven act to get the stuff. For my sins, I even once left a story on a cliffhanger, just so people would have to write to find out the ending. It worked. I've had 110 responses to '11:21 Saturday Night' at present count.

Of course most of them were death threats, so it's not a method I would recommend to other authors.

Seriously, I doubt I'd write anything I didn't really believe in - but I will admit that I am more prone to write Mulder/Scully if I'm desperate for feedback.

As most people who write both can probably tell you, you get many more responses for MSR than you do for Skinner stories.

And after all - feedback is our 'pay' and we all want to get as much of it as possible.
[Heidi]: Hey, I never said MSR was bad. Hell, I am writing one.....sorta. Anyway, I agree completely with what you have said here. My point is: Read what you like BUT GIVE FEEDBACK. I also agree with Paula. Perhaps the MSR fans are just more vocal than others. I read MSRs, Slash, X-Files...even the occasional Mulder/other story. I am also guilty of sporadic feedback. I have a hard time criticizing, simply because when I do so I want it to be specific, legitimate and, if possible, helpful. That takes alot of time that I don't have. It is much easier to write and praise a story that you enjoyed very much. So, I am guilty too.
[Teddi Litman]: Possibly. It's just that I don't get this tendency to blame MSR fans for low feedback for non-MSRs. Would you blame Dallas Cowboys fans for lack of support for the Miami Dolphins? Yes, some Cowboys fans will watch a Dolphins game even if the Cowboys are not playing particularly if the game is exciting. They might even cheer for the Dolphins (if their win won't hurt the Cowboys...no analogy meant there..really.) However, the Dolphins don't seem to be supported, the problem is with the people who are primarily Dolphin fans. If it appears certain genre is not getting adequate feedback, take the people who happen to like that particular genre to task not the people who *don't* like the genre.

I'm just saying that I know the temptation to do a Mulder/Scully piece often lures people to do it (Who ordinarily wouldn't.) for the sheer amount of feedback it generates and not for the love of writing the characters, which is a shame. Maybe the MSR folks *are* more vocal. <shrug>

Personally, I think they just outnumber us NoRomos. ;-)
[Maureen O'Brien]:

There comes a time, as an artist in any genre IMO, when you feel like you're knocking your head against a wall. When your skills have improved, but nobody notices it. When you're working hard and doing good work, and nobody seems to care. When all that's ahead of you is frustration.

I was at that point as a filker for several years.

This is not an exactly analogous situation. Most of my filk friends I know from meetings at various cons and housefilks, although I know some from our newsgroup on the net. The netfolk began to notice my improvement far faster than the live group, because I didn't have to battle performance problems. (Okay, and because I was so depressed that I rarely stepped in with a song, and then when the filk was less crowded. Which might have had something to do with it.) But even though filk is a very supportive environment, I was working in a relatively unpopular genre, in an region which is chock full of wonderful performers and songwriters. Easy audience but a tough market, so to speak....

The bitter truth is that nobody -- not your friends, not your fans, not your family -- is ever going to appreciate your work the way it should be appreciated. They're going to love it more than it deserves or hate it with malice aforethought. Anyone who wants to create has to have a strong foundation of working for the love of it and then letting go. The strange thing is that, when you do, all the rest tends to follow.
[jenny]: I agree, Nascent.. I've only posted one fanfic and I'm not so sure I'll post another. After reading the "Deadly Fanfic Sins", I pushed aside most of my previous writing. It really makes fanfic sound like an English assignment, and IMHO, it shouldn't be that way. Sure, I really get annoyed by misspellings and incorrect punctuation and cliches, but don't delete a fanfic just because of something as petty as that. Some of the best fanfic that I've read have had some misspellings or other "Fanfic Sins". People shouldn't feel like they're going to get graded on a fanfic, and unfortunately, that is how I feel. And believe me, I have the utmost respect for the ATXC authors. You guys are my heroes. Thanks for sticking in there!
[Loch Ness]:

No author will ever learn anything from what you say in private to your friends behind his/her back.

I understand what you're saying - but nobody's ever posted a first story here without a fair bit of trepidation. Hey, I still have trepidation *every* time I post a story *anywhere.* Going public with a fic is scary, and there's just no getting around it. But I never learned how to do a story right from a critique that was entirely positive, and I've learned a heckuva lot from critique that told me what I'd done wrong and gave me a clue how to do it better the next time.

I know it's no fun to hear somebody say - especially publicly - that your story has problems. But if your story does have problems, you need to know that. And one of the things you can get from a public critique that you can't get from a private one is a sense of *consensus*. Get a private critique, and you don't know whether five hundred people disagree with the criticism. If the critique's public, you might find out that of thousands of people reading your story, only *one* had an objection to it. That's the value of public critique.
[bliss]: I really don't think there is a lack of feedback for non-MSRs. I do suspect that perhaps the ratio of feedback differs, but that's demographic. I suspect that there are more MSR fans reading fanfic. Who knows.

I know that I had to fight the urge to play to feedback I got for a recent story, and write the sequel some people wanted; it's so hard to walk away from praise! And I *did* have a few more ideas on the subject -- but in the end, the story needed to stay a stand-alone, and I let it go. (I'm doing a similarly-themed story, not because of the praise, but because the piece has stayed with me. Does this make any sense?)

I made this error years ago, writing one sequel to a story that didn't need one, and promising another -- which I never wrote. That was three years ago, and I STILL get the odd unhappy email from someone wanting to know where the ending is. Playing to the crowd has more drawbacks than advantages, in the end; I think most writers sense this.

Anyway, with fanfic, the joy's in the creation, not the reaction; as good as getting feedback is, if I didn't enjoy the process itself, I wouldn't do it. I think it's that way for most people. So I would guess that, with the exception of perfunctory sequels, most people don't write just for the reaction.
[CiCi Lean]:

If I'm in need of an ego boost or feeling particularly insecure, I bash one out too (under another name, of course, sheesh... I have a reputation to think about. <g>)

It NEVER fails to get a large response. Ever.

(And it ain't because they are masterpieces either... Try writing Pendrell stories (or even BETTER... Pendrell SLASH stories) and see how far you get on the ng!

If you dare... <g> CiCi (howling with laughter...)
[Lynda]: I don't believe they are any more likely to hit the feedback button than anyone else. Perhaps even less so. What we are seeing here is a simple Death By Numbers scenario. I would think simply looking at the Gossamer download figures would attest that. Difficult to get feedback from an audience that is close to non-existent. MSR is the easy route ... the popularist approach. Doesn't make it bad (although it certainly can be at times) nor does it make it good. The sad truth of the matter is that a mediocre MSR will always get far more attention than an excellent non-MSR piece....Here we go again ... bad MSR is better than *NO* MSR. Am I seeing a pattern here? I've been reading this group a long time now ... The scales are tipping so far in the MSR direction there's less and less non-MSR appearing. *new* writers are becoming close to cannon fodder. And it's this kind of attitude that's causing it. Encourage the bad MSR over the good *writing* and guess what you end up with? Endless threads about *cliches* and *peeves* and strawberry shampoo and bad ties and the Fox/Dana debate ... because that's *exactly* what the group encourages from it's writers. As you reap, so will you sow.
[Teddi Litman]: Cheer for your own team, don't demand the other team's fans do it.
[Dave]: I'm glad my own little bit of fanfic hell strikes you as delicious irony. It's always refreshing to see I'm not the only inconsiderate asshole around here.
[~stev saint onge]: COME ON, PEOPLE! can't we all just smoke a bong-- i mean, get along?????? we're being as silly as howard gordon and tom braidwood after a few drinks at the All Male Revue.


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