If you can't say anything nice... come sit over here by me.

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Title: If you can't say anything nice... come sit over here by me.
Creator:
Date(s): October 6, 2000
Medium: online
Fandom: many
Topic: feedback
External Links: online here, Archived version
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Contents

Other Essays by ljc

If you can't say anything nice... come sit over here by me. is an essay by LJC.

The topic is concrit and feedback.

Excerpts

Once upon a time, writers understood the difference between constructive criticism and a flame. When critical feedback was given, good writers used it to try and improve their work. Bad writers ignored it, as was their prerogative. But there was no crime in daring to say that something in a story was not working.

Today, if you give critical (i.e. negative) feedback on a piece of fan fiction, no matter what the forum, or the fandom, there is likely to be at least one person who will inform you that "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," in order to spare the crushed feelings of the writer. More often than not, it is in fact the writer herself who makes the request.

Gather 'round, children, LJC has a life lesson for you: All fiction is judged by the same standard, regardless of the motives or intentions of the writer.
The cardinal rule of writing is that the quality of the work should come before the writer's ego. Always. Period. There are no exceptions. If you write for fun, that's fine. But if you intend to share your work by publishing it—whether that means posting it to a mailing list, a newsgroup, a web site or your home page—you are opening up your work to constructive criticism. What you do with that criticism is up to you: you can use it to improve your work, or you can ignore it completely. It's up to you. However, no one should have the right to insist that all feedback be positive. The mere idea is ludicrous, yet in these increasingly "politically correct" times, this attitude has become widespread online, to the detriment of all writers and fiction. By insisting that "negative" feedback be sent privately or not at all, you are robbing the author as well as every member of that forum of the chance to learn, grow, and become better writers. As a writer myself, and editor, and reader, I abhor the notion that the fragile egos of lowest common denominator must be catered to, at the expense of the rest of us.
An excellent resource for both writers and readers is The Mannerly Art of Critique by author Peg Robinson. In the three years since its publication, it has become a part of the "Frequently Asked Questions" for the alt.startrek.creative newsgroup, and Peg herself encourages its distribution across the internet, in the hopes that it will help teach readers how to give feedback, and writers how to use that feedback to improve their work.