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A Confession.

Posted by academica , 07 April 2012 · 299 views

I'd like to thank Jane, Susan, and others whose names I cannot recall for bringing my attention back to this issue until I couldn't possibly stand it anymore. As a scientist, it's ever important for me to be critical, both of myself and the world at large, and this is simply one more opportunity to do so.

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I have a confession to make.

As many of you have noticed, it does not seem to have been a good season for "random reviews" of late. I've noticed review swaps and tags gaining in popularity over the past few months, and it seems like every day another review thread is created and quickly filled up by authors hungry for feedback. This appears to be a way to compensate for the aforementioned lack of feedback, a manifestation of the desire to be recognized.

My confession, then, is that I have bought into this trend.

When I first began writing, I did it "for the love of the game", so to speak. Getting reviews was a wonderful surprise, but the primary joy lay in finishing a new chapter, plotting out the epic conclusion of a story, and designing a new original character. I actually used to go back and read my own work because I loved it. My return to fanfiction and discovery of HPFF was an additional blessing, because I quickly became engaged in reading others' stories, following each update closely and sitting on the edge of my seat for the next one.

Now, though, things have changed. I still love my stories, but I feel like I've sacrificed my passion in order to try to remain active in the midst of my very busy real-life activities. Now, I write a new chapter partially to develop the plot and explore the characters, but in large part, it's to get feedback on the story. This is sad to admit, but as soon as I've written a one-shot, I immediately start planning out the banner. As much as I love all of the beautiful banners and chapter images I've received, and as much as I believe that artwork is fairly essential for getting your story noticed these days, even these creations should not replace the work itself. Worst of all, I've found myself doing swaps, playing tag, and requesting reviews more than ever before. Although I've enjoyed reading other stories, and I've even found some that I'd like to follow, I would be lying if I said that the primary purpose wasn't to get more feedback on my own work. I'm nothing but ashamed when I think of the number of times I've said to myself, "Please, don't give me a 4000 word chapter!" or, even worse, "It's been almost thirty minutes! Where's my review?!" In short, I've taken good ideas much too far.

Anyway, enough is enough. It's time for a change.

I'm only about a month away from my "summer vacation". I'm still going to be working on my thesis and meeting with clients, but I imagine I'll have much more time to spend indulging myself with fanfiction. The point of this blog entry is that I'd like to spend that time wisely -- meaning that, in addition to doing my part toward helping :Slytherin: secure another House Cup win, I'd like to give back, since all of you have given so generously to me over the past few months, primarily in your support of my two ongoing novels.

Thus, if you've been wondering why I haven't been keeping up with your story lately, know that I'm going to try my best to read and review all of the chapters I'm behind on. I'm planning to re-open my review thread, which historically has focused on new authors/stories and those without many reviews. Those stories will still be welcomed, but I'm going to try to broaden my horizons more in terms of what I'll "accept", since I know that rule-heavy review threads frustrate me, and that opening myself up more will work toward my goal of giving back and reviewing as much as I once did. Finally, I'd like to enter the world of beta-reading and do what I can to help struggling authors that way. This is not to say that I won't post to advertise my updates or continue to request reviews and banners -- or that I mean to be critical of others who have engaged in similar behavior -- it merely means that I wish to change my own behavior so that, because of my standards for myself, I can do these things without feeling pangs of guilt about what I'm not doing for people in return.

I know I miss the kind of author I used to be, and I think it's time I took action about it. So, the primary aim of this post is to say thank you for continuing to support me, whether or not I truly deserved it from you. It feels good to get this off my chest, and I hope that with more time, I'll once again regain my focus and return to the days when I was not only a writer, but also an avid supporter of the writing of other authors.

If you have made it to the bottom of this entry, you deserve additional thanks. I appreciate all of you :)

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Violet Gryfindor
Apr 07 2012 10:23 PM
:hug: It's a major thing to have admitted this, and even more so to put forth a goal to fix the problem, if it even is a problem. In a lot of ways, it just has to do with being human.

I'm pretty guilty of these things too. It's easy to feel the thrill of getting attention and praise, then when it's gone, one feels lost, blaming everything under the sun for this sudden change. I catch myself thinking about "deserving" reviews and then I wonder "why?" It's like those people who "need" banners rather than just say that they "want" them - we need none of these things, but we do very much want them. The ego is always hungry.

You have deserved it! In becoming more involved with the site, you have become a better writer, polishing your style and technique much faster than most people are capable of. If a person tried to equally balance improving one's writing, helping others, and keeping up with real life, they would never sleep and would die of exhaustion. There'll always be times when one of those things gets sacrificed for a while - there's no reason to feel guilty because of it. :sorry:
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TenthWeasleyWriter
Apr 08 2012 12:07 AM
Amanda, this is such a fantastic blog (confession?). :) And I know that I'm totally guilty of everything you listed, too -- even the things I listed in my own blog, because that's how I got on that train of thought in the first place. Review and favorite counts are intoxicating, and I love was Susan said above, that "the ego is always hungry". That's one of the best ways I've ever seen that put.

And I definitely agree that you have deserved it! Your writing is impeccable and you've inspired a lot of my own writing from yours. :hug: I am so impressed by your resolutions, and I am going to try and be better about reviewing and writing for ME. Because you are an inspiration! ♥
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ToujoursPadfoot
Apr 08 2012 03:28 AM
Amanda, I admire you so much for posting this blog. And I know that I'm not alone when I say that I check my author's page a ridiculous amount of times after posting a chapter because I always hope to see a new review. And then when I measure reads versus reviews, I usually can't help but feel a bit puzzled that people will read chapter after chapter, but the vast majority of readers don't leave a sentence or two telling what they thought. It makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong, if they liked it enough to read but not enough to review. Without feedback, it's difficult to tell how the readers are receiving the different stages of the story. But lately, I've just decided that reads and reviews don't really matter to me as much as I thought they should. I'm still going to write the same stories regardless of what anyone thinks.

I've noticed that when I click the 'random story' button and land on a story from several years ago, even novels with misspelled summaries and very crudely-made banners have a LOT of reviews in comparison to what you see nowadays. People have simply stopped reviewing when they haven't been asked to do so. And with the whole review tag/swap thing, not nearly as many people would go volunteer to read someone else's story if they didn't know that it meant someone else would have to review them in turn. It feeds into the 'more, more, more, this isn't enough' mindset. We shouldn't only review people because we want to be reviewed ourselves. And to be honest, I don't think a lot of CC comes out of swaps. People like swaps because both parties tend focus on positive things. More often than not, the feedback is rather shallow. A short, gushing, generic paragraph is far easier to give than a long, detailed review that asks questions, pushes the writer, and points out things they liked and things that might need work. Because if one party gave CC in a swap, then the other might, too, and I honestly think that not a lot of people truly want constructive criticism. They just want to see others gush. This is good for the ego, but it does nothing to help the author grow as a writer or improve their story.
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You all make excellent points! There are definitely times when I check the Recently Added page, see a Dramione full of cliches with 1000 reviews, and just kind of want to pack up and go home. But it shouldn't be about that. It shouldn't even be about the handful of wonderful, wonderful people who faithfully read and review my work. It should be about the fact that I love writing my stories, period. Sometimes we all need a reminder, and I thank all of you again for providing it.

Sarah, I think you make an excellent point about CC. I agree with what you've said about the swaps and tag, and I also think that a lot of people don't take critique seriously even when it comes in other forms, even with requested reviews. Sometimes they'll say, "Oh, thanks for pointing that out, I'll fix it," but then I'll return to the story later and no changes have been made, even if several people pointed it out. When I receive critique, I at least try to consider it (having to wait a few days to have time to respond to reviews helps with the kneejerk reaction) and decide whether or not the change might really be merited. Maybe that's just a result of having to accept criticism on a daily basis as a graduate student, but either way, it's a painful practice and one I'm very grateful for.

I really appreciate all of you stopping by to read and comment. I wrote this blog primarily for myself, but it's always nice to be reminded that I can count on you all for support. It gives me a nice case of warm fuzzies for Easter morning :wub: Now that I have put my feelings out there, I feel quite excited about having the opportunity to go back to the heyday of my life as a reviewer. Thank you all!
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