Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Jan's Guide to reviews. Appreciate the Author!
I have lots of experience with reviews, both as a reader submitting my own reviews and more recently as an author receiving reviews. I often will read reviews of stories just to see what other people think or said and started realizing how sometimes what a reviewer thinks they said is often a lot different than what the author hears. This is not good and I would like to help reviewers realize what their reviews sound like to authors and to help authors realize what reviewers actually meant to say.
I have given over two thousand reviews and average over 80 words a review. Some of my reviews are wonderful and an author will email me back with compliments and thank me. Other times my reviews are disappointing and may even offend some authors; that was never my intention and I apologize. I always try to put some effort into my reviews, I think them out and reread them before submitting. I always try to come up with something that could help an author improve because some authors want that, appreciate it or need help and are desperately hoping that someone will tell them why, WHY that first part of the chapter wasn't working! (I know that there are probably some less than satisfactory reviews from me out there, most done before I had any idea what I was doing or didn’t realize that what I wrote came out differently than I intended. Sometimes we all just have bad days and nothing comes out right. Once again, I apologize but hopefully now all my reviews will be helpful and boost confidence when applicable.)
I have read a lot of stories so yes, I do think that I can give an impartial review of what didn't work or what can be improved; I will tell you, even if your some big name fan like Aspen in the Sunlight who gets nothing but "Squees!". ;)
Reviews versus Feedback
Do you really know what a review is? I was surprised actually when I looked it up.
Definition of a Review:
A report by sb in a newspaper or magazine giving his or her opinion of a book, film, etc. (So, public comments from a reader to other (potential) readers, letting them know whether (in his/her opinion) the story in question is worth reading or not, and reasons why. Can contain both criticism (constructive or not) and praise.) **credit to godlessharlot from LJ
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary:
A critical article or report, as in a periodical on a book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation to inspect, esp. formally or officially; to write a critical report upon.
REVIEW, CRITICISM- imply careful examination of something, formulation of a judgment, and statement of the judgment, usually in a written form. A REVIEW is a survey over a whole subject or division of it, or esp. an article making a critical reconsideration and summary of something written.
Fanfiction.net uses REVIEWS and I had often wondered why there was always a Review link on every page with the stories’ information when no one used them; now I know. The reviews were meant to be as real reviews, the readers critically writing up what they thought of a story or chapter so that other people could click on the link and read what they had to say before deciding for themselves whether to read the story or not. Instead, the readers and authors started using this little method as a way to give Feedback and now that is what reviews are thought of and no one uses the Reviews page (no one I know) to see whether a story is worth reading.
Definition of Feedback:
Cambridge Online Dictionary:
Information or statements of opinion about something, such as a new product, that provides an idea of whether it is successful or liked.
The return of information about the result of a process or activity; an evaluative response: asked the students for feedback on the new curriculum.
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary:
A reaction or response to a particular process or activity; evaluative information derived from such a reaction or response; knowledge of the results of any behavior, considered as influencing or modifying further performance.
Feedback is comments from a reader to the author, intended for the author and their benefit; Covers 'flaming', 'constructive criticism' and 'Squees'.
1. Flames: negative comments without any redeeming qualities. They are generally nasty, abusive, rude, and/or generally not well received
2. Constructive Criticism
3. Squees: an exclamation translated as: "I am so delighted by this concept/visual/item that I am reduced to ecstatic monosyllables." (from http://www.geocities.com/tehomet/glossary.html)
Example of a flame:
"This is the worst thing I've ever read, it's stupid and you should be shot for writing it."
Example of a “Squee”:
“I love this story so much! I love it, just love it! Ah! Can I have your children? Please please please update soon I’m begging you!” **Squeers should note that while using all capitals may seem to convey craziness and love it may actually come across to an author as angry yelling, or very forceful yelling and takes something out of your Squee. You may pick out a sentence or two to capitalize but make sure that you pick out the more positive sentences like: I LOVE THIS STORY SO MUCH!
Promoting active Appreciation of the Authors!
**Some of the examples here are similar to what some regular reviewers do and are sometimes exaggerated. Please don’t be offended or upset if you are one of those reviewers and I am critical or point out something you do. I am trying to make everyone see how certain reviews seem to different people. You may not realize it but maybe now you will and the authors will realize what you meant to say.**
For the purpose of this page, we will deal with Feedback instead of real reviews since Feedback is what is most commonly used on Fanfiction.net and other fan fiction archives. I will call the term: Feedback Reviews.
So what is the purpose of Feedback Reviews? Mostly they are used for encouragement, to state appreciation and ask the author for more. Some more knowledgeable people will use it for constructive criticism or actually give a real review, only it is to the author telling them how they think their story compares to the general fandom and writing in general. (This is usually a SQUEE on the Author’s part as these well thought out and usually positive reviews really boost an author’s confidence and point out some great things that they usually don’t hear.)
The number one rule of giving feedback reviews is that you must say something positive. And if you say something negative you have to have twice as many positive things in the review to balance it out.
If you liked the chapter or at least gained some entertainment from it Tell The Author.
It is acceptable but not wonderful to just leave a comment stating that you are enjoying/liking the story/chapter without anything else.
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm really enjoying this story. The plot's well done and the writing is fabulous."
"Squueee!! I love this story so much!! Please update soon!"
"Awesome chapter!" is borderline acceptable. The other examples actually told the author more than one thing and while this review does express appreciation and tells the author that the chapter was good it doesn't really tell them anything else nor does it help them any and is more of a let down.
I know that a lot of people don’t have a lot of time and/or aren’t good at expressing themselves or writing reviews but be careful just saying “Good chapter. Waiting for more.” Some authors may be offended by that. (The cry of fan fiction authors over the space of a decade: “I put all this time into writing this chapter and all you can give me is five words of which three are expectations for more?” -anon fanfiction author)
Personally I am not offended and other authors may not be but it’s a bit of a let down. The review comes across as dispassionate and almost uncaring: A Luna Lovegood review in which the reader is following the story but hasn’t put out any emotional investment and is still withholding judgment until they get another chapter (or reach the end) before they tell you whether they liked it and that it was worth reading or if it was just so-so. To some authors it seems that these reviewers are just taking and not giving anything back but to others it may give them a slight boost in confidence that a reader took a few seconds to tell them that they are there and reading their story.
A good (encouraging) feedback review:
1. States appreciation!
I liked it / good chapter / excellent story so far / Thanks for an awesome chapter
A general statement will make a bigger impression than saying how much YOU liked it. For an even bigger impression, use both.
Great chapter. I really enjoyed it.
2. Will mention something in particular that was enjoyed/appreciated, like a specific scene, attitude, writing skill, characterization, ect.
I really liked how Harry made a new friend and the comparison of his life now and how it was before. / I loved all the lines you had Snape say.
Add example(s) from the story/chapter for bonus points.
I really liked the lines Snape said especially this one: “While I generally dislike slothfulness your obsessive tidying up has become distracting and disruptive. Cease it immediately. Except for the general tidiness of the main room, that you may continue.”
Keep up the good work! / I can't wait for an update! / Please update when you can!
**'Please update soon" works best with another statement of appreciation added directly afterwards so as to state why you want an update and that you APPRECIATE the author.
Please update soon! I really love this story!
Examples of Squee things:
"By the way, have I told you that this is now my favourite story?" Squeee!
"I loved this chapter so much!"
"Wow, I loved this chapter."
"This story is amazing! Your skill surpasses JKR herself!" (Not that that is very hard *snicker* just kidding)
"Everyone is incredibly in character."
Be careful things: Things that should be used carefully in reviews!
"I can't believe..."
Are you trying to be sarcastic or are you telling the author that something in the story was unbelievable? Sarcasm or any kind of humor is hard to express on the web. Make sure that it's obvious if you are either joking with the author, mad at a character or don't like an inconsistent plot hole.
"You were working on the 'All teenagers are hopeless in romance' theory in this chapter, weren't you? I guess anyone would sound silly when they find themselves in a new situation."
Uh. Ok? Does that mean that you liked the chapter?
"7 pts." "3 frogs"
What does that mean?! If you are going to give out a review solely based on your own made-up scale at least have a preplanned first review explaining the system so that an author can figure out what that means. Or course 'gold stars' and 'thumbs up' are universally recognized (or so I think) so they don't need to be explained.
The same goes with random questions; explain them.
If a chapter is about Harry in the hospital wing recovering from a rainy Quidditch fall don't just leave a review with JUST a couple of random unrelated to the plot questions like:
"Will Hermione be able to dry off? Why is Madame Pomfrey wearing yellow? Will Harry be able to make it to the Hospital Wing?"
Okay, the first is totally pointless and no one cares whether Hermione will dry off from the rain since we can all assume that she will; the story would have to have a complete deviation to answer that question which would not further the plot or provide any entertainment what-so-ever unless she decides to dry off by doing a strip tease in the Main Hall. Same for the second question, it's pointless and will frustrate the author because they won't be able to answer it in the next chapter- no one cares! The readers don't care what color Madame Pomfrey's Nurse Uniform is and neither do the characters so they will never ask, making it hard for an author to write that bit in.
As for the third question- were you even reading the chapter? Harry is already in the Hospital Wing, the whole chapter was about Harry in the Hospital Wing! This last question makes you look like you just skimmed the chapter without bothering to read it and are making up random questions for fun.
If you are supplying questions to help authors come up with ideas for future chapters that's ok. Just TELL THEM that that is what you are doing in every review. "Here's some questions you could ponder on if you are stuck or need a subplot to work in: …"
Questions should always either be something you are genuinely wondering or worried about and wish the author to address. Let me repeat that: Questions are Things You Wish The Author To Address, either in author notes or the chapter or something that you wish to hypothetically point out and show that certain things didn’t make sense. They are good to remind the author about certain subplots or show that you are interested in certain things or want to make the author think about other things but make sure that they are addressable. Please.
BE VERY CAREFUL LECTURING THE AUTHOR!!!! You may give constructive criticism or polite suggestions but make sure that you are being gentle and helpful and that you know what you are doing when you say something like "do this" or "be careful not to do this"; Don't be obtuse, think of what the author will think of when they get your review telling (demanding) them to do something. This is a hard point to explain but I will do my best:
With a forceful lecture tone, sometimes unless a reviewer has some kind of writing mentorship going on with the reviewer then they might not look kindly on it; in fact depending on how one does it they might feel offended. Lecturing reviews can come across very badly even if you think that you are being helpful and sometimes even happy and friendly. If you know what can be improved or you noticed something that went wrong then you should tell them but don't come across as crushingly forceful, as if the author MUST do everything you say. The keywords here are "suggestions" and "demanding". If you are worried about giving what might be read as a over demanding lecturing review then just make sure everything sounds like a suggestion.
Example of a BAD lecture:
"I like your story a lot so far but just be careful that your story doesn't get boring. There doesn't have to be any fights or anything but there has to be SOME action. And try not to do the same thing over and over again. Like it would be bad if Harry got hurt and had to go to the Hospital again. Don't have Harry keep liking and then hating Snape again it makes it too over dramatic. So far you haven't over done it but your next chapter will decide if this story will just be the same things happening over and over again and it gets boring. Don't forget to make the characters develop and actually SHOW the development, a lot of authors don't do that and just says it happened which ruins the story."
You might not be able to tell but getting this in a review can be very crushing for an author. I personally think that I’d rather get Netspeak! It doesn't encourage the author at all, may even make them feel like they did something wrong; actually it might make them feel like they did A LOT of things wrong. Unfortunately, this review seems like the reviewer was excited for the story, energetic and trying to be helpful; perhaps they were a little too overzealous. Here's the translation of what an author may read when they get a review like that:
"It's an okay story but I think that it will get boring. It's been pretty interesting so far but there are hints of boringness and it could very easily become much more boring in the future- in fact I'm half expecting it so DON'T do that because I'm telling you not to. There hasn't been that much action so far so put some of that in there; it doesn't have to be big battles or physical fights or stuff like that but you have to have at least SOME action or it will be boring. I know that you have used this particular plot so don't use it again or it will be boring- I know that there is a chance that you will use it but I'm telling you not to so that it won't get boring. I don't like your characters' reactions to each other- it's getting old and overdone so stop using that in your story as a main plot point. So far you haven't overdone it so much but I will withhold my judgement whether this story will become boring or not until the next chapter. Hey- since I know so much more then you I'm going to lecture you on a basic and obvious literary thing- develop your characters. So far your characters are dull and lifeless and aren't being given any depth or growth in your story. Some authors don't do that and just say that it happens which ruins the story, which is what will happen to you if you don't do what I say."
Same thing with lecturing about characters:
“I LOVE the way you wrote Draco Malfoy, you did it so perfectly it was AMAZING and I admire it so much but don’t forget that he’s a rich kid and always likes to bully Harry and hates all things Gryffindor and Albus Dumbledore a lot. You need to make him even more Draco-ish. You need to make him bully Harry a lot more and maybe order a cane because now that his dad’s in Azkaban he needs one to be like him. Draco wants to be exactly like his dad so he should be getting the Dark Mark soon, maybe within the next chapter. Don’t forget that he knows the Serpensortia spell so he should do that during his initiation. Making him more mean and smart would make him more in character. I love this story and your Draco it’s done so well!”
Uh ok sorry I tried to make it seem realistic but rereading this made-up review I can’t stop laughing. LOL, sorry. Anyways, bottom line DO NOT lecture an author about their characters (ESPECIALLY ORIGINAL CHARACTERS) unless they are very out of character (canon wise) like Snape deciding to get his fluffy pajamas and having a sleepover in Gryffindor tower and making s’mores just for the fun of it. Okay maybe not that out of character but you get the idea. You can comment about OOCness and give suggestions of basic character development if you actually know about that and can give an impartial analysis but do not lecture about what you think the character should be more "like" if it's a fandom trait or I will poke you with Snape's sticky s'more stick.
One word reviews.
What does that mean? Yay that I updated? Yay, you like the story? Yay, Harry drank tea? This does not help an author at all.
"this is gr8 so far also u have good sized chapters .can't w8 4 d rest, so plz update soon! k, take care :)"
Netspeak!!!! Gah NOOOO get it awaaaayyy. Please please please please please do not use Netspeak in your reviews. It makes me want to gouge my eyes out.
"My computer was broken; I wasn't able to log in; post."
Don't put this in your review unless you are a regular reviewer who usually gives very good or glowing reviews directly after a new chapter is uploaded and the author might have wondered what happened to you when they didn't get a review from you within the first hour of it being posted. Really, unless you are like that then the author really doesn't care and it's really a let down to have that be the majority of a review.
"I just spent the week reading all 17 chapters and finally finished. I liked it, please update."
Okay, now that just makes an author feel like a nothing more than some underappreciated work horse. All this reviewer seems to want is more entertainment; they don't care about the author's personal feelings and didn't try to encourage them to write more, they just ask for more. And if you read all 17 chapters then where are the other 16 reviews? If you are going to read a story in it's entirety or plan to review it only once it's finished then at least give a good enough review to be worth as many chapters as you read.