Guidelines to Writing Reviews and Replying to Reviews

The title says it all. I've created this page to share some tips on writing reviews and how to reply to them.

Writing a Review
The following I posted on my fanfiction profile page last summer. I will start from it as the basis for this guideline and gradually build this page.
When I choose to post a review, I comment on the overall impact of the story. I feel it is far better to reinforce the efforts of a first time author, rather than pick their story apart over small details. I have read some very good and even excellent stories, some of which demonstrated poor sentence structure, grammar, or even the odd spelling mistake. So what! It is the story that is important. Writing is an art, not a science. Precision and accuracy are not fundamental. I have read fiction written by professionals which have contained poor grammar, bad spelling, and even major or minor contradictions of plot points or details. When I finish reading a story, I ask myself the following questions: 1) Was it good? 2) Did I enjoy it? 3) Would I read it again? and 4) Would I recommend it to others? I choose to overlook the small unimportant things if I can answer yes to the majority of those four questions. I feel it is important as a reader and a reviewer to concern myself with the full picture and not negligible errors.

Some other ideas when it comes to posting a review.
1) If you generally do not like the story, then do not waste your time or the author's time writing a review which tells them you hate it. What's the point? If you do not like it, then do what you would do if you were reading a novel, close the book, and pick up another and hope it is a better tale. You do not finish the book and then write a letter to the publisher telling him what a crappy story they published, do you? Then why do it for an amateur author.

2) Do not skim through a chapter and think you understand what you have read. Some stories, like mine, are riddled with detail that if missed, can lead you to forming an opinion on what you think you have read, that you probably wouldn't have if you actually took the time to read it. I have gotten comments that made me wonder if they actually read the chapter they were responding to, as their comments were so strange it sounded like they had read someone else's story, but posted the review to me instead.
It might also be helpful to read the entire available story before posting a review, because what you think you know about the story a few chapters into it, could be completely wrong.

3) The stories you read on the wiki's and fanfiction are typically written by amateur authors. It is ridiculous to hold them to the same measure you would for a professional author. Make allowances that the author will make mistakes. On the other hand, if you do come across a glaring omission or error in a sentence or grammar or spelling, then politely mention it. I'm always appreciative and I'm sure others would be too.

4) Be polite at all times.

5) Do not use reviews to engage in an argument, debate, or discussion with other reviewers or the author himself. Private messaging and public forums are the places for that. In a review you voice your opinion and move on.

6) Short reviews of one or two words like: "Good Job" "Fantastic" "Loved it" are understandable for those who might be pressed for time or might be reviewing from a mobile device, but if you've got the time or the ability to say more than one or two words, then please do so.

7) Long reviews. Some of these tend to be my favorite, but now and then you get one that makes you wonder if the reviewer is truly responding to your story, or making use of the review option to voice grievances or other items that are best posted in forums.

8) Summarizing the chapter in your review. I like those that point out one or two scenes, or even half a dozen :-), that the reader liked where they think the story is leading are fun to read.

9) If there are some points of a chapter that you didn't understand or that you think might be in error, then be precise and polite. If you have suggestions, offer them, but understand that the author may not want to use your suggestions or may have ideas for making changes to his story that are different than yours.

10) If you think you can do a better job than the author of the story you have just read, then write your own story. It isn't as easy as you think and takes a lot of time and dedication to produce even a halfway decent tale. So before you tell an author you could write it better, try it first.

Responding to a reviewer
1) First and foremost, if you get a review which clearly upsets you, do not reply in the heat of the moment. Let some time go by and try to look through the words on the page to what the reviewer is trying to say and respond to that, politely. Nothing aggravates an ignorant SOB more than being polite to them. Sometimes the words they wrote make them sound like an ass because they are, or perhaps they just had a bad day, but regardless, be polite.

2) You do not have to reply personally to all reviews. I've gotten into that trap and I find it harder and harder to maintain that personal connection by responding promptly. If you are a first time author, then I would say reply to as many as you can personally. You will soon find yourself with more friends and contacts than you thought you'd ever have. In time, you will learn who your regulars are and reply to them personally. Also try and reply personally to first time readers. All other reviews, say a thank you in your author notes

3) What to do about unsigned or anonymous reviews on fanfiction? If you generally like what they have said, then include a thank you in your author notes of your next chapter.

4) Whether you liked what the reviewer had to say or not, always thank them for the time they took to read your story.

5) Be polite at all times.

I will probably edit this in time, but I think the basics are there. If you have any suggestions, then begin a thread and I'll add the better ideas to the lists above.

Page originally created
on the Blue Wiki by The1Russter on June 23, 2010.
Transfered here by The1Russter on May 6, 2011.
These guidelines are for the benefit of all who write and read fanfiction.

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