Have you ever wanted to leave a negative review on a fanfic, but wondered if the author would really want your constructive criticism? We asked our group of writers what it’s like to receive negative reviews- the kind that are meant to be helpful as well as some that are just plain nasty.
This is really starting to be a bland bowl of chicken noodle soup – Not a lot of spice in the last few chapters – Yawn.
– IWMDDN on Belle Walker’s “Spicing Things Up”
You might be surprised at how many of these great writers have received negative feedback on their work. When those negative words are written in the spirit of constructive criticism, they are often appreciated. As Bamie02 sees it, “I think it’s important to get reviews with constructive criticism because if you write something and other people who read it don’t think it’s quite right, then you as a writer can have a chance to look it over and say you know what? They’re right. You can take those reviews and the thoughts of other people and use it to better your own writing.”
For Tess DiCorsi and peanutbutterer, reader feedback was especially helpful when writing their first lengthy multi-chapter story. For Tess, it helped her realize the challenge readers had following the story’s many shifts in timeline and location. For peanutbutterer, “Feedback from readers is what helps people become better writers, right?” she says. She notes that reader feedback has given her the opportunity to “make alterations as I go… I think, maybe, it’s helped guide me a little knowing what it is the readers are responding to.” A few other writers mentioned getting helpful critiques on their grammar. phillydi notes that “It hurts but if you are not open to looking into some of the issues people bring up then you don’t learn and you prevent your future writing from getting better.”
Given the incredible complexity of Deeks’ character and the Densi relationship, it should come as no surprise that our writers and their readers don’t always see eye to eye on how they should be portrayed. Jessica237 has received such feedback. She says, “I’m certainly not opposed to constructive criticism- I think it’s helpful to see what another eye sees when they read it, and if someone doesn’t think what I’ve written meshes with who they see Deeks to be, I’m interested to know why- what works for them, what doesn’t. There seems to be more consensus among the fandom as to who Deeks is as opposed to Kensi sometimes, but I’ve had some interesting discussions on Kensi in that regard.”
For ZeGabz, “When worded politely, constructive criticism is vital to the writing process.” She talks about a few reviews she received on a scene from her story “Retreat” where Kensi and Deeks fight, “a confrontational scene where Deeks completely loses his cool,” she described. Some readers were bothered seeing Deeks lose his temper. “They had a good point, but I think that even the most whipped, cowardly member of a partnership can lose it given the proper circumstances. Deeks has very intense emotions inside him, which I think the Afghanistan storyline (which aired a while after I posted this story) really gave us a chance to see… I ended up addressing their issue in the next chapter briefly, but it was nice to hear a different take on his character, and it forced me to think about the choices I made and why I made them. So, in short, I love it.”
Wow you fandom guys are one tough audience- I have forgotten my husband’s birthday when I was involved in some heavy work stuff- AND he forgave me- Kensi wasn’t going out on a date but out with the guy who REALLY saved her life. Can u spell spoiled self centered baby- oh yeah D-E-E-K-S.
– wtcsurv on peanutbutterer’s “Shift”
peanutbutter wrote a post-ep for “Drive,” called “Shift,” that generated a lot of discussion, 99% of it positive. “I have been fortunate to not get a lot of negative criticism- which I take to mean the people that don’t agree with me just x-out instead of saying something,” she notes, “but I did get one that has always stuck out. It said that I had written Deeks as a ‘spoiled, self-centered baby.’ I could see where it was coming from, though I definitely didn’t agree. It was in response to a fic… where Deeks was finally standing up for himself and saying he’s tired of being the punching bag for everyone and so, yeah, I guess that makes him self-centered. But I felt that he was due. That’s one thing I’ve always wanted Deeks to do, to actually focus on himself. If I went a little too extreme then that’s okay. It’d been extreme in the other direction for too long. The review stung, for sure, but it didn’t make me feel bad about how I’d portrayed him because I was confident I’d made the choices I felt needed to be made.”
Jericho Steele’s feelings about constructive criticism depend “on the spirit in which the criticism was delivered. If it is really to point out a poor representation of the character(s) on my part, then I do try to make subtle corrections to bring them back into line; but there have been times when the issue was more of personal taste on the readers part, and I can’t really change the idea I have for the story just because someone wants more of this or that. There was one reviewer that pointed out that I was sometimes making Deeks out as the comic relief without showing his character traits that make him a strong part of the team. After looking back over the chapters, I saw the issue and then made a conscious effort to display Deeks’ true strengths in the next parts of the story. I am grateful to that reviewer, they helped me make my story better and I appreciate their input.
Not every writer welcomes feedback, even if it’s constructive. “At this stage of writing fan fiction,” says imahistorian, “I’m not really looking for constructive criticism. I generally know the story I want to write and where I want to take my story. If someone wants to tell me what they enjoyed I am always thrilled to hear it and I appreciate the time and effort readers put into commenting. But I don’t view fan fiction as an open forum to be told how I’m writing the characters or a story in a way that someone else thinks is wrong or should be changed. Their wrong might be my perfectly right. Just as my right is not everyone’s cup of tea. In the end, neither side is wrong, it’s just different. I post my stories online because I think they might be interesting for some people to read. But most certainly they aren’t interesting for even a majority of Deeks or Densi fans to read. And that’s perfectly fine, everyone has their different tastes in reading the portrayal of the characters and the type of story whether it is crime, romance, angst, drama, or whatever. I appreciate and respect the creative process any writer has to go to in order to write and how hard it can be. It’s not my place to tell someone else how to write when they haven’t asked me to. Constructive criticism is fine if you’ve asked for it as a writer. But putting a story online doesn’t necessarily mean you’re asking for constructive criticism. That said, I’m not naive. I know the second you put anything on the internet you’re opening yourself up to criticism of all kinds. I’ve just learned what to pay attention to, and what to ignore.
The intrigue of your story is very good… layers upon layers of details. I’m impressed with how well thought or your original characters are. And boy, that last line will have Kensi become an instant ally. My only quibble is making Deeks seem so stupid. It just rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. Sorry.
– jmlane1966 on Jericho Steele’s “Aunt Hetty”
Sadly, not all negative reviews try to be constructive. Sometimes they’re just nasty. “I’ve received some mean comments and I’m not going to lie and say they don’t bother me,” reports Jessica237, “because in the moment they do. It’s hurtful when you put time and energy into anything, fic or otherwise, to have it just attacked just like that. But then I put it in perspective- 99% of the simply mean reviews with no constructive criticism- just criticism- are from anonymous reviewers that I’ve never spoken to a day in my life.” Anonymity seems to be a prerequisite for such negativity. Some writers, like bookdiva, have disabled guest reviews or require pre-approval before they post with the story. thepixiesmademedoit observes, “I think anonymity provides people with a lot of bravery!… Quite honestly I didn’t stop to linger over them. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”
Belle Walker explains that nasty reviews are “really a pet peeve of mine, because there are some people out there who are jerks just for the ‘fun’ of it. I don’t recall getting any ‘mean’ reviews yet on any Deeks or Densi fics, but I’ve had a few from the other fandoms I’ve written for. Of course it makes me angry, because there’s no need for it. If you don’t like a story someone else wrote, just move on to another one. You don’t have to tell them that they’re stupid, or have no writing skill, or that their ideas are crap… We can be helpful and supportive to each other without being mean.”
ZBBZL says, “I currently write for four different fandoms… I’ve only gotten nasty feedback for NCIS:LA. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve left the fandom… Rude reviews I ignore, and rant to my friends or on my blog. But it sure hurts. Not so much on my ability to write or my story, but just the sad realization that people are cowards and hide behind a screen to hurt people. The absence of feedback feels the same way. Seeing people favorite or follow a story, but then not taking a couple minutes to leave a review, is both disheartening and annoying. I get more angry than sad at that.”
imahistorian reports that, “Of course I’ve received negative and mean reviews. Most often they have come from anonymous sources that don’t allow for any kind of response or dialogue. And that falls under the category of bullying or trolling and really doesn’t deserve a response. I suppose there’s usually that initial feeling of defense, as though as a writer I might want to defend my choices for the characters or the story I’ve written. And it’s hard not to feel bad when someone says something negative about all the hard work and effort it took to write something because it is a lot of time and effort that, at least in the world of fan fiction, I’m not getting paid for. But I do try to remind myself of what I mentioned previously. Just because I write something someone else doesn’t like doesn’t make it bad or wrong, it just means we don’t agree on what makes a good story. But I write because I want to, and because I’m compelled to take Kensi and Deeks places the show doesn’t. I’m not going to stop doing that just because someone doesn’t agree with my view of the characters.”
In the end, as Tess DiCorsi observes, “…if someone writes something mean and cruel for the sake of doing that– it tells me more about them than my story.” Kadiedid relates, “I’ve only received a handful of negative reviews and there was only one or two that were mean. I know there are people out there that think they are helping but mean is mean and they should learn how to communicate better. I usually just ignore them…” When nearly all her over 900 reviews have been good ones, she says, “the majority wins!”
“Unfortunately, not all people can be positive,” says bookdiva. “I’ve had my fair share of negative nellies, that’s for sure.” One reader criticized her series based on sneak previews from the show, describing it as “pointless.” bookdiva wondered, “…why do you waste your time reading and reviewing if it’s a waste of time? Honestly, I would’ve rather that person just kept their review to themselves. Nonetheless, I still proceeded as I always do, thanking those with positive and constructive reviews… and this person replied again! I was like… seriously! He or she came back and read it again! I read [her] review and just laughed.”
So I have to ask what is this b/c- If I didn’t have the internet or I was deaf and couldn’t read lips- This would be interesting- but clearly what it is is sad that you have the time in your day to regurgitate what any “true” blue Densi fan has probably watched a million times already in the “sneak peak” I am sure I am going to get a bunch of F/U responses about what a meany I am but I am also pretty sure many others out there are thinking the same exact thing- This is pointless.
– GL550 on bookdiva’s “The Possibilities Are Endless”
For Belle Walker, negative feedback will never deter her from writing what she wants. “I’ve never liked the word ‘criticism’ because it sounds negative right away,” she says. “But when someone does share some constructive criticism on my writing, it does force me to stop and take a step back and try to look at my story through their eyes. And after I’ve gotten over the hurt feelings, I may or may not make adjustments to my story- but I never stray from my purpose in writing it. Because I write primarily for my own satisfaction and to entertain myself, and I only share my work with others because I hope someone else might appreciate it too.”
Indeed, we do appreciate these writers’ work! Next week we’ll hear more about what our positive reviews mean to them, in Writing Deeks: Two Thumbs Up.
Want to Read More? A big Thank You to the writers who so generously shared these reviews. To find their stories and judge for yourself, follow these links:
Belle Walker, “Spicing Things Up”
Jericho Steele, “Aunt Hetty“
bookdiva, “The Possibilities Are Endless”
Or, go back to the previous Writing Deeks, The Sexytimes.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.