Tuesday 6 September 2016

Fanfic - You Don't Owe Me Comments

I've seen a lot of people lately with the attitude that, because they wrote fanfiction, they're owed praise from readers. Each and every single reader. 
As someone who has written (and read) fanfic for more than a decade, I completely disagree.
Do I leave feedback on every single fanfic I read? Honestly? No. 
Do I expect every single person who reads my fic to leave feedback? Hell no!
Do I try to leave at least a short comment? Do I love every single comment I get? Yes!
I don't bestow my fanfic upon the world and expect to be showered with gratitude. 

I write what I'm going to write, and oh happy day, at least a few people usually like it, and some of those people let me know they like it! And that's awesome—that's the way it should be. 

The great thing about fanfic is...it's free. It's free to write, and it's free to read. This makes it an excellent way for authors (myself included) to hone their skills and get feedback. This attitude of "Oh, I wrote something, and you're getting it for free, so you'd better APPRECIATE it!" turns fanfic into a bizarre economy: writing is paid for and created by praise, which in turn means that the authors are striving for that payment, rather than creating what they want and sharing it, and it means that authors owe their readers for giving them that praise. EVERY reader MUST comment, and the author MUST reply to every comment, and then it just spirals down into a big guilt trippy hell, with readers dictating what they want written, and authors complying to get praise—and readers being guilt tripped into commenting to keep the fanfic factory flowing. It's not fair to anyone—readers or writers. 
If someone gives me something for free, I don't expect there to be an obligation. When I give someone something for free, they don't owe me anything for it. That's, y'know, what free means. 
Ok. Come in really close now. Let me tell you something. I'm 28 now and I've been writing fanfic since I was 14 (holy shit half my life nerrrrrd!) I've been a published author for 3 years. And here's the thing—I don't write for my readers. *gasp!* I don't write for money, or praise. 
I write because I have to, because if I don't I'll literally explode. That wouldn't change if I burned what I wrote the second it was written, or if I was a best selling author (I'm not). 
Don't get me wrong—I LOVE my readers. I love them to pieces. I love hearing when people love my writing. Of course I do; I'm human, we're social animals, and getting rewarded by the group is a Good Thing. Validation feels good, and it's supposed to. It's a human need. 
I love getting paid for my writing. Yes I do. 
But that's not why I do it. And I believe that forcing someone to praise me cheapens it. I don't want to be a praise highwaymanstand or I won't deliver! I want to be a busker. I'm going to keep playing whether you acknowledge me or not, whether you tell me you like my playing, or throw some money in my hat. I'm not going to play more or better for the people who give me money, and I'm not going to stop playing and stare at people until they pay me. 
(I'm also not going to put my hat away because, hey, if you want to give me money, I'm not going to say no!)
I would rather get one comment that's really specific to my story, where the person really GETS what I was going for, than 10 generic comments. Not that there's anything wrong with generic comments! They're still valid and valuable, and I’m thankful for all of them. 
I'm personally not very good at leaving feedback/reviews, even on stories or books I loved. I also have a really shitty memory and I read a ton, so if I don’t take notes or write a review right away, I probably won’t remember enough detail to write one later. That’s why I don’t (always) comment. That’s my reason, and there are hundreds, and all of them are valid. 
Fanfic is fun, reading or writing.  It’s what I do to relax, or when I can’t sleep, or I have a few extra minutes waiting around for something. It’s not a commitment. 
I repeat—fanfic is not a commitment. And it shouldn’t be. I don’t have a commitment to fanfic authors. People who read my fanfic don’t have a commitment to me, and I don’t have a commitment to them (as you can tell by all my unfinished stories shhhh...)
I have made some amazing connections and friendships through my years in various fandoms and...guess what? Not one of them started because I felt forced to comment, or because I pressured someone into commenting with the threat "If you don't, I'll stop writing!"
Is it frustrating when I write something I think is amazing, only to get very little response when I post it? Of course it is! But that doesn't give me the right to chase down and bully people into responding. 
TL;DR it's great to get kudos and it's awesome to get comments, but I don't comment on every fic I read, I'm not going to stop writing because people don't praise me, and I'd really like my fellow authors to stop pressuring readers.

1 comment:

  1. I can't agree more with everything you've said here. I write fanfic, and I read it. And yes, I comment/review when a story or a chapter really grabs me, but I don't always review. I try, I do, but if you pressure me, I guarantee I won't find the time to leave a single syllable.