Etiquette Tips for Writers and Readers of Fanfiction

Fanfiction is a staple of the online world. I’ve written and read my share of stories, and this article has my own personal tips on etiquette for writers and readers of fanfiction. These aren’t tips on how to write stories, but how to present them and deal with issues such as feedback and criticism.

Etiquette Tips For Fanfiction Writers:

1. Don’t force feedback. Writers love feedback. They love to see that people like their stories. However, I feel that it is wrong to try and force feedback. If you post a story, you shouldn’t threaten to not finish it if you don’t get a minimum number of reviews. If it’s in you to finish, then finish it. It’s possible that some people may not want to review a half finished story. After the story is done, if you feel you haven’t gotten a decent amount of feedback, then you may decide not to post another one. But, I personally am not inclined to comment on a story when I feel my comments are forced. And, as a writer, I’d rather see a comment from someone who honestly wanted to comment, rather than did it because they were scared they couldn’t find out the ending of my story.

2. Writers should let the story speak for itself. I’ve seen two extremes in this area. One is where the writer introduces the story by saying how bad it is. It’s their first story, they really don’t like it, and the story is stupid. Then, why are you putting it out there for anyone to see? Yes, we understand that you’re not a professional writer, but that shouldn’t stop you from putting your best work out there. I suspect that this type of disclaimer is meant to deflect any criticism. After all, the reader knows going in that the story isn’t going to be any good. However, being told beforehand that a story is bad doesn’t make it any less bad once it’s read. The other extreme is to say that the story is really good. A reader should be allowed to discern for themselves if a story is good.

3. Not all criticisms are flames. No one likes to find out that someone didn’t like their story. And, yes, some people are rude in giving criticism. But, not every negative response is a flame. If a person is polite in their criticism, it isn’t wrong for them to give it. You may not like it, but you shouldn’t assume that an attack was meant. Read the criticism, and if you feel it has merit, you can make changes or keep it mind for the next story. If you disagree, you can disregard it.

Etiquette Tips For Fanfiction Readers:

4. Don’t criticize the genre a person chooses to write a story in. There are certain types of stories I don’t read. I know going in that I won’t enjoy them because of the subject matter. This does not mean that the stories themselves are bad. They just don’t fit my personal taste. It would be presumptuous of me to say someone shouldn’t write a particular kind of story. I save my criticisms for the quality of the stories themselves, not what category they fall under.

5. This is one I admit I don’t follow often enough, but readers should leave feedback if they find something in the story worth commenting on. This is especially true if you liked the story. One site, fanfiction.net makes the process of commenting on stories is very easy. Just click on the submit review and a pop up window opens allowing you to type in a comment. Some authors require that you are logged in before you submit a review, but registering on the site is easy and only requires an email address.

6. Constructive criticism is good, but make sure it is constructive. Just telling a person a story sucks does no one any good. If you have a problem with a story or a suggestion for improvement, frame your response in a civil and helpful manner.

These are my personal tips for being good fanfiction writers and readers. They aren’t rules set in stone, but I believe they are a matter of good fanfiction etiquette.

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