You know what’s really disturbing to me? The culture that seems to have sprung up around fanfiction. Writers spend weeks and months working on a story – I think my record is six months on A Place For Us To Dream. And so many times readers expect to just be given a chapter even if they don’t give anything to the writer in return.
I’m going to date myself a bit here, but I’ve been reading/writing fanfiction for ten years. And when I first started it was a wonderful community. There was an unspoken rule – if you read/enjoyed it, you review it. You take thirty seconds to tell an author who probably spent anywhere from three days to a week writing that chapter you just enjoyed to tell them you enjoyed it. Even if it was as simple as “Great chapter, can’t wait to see what happens next!”
Writers spend so much time on stories, and then they post it because they have this thing that they’ve invested so many hours into and they want to share it with the world. They know how they feel about the story, and they want to know how other people feel, what other people think.
And when you read it and don’t review, you know what message you’re sending that author? That they’re not worth your time, or you didn’t enjoy their story. So why should they keep posting it? Yeah they might continue working on it in their own time, for their own enjoyment, but you might never see another chapter again because you couldn’t be bothered to take thirty seconds out of your day to tell them how you feel.
I’ve written stories in eight different fandoms, ranging from very small to very big (I’ll openly admit I wrote Twilight fanfiction once. Once. It was an Alice/Jasper story and haters can hate all they want but I’m still proud of it). I took a break for a few years because I fell out of fandoms during college, and when I came back apparently it’d become the norm to just greedily consume writing without telling writers how you feel. And that is one of the saddest things in the world to me because fanfiction is where I really started getting serious about writing. It’s how I’ve honed by skills and become the writer I am today. And that was largely in part because of all the support I got when I was an itty-bitty thirteen-year-old writing crappy W.I.T.C.H. fanfiction.
Everyone keeps saying “reviews don’t matter, you should just write for yourself.” Well, you’re wrong. Reviews make or break fanfiction. Reviews tell writers whether it’s worth their time to continue posting that story online or whether they should keep it on their hard drives and never share it with the world.
Kill the attitude that reviews don’t matter. Start telling writers you like their stories. And if you don’t, if you all just continue to be invisible readers? Don’t be surprised when that writer disappears.