Sunday, March 04, 2012

Comments vs Reviews

If you missed it, my humor-horror flash fiction, "Audition With The Vampire," is up at Every Day Fiction. I think it's a fun bit of speculative whimsy, but of course, that's for you to judge. :)

But here's the deal. If you like it, great. I'd like to hear about it. But if you don't like it, just move on. An online magazine's comment section is not a place to critique or review the story. IMHO.

Here's why. The story has already been purchased and published. The magazine thought enough of it to pay money for it and post the dang thang. Any criticism won't change the story. It's done. Over. Who cares if you'd write it differently? I wrote it, you didn't. You either like it or you don't. Let others read it and come to their own conclusion.

Comments are different than Amazon reviews. There, a story is for sale - it's been published (by the writer or publishing house) but has not yet been a new customer. The purpose of the review, then, is to inform other paying customers whether the story is "worth it."

Short stories in online magazines, free to the reading public, don't need a warning from some individual for whom the story "didn't work." Again, who cares whether it didn't work for you or not? Most of the time, the critical comment simply reveals the reader's genre bias or misreading of the story. And almost always the comments are anonymous. Go figure.

Sour grapes? Maybe. Like you, I don't like negative feedback. I do, however, seek criticism when I'm in the crafting stage of my stories; but once it's done, it's done. Can I learn from someone's after-the-fact comments? Sure, but only insofar as they relate to crafting my next story.

That being said, I'm writing mainly for me, not you. I like my light and airy style, my humor, my characterization, and my "predictable" plots. I've been told my dialog is believable, witty, snappy, etc. This feedback is helpful. Telling me you'd change the ending of my story isn't.

Okay, rant over. Comments (not reviews :) welcome.


  1. You gave me a big boost back in 2008 when you commented on a short story of mine at Mindflights. Your positive words made a deep impression on me, and I still remember them.

    Thank you for that. To me that's a positive use of online zine forums...acting the critic is like a slap in the face to the zine (before we even get to the writer!), which has put out the money, infrastructure and time to present a variety of offerings for a variety of readers.

  2. Hi Lyn!

    I read the vampire short the other day when you posted it, and thought I'd left a comment, but it didn't take...

    Anyway - I snickered at your retort: Really? - Thought it was appropriate and concise!

    Personally liked the story and wish I could do tongue-in-cheek like that! And this 'rant' is voicing a much needed correction! Thanks :)

  3. I once published a version of Beauty and the Beast for an online journal of fairy tales, and since the piece was set in 1740s France, the beast was a Roman Catholic.

    A comment said that the commenter didn't like the story and "would never read it to children" because I was equating Beauty with the Catholic church. Which I pretty much just thought was hilarious.

    But I've liked some of the negative comments my published stories have gotten--it's helped me be more precise in my writing.

    I agree, though, that it would have been more useful for the commenter to email me something along the lines of "Is Beast Catholic because you're trying to tell me to convert to Catholicism?" to which I could have answered, "Buh?"



  4. Thanks ladies, and your comment about my Mindflights comment encourages me, Cat. Yeah, I'm not opposed to critique - and think an email "what's this mean" or "have you considered" kind of feedback would be cool - authentic and helpful at the same time.

  5. By the way, here is C. L. Dyck's story, The Significance of Snowflakes.

    And here is my comment:
    I liked the story for its metaphorical/allegorical aspect - it's an example of what modern allegory should be (ie, not peppered with stilted, two-dimensional characters and a heavy-handed moralistic message). The science was fine as I (not being into math) simply went with the flow. It could have been a dry philosophical outing, but the fantastical setting helped shape the story. Congrats.

  6. I really liked "Audition With the Vampire." I remember you sending me the shorter version once, but I think the current longer version works much better.

  7. It's all a matter of opinion. People are entitled to their opinions, however outrageously absurd they might be.

    Of course, this is coming from the person who sometimes gets annoyed over irksome comments made in rejections.

    I've gotten both positive and negative comments in regard to some of my published poetry. Sometimes, you have to take the bad with the good. It seems to be one of the things writer-types have to learn to deal with.

  8. Great post, Lyn.

    But I think I'd have changed the ending... (just kidding!)

    I definitely enjoyed "Audition With The Vampire" -- it caused me to seek out your blog and become a follower. So if your writing is bringing enjoyment to some people and making them want to read more of your work, who cares if others make some negative comments (in their minds, maybe they think they're honestly trying to help)? You can't please everyone and trying to is a path to insanity.

    Just keep doing what you're doing!

  9. Thanks Stoney, Richard, and Chris - good points and you're right. Everyone has an opinion and given a benefit of the doubt, they are probably just trying to help. I know I've stopped following certain writers because of what they say on their blogs, and I don't mean to be a grump, but sometimes I just gotta vent, lol. Appreciate your kind words and

  10. Well said, Lyn. I agree with you a hundred percent. I had a story up on Everyday Fiction last June. I received the same mix of comments. Some of the readers really connected with the story and their comments were encouraging. The negative ones weren't that useful. A couple of the negative commentators didn't think it was possible/reasonable for a Viking teenage boy to act with compassion.

  11. I liked the humor, and the whole notion of a real vampire failing his audition for the role of a vampire just made me smile.

    As for the negative commentary, it's self-important and unhelpful. Blow it off.

  12. I don't mind negative comments on stories of mine...because I'm to the point in my career that I know which advice to take and which to ignore... ;-)

  13. Thanks Jeff, Keanan, and Todd.

  14. Loved the vampire story! Super funny. :)

    I caught your steampunk chat at the online conference. I was the transcriber, so I didn't get to pay as close attention as I'd have liked until after, and I was cleaning up the transcription. Wow. Super great chat! Thanks for doing it! :D

  15. Thanks, Amanda. I realized I was a bit heavy on the short story part and needed more on the steampunk part. Ah well, live and learn - because that's what I'm doing with the steampunk antho. No better way to learn about something than to jump in with both feet! Thanks for dropping by and for transcribing the chat. I'd like to get a copy eventually. :)


Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)