I got into an argument with a fanfiction writer once. The argument started off innocently enough, because she was asking for help with her story. That’s simple enough. This was back when I was making a real effort to offer useful feedback that went beyond the one-line head patting that so aggravates anyone that posts their writing on a forum.
What should have tipped me off was when the author said, “I think my story is above average, but if you want to offer CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, then feel free.”
As is typical of people who write for forums, she posted the first chapter of her fanfiction. I read it and offered feedback, providing some insight into how the established characters would actually behave. She took the advice onboard somewhat, by completely rewriting the first chapter so that she was basically hitting every checkbox on the list I had apparently given her (I might as well have written the story myself so that she could just put her name on it).
Well, I didn’t offer any other feedback at that moment, because at that point I got the impression that she wasn’t really listening. But that was fine because she didn’t post anything else for a while.
Then she posted a drawing of her main character.
Then she posted a post asking for more feedback for the one chapter she had written, followed by the rewritten chapter that she also posted. The only other feedback she received was the standard one or two lines of flattery. Maybe it was sincere, or maybe the responders were only replying to another post she made that could be summed up by, “Like my story, or I’m not writing anymore.”
And that set me off. I tried to keep my response as polite as possible, but it was definitely to the point when I told her that she was asking for feedback on something she didn’t even put any quantifiable effort into.
Her response, “Well, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my story.”
So not only had she steeled herself completely against any sort of feedback, but she also threatened not to continue her story if we didn’t give her more of the feedback that she specifically wanted to hear. And I think that says plenty about her ego, that she believes we would be tripping over ourselves to blow smoke up her behind so that she can grace us with her words and her art.
What does this story have to do with me? Well, obviously I would love if I could increase my sales numbers on my books. But at this stage, I would be just as happy if people simply read and enjoyed the story that I had such a great time writing.
I write because I love writing. The money I put into getting the nice book cover, and the effort someone was willing to put into editing and proofreading the book was all part of the hard work that I was willing to put into it for the sake of my readers.
Feedback is always welcome. Reviews would be even better, because then other people could read them and decide for themselves on whether or not to download and read my books. But I’m never going to be so high on myself as to believe that issuing an ultimatum will force readers to open their wallets.
(Oh, I’m also not going to get into arguments with other writers. It’s kinda unprofessional.)