(Crossposted to LJ)
So, it seems like the feedback debate is starting up again. I could just point to LJ-user penknife's essay on the subject
, which covers about 90% of my opinion on the matter, but for once I'm going to stir my stumps and do a bit of meta of my own.
First, my personal views: I like comments. That includes short ones of the "I liked it!" nature. Sure, it's great if you can say something about why
you liked it, a line that really hit you or a bit of characterization or theme that you really enjoyed. That's always welcome. But if all you have time/energy/brain for is "I liked it!", that's absolutely fine
. It tells me that you read and enjoyed, which is the primary reason for existence of any story, and I appreciate hearing it.
It's also fine if you didn't like it, provided your reason for doing so is relevant to the story. "This didn't work for me because I think your characterization of Bob is contradicted by [a specific bit of canon]," is a perfectly reasonable comment. At best, we might have an interesting discussion about it; at worst, well, IDIC in action. (If your comment is "This didn't work for me because there were no penguins, and I only like stories with penguins in them" -- well, you're entitled to your opinion, but you're probably going to dislike most of what I write, and it might be better if you didn't waste both of our time.) A modicum of tact is appreciated, because let's face it, I wouldn't go to the trouble of writing this stuff if it didn't matter to me. But even a less-than-totally-enthusiastic comment tells me that you read the story, and it had enough going for it that you didn't just hit the Back button and move on.
Comments on old stories are every bit as welcome as comments on new stories. I don't disown these things after a set time span; if you just found my five-year-old HP plot-bunny fluff and it made you laugh, I'd be happy to know that!
And no, you don't have
to comment. I put this stuff out for free on the internet, in public posts, and you don't technically owe me anything for it. If you absolutely can't bring yourself to comment for whatever reason, so be it. But if you can and choose to do so... that's just nice, y'know?
And yes, I reply to comments. Sometimes it takes me a while, as my schedule seems to be oddly skewed from most of journal-based fandom, but I'll get there. I'm not trying to make that a manifesto that all of fandom must follow, because I'll admit, my motives are somewhat selfish. There are people who get annoyed by feedback-replies, people who don't care, and people who expect them as good manners. And you know what? It seems to me that the people who dislike replies are far outnumbered by the others. So if I want comments on my stories (and I do), it's in my best interest to click that reply-to-this link, whether that means a simple "Thanks!" to a simple "I liked it!" or a detailed response to a detailed analysis.
And that brings me to the other thing about feedback:
Writers like comments. Yes, that's a generalization, and like any generalization, there are exceptions. But I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of fan-authors like getting comments on their stories, and the majority who like comments like them whether they are short or long. It's not even too much of a stretch to say that comments make most writers feel warm and happy toward their story.
And if a writer feels kindly-disposed toward a particular story, they're at least a tiny little bit more likely to write more stories like that one
This doesn't just apply to the true feedback-whores who write whatever they think will get them the most attention in fandom, regardless of where their own interests may lie. Even the most self-directed of writers has to make choices about what to work on next, ideas being a lot easier to come by than completed works. And if a certain kind of story has positive associations in the twisted depths of the writer's mind (I say, as a self-confessed writer), then any pending stories of a similar nature are also
going to have a positive association -- by association, as it were. The writer is naturally going to be drawn to work on them, all else being equal.
So whenever I read a story I like, I do my best to comment on it, because that improves the odds of getting more stories that I like.
Me, I like gen. Canon-compliant, short to mid-length gen, by preference, with rich characterization, decent plotting, and please god spell-checking and proofreading. There seems to be a shortage of this in most of my fandoms. I could kick off another round of the ancient slash-vs-gen debate here, I could moan and wail about why people spend their time writing all that other stuff... but I'd rather just encourage there to be more of what I like, regardless of the stats on what I'm not interested in. So when I find a good solid gen story that I enjoy, I comment on it. It's being nice to the author, sure, but in the long run it's also being nice to myself.
And this approach works regardless of where your interests lie. Maybe you're really into obscure-pairing BDSM slash. Maybe you're hooked on high school AUs. Heck, maybe you only like stories with penguins. Regardless of what kind of fanfic you enjoy, it's in your best interest to comment on it when you read it.
Even if all you can manage at the time is, "I liked it!"