lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Meant to post this a while ago. Oh well, it'll likely be relevant again, more's the pity.

A little while ago, Chuck Wendig posted one of his lists, this one about How To Be Outraged On The Internet. And it's Wendig, so it's a pretty good list, and I even agree with parts of it (though only parts), but he did miss one thing.

Here, I fixed that for him.


ARE YOU ABOUT TO SOUND LIKE A MONTY PYTHON SKIT

Because seriously? Most internet kerfluffles are like watching highlights from The Holy Grail. "Help, help, I'm being oppressed! Did you see him there, oppressin' me?" Yes, once in a great while, there's actually an offence being committed, but most of the time? There's no "there" there. It's a lot of sound and fury, but it signifies a great deal more about the person being FURIOUS ON THE INTERNET!!!1!! than it does about whatever it is they're sounding off about. The only difference is, the Pythons were being over-the-top and ridiculous on purpose -- and they were funny about it.

So the next time you're about to be outraged about something on the internet, stop and think a moment: Are you about to sound like a Monty Python skit? And then stop and think a moment more: Do you really want to?
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
People limit themselves. Every individual has their own limits, of course, and it's up to that individual to determine what they are. But I know a lot of people who limit themselves to where they do almost nothing, far more than external factors would justify. Working on the Couch-to-5K program (week 2 in progress, going well so far) has got me to thinking about limits, and I think part of the problem is that many people think of their limit as a single point, when really it's more of a tiered system.

The first limit is the limit of what's easy. If you're really out of shape, that may be as simple as getting off the couch. Anything more wouldn't be easy, and when it stops being easy, you stop too.

The second limit is what's comfortable. Depending on how fit you are and what activity you're approaching, these two may be pretty close together. For me, they're fairly far apart if I'm doing weights, for example; it would be easy to not do anything at all, but I can push 50-80 pounds around pretty comfortably. For running, however, the distance between easy and comfortable is literally one step -- my warm-up walk is easy, but that first step of running is immediately uncomfortable. I have to be willing to push past the limit of comfortable even to take that second step, really to run at all.

Number three is the limit of wanting it enough. Wanting the goal more than you don't want the process, wanting it enough to do it even when it isn't easy or comfortable. I want to be able to run, so I'm plodding along through Couch-to-5K because I want the result more than I don't want the effort to get there. (This is where exercise may start to sound reminiscent of other human endeavors. I wanted to have finished a novel badly enough to keep writing all the way to the end, even when it wasn't fun. I want to have a cheerful, mildew-free laundry room enough to keep painting for what seems like forever. You're seeing the pattern here, yes?)

Fourth is the limit of what you think you can do. If you're not in the habit of pushing yourself, you probably think this one is a lot closer than it really is. I was concerned that I was going to hit this one before I hit number three, for running, but surprisingly it's still well out in front of me. I'm pacing myself, yeah, but I'm still pushing well past what I thought I'd be able to do. And you know, it usually is surprising how much you really can do, when you stop thinking of "easy" and "comfortable" as the same thing as "can".

The fifth and final limit is what you can do without injuring yourself. And that, unless you're actually being chased by a bear, is the one you should let stop you. But the other four? Pfft. Accept that it's not going to be easy, or at least not as easy as sitting on the couch watching NCIS reruns. Recognize that it's going to be uncomfortable at times. Decide how much you want it. And then push past what you think is the limit of what you can do, and find out how much you really can.

Whatever your particular "it" is.

lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
Honestly, people, the only appropriate response to an article that asserts that things "that only women would find attractive" are "right out of Alexander Dumas" is to laugh derisively and move on to something actually worthy of your time and attention.

A Dichotomy, Or Not

Thursday, July 4th, 2013 11:15 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
This struck me as I was wandering about the internet, so I'm giving it a swing at you, too.

Here you can see the "Red Sonja" cover that was the starting point of the recent SFWA Bulletin kerfluffle.

And here you can see the cover of Apex Magazine's 50th issue.

One of these covers is considered exploitative of women. One of them frankly makes me uncomfortable, and that's a hard thing to do.

They are not the same cover.

Yes, folks, I officially Do Not Get It.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Was link-surfing today and came across this: The Lizard Brain. Now, it's a little gender-absolutist for my preference (could do with "most" in front "women" a little more often), but I've certainly seen all the behaviors mentioned in various of my martial arts classes, and out of them. And it got me to thinking.

My dad taught me to box, when I was so small that he had to get down on his knees for there to be any point to it. This wasn't part of a big training scheme or anything; my dad was a state Golden Gloves champ in his youth, he liked boxing, and it was something fun we could do together. I learned how to throw a good punch before I was in kindergarten.

But reading that article, I realized I also learned some other things:

Girls can compete with boys in physical activities. When you're three, your dad is pretty much the model for how you view male humanity. My dad had no problem with strapping on the boxing gloves, getting down on the floor, and duking it out with me. Therefore, duking it out with a guy (literally or metaphorically) is normal and okay, even expected.

I can be hit in fun. (Point #2 of the linked article.) Boxing gloves are padded, and my dad was always careful not to hit hard enough to do any damage. But he wasn't an inanimate punching bag, and I got popped in the face plenty of times. And the world didn't end; it didn't even wobble. I've encountered women (and a few men) in my various martial arts classes who'd never previously been hit, and they've told me it's a big hurdle for them to get over; from a self-defense aspect, it stops them cold because it's so unfamiliar. Whereas my immediate response is that supposedly-male one of "Wow, a new game!"

Makes it a lot easier to learn stuff. And it means that should I get hit for not-fun, I know it's not the end of the world; I can move past it and do what needs to be done.

I can hit, too. My dad taught me to box for real; I won't claim the four-year-old learned all the nuances, but I got the basics of everything from making a proper fist to footwork to follow-through. More importantly, my dad got popped in the face plenty of times, too. And he didn't break, the world didn't end, and not only was I not chastised, I was praised for getting through his guard. So obviously girls can hit, and girls may hit.

A tiny little girl can rock a big man back with the right hit. My dad eventually stopped boxing with me, when I got to the point where I was strong enough and skilled enough to do damage but hadn't yet developed the control not to. Pity, but again, this wasn't deliberate fight training, this was just something fun for us to do together. There's all kinds of implications to that: I can defend myself. I am good at this physical combat thing. I can knock back my dad (the epitome of male humanity in my small mind), therefore I can hold my own against any boy. I do this, I'm a girl, therefore girls can totally play this game with the boys.


It's not insignificant that I learned all of this before the age of five, smack in those "formative years". It wasn't just boxing, of course; my dad also taught me hunting and fishing and sports and other "boy stuff"; by the time I encountered any social messages that some things weren't for girls, I had a solid grounding of "I do those things, and I'm a girl, so obviously that message is wrong."

I don't think any of that was something my dad meant to teach me; in later years, his was one of the voices asking why I didn't do more "girl stuff" (a message I knew was wrong, thanks in large part to him, and so could ignore). He just included me in things he liked to do. But it was something I learned from him all the same, and boxing was one of the ways I learned it.

Huh. Thanks, Dad.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Writers Digest today has an example of how not to write a pitch (a.k.a. query); indeed, Chuck Sambuchino's opinion is that this is about as bad as it can get. The pitch in question:
Story Title pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Main Character against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Main Character finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Main Character is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Main Character discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?


The great sin this pitch commits is vagueness; per Sambuchino, it's all generalities. And he's right, it is. You don't know who this guy is or what any of these quests or journeys or turns or questions really refer to.

Unless, of course, you know that this is the official plot summary for Iron Man 3.

Then, suddenly, this isn't vague and generalized at all, at least not if you're familiar with the franchise and have even a sliver of fannish imagination. Given that, you can make some pretty fair guesses as to what gets destroyed and what all that questing and journeying is referring to. It's fairly clear from this pitch what the thematic point of the story is (Stark without the suit, anyone?). It's even got a couple of clever puns, once you have the context.

The problem from a querying standpoint, of course, is that your prospective agent/publisher doesn't have that context.

And this runs head-first into that wall I've discussed before, where the pro says, "Don't be coy, just tell me what happens" and the aspiring querier wails, "I thought I did." And often as not, in a fit of frustration because she can't explain what those generalities actually mean without going way over a query's word limit, then resorts to a blow-by-blow listing of major plot actions, which is also wrong.

Because when you get right down to it, any 250-word summary of a full novel is going to be vague and general; there's just no way around it. If you can explain the main gist of your story in 250 words without eliding over a whole lot of what makes it what it is, you don't have enough story to make a novel in the first place.

I have a working theory, which seems to have tentatively been borne out by my latest query effort (more on that later), that you actually can be vague in a query; you just have to pick the right things to be vague about.

  1. You can be vague about process, but not about result/goal.

  2. "They concoct a clever plan to trap the murderer" = OK. What's the goal? To trap the murderer. Why someone would want to trap a murderer is reasonably self-evident. How they go about it is presumably what reading the novel's for. So this isn't vague, even though it really is.

    "They get a chance to gather intel" begs the question, what intel? What are they going to use that intel for? Why should the reader care? This is the kind of vague that gets you into trouble, even though technically it's no less generality-filled than the first one.

  3. You can be vague if the reader can reasonably fill in the gaps.

  4. Note that the filling-in doesn't have to be right; it just has to work for the purpose and keep the reader from being distracted with questions. As long as it doesn't set your target agent/editor up for a nasty bait-and-switch feeling when they see the actual manuscript, let them assume whatever works for them.

    Everybody who's read 3+ books has seen a clever plan. We can all make assumptions about what kind of clever plan goes into catching a murderer, and we can all see the potential pitfalls. (Murderers are generally not safe people to be around, especially if you're making them feel trapped.) You don't have to go into detail about the clever plan, unless it's cool.

  5. Which brings me to the final point: Put in the cool bits.

  6. A query doesn't have much room for detail -- it doesn't have much room, period, which is a large part of the frustration involved -- but if you've got a particular twist, or character quirk, or thematic point that really makes you sit up and go "oooh!", it's worth using up a precious fraction of that space to share it. But here's the catch: You have to make sure that your cool bit stands on its own. If your bit needs a lot of backstory to explain why it's cool, or if it raises a bunch of non-self-evident questions (Why would they call in a ninja to help with the plan? How do they even have a ninja's phone number, anyway?), you're better off leaving that bit out of your query, no matter how cool it is. Otherwise you're back in vagueness territory, about how the bit connects to the story if not the bit itself.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I should have included this link in my last post: Patricia Wrede on necessary and sufficient causes. This is sort of the structural back-end to the visible front-end I was talking about yesterday. Because the reason the protagonist tries the final thing that ultimately works is that it's necessary to solve problem X -- but for that to work in a dramatic sense, there has to be a sufficiency of things pushing him in that direction, which includes all the other things he's tried that haven't worked.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I have just come to a realization about my writing. I don't like writing red herrings.

By that I don't necessarily mean the false clues and dead-end leads of a traditional mystery, although that's certainly an example and likely to be a problem for me if I do get around to writing that gritty-cozy mystery with the kitten. But more generally, what I don't like is writing attempts that don't work or actions that don't lead more-or-less directly to the conclusion of the story. Say that the story revolves around a character who has problem X, and he tries several things to solve it. Now, the first couple of things he tries won't work, because a story in which the protagonist fixes his problem right away with the first thing he tries usually isn't very interesting (especially if the story is as long as a novel). As the author, I know those first couple of things aren't going to work, so they don't capture my interest, and I'm disinclined to waste time developing them. I prefer to get things right the first time in real life, and I'm generally pretty good at it (except when I'm really, really not), and I've realized I approach writing somewhat the same way. I want to get right to the thing that is going to work, so my impulse is to just briefly mention the failed attempts and spend almost all of my time and page-space on the important, i.e., successful, stuff.

But the reader doesn't know what's going to work and what isn't (at least, they don't if the writer's done her job right). Part of the enjoyment of a story is the suspense of "Will this work?" "Will this be the solution to Our Hero's problem?" And if the protagonist fixes everything first try, the reader is left feeling that it was "too easy" -- either the problem wasn't that big a deal in the first place (and therefore uninteresting to read about), or the character is some kind of unrealistic super-genius (and therefore uninteresting to read about). Characters need to struggle to overcome their problems in fiction, and part of struggling is that sometimes what they do doesn't work.

Or doesn't work completely, or works but causes a bunch of new problems in the process. There are lots of ways to create a sense of struggle in fiction. But jumping straight to the attempt that pays off is a sure-fire way to kill it, because what makes it a pay-off is the build-up of attempts that didn't work.

This is why my revisions to the novel-once-again-in-progress have included turning a rather short chapter into two fairly long ones, and will probably involve the same again with the chapter I'm currently on. The trick is to find some way to make the red-herring scenes fun for me as a writer, which will hopefully translate into fun for the readers as well.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
[livejournal.com profile] ravenpan's comments on the previous post got me to thinking about e-books, and e-book pricing, which if you pay any attention at all to these matters you know is a hot topic right now. There's even a DOJ lawsuit pending over allegations of price-fixing. And Amazon's e-pricing shenanigans (wholly aside from their other shenanigans) would fill a Google search. And thinking about e-books led me to thinking about dead-tree books, because I love my hard-copy paperbacks and you will pry them from my cold dead hands after you shotgun my brain-eating zombie head off. And that got me to thinking about the last time I was in a real brick-and-mortar bookstore, and how, as I so often do these days, I left without buying any books.


Now, I don't think of myself as old (well, unless I run into one of those fannish puppies who think they invented fandom in 2002), but my bookshelves contain mass-market paperbacks with list prices of $2.95 that I bought new. Not especially skinny ones, either. I can remember when those prices suddenly spiked to $6.95, $7.95, or even $9.95 for particularly thick volumes. And the reason we book buyers were given for this sudden more-than-doubling of price was that the cost of paper was skyrocketing.

(Those who were active in media fandom at the time may remember that being the excuse for fanzines suddenly costing $20 instead of $5-$8. Those same people might also remember that print fanzines in general went into a decline shortly thereafter. The rise of the internet gets blamed for that, and it was certainly a factor, but you're not going to convince me that the same money buying ~1/3 the product didn't have something to do with it, too.)

Does anyone else remember the great paper-cost crisis? I'm going to say of the late 80s/early 90s. I'd check, but there's a dearth of discussion of it on the internet. Which is also why I can't give hard numbers on the effect on publishing profits, but I do remember that as the first time I heard serious talk of traditional mass-market publishing worrying about its long-term viability.

And now we have e-books. Which, all the arguments and price-gaming and questionably-legal maneuvering aside, seem to be settling in at around the same price as hard-copy books, give or take a buck or two. Publishers assure us that a $9.99 e-book is a fair equivalent to an $8.95* mass-market paperback. Why? Because the real cost of that book isn't the paper it's printed on; it's the editing and formatting and marketing and all the other non-tangible effort that goes into making that book worth our time and money.

But wait a minute. What was the reason that hard-copy book costs $8.95 instead of $2.95? Oh, yeah; the cost of the paper.

Again, does anyone else remember the great paper-cost crisis?

Because I'm not seeing any discussion of it, in all the considerable masses of discussion going around about e-books and their pricing. In fact, I haven't even seen a mention of it. It's as if the frogs have been boiled to the point that just-shy-of-ten-bucks for a mass-market paperback now seems normal and reasonable, and doesn't need any justification at all.

Now, I'm not saying that all that editing and formatting and other publishing non-tangibles are without value. I'm actually a fan of traditional publishing, in theory if not in current practice. I want there to be a middleman who checks for typos and cleans up the final product and filters out the crap. (I also want an outlet for unfiltered product, but that's what internet-based fandom is for.) And I'm willing to pay that middleman a fair price for his labor.

But I still remember when those middlemen themselves were telling us that $2.95 per book more than covered their payment. I remember being assured that the entire difference between $2.95 and $8.95 (an increase of more than 300%) was the cost of processed wood pulp.

And now I'm supposed to believe that the entire cost of a $9.99 e-book, which contains no processed wood pulp whatsoever, is due to those same non-tangibles that made up only a fraction of the cost of its dead-tree equivalent?

Those who skipped over the previous parenthetical might want to go back and read it now. And consider this: Print fanzines jacked their prices to the point of really limiting their audience's buying power, and shortly thereafter became more of a novelty item than the backbone of the fanfic "industry". Now, mass-market publishing has been jacking their prices for years, to the point that I, with more disposable income than I used to have, am lucky if I walk out of a bookstore with one book instead of the three or five I used to.

And mass-market publishing is in trouble. There's no question about that, whether you think e-books are fantasticowonderful or a sign of the End Times. And what's mass-market publishing doing about it? Various things, but none of them include lowering prices on good old dead-tree books (especially mass-market paperbacks, which were traditionally the "cheap" option to draw in large numbers of buyers). Or even looking at lowering prices. Indeed, one of the popular trends is to put out more trade paperbacks and hardcovers, on the theory that book-buyers will respond to a "nicer" physical product -- but it's a product that's even more expensive!

Why is no one talking about price, actual on-the-shelf retail product price, as one of the reasons traditional publishing is struggling? Why is no one considering that a reader faced with a just-shy-of-ten-bucks (or more!) cover price is not only going to be able to buy fewer books, but is going to be a lot pickier about whether those books are worth the cover price -- and may end up walking out with no books at all?

Why does no one remember the great paper-cost crisis? And why, in all the kerfluffle over e-book pricing and the ongoing debate about whether e-books are the death-knell of traditional publishing, is no one looking at hard-copy prices and realizing that something doesn't add up?

Yes, I know, inflation, everything's more expensive now, blah, blah. I'm not claiming that we're ever going to see the $2.95 mass-market paperback again, or even that it would be a fair price if we did. But I also know that you can't use two directly-contradictory justifications for the same end result, not and keep any kind of credibility. And I recognize a pot of boiling water when I'm being asked not to jump out of it.


*A quick sampling of my shelves shows that the last paperback I bought new was $7.99. But I recall $8.95 as the price of the last few paperbacks I did not buy. Think about that.

Ah!

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 02:36 pm
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
I think I've figured out a way to make the story of plot device D in location X work after all! It involves a contrivance, yes. But it's one medium-sized contrivance, rather than a dozen or so small contrivances working in concert. Oddly, this is more believable.

Readers expect odd things to happen occasionally in stories. After all, the very fact that it's a story worth telling means that something happens that's outside the norm of everyday life, because that's why people read stories, to get away from boring old everyday life. So let's say Joe needs to drive somewhere to get the plot moving, but he has no car and no money. If Joe wins a drawing for a new car, most readers will be willing to roll with that. Joe's allowed one hit of good luck, even if it's kind of a big one. If Joe's old college buddy unexpectedly arrives, having made a spontaneous road trip, and then gets the news that his mother's in the hospital, and has to fly home right away, and hands Joe his car keys and says "Use the car all you want", and incidentally the car has a full tank of gas because Joe's friend filled up at the station on the corner right before he arrived... well, now your average reader is looking a bit askance at how conveniently all this has fallen together. This despite the fact that many people have gone on road trips, or dropped in on a friend unannounced, or had a family emergency, or lent a car to a friend. I myself have stopped to fill the gas tank just before my destination, so I wouldn't have to deal with it first thing on the trip back. Whereas very few people have won brand new cars. Yet somehow, the thing the reader probably hasn't experienced is more believable than the things they have.

Partly this is simply a question of numbers; one piece of good luck will fly better than a dozen, regardless of relative size. But I wonder if some of it isn't also because the reader is familiar with those dozen small events. And that familiarity tells the reader -- unless they've got a lot better luck than I generally do, anyway! -- that things like that just don't happen when you really need them to. In real life, Joe's friend would show up a week after the crisis, or his mother would demand he drive home to help her move rather than being in the hospital. And the car's never full of gas when you really need to go somewhere right now.

But winning a car is far enough outside most people's experience that they don't have a subconscious calibration for whether it might happen at a convenient time. They're already suspending disbelief for that car to be there at all; as long as you don't stretch the rope too far, you can slip a little good timing into the noose alongside the car itself. And as long as the rest of what happens to Joe is believable, and especially if it's bad (bad luck being inherently more believable in stories (ETA link)), most readers will happily ignore how convenient that car was at the beginning; it's just a part of the scenario they signed up for.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
...commodorified has a fine post about the merits of looking for beta-readers among readers, not necessarily among writers.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
(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!"

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