So this is a little something regarding criticism and asking for help with your work. Hopefully it will help some people.
So, I think there's a lot of confusion behind what makes criticism valuable. Is criticism still valuable if they are being mean? If my feelings get hurt, should I still care what the person said? If I don't like the person is their criticism still valid? The answer to all of these is yes.
If someone is harsh or mean a lot of people just ignore it. But I would argue that your harshest critics are your most honest critics. And can be just as valuable if not more valuable than the nice ones. Especially when you are putting your work out for the world to see. If everyone was nice and praised your work, why would you ever strive to get better? Criticism is meant to point out your flaws do that you can figure out where to improve. We humans tend to have a difficult time in seeing our own flaws. After all, if we saw our mistakes we wouldn't have made them in the first place. That is where other people come in.
Now, there is harsh but constructive criticism, and there is being mean. For example: "This story was absolute cancer. The writing was full of grammar and spelling mistakes, I don't believe you even attempted to proofread it, and half the links were broken. Learn to speak English before writing a story." That's harsh but constructive criticism. They stated the issues with the story, pointed out things that you can do to improve it, and told you how they perceived it. It is very valuable. Sure it can be hurtful if you put a lot of hard work into it. But you have to remember that that person took the time to read your work, and decided to give you ways to improve. And if most reviews are harsh, it often means your work needs a lot of improvement. People will be willing to help on the forum as well. You just have to show that you are trying to improve. Nobody here was born a great writer. It takes a lot of hard work and practice. But as long as you make it clear you are trying to improve, and you show at least some effort, most people here will try their best to help you. Me included.
But if someone just said: "Nice story retard. Kill yourself." That is hardly constructive. They didn't say what they felt was wrong with the story, didn't provide ways to better your writing, and are just generally being unhelpful. That is the kind of criticism you can often times ignore, since it won't be much help in improving your work. You will inevitably get these kinds of reviews. It is how it is. You can mostly just forget about them. They aren't really worth your time. But you can't let those reviews make you give up on your story. Just remember that putting work out in the world opens you up to these kinds of reviews. Just try to do your best despite them.
Another important thing to remember is to take people's advice seriously. Somebody who takes the time to write out a long post or review that shows you areas to improve won't really be happy if you simply ignore them. Make an effort to implement the changes they suggest, within reason of course. If somebody tells you that there are a lot of spelling mistakes, fix the spelling mistakes. If someone says that you could use more dialogue, try to write some more dialogue. You don't have to do everything they suggest, of course, but if you ignore all of their suggestions they won't be very inclined to help you in the future. When you ask for somebodies help you have to do your best to work with the person whose helping you. And remember, no matter how harsh they are being, they are taking the time out of their day to point out ways in which you can improve your work. So try not to take their harshness to heart. They are trying to help you after all.
Also, try not to be annoying when asking for help. If you would like someone to help you with proofreading or reviewing your work in progress, there are two usual ways people do it. The best way would be posting in the Writing Workshop. Post a link to your story, or an excerpt you are having an issue with. Ask if people can give their honest advice on it, and be polite. You are asking people to help you after all. Also, if you have questions about their criticism you can ask them to clarify. Maybe post a "revised version" of the paragraph you are having trouble with and asking them if that's better. It is a good way to show that you are taking their advice to heart and trying to improve.
The second way to ask for help is also the one you should probably avoid until you get to know people better. That would be sending them a message. Now, this is a good way if you know somebody well and would like something proofread but are hesitant to share it with the community at large. However, if they say no or that they can't, do not keep messaging them. There is nothing more annoying then getting a bunch of messages from somebody asking to help them when you've already told them no. People are busy around here. Lot's of people have their own work to do. So if they say they can't help right now, stop bugging them. And don't just send a stranger a message saying something along the lines of, "Read my story please!" That isn't normally appreciated.
Finally, don't give up because people said something mean. Everyone here was a noob at one point. Lots of prominent people in the community made games that were panned and rated poorly. You can't give up though. Improve, do better, prove to everyone that said your writing sucked that you can make a good story. And remember that there are lots of people here that will be willing to help you. But that is also a two way street. You need to prove to people that you can take the criticism. That you can use it to improve and do better. Nobody expects you to be a Tolstoy or Shakespeare right off the bat. But you have to show that you are willing to try to be the best writer you can be. And your effort will show others that you are worth helping out. It shows you care.
So I hope this has helped anyone out who reads it. Criticism is a difficult thing to handle, but it is one of, if not the, most valuable things anyone putting out work can receive. You don't have to like it, but you have accept it. And learn how to use it.
(Just thought of this when I was reading some old posts and thought it could also be valuable advice. Not sure if it is directly related to criticism, more about proofreading and reviewing. And it's more for younger authors than older ones.)
I've heard lots of people say that they had friends and family read their work and say it's great. They often use this as kind of a defense when they are criticized. But while having your friends and family read your work is hardly a bad thing, they may not always be the best judges.
It is usually best to avoid over reliance on your friends and family for proofreading and judging your work. Often times your friends or peers, especially with younger authors, are at about the same skill level as you. Occasionally they are at a lower skill level. So they will not always be the best judge of your work. They may also be hesitant to criticize your work if they are your friend or family member. And they will many times be biased reviewers. So try not to put an overwhelming amount of faith in your best friend or mother when they tell you your work is the best thing ever. A lot of times the best judges of a work are those who are impartial judges. Now, this was a very broad generalization, but I still think its important to mention.
So while there is nothing wrong with asking your friends or family to read your work, also try to get advice and help from more impartial sources. Like I said previously, the Writing Workshop is a wonderful place for that. People here can be harsh, but they will always be honest with you. And brutal honesty will help your work more than any kind lie.
(Also, please take everything I say with a grain of salt. I'm no great writer, nor do I have a storygame to my name. These are just things I do and believe, and that I think could help others. So if you want to take the advice, thats fine. If not, that's up to you.)
I wonder if there's potential for an article to come out of this. . .
Very well written and I agree with a lot of what you've said but I also think it is useful to distinguish between a critique and a bad review. In my experience a lot of younger author tend to take bad and critical reviews as the same thing and some even see it as a personal attack on themselves.
I actually wrote a bit about dealing with unhelpful critiques/reviews and the difference imo between a bad review and a critique. It's posted on the CoG forum but I don't mind reposting it here if people would like to read it.
I wrote this in Mar 2015 but still think most of it is relevant
As an author one of the scariest things you will have to deal with are the reviews. It is already daunting enough to put in the time, effort and love required to craft a story. A story can take years to write yet it can only take one bad review (most written in less than 5-10 minutes) to make you doubt yourself.
Every writer wants everyone who reads their stories to fall completely in love with their world. However, it doesn’t matter how interesting, well written or exciting your story is, you WILL at some point get a review that is negative.
I’ve been writing for over 20 years now and have seen my fair share of reviews over the years. Some were from forums a few were even from reviewers I have sent my stuff to. Take my latest work Unnatural for example; it has received a lot of five and four star reviews but also has received the odd three, two and even one star reviews.
I think the key to dealing with reviews is to realising that reviews don’t just fall into good or bad but actually there is a third type. You also need to accept you cannot and will not please everybody. Below I’ll explain in a bit more detail each of the types of review with an example so you can see what I mean.
Firstly there is the Good Review, these are the ones of course you want to receive. They tend to praise you and generally make you feel happy. An example would be something like this…
This game was awesome, the story drew me in from start to finish. I loved it.
Secondly there is the Bad review, these are the ones you don’t want to receive. Also don’t get me wrong I don’t include critiques in this group because in my experience there is no such thing as a “Bad Review” only “Bad Reviewers”. While not everyone will like your work, for the time and effort put into writing we can at least try and point out WHY we think a work isn’t very good. A proper bad review will make you doubt yourself telling you how bad a story is without even attempting to say why. An example would be something like this…
I think this game really sucks. Don’t buy it!
Finally we have the Critique, while a few authors will consider these types of review as bad ones, they are really there to help you. Don’t treat this as the reviewer disliking your work, but more they like it enough to take the time and effort to help you. These can point out the flaws, parts they disliked but they also tend to say why, some even go as far as giving suggestions on how they think you can fix it. An example would be…
While the story was interesting the lack of meaningful choices let it down. The characters were cool but a few more scenes where we learn about their backgrounds would make them even better.
Overall writing is about having fun and enjoying yourself. Reviews are part of the experience so enjoy the good reviews, ignore the bad and always consider the critiques. It is through feedback that our writing, our worlds and our characters define themselves.
Thank you for reading.
That's very true. I think its because it's easier to accept someone liking something than it is to accept someone doesn't like your work.
All of you are talking about reviews, good, bad, constructive criticism or not. All have an important common detail: Someone has taken time to read your work and give a score or a review. For negative it looks like; It is a win. You have achieved that someone read your work.
I am not a fancy writer, and English is not my native language. I have A entire game written more 150,000 words pending editing that it will never come to live BECAUSE NO SINGLE PERSON BOTHERED TO READ IT.
I WOULD REPEAT IT NO SINGLE SOUL, REPLIED.
So it is in the same place all my projects basically.
IF YOU HAVE A BAD REVIEW BE GLAD OF HAVE SOMETHING
I wonder if there's a way to incentivize comments. Even just a copy change, maybe.
Tell me about it. I have a 100,000-word story that so far has managed to snag 13 ratings and 3 comments in the two months since I've published it (and one of those three comments was from someone who didn't even read the whole story). I should have written a quiz about fictional cults or an 80s cartoon series that never existed, haha.
This particular problem, I have a planned solution for. Stay tuned.
I knew that it would be a while before people got through the story, because I made that "winning" ending a little hard to find. But considering that the most popular story on the site is nearly 650,000 words long, I never imagined that 100,000 words would be such a handicap. I thought I was giving 'em what they wanted.
That's an interesting idea, but point inflation would get wild. We can't give out half points, so we'd only reasonably be able to have two tiers of points. 7+ length and 6- length, maybe? I dunno.
The other issue is just as you've said, it only really incentizes the people who are already incentivized.
That is a good one. And sadly true. Boobs sell more than literature
The story itself is a classic. Although I've noticed it's been slipping in the ratings lately...
Just write for yourself, and view every piece as an exploration of something new or an improvement on your past work. Comments and feedback are always nice, and you should seek it out, but no one really has an obligation to pore over your writing. Unless you're being taught in the schools. Or an entrant in the Lone Hero contest.
You've also got to keep in mind that it's the author's job to make their writing interesting and compelling.
That being said, I think there should be more incentives to get through storygames that are intimidatingly long. Points could scale with game length, perhaps?
I know I wouldn't be aware of new games if they didn't show up in the Discord. I wouldn't mind people letting me know about their new games. Well, people I know and already cared about.
As it is, I scan the "new games" section every so often, but I could easily miss something.
Because you are popular. Because after all this review thing is a popularity contest. A forum is like a High School. If you are the star quarterback, even if your work is called quack in quackery; You will have all the reviews you want.
If you are the nerd everyone bullying. You could have written the Divine comedy, that NOONE WILL EVER LOOKING at it.
You can give points for reviewing that less popular author games, but only you will gain is fake reviews from people who randomly selected note and just skip all pages until an ending. Then, they gave a general review based on the highlights of the game.
Yeah, on a D20.