The purpose of this article is to outline the forms of response and/or criticism a writer/author may face when posting online, and how to handle them. The examples that I have used below are typical comments that I have received from a "normal" writing site, and illustrate the variety of responses that you can expect to come across.
Okay. So you've gone over your work, you think that it looks good, and you hit the post button. Now, the real fun begins when the responses come in. Sometimes they're better than expected; sometimes they're worse than expected. The best piece of advice I can give is don't react on instinct. Wait a little bit for the shock to wear off before doing anything - looking at replies with a calmed mind goes a long way towards avoiding unnecessary drama.
Common Types of Replies and How to Respond
In this section, I'll detail the primary types of response that a writer may receive, and how to tell them apart.
Blind PraiseThis is known as blind praise; where a person likes a story so much, that they do nothing but gush their pleasure. While it may feel good for a while, eventually it'll start to feel hollow, because typically the responder doesn't say what he/she liked about it.OMG ur storee is like the best thing evar!!! ur the bestest riter eva please rite moar!!!
Arguably the best way to handle this is by asking if the reader liked anything in particular, or if they thought something could be a little different. Coax them out a little bit, as some may be afraid to say anything bad for fear of writer-retaliation. This is where being nice can go a long way.
Honest PraiseHere, the reader shows that they liked the specific chapter, and gave reasons as to why he/she liked it. When receiving these responses, take them to heart, as the reader liked what they saw and didn't have too many, if any gripes about the work. Don't forget to say "Thanks."I really enjoyed this chapter. It is nice to see what Alex (story character) is going through without anybody believing him. I look forward to finding out more about the shadowy figures and how Alex's snakebite mysteriously disappeared.
Constructive CriticismIt should be apparent why it's called "constructive criticism". The reader stated what he/she liked about the section of work; what he/she felt could be done differently and offered praise and encouragement to keep up the good work.I found this chapter much more gripping than the first. The first section I thought was good, creepy with the wrist thingy and the pills. The second section seems kinda dreamlike to me...Its got to be a dream, right? The dirt bikes were a really cool touch. I really liked that bit, especially the dialogue - that was perfect.
For the forest bit, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to do a bit of showing rather than telling, or if not, show first and then tell. Eg, with 'Alex seemed to bask in the wonder of nature', or maybe consider describing how the woods felt to Alex, concentrating on the peaceful and wondrous aspects of the scene, so that the reader empathizes with Alex? Only a couple of typos, e.g. snake bike...snake bite? Keep up the good work!
These types of responses are literally the best anyone can give and/or get. Listen to them very carefully. If multiple readers indicate that they see the same issue, focus on it and improve. If multiple readers say they like the same thing, then you've got a strong point with which to work. Please do remember to say, "Thank-you for pointing out this/these trouble spot(s), I'll be sure to work harder on them," because typically this will show the reader that you actually want to improve, and in turn, they'll be more likely to help out in the future.
CriticismAlthough this type of comment can be rather blunt, it does say where a writer/author would be wise to focus his/her efforts...albeit in a strict English teacher manner.Your stuff is okay, but adding in some descriptions/back story/grammar/structure etc would make it read better.
Avoid the temptation to just ignore criticism. Put some ice on your ego, and listen to what's being said. Even though it may be hard to hear, working on the specified trouble spots can save you from a lot of hassle, and lost and/or disappointed readers down the road. It's a sad truth, but sometimes readers do turn away from writers/authors that don't learn from previous mistakes.
One-LinerNot very helpful, but probably the most common response you can expect to receive. In all honesty, responding to them is a fairly gray area. Some writers don't even acknowledge that the reader has commented. Others will put in no more of a response than the reader - one line or less. Some writers will type up a multi-paragraph response. Arguably, the best response is no more than a couple of lines; if the reader doesn't feel like an in depth-response, you're unlikely to be able to tease one out of them.This was good.
I liked it.
It was okay.
FlameClassic trolling. Thankfully this usually doesn't come up very often – most people aren't willing to invest any time in responding to things that they hate, but occasionally you will see a response like this.This the worst waste of the past X-amount of time from my life that I'll never get back thanks to this stupid(censored) piece of (censored) that you call a story! Did you even go to grade school!?! This craptastic piece of garbage sure doesn't make it look like you did!! Do us all a favor and dance in the middle of the (censored) highway you (censored, censored, censored) LOSER!!!!!!!
Ignore these. Flame responses are made by trolls whom have nothing better to waste their time trolling. These responses have absolutely no bearing on a writer's ability, style, setup, execution/delivery, etc. You won't gain anything by engaging with a troll.
On ADISC, you can and should report flames using the report post button, and you can also give the post negative rep for violating the rules.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I have a reader that keeps bothering me to get a new chapter out. What do I do with him/her?
Answer: This is the "hounding reader", so named because of his ability to bother writers for new material on an almost hourly basis. The best approach is to politely remind the reader that writing is a secondary task that has to take backseat to real life obligations and higher necessities online. There is no rule that says you have to say what you are busy with, so there's also nothing wrong with a little soft-pedaling of the truth. "Writers block" is a quite common response in this case.
Question: There is a reader that keeps responding to my work, but he says it's stupid and I should give up writing. What should I do?
Answer: Is the reader saying anything else? If so, and he is providing examples of what's wrong, then listen and work on it. If said reader is only responding just to be annoying with "this stinks" messages, gently remind him that if he doesn't like the story, he doesn't have to read it. If the action continues, (and this applies on this site) report the post(s), or flag a mod so it can be sorted out.
Question:Is it okay to respond to the readers? Like, to address their points, thank them for their kind words and all that?
Answer: Of course it is. It'll show you're listening to what they're saying. You can use this time to thank them for nice comments, acknowledge what they mention for rough spots in the story, and keep them up-to-date of any changes IRL that can limit writing time (again, soft-pedaling the truth if need be).
Even though a response may not be what you envisioned, take it to heart. For newer writers, they can be helpful and encouraging, and for longer standing writers, they can be equally helpful. For the readers, pointing out something that the writer hadn't caught can make them feel more involved in the story, and like they are assisting with the writer's development as an author - so it's a win-win situation all around!