One of the best ways to improve your work (slash fiction or otherwise) is to have someone else go through it and give you your opinion. But, let’s face it, sometimes that’s hard because sometimes your story is your baby, and no one wants to see their baby get picked on, even if their baby is a bit of an asshole and might deserve it. This is a terrible metaphor because babies creep me out. Fuck you, babies.
Anyway, receiving criticism on your work can be really hard if you’re not a thick-skinned person, so for this week’s Slash Fiction Writing Tip I thought I would compile a short list of suggestions to try to smooth out the process so you’re not so upset that you completely ignore whatever feedback you receive. I just want to reassert that these are tips! They’re not the only way to handle this, and they may not work for you!
Slash Fiction Writing Tip: How to Receive Criticism
First things first, when you receive criticism, written or oral, slash fiction or regular fiction, try to relax. No one is personally attacking you or your story. It might feel like it, but try to tell yourself it’s not personal and it will be over soon. If you’re receiving the critique in writing, take a step back if you’re angry or upset and look at it again later. If you’re receiving the critique in person and you can feel yourself getting upset, try to write down what they’re saying so you can read it again later when you’re feeling more up to participating. It’ll also keep your mind busier if you’re having a hard time controlling your emotions.
In one of my writing classes, my instructor told me that every semester someone would cry during the first phases of feedback. In my class, it was a guy. If you cry, it’s embarrassing as hell, but it happens. Either push through it or excuse yourself depending on what you think is best. I think most writers will be able to understand and relate, it’s a hard process, and, like everything else, it takes a lot of practice, especially if you’re sensitive to begin with. I’m saying this because if this happens to you, I don’t want you to feel completely alienated. It happens. It’s okay.
Next, don’t defend yourself. A lot of times when you’re defensive about something in your story is because you know they’re right. It also will minimize conflict. If you start defending yourself, you might start an argument and you’re likely going to just work yourself up more. You can explain yourself if you feel like it’s completely necessary, but most of the time you’re probably just trying to spare your own feelings.
In that vein, don’t get your friends to defend you. It looks super amateurish, and it only tells the person that you’re going to totally ignore everything they have to say and they’re wasting their time. I see this a lot in works posted online, such as slash fiction, but it happens in person too.
While you shouldn’t defend yourself, you should ask questions. If you don’t understand something they’ve said, you can simply ask, “Would you please expand on x?” You can also ask questions about if y would fix x problem to help overcome some of the issues you’re having. If the person critiquing you is an idiot and just says, “I don’t like it” or say something equally vague, ask why. Press for an explanation so you can understand how to improve. (Just make sure these questions aren’t secretly defending yourself.)
You can also ask questions if you have specific concerns about your story. If you’re not sure if something worked or didn’t work, you can specifically ask for opinions on it. Just don’t do this to fish for compliments because it will very likely backfire.
Know your audience. I’m not saying you should ignore everyone’s critiques, but under certain circumstances, it might be a good idea to take opinions more lightly. This is more for when you’re in a writing group, but in certain circumstances online it’s worth noting. If you’re fandom is particularly hostile towards a certain pairing, you might not want to ask for feedback on your slash fiction or you can simply take their critique lighter depending on what they say, or if everyone is in love with a certain pairing and you write that pairing, be aware that they may be extra positive towards you and you might still need work.
In particular, if you’re not sure how the people around you view homosexuality, you might not want to submit slash fiction up for review right off the bat to minimalize conflict. Similarly, if you notice a certain theme constantly gets ripped-up or adored by a certain group, be aware of how your work might be reviewed in an extra positive or negative light.
It’s okay if a specific group isn’t for you. Not every writer’s group, online or otherwise, is going to work right for you. It could be the group of people, it could be how they give feedback, it could be whoever is moderating the group, it could be your writing interests (such as slash fiction) don’t jive with your group, or it could be something else. It’s totally fine to leave. You’ll eventually learn what works best for you when it comes to receiving feedback, and then you can seek out groups, or just another person, to review your works for you. It’s hard to find a group or a person that works for you, so it’ll take a lot of trial and error.
Last, say “Thank You”. A simple thank you goes a long way.
Is there anything specific to Slash Fiction?
While this could be applied to other types of feedback, this is more for slash fiction, fanfiction, or anything posted online that has an open comment system, such as Archive of Our Own or Fanfiction.net. In this situation, you’re going to be getting comments regardless or whether or not you’ve specifically requested a critique. So, my piece of advice is know what to ignore.
(Also, for this final part, I’m assuming you’re writing slash fiction.)
There’s going to be a lot of one-sentence critiques like “Oh I really like this” or “This is stupid” and whatnot. What’s interesting is that these often cause the greatest reaction in the writer, but they actually don’t say a whole lot about your slash fiction work as a whole. I have had a number of in-class groups like this, and it’s honestly a pain in the ass because they’re not really adding anything into the discussion.
For any work posted online, slash fiction or otherwise, it’s sort of a “beggars can’t be choosers” situation, but that way you can either ask more questions (see advice above) or simply ignore the comment. If someone likes or hates your slash fiction work without expanding on why, you can pretty much ignore the comment because even if there is something wrong with the work, you won’t be able to figure out why. Honestly, it’s best not to overreact either way (positively or negatively) when people aren’t telling you why they like or dislike your slash fiction.
A big part of the reasoning behind this is because a lot of people, not just in slash fiction but in most works, are going to have their own personal preferences and tastes. For example, I don’t like Man from UNCLE fanfiction where Illya is passive and presented as a passive, overly feminine bottom because I don’t see his character that way. So for me to comment on a perfectly acceptable fanfiction “I hate this” and not explain why, it’s really just a personal preference of character. There’s nothing wrong with the work. Similarly, I might comment on a piece of slash fiction that’s poorly written, but I really love the character dynamics, so I say “wow I love this” when, in fact, I think the writing could use some work, but I don’t care because I’m so desperate for that dynamic.
And, let’s face it, not a lot of people are going to take the time to write a well-thought-out critique on slash fiction or fanfiction posted online. I know I rarely do. If you’re in a class or a writer’s group, people should take the time to give decent feedback, but they might not and it sucks when they don’t. And that might be the time to think about finding another group.
If your main interest is improving your slash fiction, it’s probably worth seeking out a group with similar interests so you can receive the best feedback possible. A lot of times when the group has interests similar to yours, they will have read a lot of slash fiction themselves and will be able to give good advice for slash fiction. However, even if they have interests that are not slash fiction, they may still bring something interesting to the table.
And there we have it for this week’s slash fiction writing tip. I’m hoping to talk about writing criticism next week, but I might write some other slash fiction writing tip instead. If you have any requests for writing tips, slash fiction or otherwise, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Oh, and I’d like to note, the same friend of mine helped with this slash fiction writing tip as well! So if the information looks familiar, you could have talked to her before!