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98402 No. 98402
#Discussion
I've been having trouble with giving feedback lately. With the base of reviewers and everyone here, I hope there is someone here who has been through a similar situation or has enough experience that they can give me advice.

I've been trying to help writers with their fics, but recently, I've feeling like my advice is tired and empty. I'm seeing the same "mistakes" in every fic, regardless of whether they are actually there or not, and it's been taking longer than normal just to give lower than I expect quality feedback. It's as though I can no longer tell the difference between good and poor writing and I'm no longer seeing stories, just blobs of words on the page.

I want to help other writers and I feel awful when I'm doing nothing and leaving the author hanging, having to make do on their own or pass the burden to someone else. But I feel like bringing less than my best is doing the writer a disservice. Even at my best, I was nothing more than a barely passable reviewer. When I work at only part of my ability, I can't really expect to help and am likely hurting the writer.

I'm guessing the problem is something between burnout, reaching a plateau in my abilities, and unreasonable expectations. But if any other reviewers had experienced anything like this or could give advice on what I could do to fix this, I would like to get back to reviewing and not leaving authors on their own.

I realize that there are two responses that I will probably get.
First, I'll get those who say that even working at low quality, I'm still helping and being useful. Since I'm posting anonymously and you have no idea what I've done, that statement is either bull or empty. Somewhat similar is the sickening, but inevitable wave of pity, the "I'm sorry you feel that way" and "Feel better" messages. I don't like the idea of posting with the purpose of attracting attention like that, but with the thread subject, I know these messages are probably going to happen. Post them if they make you feel better, but I'm not going to respond and I think the thread would be better off without turning into a pityfest.

Second, the obvious course of action is to take a break, get some distance from the review process, and come back when I'm more motivated. This is kind of what I'm doing now and maybe a cleaner break would help, but I want something that I can try that might help in the short term. I expect that taking a break may be the most obvious and best course of action, so post it if you feel it necessary, but I'm mostly looking for fresh ideas.

If you decide to dignify this thread with a response, thank you in advance and I apologize for my whining. If you think that more specifics are necessary, I'll try to answer questions, although I prefer to keep anonymous.

I apologize to Ion Sturm, the anons, and any other poster patrolling around /fic/ for adding additional clutter with a new thread. The only threads that I thought could be related were >>96211 and >>90064, but the former seemed to be for a more specific issue and the latter would have involved necroing a thread to ask a question that is only superficially related. If people think this should go somewhere else, I'll have it deleted or moved.
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>> No. 98403
>Second, the obvious course of action is to take a break, get some distance from the review process, and come back when I'm more motivated. This is kind of what I'm doing now and maybe a cleaner break would help, but I want something that I can try that might help in the short term. I expect that taking a break may be the most obvious and best course of action, so post it if you feel it necessary, but I'm mostly looking for fresh ideas.

I been through that myself and I'm only a middling reviewer at best.

My advice? Get some 6-stars fic or even literary classics to read. You'll find that they help immensely in letting your mind get a fresh perspective and appreciating what writers do right for once.

Alternatively, write a short one-off. Doesn't matter what you write. I wrote PLADES on a whim, and although the story wasn't for the best, it certainly was refreshing to just write and not bother myself with reviews.
>> No. 98404
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98404
>I apologize to Ion Sturm, the anons, and any other poster patrolling around /fic/ for adding additional clutter with a new thread.
The fact that you felt it necessary to give a disclaimer like this makes me kind of sad.

> But if any other reviewers had experienced anything like this or could give advice on what I could do to fix this, I would like to get back to reviewing and not leaving authors on their own.
This is pretty much what I've been through since January, except what I did was pretty much step back except for about one review a month. In the meantime, I've been writing 'n some other stuff.

>I've been trying to help writers with their fics, but recently, I've feeling like my advice is tired and empty. I'm seeing the same "mistakes" in every fic, regardless of whether they are actually there or not, and it's been taking longer than normal just to give lower than I expect quality feedback.
Since this isn't really burnout, I suggest reading non-pony literature. I'm currently working through The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami and some short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. As for seeing mistakes that aren't there, I try to get over this by having to prove to myself why something is wrong or off. And then show the proof to the writer, which helps pad strengthen the comments I leave.

>It's as though I can no longer tell the difference between good and poor writing and I'm no longer seeing stories, just blobs of words on the page.
Good and poor are subjective. I recently read a fic that, as much as I liked it, was rejected by Equestria Daily. And yeah, reading non-pony should help you getting over the "no longer seeing stories" bit.

Alternatively, you can throw everything you know about reviewing out the window and start over. That way, you can get rid of awful buzzword phrases like "Show, Don't Tell" , and you might be less concerned with punctuation and stuff. Instead of saying things like "you show too little and tell", you can then say things like "your lack of description for the main character does not allow the reader to invest emotionally in her, leading to the main character to seem flat. Likewise, your three-page explanation of the politics of your OC town read like a political science textbook without the diagrams and charts." And then maybe rewrite a paragraph to reflect that.

Or maybe you already say things like that. In which case, you should probably just read better things. That way, you can convince yourself that what you've read doesn't suffer from the problems you mentioned, so you won't expect Crime and Punishment to suffer from Lavender Unicorn Syndrome.

But that's just what I think.
>> No. 98406
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98406
Just whatever you do, don't burn out. Far too many reviewers around here have.*

Take longer breaks between reviewing for life. Treat yourself to more walks, more showers, and more cooking for yourself. Then, when you review, devote yourself to reading that one thing. Being singularly committed in attention when reading is essential for the enjoyment of a story, but it is also essential for offering critique. I guarantee you, when you do things this way, you'll be able to offer far better criticism, and you'll be able to enjoy it more even without consumption of ethanol though that does make reviewing a lot more fun sometimes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKFbB_kqpDI&t=1m7s
Heartfelt work grows purely.
Do few things but do them well.
Single joys are holy.

* That includes me.
>> No. 98415
>>98406
Eris-anon, you have the cutest pics, and every time I see them, I want to write her.

-
OP, the solution is to work things you choose to read into your diet. Professional fic, 6-stars, Pony Fiction Vault, famous fics from other fandoms, and so on.

You're probably not used to your newly-refined taste and need to recalibrate your sense of what's good. It's normal. At least, I hope it's normal, since it's something I'm going through.

Repeat Samurai's mantra: stories, like wine and women, will never be perfect, but I can still choose to enjoy them.
>> No. 98428
I struggled with burnout a few times, and I found that each time, the best solution was to take a break. Everyone has their limits, and pushing yourself too far will only end poorly for everyone.

Don't worry. /fic/ will be alright without you. Take some "me time". You've earned it, anon.
>> No. 98430
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98430
I'm sorry you feel that way, and even if you think you're working at low quality, you're still helping and being useful.

Seriously, though, don't cheapen what you're doing. "Merely" pointing out what may seem like a common problem to you - LUS, for example - is an absolute eye-opener to authors, especially if it's the first time they've heard of such a thing. The same goes for every single plothole or characterization issue or grammar derp you can root out - that's why they've come to get reviewed in the first place. Sure, you may not get everything, and your reviews may be grammar and nothing more, but you're giving them a certain amount of help that is definitely more than zero. At the most, say "I'm not claiming this, but here's a couple of thoughts...", or add a "you should get a second opinion" line for areas you're gray on - the next reviewer who comes by won't have to point out what you already have, and the author gets to reflect on parts he/she seems to be doing at least okay on. Knowing your strengths is almost as important as knowing your weaknesses, and if you can unlock an author's mind to figure those out on his/her own, you've helped them in the long-run.

One thing you could do is simply provide a third-party opinion, not necessarily that of a full-on reviewer. Telling the author what you think as you read along can prove to be an interesting exercise. It lets the author know whether descriptions or events or characters are doing what he/she wants them to do, or whether they're sending off the wrong signals entirely. And it forces the author to think: "Is this a good thing?" rather than spoon-feeding them. The Storyforge is also a good outlet for your enthusiasm. Giving opinions is reviewing at its most basic form, and the best part is that you can't be possibly wrong, since it's your opinion and opinions are subjective.

Alternatively, you could make an FF.net account and tear through as many brony-in-Equestria fics until you realize how much better anything with a full pony-only cast is. They're not hard to find, and not having to deal with the pressure of delivering, commitments and Being Professional may be the change of pace you need to refresh yourself.

Either way, this is your time that you're spending. Think whether or not you feel your time is used well. Unless your reviewing consists of "don't put quotation marks for dialogue, ship my OC with Rainbow Dash and kill Spike because I don't like him", I can be fairly confident, despite, indeed, not having any idea of what you've done, that the time you spent on pointing out the same 'ol errors to a newbie author - yep, that time - pays off for him or her, at least. If that gives you any comfort.

Sorry for the long post. It's sort of late, but I felt I needed to respond in some way because I do know that feel, OP, and sometimes we all need reminders that we're not as useless as we think we are. Somewhat related to that, have this pic.
>> No. 98436
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98436
>>98430
This. All of this. Especially:
> ...don't cheapen what you're doing. "Merely" pointing out what may seem like a common problem to you - LUS, for example - is an absolute eye-opener to authors, especially if it's the first time they've heard of such a thing.
It's hard to scratch one's own back, and it's nearly impossible to notice something on one's own face. It takes someone else to point them out. Or a mirror. But fiction-reading AI's don't exist (yet) so it's fellow human beings we go to for constructive criticism.
> Telling the author what you think as you read along can prove to be an interesting exercise.
As someone who's done this, I agree. Though it can get confusing if the author changes things while one is reading.
> The Storyforge is also a good outlet for your enthusiasm.
<3
> It's sort of late, but I felt I needed to respond in some way because I do know that feel, OP, and sometimes we all need reminders that we're not as useless as we think we are.
Understatements. Understatements everywhere. "Sort of late" = 9:21 AM in your (statedly) Pacific North American time zone. You been up all night? "Sometimes" just doesn't cut it for some people. Well, it should, after a while. But we can't all quickly learn to objectively view our own deeds and correctly assess them as useful or useless without our ego or self-doubt getting in the way fast enough, which is why I'd personally upgrade that to "often." Getting frank feedback from others about one's usefulness or lack thereof is a necessary part of civilization, I think.

A thoughtful, constructive and encouraging communique. Posts like it rekindle my love for this community. I'm also very glad that you are capable of making such posts, and do so when the need arises.

>>98415
You know, Eris is also Discord (or, at the very least, the embodiment of Discord)? Source of young Eris pics: http://speccysy.deviantart.com/

And here, have some smexy adult Eris as well.
>> No. 98440
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98440
It's a well-made thread with a solid topic and is very /fic/ related. There's nothing to apologize for; you did the board proud.

And yes, I can sympathize with you on this count. As I've said before, reviewing is a job that actively punishes you more the better you are at it. Everything is brought into question, and you end up analyzing every aspect instead of simply accepting it and enjoying yourself. I can't even read published novels anymore without making changes in my head, nevermind the stories in the fandom.
>> No. 98455
>>98402
Not knowing anything about you or your reviews makes it difficult to craft an informed opinion... to say nothing of specific advice. I've never had this problem myself, but I can still offer insights. You could be anyone. You could even be me... so I will speak to you as I would want to be spoken to.

My advice would be to change how you approach the art of reviewing. Change the why of it, and how you view it. The best way to achieve anything is to truly love what you do. If you've stopped loving it, or perhaps never did, then that's what you need to think about.

Likewise, a break certainly couldn't hurt. Two options: take a break that still involves writing and reading. Read a bunch of old books you used to love, and recapture the magic of it: learn to see the forest for the trees again.

Alternately, take a hard break. Break off all contact with fiction and writing. Minimize the time you spend sitting in front of a screen... any screen. No videogames, television, or computers. Go hang-gliding or rock climbing or something. Anything but that infernal screen. If going cold-turkey doesn't drive you completely insane after a month, you might be better off chopping wood.

The most crucial point of writing a story is when you first get the seed of an idea. You cultivate it exactly as you would a real seed in a flowerpot: set down next to a window, get some sun and a drink of water, and just stare out. Maybe that's what you need: just watch. Doesn't matter what. Go for walks through gardens. Visit public buildings and wander around aimlessly. Throw rocks at a pond, lake, or river. It's like meditation: do as little as possible, and ideas will percolate in the back of your mind. But first, you have to stare out that window.

This advice might be more for writers than reviewers... but I'm of the opinion that everyone should stare out a window at least an hour every day.

>I've been trying to help writers with their fics, but recently, I've feeling like my advice is tired and empty.

If you worry you won't make a difference, you can stop worrying.

You cannot. It is impossible for you, as a reviewer, to make a difference. You cannot change the quality of a writer's story, and you certainly cannot change a writer's level of ability.

As with any good Show-Don't-Tell, the real focus is hidden from plain view: you can change a mind. Change, like all good things, must come from within. And for this, the writer must wish to change. Then they must understand how and what to change. Finally, they must have the courage and perseverance to carry it through to the end.

That being said, there is much you can do to inspire. To cultivate and foster. I don't think of reviews as a chore or a burden. I think of them as an investment and an opportunity. It is a terrible irony that even a reviewer must show rather than tell.

Other things might help: I try as hard as I can to have a positive attitude: A negative attitude, or a negative or sarcastic review, hurts the reviewer and writer alike. Also, think of a review as a back-and-forth. Write line-by-line comments as if you were having a conversation rather than grading an exam.

As trite as it sounds, a writer bares his soul. You are reviewing both the contents of that soul, and the manner in which it was vivisected--still beating--and set on display. One aspect of this is technical. The other is spiritual. Perhaps you've been neglecting one for the other?

>I'm seeing the same "mistakes" in every fic, regardless of whether they are actually there or not, and it's been taking longer than normal just to give lower than I expect quality feedback.

This is the amazing paradox of writing. There are no new ideas. Every story ever written is probably ripping off some other story from years, decades, centuries, or even milennia ago. You think you have an original idea? Ha! I garuantee you it's been done before, and probably better. Without even realizing it, you stole that idea from Shakespeare or Faulkner or Spinoza or Nabokov or Chekhov or Kafka. God only knows who they stole it from.

This will crush your soul if you let it. But there's a trick. It's not about the story. It's about the writer. It's always possible to tell an old story in a completely new way. They get told over and over, with different twists and from different points of view. Even if there was only one story, ever, there would still be millions of entertaining variations... because each author is unique.

We become passionate about writing a story because it's new to us. The first time we fall in love or get a job or have a child or suffer a crippling injury or visit a loved one's funeral, it's new to us. And when we write a story about it, we write as if nobody else in the world has ever been quite so exhilirated or amazed or bewildered or distraught or frightened or swept away or seized or crushed or bedazzled or betrayed in quite the same way.

We all make the same mistakes. But it doesn't matter that your advice is old and tired to you. You are there to hold someone's hand the first time through: To help them with an experience that is fresh and envigorating to them. When I review, it gives me a chance to see the same old mistakes through a new pair of eyes.

>First, I'll get those who say that even working at low quality, I'm still helping and being useful.

This isn't advice. This isn't an insightful comment. It isn't even ecouragement.

It's an incontrovertible fact. Anything is better than nothing. But you already seem to know this, and you also know it's not much help to you.

Writing is about doing your best, and reviewing should be the same. But I think your problem lies elsewhere.

>If you decide to dignify this thread with a response, thank you in advance and I apologize for my whining.

Dignity, like all good things, comes from within. It is not granted or revoked. It is recognized.
I would not have responded otherwise. :)
>> No. 98528
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98528
Short answer:
Burnout, the silent killer.

As mentioned prior, take a break. Personally I go off and do something I haven't done in months. My last burnout resulted in me ingesting mass quantities of Kim Possible fics. The next one feels like it's going to be D&D related.
...Yes, the next one, there's certain behaviors that start showing up. Don't be too surprised if I skimp off for a week or so in a bit.

Do something that you normally wouldn't do. Read a book you've never looked at, watch a really bad movie, play a game, go outside, take up clog dancing, lern2art, pick up WH40K figure painting, learn the history of Northern Europe. Something that gets you away from the same six complaints day in and day out. Because working with people who've never even considered the kind of things you think are common knowledge is draining.

No one is perfect, none of us agrees 100% of the time, and everyone has different expectations of work, so comparing yourself to other 'better' reviewers is the rocket train to crazy town. Do what you can, add what you can, as everyone having different opinions is why the entire system of proof reading works better when different people are involved.

You don't even have to stop hanging around to get some fresh air. Just changing the way you're browsing can help too. Ion is the way he is because that's the way he interacts. It changes and shifts based on his mood, and even he burns out on being snarky sometimes. The anons are who they are because it's the way they have the most fun, and the ultimate goal is to have fun, while doing the thing you do.

Also, don't start a review thread unless you're trying to drive yourself nutty. But I'm pretty sure that doesn't apply here.
>> No. 98540
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98540
>people think this is me
I don't post anonymously.

>I'm guessing the problem is something between burnout, reaching a plateau in my abilities, and unreasonable expectations. But if any other reviewers had experienced anything like this or could give advice on what I could do to fix this, I would like to get back to reviewing and not leaving authors on their own.
Other than Minty or Samurai, I'm probably the longest-going active reviewer on this board (Vimbert got here in August, and he's probably got the highest throughput, but he already weighed in on this), so here's my take, in the form of a parable:


Two lumberjacks go into the woods. One is hard-working and swings his ax from morning to night: hard swings, tireless swings. By the end of the day, he's exhausted, but he's felled twenty trees. A fine amount, and respectable.

The second lumberjack is nowhere near as indefatigable as his comrade. He takes a ten-minute break every hour, he stops for lunch, et cetera. However, at the end of the day, he's felled thirty trees. See, those ten-minute breaks? He was getting a drink of water and sharpening his ax blade. It kept him going at a faster pace for the next fifty minutes, and it made that time more efficient when he was working.


A hiatus isn't quitting. It's sharpening your mind's blade, and it's giving you a bit of perspective so that, when you want to come back, it's because you want to come back, not some forlorn sense of duty to the /fic/ writing community.

Take a break. If you find yourself, a week or two later, wanting to come back, come back and be refreshed. If the break turns to quitting, I wish you good luck in finding something that you do want to do, and no one's going to judge you for "not reviewing." Or if they do, at the rate #fic is going, they'll be a massive hypocrite, so fuck them and their opinion anyway.
>> No. 98562
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98562
>thread saved

OP here. Thanks everyone for all the advice and the encouragement, even though I was a flankhole pretending I knew what everyone would say. Everything is brilliant advice that I will take to heart and I can't thank you all enough for taking time to post it.

As nearly everyone above suggested, I will be taking a break from reviewing for the time being, spending time reading and doing non-review-y things. I expect I will return; just reading all of your kind words has already made me feel better about the whole thing.

If anyone else is in a similar situation, read this thread. The advice and encouragement applies to you as much as or more than it applies to me.

Thanks again everyone. Y'all are awesome.
>> No. 98566
>>98562
Mind saying who you are so that people aren't going to go, "Oh... where'd 'X' go?"
>> No. 98568
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98568
>>98566
Only if someone disappears for a really long time (i.e. IsPhone, Samurai, MaskOfData) has this occurred (at least in my observation). I think the OP is safe to choose either way.

Even a week of break will make a world of difference, and may not be noticeable. Many take breaks for taking care of IRL business longer than that.
>> No. 98569
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98569
>>98566
As I said before in the OP, I'd prefer to keep anonymous.

I'm guessing I know why you asked. I don't have any claims or open threads, so any "Oh... where'd 'X' go?" wouldn't affect fic activity. This excludes you, Nick, because of >>96408, but in case that isn't enough:

I confirm that I am not NickNack and give permission to any mods to confirm this by stating whether or not our IPs are the same.
>> No. 98570
>>98568
mm, fair enough
>> No. 98576
>>98568
You know, that begs the question, where are they?
>> No. 98605
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98605
>>98576
Last I heard:
Samurai has "retired" from reviewing but might still be answering questions sent to his email address.
IsPhone has loads of school work.
Mask had IRL obligations, disappeared, reappeared briefly and then disappeared again for probably the same reasons.
>> No. 121729
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121729
Why was is thread bumped? I actually posted before checking the dates, and ended up deleting said posts. Lotsa good advice, though.
>> No. 121737
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121737
>>121729
Random bump season has come upon us once more, m'suppose. But yeah, this is actually a good thread.
>> No. 121738
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121738
>>121729
>>121737
It's spambots. We are being eaten alive by spambots lately.
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