I should take a page from Isumi's book and keep contrary opinions to myself so as not to rock the boat. At the same time, I think that one of the reasons we sometimes see things that make us roll our eyes is because everyone else is also keeping quiet, and no one is correcting behaviour that needs to be addressed. I am not a fanartist or a fanvid maker, but I write fanfiction, and so I'm going to address the issues of posting fic to Livejournal communities for the first time. (This includes people making the move from one fandom to another, or who are branching out into different things.) I present to you:
Fandom's all about fun and sharing, but enough complaints, and the mood of the fandom soon turns sour. A lot of the issues I see stem not from the quality of the fanfiction, but rather from the sharing of it. Some authors have panic attacks that have nothing to do with their fic and everything to do with presenting it. Some readers complain about "badfic" and about authors who ask for comments. Some authors want constructive criticism, but no one ever seems to give it. At the same time, readers say they don't leave constructive criticism anymore because authors just can't take it. Comment counts just keep on dropping, and far too many authors view comment counts as a measure of their own self-worth.
So how do we go about making sure everyone continues to have a good time?
People don't complain as much when writers show a lack of skill but a real willingness to learn. No, we don't have to pretend to be a puppy. We are defined by our actions and our words. Codes of conduct came into being for a reason. No one is insisting that everyone who creates be amazing (after all, I write, and there's still room for me in fandom). But whenever we post to Livejournal, there are certain things we should and shouldn't do.
When posting to a community for the first time:
- We should actually look at (and perhaps occasionally comment on) other fics in the comm. Reciprocity is good. Good comments (please note the qualifier) intrigue writers, and they will remember our names. If we post a fic, later, chances are people who recognize our names will click on our post. Another reason to do so is so we know what some established conventions are in the fandom. Some communities will tolerate a lot. Some won't.
- We should see if there is a standard header people use. There's nothing wrong with copying headers verbatim, but the important thing to do is to note the conventions of the fandom, for example whether or not readers care about spoiler warnings. It shows a willingness to abide by generally-accepted conventions. This makes it easier on readers, because the header is how readers know what to expect from the fic. Different fandoms have different conventions and expectations, if it wasn't self-evident.
- We should pay attention to our headers. Typos that jump out are irritating, and show a lack of care. If the header (rarely more than 100 words) has glaring typos in it, what's the rest of the fic like? A lot of readers won't bother to find out.
- We shouldn't post without checking our spelling. Or our grammar, for that matter. Writers who ignore this basic rule risk ruining their reputation before they even begin to build it. Why sabotage ourselves like that? If an author is awful at grammar, they should find someone who isn't and ask them to check their work. (If this applies to you, then for your own sake I strongly recommend you learn, because if you don't care about grammar and spelling, what are you doing writing?)
- We shouldn't beg for comments. It's one of the fastest ways to get people to remember us for the wrong reasons. We want the fandom to remember us for good fic or at least some talent/potential that may need honing. We don't want readers to think, "Oh, it's that author who does the comment begging again! How annoying--I'll just ignore all their posts in the future."
- We shouldn't post work that isn't ours. At all. No exceptions. We may link to work that isn't ours in order to publicize or draw attention to it, but if the original author posted it in a protected forum or somewhere that isn't accessible to the general public, then for heaven's sake, respect their wishes!
- We should never, ever, ever plagiarize. (If you don't know what that word means, look it up.) In the same vein, we should never take words from another without attributing. Do we really want to be the laughingstock and object of ridicule for the fandom years after the incident? Do we really want our own Fandom Wank entry that badly? (If the answer is yes, then don't bother posting fics--just go straight to the main comm and start abusing everything and everyone in sight. Much easier, and much faster.)
- We shouldn't post one fic to ten communities at the same time. Cross-posting clutters f-lists. If more than two communities are applicable, we should just, at most, post it to the main community for each fandom the fic is for.
- We should check to make sure we aren't posting in different font/size/colors than the default. Most people dislike this for various reasons--it may clash with other people's layouts, it may be unreadable on other people's backgrounds, it may be took small or too big. Why should a fic need special font (unless it's only for part of the fic eg. a note)? Use nonstandard fonts/sizes/colors very sparingly. (Thanks for the reminder, thephoenixboy!)
When asking for constructive criticism:
- We should do our own learning first. Nothing irritates as much as a newbie who won't do their own research and constantly seeks to be spoon-fed. That is not the way to make a reputation for ourselves.
- We should not shoot down people who respond by getting angry at them. If we get a knee-jerk response, we should walk away, take deep breaths, and come back later. Just like some authors worry about the code of conduct when posting, some commenters worry about the code of conduct when commenting. Be nice! They cared enough about our fics to click on "Comment". Far too few readers do, nowadays.
- We should put more effort into our fanwork beforehand. Period. If we haven't bothered to read our own fics over at least once (or lead others to suspect that we haven't), why do we expect other people to read it?
Many of us want a place where everyone is amazing at what they do. It inspires some of us to work hard to be just as amazing as everyone else, and of course, if one is just there for the fics, high-quality is always a plus. I find it wonderful how fantastic people can be on Livejournal. This isn't FFN: If we wanted to post to FFN, we'd post to FFN. This is Livejournal, and when on Livejournal, do as the Livejournalers do. We don't card people coming in, but don't expect us to roll out the red carpet for people who don't seem to treat the rest of us (writers and readers alike--yes, there is a lot of overlap) with any sort of respect.
And trust me, dearest. Every one of us reads a lot. In some fandoms, it's so hard to find good things to read because there are so few writers in the entire fandom--why do we think people go back to old fics they love and re-read them many times? Almost all of us are hungry for new fic (and new writers), and whenever a new writer comes into a fandom, there is a collective squee of joy. Unfortunately, if our fic lets readers down in avoidable ways, people get disappointed. Some readers may even get a little resentful (that would be yours truly). Let's not shoot ourselves in the foot.
And now that that's said and done, please, go forth and write. ♥
I'm done now. I'll just sit here in my corner, put on my "I was a bad girl" cap, and hide my face behind my fan.
ETA: Er, hello, metafandom folks. Hope you enjoy your stay! *lays out cookies* ^_^