Forum: The Art of Declining

Discussing: The 'Good' Decline

The 'Good' Decline

This thread was inspired by interest in the 'good' decline, wherein a reviewer has obviously read the submission carefully, thought about it in depth, and written a review that explains their thinking. I want to explore how to write a decline to be of use to the author, and discuss how a decline can help the author to write better.

To that end, here is a decline for my story 'Bindings of Gold,' with Lindorien's kind permission to post both the review, and her name.

Capsule Reason: Undistinguished writing
Reviewer Comments: This is an interesting viewpoint to take. Perhaps weak characterizations would have been a better capsule review.

What I find unacceptable about the viewpoint is the sense of regret I get from the Witch-King. You do not make your case for why he would feel that way. Certainly there is nothing in the canon that I know of which would indicate that he longed for death, or that he regretted his decision, or that he could dispassionately blame himself for why he was the way he was.

What I mean, is the viewpoint is flawed. From the Witch-King, I would expect an arrogance about the explanations; a 'no excuses' mold. This almost sounds as if he is seeking salvation and there is not sufficient backing for that stance within this vignette.



I have to agree with this. There is no canon support for this. I didn't set up so that this evolved naturally, which I could have done. I just sprang it - Bam! - on the reader. If I do anything further along this line, this review will induce me to think carefully about my setup. It also makes me think more about my premise and consider doing an alternate, with only the arrogance. In addition, it started me thinking to look for factors that could explain what I had written. If it marinates long enough, it may generate an interesting story.

So now that I've blathered about this, I'd love to hear what makes a 'good' decline to other people. Any one I've written a review for has my permission to post it. I regret now that I sign only erratically, usually where I invite further inquiry. (I'm trying to get better about it, but sometimes I hit the button automatically.)

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Thus spake Lyllyn regarding my submission -- "Interlude"

This review is reprinted with her kind permission.


Reviewer #7 - Declined:

Capsule Reason: Fragment/Theme not sufficiently developed

Reviewer Comments: I chose decline very reluctantly. This is well written and evokes the characters nicely. Unfortunately it seems like a part of a longer story. The end strikes me as abrupt and not well tied to the rest for this to be complete.

I would love to see the whole thing if there is indeed more. If not, I encourage you strongly to resubmit with some changes.

It feels like you have several strands here and for a short work like this would need to make one or two stronger, or else omit a few.

The theme of caring for weapons or weapons as a metaphor was dropped, but could be used at the end to tie the story together.

Alternately the brotherhood theme could be used at the end, with the analogy of Mablung as an echo of Boromir's companionship.
The belt buckle could have been developed more.

The mention of their nighttime pleasures is another part that needs more development to integrate it.

I hope to see this again, either as part of a longer story or with some changes, at least to the ending.
***********
***********
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Lyllyn and I went back and forth about this, for of the four declines I received, all made comment about it being fragmentary. However, Lyllyn was the only reviewer who signed her review, so I am unable to share the other reviews.

If any of you would like to come forward now, I will happily put those reviews up here, so that all can see what a 'helpful decline' is about.

Lyllyn's review made me think greatly about whether I had tied up this story sufficiently to allow it to be posted as it is.

This was a helpful decline.

I have to laugh that I used 'Undistinguished Writing' in my review of Bindings of Gold. Oft times I cannot find the capsule review which I am looking for and must retreat to 'Undistinguished Writing', although, in truth, I do not know why I picked that one. I said myself that 'Weak characterizations' might have been better.

In the end, neither was really appropriate and I was forced to explain my reasoning.

I am now trying to remember to sign my reviews, but often hit the 'send' button before I think to do so.


 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I know I certainly would not have felt so resentful of the "Undistinguished Writing" reviews I have received on stories, had the reviewers added such thoughtful comments to the generic response.

What made these more bitter was the four glowing reviews each declined story received... somehow, it seemed an odd contrast.

I am feeling too chicken at the moment to put ANY of my finished stories up for review.

HA is a wonderful place to ask questions and find out answers when doing research for a story. For one, Lyllyn, you are a treasure, and always so generous with your medical advice...

HA is a nice place to put stories up in the beta area, to see how they look formatted on a webpage, to make small corrections, even to get stories in the proper format so that they will post correctly at fanfiction.net, but... forget the review process. To make my stories public I think I will try elsewhere.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I know I certainly would not have felt so resentful of the "Undistinguished Writing" reviews I have received on stories, had the reviewers added such thoughtful comments to the generic response.
I think we all feel that way, and the contrast of one reviewer who loves something, and another who really dislikes it leaves us confused. From some recent onlist discussion, I get the feeling that many people aren't comfortable writing decline comments. The reviewers are us after all, and I chicken out at times too. I'm hoping this discussion will help us all to be better reviewers.

I am feeling too chicken at the moment to put ANY of my finished stories up for review.

I hope you come to feel better about it. Maybe the conversation here will help people to make the process less daunting.

HA is a wonderful place to ask questions and find out answers when doing research for a story. For one, Lyllyn, you are a treasure, and always so generous with your medical advice...
Blushes, and is glad to be of service.

Have you received any decline which had helpful comments? Any where there were comments but you wanted to catch hold of the person and say 'What did you mean by that? Is there a good example?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I would certainly give glowing reviews to your stories.

I submitted my first story for review in what turned out to be the last week of reviews under the old blind system which gave no vote numbers or comments. I'm still to chicken to resubmit because I have no idea whether it got unanimously rejected or just missed by one vote like yours. You were close and should definitely try again.

HA is a wonderful place to ask questions and find out answers when doing research for a story. For one, Lyllyn, you are a treasure
I'll second that.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I am obviously new here...that I am more familiar with the place, and have started to meet some of the people, I am starting to feel more comfortable, and I think I would be able to deal with a decline. However, if I was not a HASA member, or a member, but unfamiliar with the place, and I received a decline for "Undistinguished Writing" with no explanation, I would feel unwanted and might seek out another archive--I would feel like there was no way for my writing to improve. In the guidelines for submitting, perhaps one should suggest more strongly that a potential author should work to become very familiar and comfortable with the site AND SHOULD NOT SUBMIT RIGHT AWAY, as this appears to be one of the more stringent archives that I have run across.

I understand that it is hard to write decline comments, because people don't want to be "mean," but I think it is much meaner to decline a story for a stock reason with no comments. This can make an author believe that the story was SO bad that it wasn't even worth a few minutes for the reviewer to type out one or two specific comments.

The anonymity issue (for reviewers) is a thornier question, but one that I probably shouldn't tackle until I understand the review system better.

Just my newbie cent and a half.

Regards,

Merfy

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

HA is a nice place to put stories up in the beta area, to see how they look formatted on a webpage, to make small corrections, even to get stories in the proper format so that they will post correctly at fanfiction.net, but... forget the review process. To make my stories public I think I will try elsewhere

I understand that. I've been here, largely silent, for a long time and am still intimidated.

I think though, that I find the majority of people are too polite and too ...forgiving when what I really want is someone to thwap me upside the head and say, "WHAT were you thinking?!"

Or maybe I keep waiting for that. A lack of strong response -- and I'd say that's where I fall, in the mediocre range -- says to me, that the story isn't horrid, but it's not great either.

I don't know. What are we supposed to take from the things people say to us? Are they truly serious or just being nice? I tend to think they're just being nice. *shrugs*

Honesty is a hard thing to find. We're all human, have our good and bad days, sharp days and grumpy days.

Shutting up now,
Levade

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

However, if I was not a HASA member, or a member, but unfamiliar with the place, and I received a decline for "Undistinguished Writing" with no explanation, I would feel unwanted and might seek out another archive--I would feel like there was no way for my writing to improve. In the guidelines for submitting, perhaps one should suggest more strongly that a potential author should work to become very familiar and comfortable with the site AND SHOULD NOT SUBMIT RIGHT AWAY, as this appears to be one of the more stringent archives that I have run across.

This is a stringent archive, I think the only ones more selective may be the speciality archives - certain characters or genres only.

I had my first fic declined under the old system, no vote breakdown or reasons. It was very intimidating, and now I think twice before submitting anything. I am not up on the exact statistics currently, but I believe one third to one half of all stories submitted are declined. Some months it may be even higher.

I understand that it is hard to write decline comments, because people don't want to be "mean," but I think it is much meaner to decline a story for a stock reason with no comments. This can make an author believe that the story was SO bad that it wasn't even worth a few minutes for the reviewer to type out one or two specific comments.

This has been debated back and forth many times, and is the reason the stock comments were added. Several members have made the point that they don't have time to go through and analyze all stories in depth, and if it were a requirement, they wouldn't be able to review. I understand this point. I am reluctant to spend a lot of time when the author may not ever access my comments. Of all the times I have signed my reviews, only two authors have emailed me. I believe Julie, who signs all her reviews, has similar low returns, and I have heard the same from others.

And herein is part of the reason for this discussion. With some stories it is very clear to me what the problem is, and I can state it easily and in a way not likely to offend someone. Some stories have multiple small things wrong, or nothing is wrong but they are simply not excellent. Some stories are submitted and I wonder how the author decided to submit to HASA and feel like they don't understand the purpose of the site at all.

Just my newbie cent and a half.
All cents welcome!

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

You know, I have decided that the whole submit and review process is a cr*pshoot. I hope the use of French is okay here. Especially since my stuff seems to garner such strong response. It's a roll of the dice who will review. I've already read enough absolutely awful stuff on the archive to see that there is no really good way to tell what will go over and what will not.

So to all of you 'frightened to submit' people. Just submit. If its declined, who cares? If you get good comments good or bad take them for what they are worth and apply them or move on. HA is stringent in that most of the 'teenage girl dropped into ME' stuff does not get through, but it is by no means infallible. It all depends on who reads your fic.

At least if you submit here, you GET 9 comments on your work, vs. other places where you do not even know if anybody actually read the thing or not. But remember, its just 9 comments and unless they are all glowing or all withering, you need to consider that opinions vary.

Often the stories are familiar when the reviewer sees them, because they have been on ff.net or sitting in beta or general or part of a challenge. I've reviewed stories that were still sitting on the welcome page as a challenge story with the authors name attached.

so much for anonymous.

If one declines a fic and it is for specific reason, I think it is polite and proper to give that reason in a positive and thoughtful manner. I think that if a decline is rendered without explanation it either means the fic is so bad the reviewer knows not where to begin, or the reviewer cannot codify the reasons why they are not declining.

So submit your stories and don't be too downcast if it gets rejected.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I think though, that I find the majority of people are too polite and too ...forgiving when what I really want is someone to thwap me upside the head and say, "WHAT were you thinking?!"

Or maybe I keep waiting for that. A lack of strong response -- and I'd say that's where I fall, in the mediocre range -- says to me, that the story isn't horrid, but it's not great either.

What are we supposed to take from the things people say to us? Are they truly serious or just being nice? I tend to think they're just being nice. *shrugs*


I understand this. I like some stories of yours a lot and I know others do too. But sometimes one needs the bucket of icewater when you feel complacent or that you're coasting and want to climb up to the next level. Getting that first fic declined certainly forced me to do better.

Honesty is a hard thing to find. We're all human, have our good and bad days, sharp days and grumpy days.

So, returning to the original topic - what would constitute a helpful decline for you? What would you want to know?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

So, returning to the original topic - what would constitute a helpful decline for you? What would you want to know?

For those of us who haven't reviewed in awhile, perhaps, here's the list of decline capsule reasons:

Excess spelling/grammar/format errors
Undistinguished writing
Weak plot and/or weak ending
Factual errors/unworkable AU
Weak or unlikely characterization.
Implausible situations/solutions
Inappropriate modernisms/too much non-JRRT
Fragment/theme not sufficiently developed
Too incomplete to judge (WiP)

What I would like to see, if a reviewer is not going to write anything like a commentary explaining his/her choice, is simply an identification of which element is problematic. Unlike the "Accept" capsule decisions, there are a lot of "or"'s in there.

So if a reviewer chose "Weak plot and/or weak ending", it'd help to know which it was: weak plot over all, or just a weak ending? For "Weak or unlikely characterization," is the characterization simply weak, or is it strong but unlikely for a particular character? Even that much would be helpful to me.

For the rest, were I to get comments, I'd like specifics--point out the most problematic portion to me and explain why it is problematic. If it's the plot as a whole, pick out the premise that seems to cause the most trouble. A reviewer need not do more than that; I just need a specific starting point most days, and then I can go off and reflect.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

In the guidelines for submitting, perhaps one should suggest more strongly that a potential author should work to become very familiar and comfortable with the site AND SHOULD NOT SUBMIT RIGHT AWAY, as this appears to be one of the more stringent archives that I have run across.


I know what you mean - I've had to decline a couple of stories where the author must surely have completely missed that there were criteria - or the person who submitted it, as that isn't always the author. One was a barely begun WIP with more grammatical/spelling errors per para than I've ever encountered. The author's notes even indicated that he/she was aware that it badly needed beta-ing. On the other hand it is made quite obvious, I think that is a selective archive - and the criteria are there, so if they skip those won't they also skip the warning about becoming familiar with the site?

Avon

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I'd like to comment briefly on what I think makes a "good decline" specifically for a poem. I recently had a poem published with a 6/3 ratio. I didn't find two of the declines helpful because (1) they didn't address the merits or demerits of the poem as a poem and (2) didn't give any specific feedback which would have really helped me to improve the piece. The last decline, though, I think was an excellent example of a "good decline." Since it was an anonymous review, I don't want to quote it since I can't ask for the reviewer's permission, but I thought it was a "good decline" because: (1) the reviewer knew the poetic form I was trying to write in and addressed the merits and flaws of the poem within that specific form, (2) started out with noting something the reviewer did think was well done in the poem -- always kind and encouraging, (3) gave clear and specific criticism of the aspects of the poem they didn't think worked, and (4) gave suggestions for recasting the poem. An author couldn't ask for a better decline.

flick

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I know I certainly would not have felt so resentful of the "Undistinguished Writing" reviews I have received on stories, had the reviewers added such thoughtful comments to the generic response.
I think we all feel that way, and the contrast of one reviewer who loves something, and another who really dislikes it leaves us confused. From some recent onlist discussion, I get the feeling that many people aren't comfortable writing decline comments. The reviewers are us after all, and I chicken out at times too. I'm hoping this discussion will help us all to be better reviewers.


*Hand up* I don't always leave comments and I think I've only signed a review once. Okay, why? I can't speak for anyone else but as much as I can see the arguments for doing both things I do have reasons for not doing so.

Why not sign my review (decline or acceptance)?
The anoniminity of these reviews is what I treasure as both an author and as a reviewer.
As an author, as someone else has mentioned, it can be hard to know when someone compliments your stuff whether they are simply being kind/polite. I have a huge problem believing compliments anyway so much as I love nice feedback it never seems to quite belong to me. On the other hand an anonymous review is probably not from someone I know and has less pressures to gild the lily. On yet another hand I have to admit that I did get one signed acceptance which was extra exciting simply because *she* had read and approved my work ;-)

As an anonymous reviewer I feel free-er to be completely honest. I still can't get away from the fact that a real live human being is waiting to receive this review but I can distance myself a little from them. Furthermore if I don't have any idea of who submitted the piece I don't know whether signing it is going to involve me in an exchange of e-mails on the 'but how can you say this is weak characterisation (etc) - everyone else has loved it etc etc' I have had enough futile exchanges with those who love their own stories all too dearly at a writing group I run to know you can just be wasting keystrokes.

Why not leave comments?

Harder to justify - I know I adore comments with accpetances (and I almost always leave them) and really appreciate them with declines - particularly if the reason isn't obvious from the capsule reason. The capsule reason that is probably least clear is undistinguished writing and yet it is probaly the one I'm least likely to leave a comment with... I suppose the not wanting to hurt someone thing comes into it. It's much less crushing to say to someone - 'You need to use commas before and after a name when it is being used in direct address' than to make detailed comments about their poor writing. Quite possibly they can't fix that. It's also a limitation in me - I have no trouble (well, in my opinion) picking something as being poorly written but quite a bit of trouble explaining why - especially when it is a global matter. In fact I not infrequently wuss out on actually reviewing the stories I read and find 'badly' written. I do know that is rather an abrogation of my responsibilities as a member of the review pool, so hopefully this discussion will help me do those sort of declines better.

Avon

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Of all the times I have signed my reviews, only two authors have emailed me. I believe Julie, who signs all her reviews, has similar low returns, and I have heard the same from others.

I've tried a new strategy which may work better, at least I'm getting more responses.

First off, I'm a slow reader and a slow writer, Sometimes it can take me 20 minutes to write 3 sentences, so I'm reluctant to spend time on something that isn't wanted. Secondly, all my internet friends are fanfic writers who have wowed me with their fanfic writing, in one way or another. So it's in my best interest to encourage an email conversation that's going to be mutually beneficial. As I hadn't been getting much response from previous comments (where I tried to make a 1 or 2 sentance explanation for my vote), I'd more gotten into a habbit of picking a capsule reason and just signing my name.

I've only reviewed a few stories recently because Real Life is always busy for me late July through beginning of September. What I've started to do when I decline is a variation of the semi-form letter I use when someone asks me if I could beta a story for them:

"I do not believe this story is ready for HASA. If you would like to receive brief constructive criticism which may include suggestions for substantial rewriting you may contact me to ask. To quote from the reviewer criteria: Please vote to accept a story because of what it does RIGHT, not simply because there is nothing wrong or that it doesn't violate criteria. -- What is your goal in this story and what do you feel proud of? If you can include an answer to this question with your request it easier for me to make suggests in agreement with your goals for your story." & "Good luck writing" & sign my name and give my email address.

If it's a vignette, rather than "what's 'right'?" I have another version that asks the author to indicate why s/he doesn't consider it a fragment, how does it "explore an interesting or thought provoking issue"?

If the author won't want to rewrite, or wants to argue the "grade", I'd rather they didn't contact me. But the main thing is that my comments would be more likely to be useful when I know what the author considers most important, so I prefer a two step process.

Julie

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I have no trouble (well, in my opinion) picking something as being poorly written but quite a bit of trouble explaining why - especially when it is a global matter.

I find that with global problems, it's better if I just start writing—unless it's glaringly obvious, I think it's hard for most people to grasp in one movement what they think is the source of the fic's problems. The old adage, "You read to learn, you write to think," is very true of me, and perhaps of others.

So for those fics which I think have some large, pervasive problem(s), I will not check them out until I've figured out what I want to say. I'll toss a ton of text on a page (well, I'll keep it to a page), and as it comes out in writing, I am then able to identify what I think the problem is. Once I've done that, I check it out. Then it's a matter of making my analysis clear without being devastating. I try to include at the beginning anything I found good about the fic and try to remember to add at the end that the person should continue to work on the story and keep writing in general.

I also do not sign my reviews, Avon. In addition to reasons you mentioned, I am not a beta reader, although often enough, if I decline a fic, I give a very detailed analysis of why. I do not wish to function as a formal beta reader--the review is my analysis of the fic with a view to explaining why I rejected it, and the author may make of it what s/he will and do with it as s/he pleases.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I would be interested in knowing how people handle the fic that is just in the middle. I find it is easier to write a decline for a basically good fic that has a jarring note...as I did with Lyllyn's fic. The reason for decline glares amidst the gold. (no pun intended there, Lyllyn)

But with a fic that really is undistinguished...I recently rejected one that was not 'undistinguished' necessarily, it was just too darned long. I mean the descriptions were beautiful, but it was so dreadfully over written. It just went on and on. To the point of sobnambulance (I hope that is spelled correctly, too lazy to look it up), without point. And I did not know how to tell the author that.

"Hey your writing is lovely. Could you just take out every other word please?"

I feel like I need a capsule definition -- OVERDISTINGUISHED WRITING.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I would be interested in knowing how people handle the fic that is just in the middle...

But with a fic that really is undistinguished...I recently rejected one that was not 'undistinguished' necessarily, it was just too darned long. I mean the descriptions were beautiful, but it was so dreadfully over written. It just went on and on. To the point of sobnambulance (I hope that is spelled correctly, too lazy to look it up), without point. And I did not know how to tell the author that.


Ah, the ones in the middle. That's where I have a real problem, and I suspect many others do too. At least with the one you mention, you knew what the problem was.

Many people admitted in list discussion that they tend to leave those for others to decide. When you mention in an earlier post that there's some unworthy archive stories, I suspect this is how some of them got in. (Of course some were accepted before various changes were made to the system - Anonymity, 30 day wait period to review, raising reviewer numbers, revising criteria. And yes, they are supposed to be anonymous, but there have been occasional glitches with challenge entries.)

You raise a good question: how do you tell someone it just isn't excellent? Especially when you don't know how to fix it?

I do like Julie's line 'I do not believe this story is ready for HASA.' I am playing with this and will throw something out for people to pick at -
'Your story/poem contains no major identifiable problems. I am declining because it doesn't hold my interest/doesn't seem to accomplish its purpose/seems trite'

I invite others to add to this or discuss what's here. Maybe if I can define it better for myself, I can say it better when I review.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Just in the middle fics are tough. I usually will say, if I check them out for review, that the fic simply doesn't hold my interest (which is valid--note guidelines which do say that this is of concern), that it seems perhaps too mechanical. You could say, if it is true, that although you can clearly see how characters X and Y are supposed to relate to each other, and how that serves the story, that the author was unable to make the reader care about the interaction. I reviewed one story** that was based on some minor character and clearly, that character was supposed to illuminate Elrond, Elrohir, and Elladan in a specific way, but though the writing was not bad, and the interaction was there, the author simply never used that key element to open up *either* the trio *or* the minor character as main protagonist. Look for the structural relationships and try to comment on those, if you can. Sometimes, that's the easier route.

For the overwritten story (I strongly suspect I will get this at some point), you could say, "The prose here, while it demonstrates the author's comfort with the English language, borders on purple." Or, if it's not really purple prose, but just too much of it, try, "I found this story too verbose for its subject matter, and this reader began to lose track of the plot in the description. Otherwise, it is a story with much promise. I hope to see it resubmitted after some editting has taken place."

**This was last year some time, not a recent fic.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Thank you to both dwim and Lyllyn for those excellent suggestions. You have saved me untold minutes of banging my head against the wall.

so "Boring" as a capsule reason.

the inability to hold interest is an important one. I have been branching out and trying stories not in my normal areas of knowledge. I recently enthusiastically accepted one which did make the archive, although it was on a topic and about characters I knew NOTHING about. The reason? The author still had managed to grab me. She still managed to make me cry, she managed to make me read the story to the end because I had no idea how it was going to resolve.

This, to me, is a really good story. We read original fic all the time that we know nothing about until we start reading, but with fanfic there are lots of assumptions made about prior knowledge of the reader.

By the way -- the story was also SHORT. So that author managed all those things in a very short space.

But if I read a long fic about unfamiliar situations and after i am several chapters into it I am still clueless as to what is going on because I am bogged down in the description of the wind in trees, then I really needed a way to let the writer know that s/he was not achieving their purpose, which was to hold the reader's interest.

thanks ladies,
Lindorien


 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline


This potentially sounds a bit awful, but there is sometimes a bit of an air in these discussions that there is a moral obligation of a reviewer to leave detailed comments and/or her/his name (I am not referring to the comments of anyone in particular here, just a sense I keep getting when the topic comes up on the mailing list). And I don't think there is such an obligation. The review process is not a beta process; its purpose is to generate accept/decline decisions. Of course it's brilliant if constructive criticism ensues as an incidental consequence. But I'm a bit leery of the suggestion of moral obligation.

Mainly the trouble I have is that if I can't say anything constructive, I think it's unwise to say anything at all. I'm aware of repeating what others have said above here, but I, too, am okay with essentially good stories that have manageable flaws, but saying something constructive is difficult when the story is simply poor all round, or on the other hand, when it's mediocre all round. What I would want to say in those cases would be, "Please develop a more sophisticated and imaginative world-view," or, "Please renovate your whole prose style." I am pretty sure the writer is better off with me not saying that! I think in that instance my unmarked decline is a better decline than my marked one would have been.

I used to sign my name because I liked the idea of taking responsibility for what I'd written. But I've stopped recently, because I don't always want to be implicated in a further correspondence. One thing is the time issue. Tact, unfortunately, does not come easily to me, and it will have already taken me half an hour or more to write up my three lines of tactful constructive remarks in the comment box. Beta-reading, when I do it, takes me hours and hours over the course of days. I can't afford to offer that sort of help to the writer of every fic I review, which is what I am effectively doing by leaving my name. Another thing is that I don't want to implicate myself as a beta reader for someone whose work I see little promise in, because I think that's a really bad idea for both parties. I cannot help that person by definition!

I think what I want to say is that good declines are wonderful, but I hope it doesn't follow that declines without comment are bad declines.

Doom's Eyebrow

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

This potentially sounds a bit awful, but there is sometimes a bit of an air in these discussions that there is a moral obligation of a reviewer to leave detailed comments and/or her/his name (I am not referring to the comments of anyone in particular here, just a sense I keep getting when the topic comes up on the mailing list). And I don't think there is such an obligation. The review process is not a beta process; its purpose is to generate accept/decline decisions. Of course it's brilliant if constructive criticism ensues as an incidental consequence. But I'm a bit leery of the suggestion of moral obligation.

I agree with you, there is absolutely no obligation. I am more likely to leave comments when I know what can be fixed, or the story is 'almost' there, but the example you give of purple prose is a good one. I have not been signing my name to declines for the 'fellowship member falls into modern earth and becomes someone's boyfriend' type. Although that's an extreme example, there doesn't seem much point to signing those.

I'm interested in this because I want to improve my own comments. So, anyone gotten any good declines lately?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

The review process is not a beta process; its purpose is to generate accept/decline decisions.

Exactly--it is NOT a beta reading service, and I agree--I don't want to have to deal with an extended correspondance with an author. I do feel a certain obligation to at least say "It's the unlikely characterization, not that the characterization is weak" for a decline, because there is a lot more room for ambiguity and confusion in the decline drop-downs. It seems it's easier to figure out why something is good than to specify why something has problems.






 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I agree with you, Doom's Eyebrow. There is no moral obligation to provide further explanation. Believe me, on the hopeless fics, I just decline and put it out of its misery.

I am talking about those fics that have potential. Especially those in which the writer is obviously a good writer. In my comment about 'Overdistinguished Writing' the writer may be a little too good and just needs to rein in the oratory. I have explained on more than one decline that a story was simply too long for the subject matter. I have also noticed that every single on of those stories made the archive, without changes.

I will also note that the few times I read Stephen King I tend to skip entire pages, for he knows not when to shut up.

Which brings me to an interesting point -- or perhaps not so interesting, you be the judge -- how come the author with a pithy decline such as that does not even consider the question?

Perhaps, it is just me, but I see more value in my declines than in my acceptances. The ones in which I can tell the reviewer did not really read the fic, I toss out without issue. It is the ones in which the reviewer has really taken the time to read and then explain a position that gives me reason to pause.

This is especially true of the ones in which I can see that the author is hitting the decline button with his/her eyes closed because he or she is so conflicted about the work.

Those sorts of declines, which are signed, I ALWAYS respond to, if for no other reason to note that I appreciate the time and energy and the thoughtfulness of the comments.

So, I agree, there is no moral obligation to sign, or to make pithy comments, Doom', but this thread is to discuss the Art of Declining.

And it is an art.

lindorien

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

This potentially sounds a bit awful, but there is sometimes a bit of an air in these discussions that there is a moral obligation of a reviewer to leave detailed comments and/or her/his name (I am not referring to the comments of anyone in particular here, just a sense I keep getting when the topic comes up on the mailing list). And I don't think there is such an obligation. The review process is not a beta process; its purpose is to generate accept/decline decisions. Of course it's brilliant if constructive criticism ensues as an incidental consequence. But I'm a bit leery of the suggestion of moral obligation.

That's a good point, and I agree there's no moral obligation. I also want to make clear that in the particular instance I cited above (I know you're not referring to particular comments, but just to make it clear), the "good decline" was not at all lengthy -- just 4 or 5 lines. But they made it clear (1) that they had carefully read my piece and (2) had specific and well-thought-out reasons for the decline.

From my own experience, and from various comments I've heard other people make, it's when the decline reason doesn't seem to apply to the particular piece that the capsule gets frustrating. But if I just got a decline for a poem that said, "undistinguished writing," I would be ok with that. I'd just figure that my imagery or form was inadequate or boring -- no 'punch' -- and try harder. But I really do appreciate people who go the extra mile in their comments. Especially since this is a kind of writer's workshop site, not just an archive, it seems appropriate to try to help people improve their writing. Not at a beta level, but just a couple of helpful comments are nice. Not a moral obligation, just... a supererogatory virtue, IMO.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

This potentially sounds a bit awful, but there is sometimes a bit of an air in these discussions that there is a moral obligation of a reviewer to leave detailed comments and/or her/his name (I am not referring to the comments of anyone in particular here, just a sense I keep getting when the topic comes up on the mailing list). And I don't think there is such an obligation. The review process is not a beta process; its purpose is to generate accept/decline decisions. Of course it's brilliant if constructive criticism ensues as an incidental consequence. But I'm a bit leery of the suggestion of moral obligation.

Whilst I realise there definitely is no moral obligation to leave some type of comment, I, for some inexplicable reason, feel very guilty if I don’t leave something in the review box. I think that I owe the writer some type of comment, to explain my decision. I also tend to sign my name, because I feel that I should. I realise that these are my own little idiosyncrasies and have no idea why they happen.
Just in case I’m misunderstood, I’d just like to say that I don’t think that other people should have to do this.

'Your story/poem contains no major identifiable problems. I am declining because it doesn't hold my interest/doesn't seem to accomplish its purpose/seems trite'

Lyllyn, I do think that this is a valid point. It’s also a much more eloquent description than I can come up with; as so far I’ve been describing a story a slightly ‘off’. Obviously, I can’t decline a story just because something that I can’t even pinpoint doesn’t ‘click’.
This is something I’m not sure on: can you decline a story just because it doesn’t hold your interest? If a story doesn’t interest me in either a positive or negative way, I feel it’s more fair to leave it to someone who is interested by it – is this a good or bad thing to do?

Well, I’ve contributed nothing to the Art of a Good Decline.

- Elvenesse

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

,i>Well, I’ve contributed nothing to the Art of a Good Decline.

- Elvenesse

Well, you certainly do nice acceptances ;-)

Avon

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Putting in my two cents... or three...

Whilst I realise there definitely is no moral obligation to leave some type of comment, I, for some inexplicable reason, feel very guilty if I don’t leave something in the review box. I think that I owe the writer some type of comment, to explain my decision.

It is a fine line. I do review, as often as I can, and I personally do think that there is a kind of moral obligation to leave some kind of comment, if only to show that you did, actually *read* the story. Declines can be particularly troubling, and it is the "undistinguished writing" decline, without comment, which to me seems absolutely useless as a writer. I'm not necessarily expecting a paragraph long explanation as to why my story was declined, but evidence that the story was read, and understood (or if it wasn't understood, comments to that effect are helpful), are indeed helpful.

I do believe in the anonymous aspect of reviewing, but I also take my "job" as reviewer very, very seriously. And not because I feel that I need to keep everybody's feelings in mind, but this archive (and I adore this archive, I found it after doing my survey on fanfiction writers and I have always felt at home here), to me, really promotes writing excellence. Part of that involves learning, revising, and feedback can be a very productive aspect of that.

However... somebody did mention how the reviewing pool is a crapshoot. Yes, it is, because it's self-selected, and that is a bit of a challenge. But what I come back to is this: as a reviewer, you are encouraged to at least take a summary glance at the work before checking it out for review. If it's awful, if you already know that you can't stand the writing style, or you don't understand it, or you simply don't think you want to read it, don't check it out. To me there is no moral obligation to check something out simply to get it declined from the archive. It is my understanding that if a story sits there for long enough and doesn't have the quota of reviews, it is automatically declined. That should indicate something to the author, without reviewer's comments.

I'll stop rambling now.
~Thevina

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I am declining because it doesn't hold my interest/doesn't seem to accomplish its purpose/seems trite'

This is something I’m not sure on: can you decline a story just because it doesn’t hold your interest?


I probably didn't phrase it well, but I draw a distinction between a story where the subject matter, genre, or character doesn't interest me, and one where the storytelling just isn't what it should be despite the subject.

It is perfectly legitimate to decline a story because the plot or writing is boring. In the explanation of the review criteria: Storytelling/Writing -
'Is it an enjoyable work that is well written, holding your interest throughout?'

If a story doesn’t interest me in either a positive or negative way, I feel it’s more fair to leave it to someone who is interested by it – is this a good or bad thing to do?

I don't think there is good or bad about it. Some people are consistent 'accepters' only reviewing when they can accept. Some are more apt to review what they feel should be declined. The big problem for all of us is 'the stories in the middle'. The ones not so bad that it's easy, but not exactly good enough either.


Well, I’ve contributed nothing to the Art of a Good Decline.
Contributing to the conversation counts!

Thevina, you are quite right, if a story doesn't garner 9 reviews in 45 days, it's automatically declined. I don't think it's ever happened though.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

the inability to hold interest is an important one. I have been branching out and trying stories not in my normal areas of knowledge. I recently enthusiastically accepted one which did make the archive, although it was on a topic and about characters I knew NOTHING about. The reason? The author still had managed to grab me. She still managed to make me cry, she managed to make me read the story to the end because I had no idea how it was going to resolve.

This, to me, is a really good story....By the way -- the story was also SHORT. So that author managed all those things in a very short space.


Why does this review sound so awfully familiar?

~Zim

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

If it's awful, if you already know that you can't stand the writing style, or you don't understand it, or you simply don't think you want to read it, don't check it out.

I'm sorry to say it, but I vehemently disagree with this. If a story is truly awful, I *do* see it as part of my task as a reviewer to decline it. The same goes if I come to the conclusion that I can't stand the writing style because it is clunky, or is overwritten, or has other technical flaws.

When I review, I'm not looking for just a nice story to read. I am setting out to judge that story. The reviewer's task is to *review*; this means both the good and the bad.

And I admit I sometimes wimp out on the 'average' stories too, because the ones where you're not sure are the hardest to judge. Given that the guidelines say that you should 'vote to accept a story because of what it does right, not simply because there is nothing wrong or that it doesn't violate criteria', I'm probably not declining enough;-)

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Thev wrote:

If it's awful, if you already know that you can't stand the writing style, or you don't understand it, or you simply don't think you want to read it, don't check it out. To me there is no moral obligation to check something out simply to get it declined from the archive.

I agree that you have NO MORAL OBLIGATION to review a story simply to decline it.

However, that is not the same as saying that it is wrong to check something out in order to decline it. That's how declines work if you read before you check out.

Some people check out and review only those stories they intend to accept, on the rationale that sufficiently poor writing is obvious and will be caught by others; others check out and review only those stories that they intend to decline, on the rationale that quality of a certain caliber is evident and will be picked up by others. Neither position is wrong, but clearly, they need each other or there will be problems.

Yes, a fic is simply flushed if, after 45 days, it hasn't acquired the requisite number of reviewers, but I'd hate to rely on that as our decline method. That's not the purpose--it's the back-up decline, and exists largely because of system resources and the need to move other stories into place for review.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Are you the author of 'Till the End"? For if you are, then it is because I think I effused all over your work in my acceptance. Which, if that be the case, you are welcome to post it here as a 'good acceptance' for I fear that all will think me only eloquent when I am at my nastiest.

Lindorien

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

>>Some people check out and review only those stories they intend to accept, on the rationale that sufficiently poor writing is obvious and will be caught by others;<<

LOL!! I have only been reviewing here a short time, but 'tis long enough to know THAT adage is not true. I now vigorously seek out the poor written stuff and try to send it on its way as quickly and painlessly as possible!

So, there is a 'Pocket Decline' system, rather like the 'Pocket Veto'. Is that why the review pool gets so terribly picked over and sits with only a couple available for so long? Is to force people to review the things to move things along?

I suspect it has more to do with people having activities outside of HA.net. But still, I pose the question.

lindorien

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Okay, lindorien:


"I had not planned to review this piece as I know very little about Silmarillion type tales, but I found this story so beautifully written and moving, I decided that even if I do not know anything about Turgon and the fall of Gondolin, I could still accept this lovely piece.

There is enough here, in your mere 1400 words for a reviewer with NO background in this subject to obtain a very good idea of the situation and the characters and the horrible tragedy of what happened.

Thank you so much for this story."

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Reprinted by permission from Julie is her 'Good Decline' for Interlude:

* Reviewer #6 - Declined:
Capsule Reason: Weak plotting and/or weak ending
Reviewer Comments: This was a nice little story--pretty well written, although the changing of tenses from present to some indetermined past was a little hard to read--I wasn't sure when the conversations were taking place. No spelling or grammatical errors.
But in the end, I decided to deline it for two reasons: While your story attempted to be a character study, it didn't really reveal that much more about Faramir than we already knew. And the ending was extremely abrupt, it didn't seem to fit with anything. I kept checking to make sure I hadn't missed a paragraph or something. Sorry.


She reflects the same concerns for fragmentation, but also hit on something which surprised me a little. She zeroed in on this being a Faramir fic, and not a Mablung fic. Although Mablung is the lens by which Faramir is viewed, there is plenty there about him also, although only as it is reflected by Faramir.

Anyway -- any more of my reviewers want to come forward? I have a bucketful of the things available for perusal. I have to admit, except for the horrendous example I mention following, pretty much all my declines have been helpful.

Speaking of BAD DECLINES. I just had a scathing one from a reviewer who, IMHO, failed to read the wee little vignette. Or else went into it with an some odd preconception. It was approved despite the reviewer's bad humor, but it was vitriolic. The reviewer had a lot to say, however. It is interesting in that I had the impression that the reviewer was in a bad mood. I mean, go ahead folks, review, decline, but be polite for goodness sakes!!

Anyway, it did provide my best laugh of the day.

I must admit, that the declines I had for The Offer, once again, were of much greater interest and more helpful than my accepts.

lindorien

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I must admit, that the declines I had for The Offer, once again, were of much greater interest and more helpful than my accepts.

I have found this as well, and I'd put it in the broader context and say that someone who points out the negatives in a story often helps me to improve more than someone pointing out the positives. (Of course, I still like the positives better.)

Some of what I am taking out of this discussion is obvious in retrospect - it's easier to write a 'good' decline for someone obvious serious about writing well. It's easier to comment, and I'm more motivated when I think my comments may make a difference.

It still leaves me with the 'fics in the middle' problem.

I'm going to start a new thread for that, here


Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

LOL!! I have only been reviewing here a short time, but 'tis long enough to know THAT adage is not true. I now vigorously seek out the poor written stuff and try to send it on its way as quickly and painlessly as possible!

I had to do that several times today, unfortunately. But declining is not always an easy thing. Sometimes it's a question of a story that really seems lackluster--not that anything is technically wrong with it in terms of spelling, formatting, grammar or canon, but it's just dull. Other times it's something that makes my eyes pop out and think "What in the world were you THINKING?!" In that case it's really hard to rein in the criticism, because what I really want to do is give the author a smack in the head. I mean, I stay away from the LOTR section of FF.net now because a goodly chunk of those stories merit such a response.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Thanks for your earlier responses, everybody. I realise my point was in some ways tangential to the topic and afterwards I worried it sounded like I was trying to derail the discussion to an extent. I hope it didn't come across that way because that wasn't my intention. However I am pleased to see there seems to be little danger of such a perceived attempt succeeding.

Which brings me to an interesting point -- or perhaps not so interesting, you be the judge -- how come the author with a pithy decline such as that does not even consider the question?

As to the problem of writers not editing in line with decline comments when the fic is accepted overall, unfortunately I think it might come down to inevitable human vanity and the hope that maybe the decliners were wrong and the accepters right. I myself have pointed out typos and grammar errors in both accept and decline reviews on fics that ultimately got accepted, only to see, when the fic goes live, that the author never makes the correction. It's disappointing but I suppose it *is* the author's prerogative.

The other thing is that a lot of fic submissions are not generated in the bosom of HA as it were, and are no longer considered works in progress by their authors by the time of submission. If the fic has already gone through an editing process, if the author considers it finished, if it's already archived in multiple places in its current form, then there may not be enough motivation to rewrite at this stage. This may not mean that the author is ignoring the decline review's advice per se; it may just be s/he has noted it for general or future reference.

Let me make a guilty confession. About a month ago I submitted a story of mine and got 6 accepts and 3 declines. Only one decline was marked, and that only with a name and email. I have only just emailed that person this week to ask for further information, and it's for a combination of the above two reasons. Yes, I considered it finished and it was archived already all over the place in its current form. But I was struggling passionately with my own vanity! I found myself falling into the assumption that the reviewer didn't like slash, and that was so clearly illegitimate and unreasonable that finally I had to email her because it seemed the only way I could properly vanquish my own embarrassing arrogance.

Ah, self improvement. A life's work.

Doom's Eyebrow

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I'm not - absolutely absolutely NOT - having a go at Lindorian or anyone else - but just suing her comment as a general theme which has been expressed here -

I am talking about those fics that have potential. Especially those in which the writer is obviously a good writer. In my comment about 'Overdistinguished Writing' the writer may be a little too good and just needs to rein in the oratory. I have explained on more than one decline that a story was simply too long for the subject matter. I have also noticed that every single on of those stories made the archive, without changes.

I think we have to consider one possibility when wondering why authors don't follow up on our suggestions is - we are wrong. Just as we have said we don't have a moral responsibility to write comments as reviewers I don't think we have a moral responsibility to always follow them as writers. Or am I the only terrible person who doesn't always act on their declines? If 7 or 8 out of the 9, for example, plus sundry forum people get an ending and one reviewer doesn't then I'm not necessarily going to change it.

Some examples -
I got a very detailed review for one story which really seemed to suggest I should write a different story - I liked the original better and 8/9 reviewers thought it acceptable so I didn't change it.

I probably wouldn't have sent Forgotten Memories to review but for someone else recomending it because I knew its style was going to be love /hate - and heck I wasn't sure of it either at the time. In the end it got 7 acceptances - 4 for strong writing - and 2 declines, both for undistinguished writing. Only one gave a reason and I'm going to quote it because while I decided I disagreed it's an excellent example of how you can pinpoint why you are declining in a few words at times -
Those legions of *remember* really spoil the flow of the story!
I take her/his point and they may well be right - but if you've read it that is its style. I couldn't rewrite it to that extent without it becoming another story and other people seemed to like ti despite them so I left them there - but my reviewer may well have been unimpressed to see it hit the archives unrevised.

I'm certainly not saying I wouldn't act on review suggestions - I certainly act on forum and sometimes even ffnet suggestions - but I'm just saying maybe the author has a valid reason for reading your review and going 'Very interesting - but not for me.'

Grammatical errors/typos etc of course are somewhat different - I can't see any good reason for not fixing them.

Cheers,

Avon

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

Or am I the only terrible person who doesn't always act on their declines? If 7 or 8 out of the 9, for example, plus sundry forum people get an ending and one reviewer doesn't then I'm not necessarily going to change it.

No, you're not the only one . I think there is another, practical reason also. You don't get reviews for a published story/poem/whatever until it's already been published. What if you have 6 or 7 people who voted 'yes' enthusiastically on the very points on which one or two voted 'no'? Even if you think the "no's" may have had a point, doesn't seem to me that you could make really major changes in a short work (making it in essence a different work) -- kind of betraying the people who had voted for publication of the original. That doesn't mean you're ignoring the critique -- it may make your future writing better. I suppose if you were really, really convinced by the minority negatives, you'd have to withdraw the published work, redo and resubmit. Of course for grammar, typos, etc., there's no excuse for not correcting them.

 

 

Re: The 'Good' Decline

I myself have pointed out typos and grammar errors in both accept and decline reviews on fics that ultimately got accepted, only to see, when the fic goes live, that the author never makes the correction. It's disappointing but I suppose it *is* the author's prerogative.

I'd have to disagree with you on that point, DE. Unless your name is e.e. cummings (or you're at least trying to experiment like he did), there are certain standards of spelling and grammar that every author should have to adhere to, in my book. Go right ahead with pointing that stuff out!

-Aerlinnel

 

 

A bit OT

As a followup point: has anyone else seen the guestbook message recently left by "Jess"?

Found this site through Fandom_Wank oddly enough. Thought I'd take a look. The site is great, with some good stories, but one thing I did notice was, story that have won awards on here... aren't all that great. Almost all of the stories I've seen on here so far (which, granted is not many) have had some grammar/spelling mistakes that even I could see. Now, normally, I could care less, the site is nice and well done. But some of these stories have won awards, and also, the people who run this site have rather a high opinion of it. In the ‘Who We Are” section you said: “We were wishing that there was one location on the Web where we could find well-written, imaginative, engaging JRRT fan fiction without encountering large amounts of frivolous material and distracting advertising found at commercial fiction posting sites.” Now, I’m assuming that means that you have made this site to (try and) fit those wishes, which really is a big ask I understand why you’re proud of the site. But... If you're going to toot your own horn, please... make sure you have the right to do so first.

Now, I think that her condemnation of the entire archive was a bit harsh, and I emailed her to say so (still haven't gotten a response), but it goes to show how crucial proper spelling/grammar can be, and how every story that goes through the review process reflects on the whole of HASA.

-Aerlinnel

 

 

The Critical Evaluation of Declines

Or am I the only terrible person who doesn't always act on their declines?

Nope. I've only had three stories go through the review process so far, and I've gotten NO decline comments. The capsule declines for one story were such that I couldn't, despite trying my hardest, figure out what I, as an author, could do with them in the absence of any specific comments. WHAT about the characterization was weak? Or unlikely? Or both? Was the piece too brief or too dependent on another fic for it to fly in terms of characterization? I'd considered the latter thoroughly before submitting the piece and decided it could stand on its own, though others might disagree. So it could've been that. But the decision was a strong accept on the story overall, and after rereading the fic a number of times, I could not see a single place where I could've altered the characterization without, as you say, writing a different story.

So, since I'd given it an honest go, I decided that those two reviewers, whoever they were, were simply on a different wavelength when it came to characterization, or else did not feel the fic was effective as a stand alone. Now that it's in the archive, it has pointers to fics that would contextualize it, so I don't feel anxious about others being confused.

It's a fine balance, trying to decide how to take reviewer comments/capsule declines. It just goes to show that reviewing is never a passive process, not for the reviewer and not for the author. If we emphasize one side of that process or the other, it's due to the need of the day and the interest, not blindness, or so I would hope. :-)

 

 

Re: A bit OT

On the subject of grammar/spelling errors. Even published works are not foolproofed. I know that I obsessively check my stuff and others go through it as well before I submit, but things get by. The capsule review is EXCESSIVE spelling/format errors.

there is nothing like being told to resubmit, by reviewer number 5 because there are 4 misspelling in the work or two missing or extra commas.

better to have the accept and tell the author where the problems are and hope they will fix it.

if my story has just run the gauntlet, and around here it is a gauntlet, and anonymous gauntlet and then get axed for 3 spelling errors...


 

 

Re: A bit OT

The capsule review is EXCESSIVE spelling/format errors.

there is nothing like being told to resubmit, by reviewer number 5 because there are 4 misspelling in the work or two missing or extra commas.

better to have the accept and tell the author where the problems are and hope they will fix it.


Speaking admittedly as a spelling/grammar Nazi who does consider four misspellings 'excessive' , there seems to be a certain risk in that policy. The review guidelines state that a story should be accepted 'as is'. Theoretically, I assume, that means that if the spelling and grammar in the story's current form seem unacceptable for a published work, then the reviewer should vote with that in mind, rather than relying on the author making corrections in the future. After all, note the errors in a 'decline' rather than an 'approve', and the author can have the story corrected and back in the review pool within a few days - is that unfair?

Gemma

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Now, I think that her condemnation of the entire archive was a bit harsh, and I emailed her to say so (still haven't gotten a response), but it goes to show how crucial proper spelling/grammar can be, and how every story that goes through the review process reflects on the whole of HASA.


Yep, I have seen that - and in regards to the spelling/grammar issue agree with her. I think I've said it elsewhere but - given I have a fanzine background - I expect HASA, due to its own stated aims, to be of the standard of an edited zine such as 'Down and Unsafe'. I don't think there should be any spelling/grammar/punctuation mistakes - unless, of course, that is a deliberate choice by the writer to break that convention. I - somewhat terrible admission this - rarely read anything in the archive itself, these days (I've read the stories I'm interested in and they don't come in/get in very often or I've already read them in Beta or review) but I was horrified to open a story a month or two ago and find the sort of spelling I'd expect on ffnet. Very likely some of the reviewers - please! - pointed out these errors and thought the author would fix them but we have no way of knowing whether they will or not. As someone mentioned we are voting for or against the story *as is*.

Avon

 

 

Re: So what's excessive?

The capsule review is EXCESSIVE spelling/format errors.

there is nothing like being told to resubmit, by reviewer number 5 because there are 4 misspelling in the work or two missing or extra commas.

better to have the accept and tell the author where the problems are and hope they will fix it.


Okay, as Lindorian probably already knows from a list discussion, my 'excessive' bar is set pretty low - what do other people see as excessive? It does depend a bit on the type of error, I'd say. Some are more subjective after all - but others are clearly wrong. Mis-spelling a main characters name is one of my main peeves and is likely to get you instant death ;-) There's also a ratio to quantity - 2 speling mistakes in a 150 word poem seems worse to me than 2 in a 10,000 word story. I try to be sympathetic - I come from a family with spelling problems and I struggle a bit myself as well as having spent most of my teaching career working with kids with considerable difficulties so I'd never criticise people for a mis-spelling in a forum post or list e-mail but if you choose to submit to an archive such as HASA then that's different. It's like the difference between me making sure all my class get to bowl during a class sports lesson and the cricket coach picking the team to represent the school. One's about equity, one's about excellence. I know I'm obsessive but I redrafted one of my fanzine stories 26 times - and I didn't even have spellcheck in those days! I also do know that mistakes get through in professional publications (know but don't like) .

Avon

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Speaking admittedly as a spelling/grammar Nazi who does consider four misspellings 'excessive' ,<<<

Okay -- don't review my fics okay? I cannot possibly in my life have enough time or energy or betas to ensure that a spelling error will never get through, or a comma will not go astray. If four spelling errors in 5,000 words if enough to send you over the deep end, perhaps you should consider declining to review the otherwise well-written fic in which the author has obviously attempted very hard to get it letter-perfect.

If perfection is the standard for this archive then I fear, with rare exceptions, that none of the fics meet that standard.

 

 

Re: So what's excessive?

Okay, as Lindorian probably already knows from a list discussion, my 'excessive' bar is set pretty low <<<

ROTFL!!!


Yeah! You stay away from my fics also!

Lindorien

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Okay -- don't review my fics okay? I cannot possibly in my life have enough time or energy or betas to ensure that a spelling error will never get through, or a comma will not go astray. If four spelling errors in 5,000 words if enough to send you over the deep end, perhaps you should consider declining to review the otherwise well-written fic in which the author has obviously attempted very hard to get it letter-perfect.

Lindorien, if you put your fics up in beta before submitting them, you have a fair chance that one of the Spelling Dragons or Comma Tyrants will find the problem and help you fix it.

And I for one am grateful for that. I beta, and I'm sure I miss things even though I try to be meticulous. I can't expect my beta to be perfect either, but post it where lots of people can pick through it and there's a good chance it will come out error free.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: A bit OT

You really think so? Because my current betas are so on me all the time, that it is a constant amazement to find that anything slipped past them.

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Lindorien, if you put your fics up in beta before submitting them, you have a fair change that one of the Spelling Dragons or Comma Tyrants will find the problem and help you fix it.

A fair assessment, but not 100% fool proof. I did have one story go to review, only to discover that one small grammatical error had slipped past my trusty beta, as well as several other people who had read and commented extensively on the story.

BTW, once the story made it through the review process I immediately fixed the mistake. I might add that none of the nine reviewers picked up on it either, but if one had I would have been extremely grateful, if a bit embarrassed.

That's the key here IMO. Bona fide errors can and do slip through. If a reviewer is kind enough to comment on them, why is it that so few people are willing to make the changes? I'm not speaking of subjective critiques, but genuine errors in spelling, punctuation or sentence structure that can be backed up by a good grammar text or dictionary.

Those are the ones that send me over the edge. Heck, I even go back and fix typos in my posts here (and often wish I could do so at HA!)

This discussion has really got me thinking about how I review, because I have always chosen to give a little leeway to stories which are interesting and well written in the main, but may have a few grammatical or spelling errors in them. By few I mean more than one and less than four. That's not including sloppy formatting or anything else that would be a legitimate cause to decline a story.

But seeing how exceedingly rare it is for an author to make the needed corrections once the story is accepted into the archive, I find it increasingly difficult to be so generous. My understanding has always been that HASA is about quality, not quantity.

I know there are writers whose talent far outweighs mine, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had any of my work accepted. But at least I know that I have done everything possible to ensure that what I submit is structurally sound, before and after the reviewers do their jobs. I just wish others seemed more willing to do the same.

Sorry about the long post, but this has been simmering in my brain since this discussion was started. I'll leave quietly now.

~Nessime


 

 

Re: A bit OT

The point is, Nessime, I DO go nuts editing my fics. I read them until they are memorized. I make my betas read them until their eyes glaze over. It is incredibly obvious to me when somebody has made a bona fide effort to get the thing right before putting it in and a spelling error or two or a stray comma should not be enough to kill it. If those issues are coupled with other, more serious errors than it is another story.

Me? Somebody points out a grammar or spelling error. I fix it.

I see something with excessive grammar, format or spelling errors, it is toast, but I think turning down "For Whom the Bell Tolls" because a couple words are misspelled or the author used a period instead of a semi colon is a bit much.

And no, I am not comparing my work with Hemmingway -- HAHA, leastwise not the stuff that's posted on this site!

kidding.

Lindorien

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Me? Somebody points out a grammar or spelling error. I fix it.

Then you are a rarity, and I salute you. That's precisely the point I was trying to make. And it does all get back to the issue of HASA's stated goal.

...a spelling error or two or a stray comma should not be enough to kill it.

Perhaps not, but is it really killed? Resubmission is always an option, and speaking for myself, if a fic that I had previously reviewed and declined for spelling or grammar was resubmitted, I would be inclined to check it out a second time and see if the author had made the effort to correct the mistakes or not. But that's just me. I can't speak for other reviewers.

...but I think turning down "For Whom the Bell Tolls" because a couple words are misspelled or the author used a period instead of a semi colon is a bit much

A good publisher wouldn't reject it, but they'd certainly make every effort to have the errors corrected before the book was printed for the public. At HASA the only means we have for doing that is to decline, with the reminder to the author that resubmission is an option. I always encourage the authors of good stories that simply need a few things fixed to do so.

Don't you think the quality and the reputation of HASA are worth the extra effort? And I'm not addressing you personally, Lindorien, because I've seen how much care you put into your own stories. My comments, both before and now, are more general.

I am also well aware that reviews are done by the members, not professional publishers who have staffs of proofreaders and copy editors at their disposal, and there will always be stories that slip though with mistakes. My question remains: where do we draw the line when we as reviewers see the mistakes? How can we have some assurance that the authors will make a genuine effort to correct those few bona fide mistakes?

There's no easy answer - there's probably no workable solution at all. I suppose I'm merely venting the frustration of having seen one too many slip through the cracks.

~Nessime

 

 

Re: A bit OT

...but I think turning down "For Whom the Bell Tolls" because a couple words are misspelled or the author used a period instead of a semi colon is a bit much

A good publisher wouldn't reject it, but they'd certainly make every effort to have the errors corrected before the book was printed for the public. At HASA the only means we have for doing that is to decline, with the reminder to the author that resubmission is an option.


If the typoes are minor and are the only thing working against the piece, I guess it's also possible to accept, and note down the typoes in the review box.

 

 

Re: A bit OT

If the typoes are minor and are the only thing working against the piece, I guess it's also possible to accept, and note down the typoes in the review box.

My problem is that I have done precisely that, only to see the same story published without having had any of the errors corrected. That becomes rather discouraging, both as a writer and as a reviewer.

This whole discussion began centered on the benefits of a "good decline", one that offers solid, constructive criticism of a story, be it for style, plot, or grammar/spelling.

What about the acceptances that extend a measure of grace to those otherwise well written stories which happen to have a few "minor typos", only to ignored by the author? Lindorien seems to be the rare exception in that she says she would fix any errors that a reviewer picked up on. Far too many do not, and that is what troubles me. I would like to think that the time I spend on reviewing is not wasted, but that becomes difficult to believe after several such instances as I have described.

As I said before, it is unlikely that we will ever find a workable solution to this, but I don't think it is out of line to raise the question.

~Nessime

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Far too many do not, and that is what troubles me. I would like to think that the time I spend on reviewing is not wasted, but that becomes difficult to believe after several such instances as I have described.


Not a solution really but after I review a fic I basically forget it; I figured that this was the only way I wasn't going to become bitter and twisted ;-) Seriously, bearing in mind the admonition to review 'as is', I reject pretty often on typos, punctuation etc. I point out, in some degree, what the problem is, suggest they put it in beta at HASA if I don't think they are already a member and urge them to resubmit it if it is an otherwise good story. I can think of one recentish story I fell in love with which needed some minor corrections and I did approve it - with a begging note to please, please fix them.

Avon

PS: I did a decline tonight and attempted to write a good solid thoughtful analysis of why I thought it was undistinguished - don't know the writer will appreciate it though ;-)

 

 

Re: A bit OT

I can think of one recentish story I fell in love with which needed some minor corrections and I did approve it - with a begging note to please, please fix them.

Ditto. I'm at the point that I don't want to look at it again though. I don't want to be disappointed, so I'd rather not know.

And you're right: I can't let it get to me too much. That would be the point where I'd have to stop reviewing anything, and just concentrate on my own writing.

~Nessime

 

 

Fixing things

What happened to my message?! I was in the middle of writing it, went away, came back and it'd all gone.

Gah.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. I'm delurking to discuss the matter of fixing things - not spelling and grammar, but stylistic issues.

The other day I left a ff.net review of a story that was really promising - well written, nice description, etc. - but I had problems with some of the language (modern Americanisms for Elves) and some of the "Elvish" names - which weren't Elvish at all. The author left a note saying that if I didn't like the Americanisms or the names (sourced from Shakespeare, she explained - I'd worked that one out) then her story was "not the story I should be reading". Considering I'd gone to some lengths to write a useful review, I was a bit miffed.

Then I started thinking about it. "Alterations" recently got accepted here by the skin of its teeth. For each of the acceptance reasons, I seemed to have a decline that contradicted it directly (Strong characterisation vs. weak/unlikely characterisation, for instance). Which is it? Do I trust the reviewer who approved, or do I follow the decline and go and rewrite? The story had been up in beta here for quite some time, and then in general, before I looked at it once more and submitted it for review. I worked through most of the beta comments before I "finished" it - the couple of comments left by declining reviewers didn't address any of those issues.

Basically, I suppose what I'm trying to say is that even comments aren't always useful. That fanfic is personal, and what one person likes another hates. I write dialogue-heavy fics, on the whole - some people may love that, others might prefer a story with lots more description. If I find something's clicked with one reviewer, then I'll probably leave it - even if another reviewer has found it not to his/her taste. Especially if the story's already gone through several rewrites (for "Alterations" I didn't post a chapter in beta until I was fairly happy with it already).

Did any of that make sense?

 

 

Re: Fixing things

Did any of that make sense?

Perfect sense. All those things are subjective issues. Those are clearly different than spelling or grammar, and are much more difficult to judge.

Those are the times when I, as a reviewer, will simply state my reasons and let go of it, knowing that it may simply be a matter of taste. I still remember slogging my way through Melville's Billy Budd when I was in high school. My English lit. teacher was of the opinion that it's brilliant literature, and it probably is, but I hated it. On the other hand, I was intrigued by Thackeray's Vanity Fair, which I know a lot of people can't stand. Two examples of many I could name, but the point is the same.

You'll never be able to please everyone. I had one story accepted where a reviewer commented that it strayed toward "purple prose", yet everyone else had commented that they loved the language. So who do I believe? As you said, it was probably not to that particular reviewer's taste. End of story.

BTW, for what it's worth, I like Alterations. I'd like to be able to write dialog like that.

~Nessime

 

 

Mistakes and such

I am also well aware that reviews are done by the members, not professional publishers who have staffs of proofreaders and copy editors at their disposal, and there will always be stories that slip though with mistakes.

This, to me, is the crux of things. I was discussing the Mithril Awards reviews of my story with my husband after I got them, and after reading one review that said the pacing was too slow, the next said that it was far too fast of a survey through the culture of Rohan. I shrugged and said, "What can I do? There is absolutely no way that my stories can appeal to every single writer out there." He looked at me and said, "These people aren't editors for the New York Times. Let it go. You write because you want to write, and if you like the story, that should be enough."

Not to vent, but I must say that as a very new writer, it can be incredibly frustrating to have a story declined, not because of the story, but because of an unfortunate accident of making the summary too long. Or to be told, "I don't like that style, I personally think it is pretentious." Well, fine, but is the story good enough to keep, regardless of your own personal opinions? If we are indeed to be acting like objective editors/reviewers, perhaps we all need to step back a bit and not be quite so personally involved in the reviewing process, whether to bolster people or, to use a phrase that has been mentioned over in the "middle ground" stories thread, use the Lever of Doom with great relish.

Personally, I am finishing up a long story and I'm STILL finding errors in the first chapter, which was the Mithril Awards finalist short story. You better believe that I'm fixing the few spelling mistakes (well, more like accent marks over letters that don't need them) that weren't caught during the review process here nor in the MA process. I really do feel that I could quote the chapter for memory, and yet, it's still not perfect.

One last thing before I bail is this, and I asked Lyllyn about it because I've received these comments in my reviews as well and I was beginning to wonder if there was a HASA standard or what: British versus American spelling. Being told that having American spelling is jarring (I've been told this in multiple reviews) was quite an eye opener. I had not even thought about it- I write using American spelling because I live in the United States. I'm more than happy to go through all of my fics and change it to British spelling if it is indeed so offensive- all in the cause of making the work reflect JRRT's writing, of course. But after a while, what we're all doing is writing our own works, just using his characters, geography, language, etc. Where do we draw the line of absurdity?

Still very happy to be here at the archive, and always wanting comments to help me with my writing, as no professional am I...

~Thevina

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Avon wroe:

PS: I did a decline tonight and attempted to write a good solid thoughtful analysis of why I thought it was undistinguished - don't know the writer will appreciate it though ;-)<<<<<

Exagerrated WINK!!

I'll let you know, Avon. Okay?




Joking aside. There was a story, which I did not review, but which was archived a wee bit back that I did read after publication. And in the very las paragraph the author had this little extra word. It was not a big deal, but it just made my mental tongue stumble. So I read it aloud and it made my physical tongue stumbled. The piece was very good, except that one very tiny little problem with the meter bugged me.

So I emailed the author -- because, of course, I am such a paragon of stylistic flow -- and let her know.

I figured I was toast for that author from there on in, but she wrote me back, told me she agreed and went ahead and changed it.

So. It is possible.

Lindorien

 

 

Re: A bit OT

I figured I was toast for that author from there on in, but she wrote me back, told me she agreed and went ahead and changed it.

So. It is possible.


Thank you for this. It is encouraging to know that some people do pay attention.

So I emailed the author -- because, of course, I am such a paragon of stylistic flow

Lindorien, I think this is one of the things I like about you - no lack of confidence there!

Seriously, it is nice to know that you and others care enough to at least try to make the effort. Someone commented that they worry at times that people are just being nice, and that the places where they really need improvement are being overlooked in the process. And given that it is far too easy to misunderstand the written word (no body language or facial expression to clue us in) I know that I sometimes worry that people will take what I've "said" the wrong way, so sometimes I just don't "say" anything. Not much gets accomplished that way, does it?

This has been a very interesting and thought provoking discussion. Thanks for bearing with me.

~Nessime

PS - Just for you, Lindorien, I nearly typed "baring" but I thought I should behave myself. You had me in stitches with what you posted at HA re: typos etc. Did you ever see the piece that was circulating awhile back about spellchecker?



 

 

Re: Fixing things

BTW, for what it's worth, I like Alterations. I'd like to be able to write dialog like that.

It's worth a lot, thank you. I have to admit I'd hoped it would get in a little easier than it did - but as we've decided, you can't please everyone - and who am I to complain, as it was accepted!

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

"These people aren't editors for the New York Times.

Hey, if you know a NY Times editor who'd like to judge next year, let me know! Or indeed anyone similarly qualified.

As for the spelling/grammar mistakes slipping through the shortlisting process - well, to be brutally honest, if we'd got rid of every story that had a spelling/grammar mistake, we'd have been left with about two fics in each category. Seriously. We discounted many, many stories that were all right but had too many mistakes. Everyone makes typos. I realised I'd been spelling "Dúnadan" wrong for ages recently. I have a serious blank spot when it comes to "correspondant" or "correspondent" - that's since I went to France.

As for Americanisms - as a Brit, I can cope with people writing "center" or "color" instead of "centre" and "colour". I have much bigger problems with someone writing Sam, for instance, saying: "Mr Frodo, you should have gotten rid of that Ring earlier." I wouldn't reject a fic because of it, though, but I will usually leave a note in my review pointing out the Americanism. It's fair and square, anyway - I've had comments for writing "Mum" in BtVS or Angel fics, 'cos it's a clear Britishism.

 

 

Re: Fixing things

(Strong characterisation vs. weak/unlikely characterisation, for instance). Which is it? Do I trust the reviewer who approved, or do I follow the decline and go and rewrite?<<<<

Did any of the declines give you a pithy reason why it was being declined, or did you only get capsule reviews? If a reviewer goes to the trouble of leaving commentary, then it should be at least considered.

Adding this to original post: were your declines all for the same reason? If so, then it should probably be taken seriously.

lindorien

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Thevina wrote:

Being told that having American spelling is jarring (I've been told this in multiple reviews) was quite an eye opener. I had not even thought about it- I write using American spelling because I live in the United States. <<<<

Anybody who declines your work because you use American spellings should have their pitard hoisted from the nearest yardarm.

That's a complaint that should go to the Review Admin.

Lindorien -- fellow user of American spelling.

 

 

Re: A bit OT

Nessime wrote:

PS - Just for you, Lindorien, I nearly typed "baring" but I thought I should behave myself. You had me in stitches with what you posted at HA re: typos etc. Did you ever see the piece that was circulating awhile back about spellchecker<<<

You mean when everybody was talking about all the things that spellchecker won't cache?

Ah, well, 'tis good to have one fan anyway. Perhaps I should submit my emails?

lindorien

"Speak planely," said the mathematician to his pupil.

Okay, Avon -- is that a misspelling or not?

**ducks and covers**

 

 

Re: A bit OT

British versus American spelling. Being told that having American spelling is jarring (I've been told this in multiple reviews) was quite an eye opener. I had not even thought about it- I write using American spelling because I live in the United States. I'm more than happy to go through all of my fics and change it to British spelling if it is indeed so offensive- all in the cause of making the work reflect JRRT's writing, of course. But after a while, what we're all doing is writing our own works, just using his characters, geography, language, etc. Where do we draw the line of absurdity?

I don't mind American spellings, after all having to change things that you're not even aware are different, would be really unfair.
I personally always notice when people write 'honor', rather than 'honour' (or the other way round). It doesn't jar, it's just that for some reason it's that one word - I don't even tend to notice anything else.

However, there are certain words that I think sound wrong spelt the American way, such as Mom or Mommy. But to decline a story because someone writes 'center' would be unnecessarily harsh.

 

 

Re: Fixing things

Did any of the declines give you a pithy reason why it was being declined, or did you only get capsule reviews? If a reviewer goes to the trouble of leaving commentary, then it should be at least considered.

I got comments with two of the declines. One, like I said before, was really a complete contradiction of one of the accepts - or rather, it criticised something someone else had thought worthy of commenting on. A stylistic matter, and part of the way I write - therefore not easily altered!

The other was more helpful, but a bit vague. One comment I'm afraid I didn't agree with, regarding the style of writing; the other was more plot-based. I went back and reread the section in question, and if the reviewer had left their name I'd be quite happy to explain why I took that path. But then I don't leave my name with reviews, so I can't complain.

If the reviewer in question's reading this, let me know and I'll explain my reasoning.

The decline capsule reasons varied.

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Hey, if you know a NY Times editor who'd like to judge next year, let me know! Or indeed anyone similarly qualified.

Sure don't. I was a judge in two categories and I couldn't believe I was accepted. But I did take it very seriously.

As for the American English/British English thing, I didn't mean to intimate that my stories have been declined because of using American spelling. But in my reviews the fact that the story used American spelling has come up multiple times. I'm trying to rework my story and make it British, but now I'm afraid that I'm going to have it half one and half another. Forgetting to change every "center" to "centre." And "honour." Yikes! Now it's going to be a huge mishmash, or I may just keep it American. At least none of my characters are in queues, though I'm thrilled to see that word come in American vocabulary.

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Regarding American vs. British spelling,Theivina. I would not worry about it. Any reviewer who cannot figure out that there are two accepted spellings for a word, the british and the american way has no business reviewing in the first place.

Sometimes my spellings are mixed. I will often type THEATRE, but would also type HONOR.

So, sue me.

Lindorien

After all I put up with all those 's' where the 'z' should be.

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

I wouldn't decline on American spelling - I believe the site policy is that both are acceptable. I have to admit that Mommy spoils a story for me and I will suggest changing it. Somehow it seems more obtrusive, more modern.

Avon

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Avon wrote:

I wouldn't decline on American spelling<<<<

ROTFL!!

Us lowly curs from across the pond grovel before thy kind beneficence.

Must admit Mommy DOES look wierd to me in LOTR fanfic. As does Mummy. What a mummy is doing in M-E is beyond me, but such a thing may be hidden in HoME or one of the other more esoteric tomes.

Mother and Father are perfectly acceptable. For some reason I would also find 'Da' all right, depending on the socio-economic strata of the character, but cannot think of anything for Mother off the top of my head. 'Ma'?

Mater and Pater would serve for Faramir, he being so high-minded and scholarly and all, he probably speaks Latin, but as he lacks parents by the end of the trilogy, the point is moot.

Which makes me wonder what this post has to do with declines...

In truth, not very much, but I am hopelessly writer-blocked at the moment and you all suffer the consequences of my fevered brain.

Lindorien

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Mater and Pater would serve for Faramir, he being so high-minded and scholarly and all, he probably speaks Latin, but as he lacks parents by the end of the trilogy, the point is moot.

How could Faramir speak Latin when there is no Latin in Gondor?

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

How could Faramir speak Latin when there is no Latin in Gondor?

Have you read every single book/scroll in the great library? ;-)

Avon
*Who should be doing something about the classroom disaster caused by 28 over-excited children trying on costumes but who would *much* rather do this*

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Avon wrote:

I wouldn't decline on American spelling<<<<

Lindorian wrote: ROTFL!!

Us lowly curs from across the pond grovel before thy kind beneficence.


Hey, I'm a even more lowly colonial from Oz! I never get to write in my own version of English! I'm either trying to do British or American. Admitedly our spelling is English-based but vocab etc can still be a problem. Luckily I spent 9/10 of my childhood with my nose buried in some English book.


Must admit Mommy DOES look wierd to me in LOTR fanfic.

When I used to read Blake's 7 (a British SF show) fanfic I made it a rule to stop reading at the first 'mommy/mom'. It seemed to work as a pretty good indicator of writer-who-hasn't bothered.

As does Mummy. What a mummy is doing in M-E is beyond me, but such a thing may be hidden in HoME or one of the other more esoteric tomes.

Frankly I just find Mummy, no matter how spelt, a bit icky-sticky. My mum didn't like it so we used mum from a very early age.

Mother and Father are perfectly acceptable. For some reason I would also find 'Da' all right, depending on the socio-economic strata of the character, but cannot think of anything for Mother off the top of my head. 'Ma'?

Mama? What about Pa?


Avon

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Well, since we're discussing naming parents, I'll add my own two cents worth (I have no idea why I put that since I'm not even American).

IMO, Mummy, Mommy and Daddy (and the shorter versions of these) definitely seem too modern and obtrusive.

The only names I think sound right are Mother, Father, Mama, Papa, and maybe Ma and Da, in certain settings.
However I have to admit that I still quite often use Mummy and Daddy myself, as I've been doing it for years and old habits die hard. But it's entirely my Mum's fault, and I only use it when addressing them directly.

I doubt that there are many people that would object to people using American spellings; after all it's totally unreasonable to expect them to do otherwise.
It's American expressions (don't know if I'm using the right word there) that I think are a problem (although not so much on this sight). For example, using pants instead of trousers/leggings or fall instead of autumn.
This is even more of a problem in HP fanfiction, where it is set in Britain and yet you can have character's saying semester (sp?).


 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

How could Faramir speak Latin when there is no Latin in Gondor?

There isn't?

Oh.

Well.

That probably explains why my last fic was rejected... (major league wink)

Is there any greek?

Lindorien

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

This is even more of a problem in HP fanfiction, where it is set in Britain and yet you can have character's saying semester

Really? I've never read HP fan fic but I was always under the impression Hogwarts had three terms, the same as the ordinary schools in the country. I know some univesities have semesters - I don't know quite how that works though, I didn't go to one on the basis I didn't understand it (just to point out there were other factors influencing my decision).


Nic

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

This is even more of a problem in HP fanfiction, where it is set in Britain and yet you can have character's saying semester (sp?).

I wonder if this has a great deal to do with the large number of changes that were made to the text for the US editions (a lot of the British phrases were changed). I bet 'term' appears in British editions, 'semester' in US ones. So both are canonical...

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

I suppose this could be the case, as I've only read the British versions, I wouldn't know what's in other versions.

However, I do know that quite a few American's have British beta readers and go to a lot of effort to make sure that what they write fits with the country that it's set in. (Anyone read 'After the End' by Sugar Quill?).

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

You're either pulling my leg or confusing Latin with Quenya which is "Elf Latin."

No, silly. No Greek.

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

I suppose this could be the case, as I've only read the British versions, I wouldn't know what's in other versions.

I'm on a mailing list with a lot of US Potter readers, who were bemoaning all the changes made.

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Right, Zim. Quenya's feasible, but Middle-earth long predates the Roman, Greek, and all other "real" human empires (so no Hebrew, Assyrian, Aramaic...).

-Aerlinnel

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

You're either pulling my leg or confusing Latin with Quenya which is "Elf Latin."

No, silly. No Greek.


******

Lindorien sighs, pulls up yet another of her fics and pauses, fingers poised over the 'delete' button.

"Wait a minute," she says aloud to her darkened bedchamber. "Might I use Serbo-Croatian instead?"

Long minutes tick by, as Lindorien waits for Granamyr to answer her most earnest and heartfelt query.

In the distant, the sound of a soft 'thud-thud', such as that of a leg being pulled, could be heard in the quiet of the night.



 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

"Wait a minute," she says aloud to her darkened bedchamber. "Might I use Serbo-Croatian instead?"

I'm sure if we poked around in HoMe long enough, we could find evidence to support your use of it. Or failing that we could just make something up.

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

"Wait a minute," she says aloud to her darkened bedchamber. "Might I use Serbo-Croatian instead?"

Hmm...I keep trying to figure out what language would best represent the Balchoth (Cirion and Eorl in UT). That might be a possiblity...

~Nessime

 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Hmm...I keep trying to figure out what language would best represent the Balchoth (Cirion and Eorl in UT). That might be a possiblity...

~Nessime



Ya see, Nessime? Now this is why I shall never reach the lofty heights to which this archive aspires...

What's a Balchoth and who is Cirion?

Eorl I can handle.

Okay, now you next trick will be finding a Serbo-Croat to give you a hand.

Lindorien


 

 

Re: Mistakes and such

Couldn't resist unlurking to ramble a bit.

I have trouble with finding the differences between American and British English and usually consider the point as moot. As a Canadian, it is strange how we treat "lorry" as a foreign word and yet bristle at the spelling of "color" without the "u"! Any Australians who would enlighten us on the particular quirks of their version of English?

Therefore I don't think that the specific mode of English matters as much as whether the story fits in the reader's idea of Arda. I find that most fanfiction don't successfully emulate Tolkien's style of writing; that's why some of them are so good. It's very difficult to write, say, a self-reflection fic using the original style.

A last point on the parent name discussion: apparently "ma" means the same thing in all languages, because of the nature of infant linguistics. I guess then "ma" - and by extension, "pa" - would be acceptable in M-E. (Unless Elvish physiology is different...)

PS: *am half spooked* I've never seen a group of people so stringent on the grammar and spelling problem...and I thought I was extreme! I feel like I have to proofread my posts now.

 

 

Britishisms and Americanisms in spelling

I agree--it's mostly the style that counts when it comes to spelling. I use "grey" because I associate that particular spelling with Gandalf, and would never write "Gandalf the Gray." But really, who cares? I'd not reject a fic for using a properly spelled color (or colour) just because it's a spelling Tolkien didn't use.

Only if "got" were used in dialogue would I look at it askance, but I'm sorry, "gotten" is still perfectly correct, and by itself it won't kill the mood if used. There'd have to be a lot more wrong with a fic's dialogue than that for me to decline based on the damage done to characterization by the use of that particular Americanism.

If people are truly concerned over a Britishism/British spelling versus an Americanism/American spelling, may I recommend a trip to English Grammar Discussion? There are a number of threads, and room for more. Note the "British versus American" thread. I'm sure there's room for all sorts of discussion of the difference certain Britishisms can make for Tolkien characters and whatnot. Even Canadians and Australians are welcome, and the New Zealanders, of course. ;-)

I've never seen a group of people so stringent on the grammar and spelling problem...and I thought I was extreme! I feel like I have to proofread my posts now

Don't sweat it too much--spelling may be cause for an immediate decline, but only if it's a serious problem; IMO you cannot decline because someone spelled a word correctly according to their dictionary. The bigger problem is plot.

 

 

Re: Britishisms and Americanisms in spelling

Couldn't resist unlurking to ramble a bit.
PS: *am half spooked* I've never seen a group of people so stringent on the grammar and spelling problem...and I thought I was extreme! I feel like I have to proofread my posts now.


Welcome, glad you have delurked. (Note incorrect grammar in that sentence. You can relax, you are among friends. We only bite when judging for the archive.)

I would not decline something for rare errors, and certainly not for spelling variants that are still considered correct. (Although I have found Gandalf the Gray somewhat jarring.) It may not be fair, but I'll notice the errors more if the story isn't that great to begin with. If it really knocks my socks off, I'll probably race right past them trying to find out what happens next, or note them in passing but they won't irritate me much.

It's during the fics where I'm already a bit wary that errors seem to jump out at me.

Anyone else notice that?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Britishisms and Americanisms in spelling

It's during the fics where I'm already a bit wary that errors seem to jump out at me.

Anyone else notice that?


Absolutely, Lyllyn. Actually, I think they can be most noticeable in those middlers - where I'm not crazy about the story itself, but am hard up for a concrete reason as to why, and spelling errors seem to present themselves as an excuse for decline.
But is that a bit of a copout on my part, maybe?

-Aerlinnel

 

 

Re: Britishisms and Americanisms in spelling

I use "grey" because I associate that particular spelling with Gandalf, and would never write "Gandalf the Gray." But really, who cares? I'd not reject a fic for using a properly spelled color (or colour) just because it's a spelling Tolkien didn't use.

The 'Gandalf the Gray' example makes just the right distinction. Variant spellings are an issue if they occur in proper names, which (at least according to what I was taught as a copywriter) should be immune to changes in dialect. One can't argue against using 'gray' as an adjective in text, but 'The Gray Havens' isn't the correct spelling of the place-name. I don't think that would be a 'decline' reason in anyone's eyes, but it's something authors should be aware of.

Gemma

 

 

Re: Britishisms and Americanisms in spelling

Only if "got" were used in dialogue would I look at it askance,

Eh? Sorry, I'm presumably being dim but what's wrong with got in dialogue?

but I'm sorry, "gotten" is still perfectly correct, and by itself it won't kill the mood if used.

It'll kill the mood for me - it totally throws me. ;-) Having just looked it up in my dictionary I notice it is listed as an archaic form as well as American so I guess I should lear to deal with it. ;-)

I've never seen a group of people so stringent on the grammar and spelling problem...and I thought I was extreme! I feel like I have to proofread my posts now


Dinna worry - I certainly think spelling etc mistakes in informal communication are much more acceptable (given the way I type this is a *good thing*) and I think many people feel that way. Anyway, if you think this is strict you should meet some people at the The Bill forum who delight in posting purely to point out your spelling mistakes. ;-)



Avon

 

 

Re: A "good" decline

Hello all! I'm reopening this here instead of creating a new thread, even though it hasn't been used since August of last year...

I've been reading with interest the recent discussions about declines and of why capsule reviews were added; that was before my time but I think they were a good idea.

Of course people are going to have differing opinions on a story, especially when characterization or writing are involved. I only have one story in the archive but it had three declines for characterization, but several approves for the same thing. I wasn't bothered too much by this, because it all boils down to the readers having differing views of how certain characters should act. Not that we wouldn't like to have comments on this-- what if there was a horrible continuity/character error I or the approvers didn't catch?

But my purpose in posting is to ask: it seems split between people who want honest feedback and people who don't. Is this true? I assumed HASA was a place for honest and stringent review.

I'm firmly in the former camp: if it's horrible and you hated it, just come out and say so, and why! Yes, it is a little painful, but how else am I to improve? I can get piles upon piles of "it's great," and of course that makes me deliriously happy, but if I get one person who says "aaaargh, change this, and this, and hey, let me look it over and tell you what else," I get all tingly inside. It's a red-faced tingly, but by golly, maybe I won't make those mistakes again.

Lately, however, I've been feeling a little guilty about doing so in decline reviews, because maybe I didn't really read the story when it was in beta and I should have pointed those things out then. But how do you do that when someone's forum is filled with "OMG you are soooo wonderful!!! That is so adorable smiley, Loveyouloveyou"-- you open yourself up to having ten gushing women coming down on you for nitpicking or harshness.

So the anonymous review is perfect-- I try not to be too harsh but brutally honest. I always leave comments, even if I don't think the author is particularly going to like them. Is this wrong? Is it sadistic?

Should I have tried to get it early? I.E., in beta or general status? Especially if I feel personally that my points of contention are really, really valid from a story/writing perspective? Of course not all stories go from Beta to General to Submit, so that's not always possible.

Or if I'm reading something that I'm sure the masses are going to love, but just strikes me wrong or makes me want to tear my hair, does that mean that I am the odd man out, and should just not review that story after all?

I have submitted accepts for several things, and included enthusiastic comments for those as well...so I try to be balanced.

Overall, I love being a reviewer for an archive that is supposed to be held to high standards, but maybe I should just stick to capsule reviews if people are really thin-skinned? And then sign it and wait for them to write me to find out why?

Kristen



 

 

Re: A

This topic is such a bag of worms, Kristin.

I sign all my reviews, except for the ones I forget to sign. I sign 'em all - the good, the bad and the ugly.

I don't sign them if I just leave a capsule review.

I almost never hear from the people who I do leave comments for. Usually when I leave comments, they are copious and well-thought out and have reason behind it. Then I sign.

Sometimes I forget to sign. I found that out recently when somebody took great exception to my review and voiced it all over the listserv in the guise of 'asking innocent questions' regarding the review. I had spent quite a bit of time on that review and I found the behavior appalling.

Since then, I have not reviewed very often and I find myself signing them less, or just giving a capsule reason, because I was under the impression that the actual review comments were supposed to be confidential and the comments in my review were presented selectively and taken out of context. I have seen that happen several times with reviews I recognize as my own.

I can only presume that I forgot to sign those reviews for it would be the height of hubris to not contact me first before moaning and groaning publicly.

Further, I will admit to being a little miffed that none of the authors thought to put a note in Request for Review Decisions before going off half-cocked.

Personally, I find I review less and less. I look at descriptions and will only review if the piece is an easy decline. I rarely leave comments unless I have the impression the author truly wants to hear them. Too often I realize that I am in the position of wanting to decline a piece that is likely to be accepted. Then I have the ethical problem of deciding whether, if I do decline, to leave a signed review.

Often - I simply avoid the problem altogether and leave the piece by the side of the road. I read a lot of fics in the review bin or will read much of them, but actually submit decisions on very few of them

Regarding actually commenting on somebody's fic...I'll often email an author privately, if I think a fic has merit. People are not always certain what sort of feedback they honestly want and so are rather shocked when submitted to the realities of rigorous review.

That is fine - everybody is at a different place in the journey.

Because of the constant issues regarding the review process, I rarely submit anymore unless I just want to see the nine opinions. I know that is supposed to be a big no-no, but I do it.

So - to any of you out there. If you received a long unsigned review and you suspect it was me that left it - please email me and ask. Its possible it was me and I just forgot to sign it. I am old - I do that.

For the record, I ALWAYS respond to anybody who signs any review they leave me.

ALWAYS.

Grandma taught me it's the polite thing to do.

Lindorien

 

 

Re: A

Just a brief question: would it be inappropriate to submit a story with an author's note to the effect of

"If you are rejecting this, then please, please, please tell me why. You can be as harsh as you like -- I am an adult and can take it. I really, really want to improve and grow as a writer and all that good stuff. Tell me that I am boring. Tell me that my writing is clunky and repetitive. Tell me that I am going against all that is good and holy in canon.'

only perhaps less overwrought?

Tehta (who knows perfectly well why her humour fic got a couple of declines, but, after reading this thread, is really worried about future submissions.)

 

 

Re: A

Hi, Kristen ~ But my purpose in posting is to ask: it seems split between people who want honest feedback and people who don't. Is this true? I assumed HASA was a place for honest and stringent review. In my experience, it's true. To complicate matters further, some people may think they want honest feedback, when really they want honest compliments. IMO, your best bet, if you can spare the time, is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and assume each author is professional and open-minded enough to receive constructive criticism at least gracefully, if not graciously. Otherwise, you might limit yourself to offering a helping hand only to those who make an effort in seeking it out. This is usually my choice. I monitor the request for reviewer decisions thread, and always respond if I reviewed any story in question. And if I think I can help (and if I'm around at the right time), I'll pitch in for beta stories, when the author is asking for feedback. Lately, however, I've been feeling a little guilty about doing so in decline reviews, because maybe I didn't really read the story when it was in beta and I should have pointed those things out then. No, no, no, my dear, heed this and rest assured: the review process is not a beta service. Reviewers are in no way required nor expected to mind the beta section, and failing to advise authors there and then, hold their peace thereafter. If you review stories, vote upon them after due consideration, and leave comments to boot, you're doing everything a reviewer is supposed to do. ::applause:: But how do you do that when someone's forum is filled with "OMG you are soooo wonderful!!! That is so adorable smiley, Loveyouloveyou"-- you open yourself up to having ten gushing women coming down on you for nitpicking or harshness. This is difficult, but not hopeless. For one thing, at HASA specifically, you're unlikely to get tackled for giving criticism per the author's request, even if the forum is full of admirers. (That is to say, I've never seen it happen here.) Besides, at that rate they'd rather talk about you in private emails anyway. And speaking of email (seriously now), you could always use that medium instead of public correspondence, if you felt the author would appreciate your feedback but that the thread might not. So the anonymous review is perfect-- I try not to be too harsh but brutally honest. I always leave comments, even if I don't think the author is particularly going to like them. Is this wrong? Is it sadistic? Well, it can be wrong and sadistic, depending on what is said and how -- I've never read your comments, so I just have to cover mine own derriere for a moment here. But judging by the tone of this post, I highly doubt that you are in the wrong, or being sadistic. Or if I'm reading something that I'm sure the masses are going to love, but just strikes me wrong or makes me want to tear my hair, does that mean that I am the odd man out, and should just not review that story after all? I don't think so. I've done the same. And then again, I've been very surprised (in all possible ways ). Overall, I love being a reviewer for an archive that is supposed to be held to high standards, but maybe I should just stick to capsule reviews if people are really thin-skinned? And then sign it and wait for them to write me to find out why? It's up to you what to say, when, where, and how. But my advice to the thin-skinned types would be, quite simply, to not read the reviews. As a writer, I would be on cloud nine to come across a reviewer such as yourself, if you had declined my story and provided insightful reasons why. But I'm of the thick-skinned (or thickheaded, depending on who talks) type, who frequently revises my stuff anyway; so being aware of flaws in the story is not discouraging in the vein of 'O, woe, now I must alter my precious masterpiece', but encouraging in the vein of 'O, goodie, now I now what part to mutilate'. (Which reminds me about a revision I forgot to actually post ::runs off:: ) -AE

 

 

Re: A

For the record, I ALWAYS respond to anybody who signs any review they leave me. ALWAYS. Grandma taught me it's the polite thing to do. Lindorien, you probably know this, but just as an FYI for anyone reading: Some authors will and can never see reviewer comments, because A) their story was recommended by a third party, or B) because they are not themselves members of HASA. So, it isn't an indication of rudeness or disrespect on behalf of the author if a reviewer gets no thank-you after leaving a signed review, however magnificent. It's very possible that the author of the reviewed story never knew the comments existed. -AE

 

 

Re: A

Tehta, I've seen stories submitted with notes to the reviewers in the past, so as far as I know, it's allowed. So long, of course, as it doesn't disclose the author's identity. -AE

 

 

Re: A

Just a brief question: would it be inappropriate to submit a story with an author's note to the effect of

"If you are rejecting this, then please, please, please tell me why. You can be as harsh as you like -- I am an adult and can take it. I really, really want to improve and grow as a writer and all that good stuff. Tell me that I am boring. Tell me that my writing is clunky and repetitive. Tell me that I am going against all that is good and holy in canon.'


Go for it. Considering some of the stuff people put in author's notes for submitted stories, a paragraph like that would at least give me a laugh.

In all seriousness, Tehta, if you really want to improve and grow as a writer, your best bet would be to find a group of talented writers, approach them in friendship and then hang onto them like your hands are covered in superglue. From my observations - most of the back and forth in the forums regarding stuff in the beta bins is among newer members. That drops off as people find other writers with whom they can work. A new crop joins and the back and forth begins again.

And, as AE points out -- all the talking with and about each other generally happens in email.

Best,
Lindorien



 

 

Re: A

Thanks for the info, AE. I didn't know that about third party submissions. If the fic is declined - I know that a third party submission does not even know it was ever submitted.

I've a friend who's not a member who had her fic declined and she was able to read the reviews. None were signed, however.

Is a third party submission that is ACCEPTED able to read reviews? If that person later joins HASA is that person able to see the reviews for his/her story?

I would never presume disrespect or rudeness for someone who is truly in the dark as to whether the story was submitted or that it even has been reviewed. However, it is a small percentage of the stories and reviews to which I personally refer.

Best,
Lindorien

Oh dear - I just realized that there was a signed review I never did answer. I had good reason for not doing so, however.

Darned - All my dreams of Perfection Pulverized in the Harsh Glare of Reality.

To whoever you were - I am sorry I did not respond, but the response would not have been polite - a definite case of 'better to say nothing at all.'

 

 

Re: A

Submissions Policies.

For non-members who submit their own stories, they can, if they wish, see the reviews. They are not obligated to do so, just as no member is obligated to click on the "see reviews" links.

For anyone whose fic was submitted by a third party, there are two possibilities:

1) HASA member rec's another HASA member's story for reviewing. In this case, all that happens is that an e-mail is generated via a form that lets the author know that some other member would like to see Fic X submitted for review. It is then up to the author to actually submit the story.

2) If it's a non-member's story, however, then it depends upon whether or not the fic is accepted whether or not the member can read the reviews.

if the fic is declined, the author will never be notified that his or her story was ever under consideration. How would it feel to get this as an e-mail out of the blue?

"HASA regrets to inform you that your fic was declined."

If the fic is accepted, then an acceptance e-mail is generated which asks for permission to archive the story and also lets the author know that s/he can login to a particular page to view reviews, if s/he so desires. Again, no obligation to read reviews.

 

 

Re: A

Peeking in. Another thing about comments is I know several authors that get stiffled by certain kinds of specific comments. Listing favorite scenes or lines of dialog are welcomed and motivating, but too much (or any) speculation can knock a story off the track and the story will just stop, even if it's unfinished. I alway sign my reviews and sometimes make several sentances of comment -- but I'm careful to say something like "If your indent was ABC, it did not convince me because DEF" but I don't like to say something like "You ought to have Arwen in that scene doing KLM" -- because that would be rewriting someone else's story. The most I tend to do is "I don't think you chose the best possible scenario to proof your point." Since I sign all my reviews, the author could write back to ask if I have any suggested scenarios.

 

 

Re: A

2) If it's a non-member's story, however, then it depends upon whether or not the fic is accepted whether or not the member can read the reviews.

To tweak what Dwim said. If a member submits a story by a third party, the member will not be able to read the reviews. Only the author can read the reviews of a story. The member will only find out if the story was accepted or declined.

Celandine

 

 

Re: A

I'd glad to see you start discussion on this again, Kristen, thanks!

But my purpose in posting is to ask: it seems split between people who want honest feedback and people who don't. Is this true? I assumed HASA was a place for honest and stringent review.

I think it is a place for honest and stringent review, more so than many other places, but there are always some who don't want the feedback.

What I've seen at HASA is less people who don't want any negative feedback, as people who may be oversensitive about a particular story or characterization, or who don't agree with certain kinds of feedback and make that fact loud and clear, or who don't want to hear 'something's not right' unless you can tell them very precisely what it is and how to fix it.

Don't let it stop you, however, because there are many, many more people who do appreciate the feedback.

I've occasionally posted about what I see as a problem in a thread full of 'I love it!' and had the author ask thoughtful questions about the comment, and thank me nicely. Conversely, I've been one of the 'I love it!'s and seen someone point out something I never noticed, causing many in the thread to nod in appreciation of the poster's perception.

I second AE with the issue of beta vs. review; they are different and both are welcome to anyone who wants to improve. Do it early or do it later, but do it!

My guess is that 90 % plus of the membership will appreciate any comment you make. So don't stop.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: A

Wow, I've learned a lot from everyone...glad I asked.

I've occasionally posted about what I see as a problem in a thread full of 'I love it!' and had the author ask thoughtful questions about the comment, and thank me nicely.

That's encouraging. I guess I was just afraid that as the "new person," I'd be sticking my nose in where it wasn't wanted; I guess you can always ask if they want that sort of feedback first, as well.

My guess is that 90 % plus of the membership will appreciate any comment you make. So don't stop.

That is particularly good to know. I was starting to sort of feel like an evil b***h, but if other people find those kinds of comments valuable on a review (I know I would) I don't feel quite so bad.

I may try signing as an experiment...

 

 

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