What do you do if you are left without that audience reaction? How do you respond to non-existent feedback?
Now, most fan fiction writers know three simple things. Depending on the fandom, either angst or fluff is guaranteed to gain the attention of the audience (knowing the current fandom preference is useful.) Sex sells. And approximately 5-10% of all readers give feedback.
5-10%. Now, this isn't just a randomly made up figure. Even I know this from personal experience, when the CoSForums board statistics would tell me I'd had 120 individuals view the latest chapter of my story and I had nine to twelve comments waiting for me in my feedback thread. (Nine to twelve comments per 700 words, what I wouldn't give to have that back.)
Knowing that only 5-10% ever respond should be comforting, shouldn't it? And you know where the other 90-95% are coming from, because who hasn't read a story, even enjoyed a story, and felt it impossible to contribute a remark or observation.
Yet somehow, you discover, this is not the case. It's really not that comforting. And sometimes, you don't even get the 5-10%. Sometimes you get no comments. No response. No feedback. The feedback is conspicuous by its absence.
How do you respond to this?
Do you analyse your story, questioning what was missing, (pick up on the nineteen spelling errors in the first sentence alone), where the vital spark was that would guarantee an:
- "i lieked it!"
- "Your characterisation was believable. My favourite line was; 'Danny decided the donkey might as well just keep floating in space'. Well done!"
- "It was interesting how you explored this, I think that next time you might want to look at improving the description surrounding your dialogue. I still liked it a lot, though."
- My favourite (and rarely achieved), "OMG that was BRILLIANT, I LOVE you! SQUEEEEEEE!"
Do you conclude that there has been no reading audience and you therefore need to find a way to attract readers to your story, perhaps by way of giant neon flashing signs? (Or joining a few communities, creating a few reccing sockpuppets and making graphics and icons to advertise your wares *preferably laden with lime green text*.)
Perhaps you go and hide under the duvet, crying your eyes out; "No-one likes me. I must be a terrible writer. I'm going to delete ALL my files!"
Maybe you stop writing altogether, and go and live in the South of France with a little pet monkey named Marceau.
Or do you, the writer, decide to keep on writing your fan fiction, because who knows - maybe next time you'll get that hook that brings the fans to the yard. You can't judge success by the failure of one story (or two, or eight) to get comments from strangers, you just need to keep on plugging, keep on punching those keys, or scribbling on the bus. Because if you keep trying, if you consciously try to improve, perhaps adopt a little bit of number one suggestion - analysis, you might get the response you crave.
Some of you might choose to write a long and pseudo-objective post in your livejournal, lightly mocking yourself and the institution.
However you respond, it's important to keep in mind one thing. This is fan fiction. Fiction for fans by fans. And gosh darn it, you don't get paid for it. In the grand scheme of things, it is not the end of the world.
And chocolate, or ice cream, or tofu - whatever is your ultimate comfort food - is only a walk to the store away.
And now I must be off because State of Play just arrived through the mail. Bwaaaahahaha.