Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#1
Hello everyone,

Having had enough time to thoroughly peruse the forums and topics that are discussed, I'm left with a few questions.

I primarily joined this site out of idle curiosity and a philanthropic desire to attempt to support new writers (I have zero editing experience. I'm not an accomplished writer. I don't teach English language or literature... but I sure as heck enjoy reading! That counts for something right?).

There seems to be a large disconnect between new writers desperately desiring immediate feedback and readers on here preferring to wait for a considerable amount of content before they'll even consider reading it... much less commenting/reviewing. This doesn't bother me personally - I write for fun and have no intention of ever publishing. I thought that maybe I could stick to my initial plan of helping new writers by showing new support so I left a couple of reviews on new releases that had 3-5 chapters posted.

I don't teach English but I do teach teenagers so I approached this by assuming that I had no idea which writers were ESL or minors and was as supportive and constructive as possible. All fiction was praised, any criticism was constructive and mainly related to either grammar or improving understanding of events. I wrote nothing unless I would be confident enough to say it to a beaming 11 year old's face.

But the works I made comments on have now been deleted and I worry that maybe I've dealt a finishing blow to these writers before they've even had chance to flourish. Is this a common occurrence? 

What star rating is considered a death blow on here? I had assumed that 3* was simply average (and also made it clear that I would always update ratings as works improved) - is that not the case?

Are comments from strangers, however well intentioned, not actually welcome?

Thank you all!

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#2
thank you for the time you spend in service of the arts
like you said, a disconnect as formed around these parts
i don't think a well intentioned critic is at fault
after all, critiques are best served with a grain of salt

i think that readers may be spoiled for choice in recent years
gone are all the days when fans were writing for their peers
now we have a clear divide: you either read or write
it seems as though they kind of fell out of touch over night

there's a great debate about if authors need thick skin
that is not an argument i feel needs to begin
rather i'd say grammar help is hindered by a star
it's a shame, but numbers can leave quite the nasty scar

it's my personal opinion that i'll offer now
not that many here will read to this point anyhow
i think criticism should be quite privately done
not just laid out where it can be seen by anyone

this might be the most controversial thing that i've said
'some authors just write for fun' can make some folks see red
i don't really mind though when the critics come to call
on a site like this i just prefer kind words is all

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#3
Ratings on this site are kinda... weird. I made this quick guide to show off what works.

5: Pretty good.

4.5: Still good but needs some work.

4 and below: This is utter trash, you are trash, your whole family is trash, why did you even start writing any you-

... Yeah. That's pretty much how ratings work.

I also think I'll let somebody else handle comments.

About the works being deleted, tho, you shouldn't worry too much about it. I have made maybe 350 reviews on this platform. Of those, 320 still exist. Some newer authors just don't like what they did and decide to set it all ablaze. No reason to be too sad about it.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#4
I personally consider 2.5* and below hurtful, especially if there is no criticism attached (I knew it! I am a trashy writer! Nobody likes my work!... Oh, it is just one out of 20 reviews. Moving on.). However, you should not beat yourself up for criticizing a work, as long as it is constructive criticism. I find it... sad that some authors, especially new ones (well not that I am very experienced, but... well), tend to react overly emotionally to negative feedback. It is NOT your fault that works have been removed. Maybe the authors decided to take up your criticism and rework the story, and then reupload it. Maybe they are doubting their vocation as writers. in both cases, it was their decision. After experiencing criticism in my normal work, as well as here on RR, I think that one needs to build a spine and toughen up a bit in order to survive any social interaction. The world is not full of unicorns and rainbows and no one person is entitled to constant praise. So, don't worry, just keep enjoying reading, writing, and respectfully applying criticism. Whether people can appreciate your input is not something that you can control. 

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#5

eric_river Wrote: rather i'd say grammar help is hindered by a star
it's a shame, but numbers can leave quite the nasty scar

it's my personal opinion that i'll offer now
not that many here will read to this point anyhow
i think criticism should be quite privately done
not just laid out where it can be seen by anyone


I have attempted to remedy this by not actually leaving ratings or actual reviews anymore. Comments seem to be more light-hearted. I also don't put comments on the first chapter - Usually waiting until Chapter 3 - 5 so that hopefully they're less visible (and maybe also showing that I'm more invested in the story itself?). I certainly would prefer not to DM writers as that feels far too intrusive!


DrBuller Wrote: Ratings on this site are kinda... weird. I made this quick guide to show off what works.

5: Pretty good.

4.5: Still good but needs some work.

4 and below: This is utter trash, you are trash, your whole family is trash, why did you even start writing any you-


That's so bizarre. It seems utterly unhelpful and completely counter-intuitive to the point of this platform. What is even the point of a rating system if your work is either a gift from the Gods or pure s*** with barely anything in between. How can people possibly infer whether they're improving or not?

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#6

Astrille Wrote: That's so bizarre. It seems utterly unhelpful and completely counter-intuitive to the point of this platform. What is even the point of a rating system if your work is either a gift from the Gods or pure s*** with barely anything in between. How can people possibly infer whether they're improving or not?
I am warning you right now. This discussion has been on the forums again and again. It will be discussed again and again. Zogarth will likely get involved. And then a whole lot of drama will happen.


Some think its sh*t. Some think the system is okay. Some think changing it is bad. Some think you should just make it a thumbs up. Some want everything to be only-reviews. Some want to ban people for troll ratings. Some people say "shut up. you're popular you don't have a say in this shut tf up" to some of the bigger authors that want to join into the discussions.

It's a mess.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#8

Ariana Wrote: I find it... sad that some authors, especially new ones (well not that I am very experienced, but... well), tend to react overly emotionally to negative feedback.


That was what I was most worried about. I try to avoid phrasing anything that would be seen as explicitly negative. 
For example:

I was really interested in x part but I was a little confused at the end. You mentioned y in passing but would it be possible to expand on that a little? It might be something related to the character that you don't want to divulge yet, and that's fine, but I'd love to hear more about it.

Rather than - This chapter is a mess and I can't even tell what is happening anymore.


Ariana Wrote: I personally consider 2.5* and below hurtful, especially if there is no criticism attached


I honestly don't think I could ever give less than 3* unless it was clear that something with written with the intent of upsetting someone. For example - explicitly racist or misogynistic (or misandrist). Though I hope that most of that would be filtered out via admin and the report functions.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#10

Astrille Wrote: I was really interested in x part but I was a little confused at the end. You mentioned y in passing but would it be possible to expand on that a little? It might be something related to the character that you don't want to divulge yet, and that's fine, but I'd love to hear more about it.
That is really nice and constructive feedback. You definitely have no reason to be worried. I think that some authors don't understand that receiving criticism does not imply that they MUST fulfill everything requested. It is a suggestion intended to "improve" the work from the perspective of a certain reader. A writer, after all, is the master of their story. But it gets increasingly important to be able to make decisions to change/not change some parts of one's work when several readers point out the same thing. 

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#11

DrBuller Wrote: I am warning you right now. This discussion has been on the forums again and again. It will be discussed again and again. Zogarth will likely get involved. And then a whole lot of drama will happen.


Oh crumbs - I didn't intend to stir the pot! The rating system itself seems fine. It just seems to be an issue of how people are applying it - That's all.


Jim Wrote: I don't think a story should even be allowed to be rated until it has 10+ chapters. It seems unfair to judge a story when the plot itself has barely just begun.

As an author myself, I avoid rating stories cause I'm probably more critical than your average reader. Instead I just provide feedback and let the author do whatever they want with it.


I've started taking this route as well. A small comment here and there as a verbal "thumbs up! This might be improved by a little tweak here but I'm enjoying it regardless!" 

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#12
This site's review system is like amazon's or google maps reviews, where sellers openly state not leaving any rating other than 5.0 lmao 
It's very unlike sites like goodreads were there is also a five-star review system, but people tend to actually use it properly. Dunno what this difference comes from tbh, maybe the younger average demographic here? I'm just guessing.

As for me, I try to use ratings in a correct way, which means 3-4 stars from me means average but certainly not bad, and anything above 4 is very good and recommended. But I can't change a site-wide trend alone, obviously.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#13

Astrille Wrote: That's so bizarre. It seems utterly unhelpful and completely counter-intuitive to the point of this platform. What is even the point of a rating system if your work is either a gift from the Gods or pure s*** with barely anything in between. How can people possibly infer whether they're improving or not?
I agree. I believe it's important to write reviews that do not adhere to the perceived scale listed here, but to a standard scale so we can bring the average down to a reasonable point. 2.5 or 3 are average, 2 is bad, 4 is good, 1 is terrible, 5 is amazing. If we continue inflating our reviews to meet some perceived 'RR standard' then that will only further cement the 4-5 only scale and perpetuate the same confusion forever. The more people refuse to fall in line to this '4 is bad' perception, the sooner we can do away with it and get the scale back where it belongs.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#14
People delete their work for many reason so please don't assume you're responsible for people doing that. As others have already noted, the rating system (or at least people's perception of it) skews high. In terms of commenting, I totally agree with your approach. Point out the good and provide constructive criticism on things that don't work. It's up to each author to determine how to use that information. 

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#15

Asviloka Wrote: I agree. I believe it's important to write reviews that do not adhere to the perceived scale listed here, but to a standard scale so we can bring the average down to a reasonable point. 2.5 or 3 are average, 2 is bad, 4 is good, 1 is terrible, 5 is amazing. If we continue inflating our reviews to meet some perceived 'RR standard' then that will only further cement the 4-5 only scale and perpetuate the same confusion forever. The more people refuse to fall in line to this '4 is bad' perception, the sooner we can do away with it and get the scale back where it belongs.
And I agree here.


I said a few months ago that there ought to be a more agreed standard for the meanings for each rating. I used this as an example and whilst it can be adapted to suit RR needs, this could be a pop up at the rating stage or signposted more so that it's clearer what a story might be seen as for each of its rating. It doesn't make sense that a standard accepted degree of understanding for a 5 star rating not actually apply here on this site. 
I mean, everyone knows what the 5 stars mean.... It's not a new concept. 

★★★★★ Favorite / Masterpiece / Divine Encounter
★★★★½ Exceptional / Well-Crafted Work of Art / Enriching and Transformative
★★★★ Great / Exciting, Affecting, Memorable Achievement / Enlightening
★★★½ Very Good / Interesting Concept and Execution / Evoking
★★★ Good / Interesting Concept or Execution / Eye-Opening
★★½ Mixed Feelings / Flawed but Worthy / Moderately Insightful
★★ Disappointing / Mediocre and Uninteresting / Soulless
★½ Regrettable / Notably Flawed and Frustrating / Guilt-inducing
★ Enraging / Wholly Deficient / Shameful
½  Failure / Offensive / Toxic
☆ Atrocity / Gouge My Eyes Out / Sinful

Source: https://cinemayward.com/movie-rating-system/[url=https://cinemayward.com/movie-rating-system/][/url]

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#16

NinaWrites Wrote: Constructive feedback is not an insult. It's a tool for improvement. 

As for the star ratings - I never really thought about it. I just thought the star rating is equivalent to what most sites use: 

5 stars: above and beyond - publishing worth materials

4 Stars: great story and writing 

3 stars: satisfactory 

2 stars: its okay

1 star: needs improvement
This seems to match what I had in my head - although I would probably tend to be more generous on here than I would be on goodreads. The expectation is that there are a great deal more novices and it seems like a gut blow to hold people to the same standards as the horror monoliths such as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, etc that I usually read.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#17
Personally speaking, back when I was still a dribble writer, the constant feedback I got allowed me to learn of what can and can't work for writing, which is a sort of morale boost of sorts for newer writers. It's also a trial by fire, which, if you fail, means possibly dropping writing altogether.

Now, after years of writing, I already have my set of writing skills to know whether what I write would turn heads and bulging eyeballs. But when I get a 2.5 star with no reasons whatsoever on Descent, you can imagine what I did after that.

Although technically, I'm stuck in camp without a way to finish writing the next chapter, so it's not like I got a leg to stand on here.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#18
The issue of ratings comes not from the rating system being crappy (which I don't have any comments on, some like it, others don't) but due to the inherent bias in the system towards 5 star ratings. A 3 star rating is a heavy blow to a new author, because the total number of ratings they have is extremely low, and as such, the average rating of their story will shift to be under 4 stars (which is a terrible avg rating on the site) if they do not have sufficient 5 stars accumulated otherwise.

On Royal Road, I personally do not read many stories under a rating of 4 stars, because that tends to signify a story that needs a lot of work. So a "decent" avg rating for a story is 4 stars and above, and a good rating being around 4.4-4.6, anything with a rating of 4.6+ after it has more than 100 ratings is a solid and good work of fiction on the site.

The reason this is so is because many users simply enjoy stories, and rate them 5 stars. They are not giving any critique, most of them have never even commented, and probably do not plan to. All they are doing is helping the story, and rating it, and giving all 5 stars is the least effort and most basic response. In contrary a lot of people give 1 stars, 2 stars, and 0.5 stars just to hate on a story and bring it down.

This again is a statistical issue and an issue of inherent user bias, which cannot be easily fixed. I don't plan to discuss alternate rating systems. I've had those discussions, they're not enjoyable and often lead to arguments.

Now, for reviews, I do have some suggestions to provide. Personally I suggest this scale.

5 - genuinely well written, a good story that you enjoyed reading and can recommend to others.

4.5 - A well written story, but one that has flaws that detract from the experience. Something you can still recommend to others.

4 - A good story, but has some important flaws it needs to address. Something you can recommend to avid readers that're into the genre of the story.

3.5 - A decent story, average quality. Not a story you'd recommend to many besides those that may enjoy the premise or genre.

3 - An alright story, needs work, has some important problems to address. You will suggest a thorough edit or rewrite to the author.

2.5 and 2 - A poor story. You are actively telling readers to avoid it.

1.5 and 1 - A terrible story with barely legible writing and extremely poor execution.

0.5 - You are asking the author to stop writing.

I consider a 3.5 as avg. A 3.5 star will hurt my rating, it will drop my rank, and my score average, I may feel a bit of a sting about the score, but I will acknowledge it as accurate critique (as long as it is a review, because a rating provides no information).

I take 4-5 stars as praise. Though 4 stars still sting a little bit due to how the ranking system works.

Which, to break it down. The ranking is a product of two factors. The average score, and the number of ratings you have. Being in the top 200 of the Best Rated list is essential (In my opinion) for a story to grow as anything beyond that is highly unlikely to find a consistent source of readers. A story will need above an avg rating of 4.55 stars with around 500 total ratings to be in the top 200. These are rough numbers, and not 100% accurate, but they are close.

Thus, I suggest that if you have any harsh critique to give to a new author with not many ratings, to do so in a comment, and or PM. As even a well intentioned critique or  review may end up harming the story a lot. This is not as true for stories with authors having a large number of followers and ratings, but do remember that they are people too and that a negative review will have less of an impact on them, but that does not mean it will have no impact.

All of this is just what I personally refer to when I make a review. If I wish to leave a review, it will only be on a story I enjoy, unless the author has specifically asked me to critique their work. In which case, if the critique is too harsh, I will notify them in a message and leave a private review for them.

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#19
I don't really think anyone can know whether an author deletes their work just because they dislike it themselves, lost interest, or because of a bad review. I have seen a few people on the forums say that they were so gutted by getting a 0.5-star rating that they deleted their story as a result, or because the impression the rating would give new readers meant it'd be easier to just start fresh.

It is pretty saddening to see. A lot of writers on here are definitely kids or just hobbyists writing for fun so I'm not really of the "you need to have thick skin and accept any criticism that comes your way" mindset. But I do think it needs to be acknowledged that, if you're posting your work on a public website, you run the risk of someone seeing it and disliking it. Early on in writing my story, I got a 0.5-star review (which disappeared shortly after???) with no clear reason as to why. And I just accepted that as normal. It's a "workplace hazard," if you will. I don't think it's a reviewer's fault if a writer takes down their story unless the reviewer was actually just unhelpful and mean in their criticisms, which is a whole other thing.

I agree with the notion that 3 stars and up is at least satisfactory to good in ratings, which makes it a shame that honestly anything below 5 stars is a hindrance in the rating system. 3 or 3.5 stars to me is "Not bad, could use some improvements but you'll probably enjoy it if it's your thing."

Re: Comments, Reviews and a smattering of existential crisis

#20

DrBuller Wrote: About the works being deleted, tho, you shouldn't worry too much about it. I have made maybe 350 reviews on this platform. Of those, 320 still exist. Some newer authors just don't like what they did and decide to set it all ablaze. No reason to be too sad about it.
I swear 2 or 3 of my reviews are gone with the wind too, I wish there was some form of alert when a fiction you've commented/reviewed was removed, it just feels weird to see things disappear without mention.