Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#1
I'm posting this topic more as a question I've been trying to answer after a certain author imploded over negative reviews.

Are reviews that are not giving constructive criticism but are labeling what those readers disliked about a story useful or not?

I'd like to argue that they can be useful as a heads up to the author that people have taken issue with some part of their story, they aren't the most useful but the notice of flaws/gripes are there. I feel that those types of reviews while not the best can still be useful when taken with a grain of salt and not used as sole reason for change. I know every author won't please everybody, but when as an author your getting reviews that complain about a similar point, when does it stop being a hater response and instead a signal that something is wrong?

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#2
If there's a review with no constructive criticism, it tends to be the reader's fault more than the author's. For example, gender bender used to (and I'd argue still does) get a lot of hate and people would give negative reviews solely on this. These reviews are not constructive but a result of a narrow minded reader who doesn't do well with change. Similarly, I had a guy who complained about my prologue giving spoilers, which, again, is a literary device, foreshadowing, there were no details yada yada, the point is, there was a point to it. Now, did it highlight for me that some people would view the prologue negatively? Sure. But if it was because the prologue was engineered to present a point in the future and the story was supposed to go there (something other readers liked) then there is nothing I can or will do about it and rather than complain, the reader really should try to step out of their comfort zone for once. Especially the LN crowd we have here, I've found that they rarely try new things. (generalization, not true for everyone)
Anyways, should an author call someone out for a negative review? Yes, but not publicly and do it politely. A simple PM asking for elaboration does wonders.
So tl;dr it's bs if the signal is something intentional in the story (gender bender, foreshadowing) AND there is no constructive criticism for why it is something the reader dislikes, apart from the reader's own uncomfortable feeling.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#3
1/5/2017 3:46:54 AMWhoCares Wrote: [ -> ]If there's a review with no constructive criticism, it tends to be the reader's fault more than the author's. For example, gender bender used to (and I'd argue still does) get a lot of hate and people would give negative reviews solely on this. These reviews are not constructive but a result of a narrow minded reader who doesn't do well with change. Similarly, I had a guy who complained about my prologue giving spoilers, which, again, is a literary device, foreshadowing, there were no details yada yada, the point is, there was a point to it. Now, did it highlight for me that some people would view the prologue negatively? Sure. But if it was because the prologue was engineered to present a point in the future and the story was supposed to go there (something other readers liked) then there is nothing I can or will do about it and rather than complain, the reader really should try to step out of their comfort zone for once. Especially the LN crowd we have here, I've found that they rarely try new things. (generalization, not true for everyone)
Anyways, should an author call someone out for a negative review? Yes, but not publicly and do it politely. A simple PM asking for elaboration does wonders.
So tl;dr it's bs if the signal is something intentional in the story (gender bender, foreshadowing) AND there is no constructive criticism for why it is something the reader dislikes, apart from the reader's own uncomfortable feeling.

I can see that as an issue quite easily. I'm saddened to hear that gender bender gets hit with that because I tend to enjoy gender benders when its done in an interesting way. I guess my question was left a little too open because I wanted to ask where the line ends for comments/reviews that are negative about a part of a story that isn't intentionally designed that way. Examples: character relationships where the male mc and female romance character first meet and are immediately in love and go have sex. Other similarly horrible story writing and such. When do those comments/reviews stop being toxic and start being helpful?

I'm asking this because I see a lot of reviews like those on RRL and wonder when do these become helpful and when are they just shit posting?

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#4
For me, I can usually glean something from the hate. An old rendition of my story 'The Kraeton Chronicles' actually got a really cruel, harsh review while I was in the process of re-making it for my fans. I wasn't updating the story so I don't really know where this guy came from or why he hated me so much, but the review itself was basically a personal attack on me using the story as a scapegoat.

So really, you'd think they would have nothing of value to say. But they actually pointed out a couple of things that I didn't really think through, so in my updated story I was able to make sure those things were fixed up. Really, that's all I focus on. I read through it and see if they've said something that can help me improve. If they have, great. If they haven't, then I just ignore it afterward.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#5
1/5/2017 4:28:30 AMShiftyCake Wrote: [ -> ]For me, I can usually glean something from the hate. An old rendition of my story 'The Kraeton Chronicles' actually got a really cruel, harsh review while I was in the process of re-making it for my fans. I wasn't updating the story so I don't really know where this guy came from or why he hated me so much, but the review itself was basically a personal attack on me using the story as a scapegoat.

So really, you'd think they would have nothing of value to say. But they actually pointed out a couple of things that I didn't really think through, so in my updated story I was able to make sure those things were fixed up. Really, that's all I focus on. I read through it and see if they've said something that can help me improve. If they have, great. If they haven't, then I just ignore it afterward.

This is exactly what I was meaning in my question, even through a ton idiotic vitriol is there a nugget of useful information in there. If so did it have an impact on your point of view as an author in how you changed things and did you see things about your story in different light because of it?

I posted this to find answers for myself as someone who thoroughly enjoys stories on RRL and in hopes of authors taking a look at negative reviews in a different light other than just hate. I'm not saying take what they said to heart but to at least look at the complaints and determine if this complaint has an actual valid point and if its something worth changing.

Also thanks for your comment I now wanna read your story and am looking at it right now.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#6
1/5/2017 4:13:13 AMDethati Wrote: [ -> ]
1/5/2017 3:46:54 AMWhoCares Wrote: [ -> ]If there's a review with no constructive criticism, it tends to be the reader's fault more than the author's. For example, gender bender used to (and I'd argue still does) get a lot of hate and people would give negative reviews solely on this. These reviews are not constructive but a result of a narrow minded reader who doesn't do well with change. Similarly, I had a guy who complained about my prologue giving spoilers, which, again, is a literary device, foreshadowing, there were no details yada yada, the point is, there was a point to it. Now, did it highlight for me that some people would view the prologue negatively? Sure. But if it was because the prologue was engineered to present a point in the future and the story was supposed to go there (something other readers liked) then there is nothing I can or will do about it and rather than complain, the reader really should try to step out of their comfort zone for once. Especially the LN crowd we have here, I've found that they rarely try new things. (generalization, not true for everyone)
Anyways, should an author call someone out for a negative review? Yes, but not publicly and do it politely. A simple PM asking for elaboration does wonders.
So tl;dr it's bs if the signal is something intentional in the story (gender bender, foreshadowing) AND there is no constructive criticism for why it is something the reader dislikes, apart from the reader's own uncomfortable feeling.

I can see that as an issue quite easily. I'm saddened to hear that gender bender gets hit with that because I tend to enjoy gender benders when its done in an interesting way. I guess my question was left a little too open because I wanted to ask where the line ends for comments/reviews that are negative about a part of a story that isn't intentionally designed that way. Examples: character relationships where the male mc and female romance character first meet and are immediately in love and go have sex. Other similarly horrible story writing and such. When do those comments/reviews stop being toxic and start being helpful?

I'm asking this because I see a lot of reviews like those on RRL and wonder when do these become helpful and when are they just shit posting?

Hmm, I see what you're asking now. Shorter hate reviews tend to be less useful because they focus on "I found this icky" rather than "This is why I found this icky" but the latter will usually have something the writer can address. Negative reviews are by no means not useful, if they have constructive criticism. Most of the edits I'm rolling out for my own fiction came about because of negative reviews and comments because that's how we grow as authors. "This part of the story isn't immersive" "You killed this character but I didn't feel all that sad," those kind of comments are very useful, even if they only highlight something the reader didn't like because there is a legit issue to be addressed there.
But should an author take "I don't like prologues" or "I don't like gender bender" seriously? I'd say take it seriously enough to respond to the reviewer in a PM but not seriously enough to actually do anything about it. Similarly I got a complaint about my MC's moral code, which the commenter thought was hypocritical. I pointed out that it was hypocritical and that was kinda like the point. Is that me taking the reader's concern seriously? Yes. Is that me addressing it in my fiction itself? No, not really.
All I'm saying is that the ethics of writing tie both the reader and the writer together. A writer has to reach for the readers, no doubt, but the readers need to engage with the story for what it is and learn to go out of their comfort zone. I definitely don't believe you should never "drop a story if it isn't your thing" but sometimes readers need to be a little reflective. If all the stories you're reading are the same kind of stories, then you might want to broaden your horizons a bit. This isn't something writers want to say because it feels pretentious but I'm saying this as a reader and not a writer. Read more books and read different genres!

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#7
@Dethati

I wouldn't say that review changed anything other then the couple of things they picked up. I mean, they were really full on attacking me, so it wasn't a normal negative review. There have been some negative reviews that have really helped me though, like a couple pointed out the fact that I:

1. Don't describe environments enough

2. Don't think through the antagonists or events enough

In my old rendition, I had the same concept played out twice in a row. There is a villain with mind control and they use it on my main character, and some stuff happens until eventually the villain is killed. When I was writing it at the time, I didn't realise I was using the concept of mind control twice, and not just twice but one straight after the other. That was poor writing on my part, and the critiques pointing that out helped me improve my writing because of it. I now actively work on describing my environments, and I've made sure to plan out my antagonists instead of just doing it on the fly. I've got some good antagonists planned in my story now and so I'm pretty happy.

I still have plenty of problems as a writer that I know of myself, such as I struggle with figuring out how much detail to give. I usually give too much detail simply because my brain is rather logical, so when I go to write down an event I describe the process, and I find it hard to remove the little bits of unnecessary information in that description. I know that about myself, and the only way I'll improve is through constant practice with my writing.

Good critiques definitely help me see things that I couldn't see before, and improve on aspects I didn't know I was lacking in. As someone who wants to eventually write professionally, critiques are the most helpful thing I could ask for.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#8
1/5/2017 5:23:01 AMWhoCares Wrote: [ -> ]
1/5/2017 4:13:13 AMDethati Wrote: [ -> ]
1/5/2017 3:46:54 AMWhoCares Wrote: [ -> ]If there's a review with no constructive criticism, it tends to be the reader's fault more than the author's. For example, gender bender used to (and I'd argue still does) get a lot of hate and people would give negative reviews solely on this. These reviews are not constructive but a result of a narrow minded reader who doesn't do well with change. Similarly, I had a guy who complained about my prologue giving spoilers, which, again, is a literary device, foreshadowing, there were no details yada yada, the point is, there was a point to it. Now, did it highlight for me that some people would view the prologue negatively? Sure. But if it was because the prologue was engineered to present a point in the future and the story was supposed to go there (something other readers liked) then there is nothing I can or will do about it and rather than complain, the reader really should try to step out of their comfort zone for once. Especially the LN crowd we have here, I've found that they rarely try new things. (generalization, not true for everyone)
Anyways, should an author call someone out for a negative review? Yes, but not publicly and do it politely. A simple PM asking for elaboration does wonders.
So tl;dr it's bs if the signal is something intentional in the story (gender bender, foreshadowing) AND there is no constructive criticism for why it is something the reader dislikes, apart from the reader's own uncomfortable feeling.

I can see that as an issue quite easily. I'm saddened to hear that gender bender gets hit with that because I tend to enjoy gender benders when its done in an interesting way. I guess my question was left a little too open because I wanted to ask where the line ends for comments/reviews that are negative about a part of a story that isn't intentionally designed that way. Examples: character relationships where the male mc and female romance character first meet and are immediately in love and go have sex. Other similarly horrible story writing and such. When do those comments/reviews stop being toxic and start being helpful?

I'm asking this because I see a lot of reviews like those on RRL and wonder when do these become helpful and when are they just shit posting?

Hmm, I see what you're asking now. Shorter hate reviews tend to be less useful because they focus on "I found this icky" rather than "This is why I found this icky" but the latter will usually have something the writer can address. Negative reviews are by no means not useful, if they have constructive criticism. Most of the edits I'm rolling out for my own fiction came about because of negative reviews and comments because that's how we grow as authors. "This part of the story isn't immersive" "You killed this character but I didn't feel all that sad," those kind of comments are very useful, even if they only highlight something the reader didn't like because there is a legit issue to be addressed there.
But should an author take "I don't like prologues" or "I don't like gender bender" seriously? I'd say take it seriously enough to respond to the reviewer in a PM but not seriously enough to actually do anything about it. Similarly I got a complaint about my MC's moral code, which the commenter thought was hypocritical. I pointed out that it was hypocritical and that was kinda like the point. Is that me taking the reader's concern seriously? Yes. Is that me addressing it in my fiction itself? No, not really.
All I'm saying is that the ethics of writing tie both the reader and the writer together. A writer has to reach for the readers, no doubt, but the readers need to engage with the story for what it is and learn to go out of their comfort zone. I definitely don't believe you should never "drop a story if it isn't your thing" but sometimes readers need to be a little reflective. If all the stories you're reading are the same kind of stories, then you might want to broaden your horizons a bit. This isn't something writers want to say because it feels pretentious but I'm saying this as a reader and not a writer. Read more books and read different genres!

This quote at the end is actually how I found RRL, I was very much into Xianxia and a friend recommended trying stories on RRL. I started reading some of the Xianxia's on here and branched out into OPMC, Isekai, Reincarnation, VRMMO, and eventually found Andur's works that kept me here. If I didn't decide to try that first OPMC story I probably wouldn't have stuck around and found the likes of Get Hard, Arcane Emperor, Fantasia, any and all of Andur's works.

1/5/2017 5:53:16 AMShiftyCake Wrote: [ -> ]@Dethati

I wouldn't say that review changed anything other then the couple of things they picked up. I mean, they were really full on attacking me, so it wasn't a normal negative review. There have been some negative reviews that have really helped me though, like a couple pointed out the fact that I:

1. Don't describe environments enough

2. Don't think through the antagonists or events enough

In my old rendition, I had the same concept played out twice in a row. There is a villain with mind control and they use it on my main character, and some stuff happens until eventually the villain is killed.  When I was writing it at the time, I didn't realise I was using the concept of mind control twice, and not just twice but one straight after the other. That was poor writing on my part, and the critiques pointing that out helped me improve my writing because of it. I now actively work on describing my environments, and I've made sure to plan out my antagonists instead of just doing it on the fly. I've got some good antagonists planned in my story now and so I'm pretty happy.

I still have plenty of problems as a writer that I know of myself, such as I struggle with figuring out how much detail to give. I usually give too much detail simply because my brain is rather logical, so when I go to write down an event I describe the process, and I find it hard to remove the little bits of unnecessary information in that description. I know that about myself, and the only way I'll improve is through constant practice with my writing.

Good critiques definitely help me see things that I couldn't see before, and improve on aspects I didn't know I was lacking in. As someone who wants to eventually write professionally, critiques are the most helpful thing I could ask for.

Thanks for the clarification because it seems so rarely that I see author's give even a small amount of credence to negative feedback on RRL that I wondered if this was more of an ego thing and were over looking useful feedback or was this just generally useless reviews. I've read stories on here where after reading up to where the reviewer was when they reviewed the series I agreed with them on the flaws, but I've also seen reviews of this series is the best and it was a train wreck of story with plot holes and grammatical errors everywhere. I just kind of wish reviews could be edited or rated as in good reviews that are truthful about series are rated higher than those saying "this is the best".

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#9
A lot of the reason why bad stories are rated highly is because the reader is rating how much they enjoyed the story, rather then how well the story is crafted. This is the difference between readers and critics. Royal Road was originally a light novel site, and so the cliche's and general wish fulfillment are deeply rooted into the site even now. That's why you'll see a lot of bad stories getting great reviews, because it is what the readers want. It is what they enjoy. I don't really think it's a bad thing either. You just have to understand going in that the reviews might not match the story.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#11
@nerodith

Objectively, stories can be worth one or two stars. That is reality. But really, no review of any sort is completely objective, that would be impossible. You are critiquing a story based on your own experiences, understanding and knowledge of the story, its genre and the mechanics it presents.

No matter how objective you try to be, you will undoubtedly bring your own subjective view of what you determine is a good story into the mix. That's why critiques can make a living. Because they have their own prejudice and understanding of what is 'good', and the people who follow a critique have a similar view of what is 'good', or at least respect that critiques viewpoint.

So it just depends on what you're writing for. Are you writing for fun? Then ignore the negative reviews. Are you writing to improve? Then try and find any valuable critiques inside of the negative reviews.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#12
@ShiftyCake

You're probably right. I might be too 'nice' when it comes to reviews, but I still find the rating below 2 stars too harsh. I mean, unless the grammar and the style are catastrophic, the plot is non-existent and the characters are one-dimentionnal, I don't think novels should be rated that low. Well, that's my way of rating stories, but I don't think there are any stories which are that bad on RRL.

Thus being said, it's true that you can never be totally objective. Even I tend to overate stories, especially when it comes to my favourites. Which is why I took the habitude to ignore the rating below 2 stars and only read the content. It might be the best way to have an overall idea of the stories, and decide what novel to read next~

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#13
I don't understand why there is a story rating in the reviews? The style, grammer, and character are all useful and meaningful things which a person can comment on, but how can anyone comment on the story...as in the plot? For one, you really should wait until a novel finishes before you can say whether the story was a good one. And secondly, I don't understand what good it is for an author to hear that someone doesn't like the "story" component of the novel...like, does the reviewer have a problem with the premise? How do you grade how much you like a premise of a story before it's finished? And why not stop reading and not review since it seems that the story is not your kind of story?
To boil down my hate of the "story" reviewing aspect, it comes down to being really useless to the author as they can't really can't do anything about it and secondly for people who don't like the "story" they clearly have an irreconcilable difference of taste to the author and would be better off finding something else. I don't mean to sound like a meany whiner with the perspective of an author. As a reader, I don't read anything I don't like the story of, and I certainly don't see why I should tell the author that.
It's like commenting on bands/singer of a completely different kind of genre that you know you don't like, to tell them you don't like it/them. Why?
In the same respect, an author should never take to heart reviews that basically are from a reader who doesn't like your type of story. An author has authority over their story and it's not really useful telling them that you don't like their "story" as the author can't cater for any particular readers opinion. Hell, if even the consensus is that the "story" is bad, then the author is better of continuing the story as intended, but just never try to write for that market again.
In short, my opinion everyone has the right to say that they dislike a web novel/web serial but there is no need to review the "story" part of the novel, whatever the "story" is actually defined as, since it's meaningless...stupid to put it bluntly. Obviously for something not-serial then commenting on the story can make more sense as it explains to others, friends etc, what you like. But it's no good telling the author.
An author shouldn't craft a story/premise/plot for it's readers. So it doesn't make sense having that option in the review panel.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#16
Not always, I think. I'm currently encountering a slew of .5 star (seriously.... why are there half stars here?) reviews because I included same-gender romance without putting a disclaimer or warning on it. Not erotica or descriptive sex, mind you. Just romance.

Because I failed to "warn" these readers, they nuked me with half a star.

I wrote a polite message back to one of them explaining why I refused to write a disclaimer, then called it a day. Their reviews ended up drawing more positive attention to my work in the end. So sometimes, when pointless and mundane reviews strike good things can happen.

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#17
2/22/2017 8:51:25 AMRJCasta Wrote: [ -> ]Not always, I think.  I'm currently encountering a slew of .5 star (seriously.... why are there half stars here?) reviews because I included same-gender romance without putting a disclaimer or warning on it.  Not erotica or descriptive sex, mind you.  Just romance.  

Because I failed to "warn" these readers, they nuked me with half a star.

I wrote a polite message back to one of them explaining why I refused to write a disclaimer, then called it a day.  Their reviews ended up drawing more positive attention to my work in the end.  So sometimes, when pointless and mundane reviews strike good things can happen.

Yes, but those ratings remain. And once the backlash subsides, your story might be harder to find just because some idiot haters didn't like it for reasons that RRL actively removes if presented in reviews but still allows due to anonymous ratings. Also, good luck!

RE: Are reviews (haters) always a bad thing?

#18
I think negative reviews, ones that don't just pick out things like bad grammar, but also personal qualms about the story, can sometimes be a good thing. I've always viewed the reviews on this site and others as both for the author and for potential future readers. This way, any future readers may be able to learn about some of their major turn offs. For instance, i think i read somewhere someone who once posted that he doesn't like stories with mind control in them. That's something that might not be immediately obvious from the beginning of the story and so to hear about that aspect of it in a review could be helpful to them.

For me personally, when i'm visiting a site called Novel Updates, i'm sure some of you may have heard of it, when picking new fictions to read, i actually look at the negative reviews first because they can clue me in to some of my own personal dislikes. That being the case, i do find the positive reviews on this site more helpful for me. That and the grammar scores people leave, as there have been some stories i've checked out that have been difficult for me to read.

So yeah, i think negative reviews can be a good thing and rating a fiction based off of enjoyment is ok, but, i also think there's a line to be drawn and don't think you should give a fiction a terrible review just because you don't like the genre or something that happens in the story. Take gender bender for example. Fair enough, if you don't like it, don't give 5 stars, but, if it's genuinely well written, has a coherent story and is grammatically sound, don't give it 0.5 either.