"WHAT IS C&C?" FFML FAQ Supplement Last revised 2002/03/01 * Original writer: Gary Kleppe * Current Maintainers: Vincent Seifert Shunsuke Switch * Maintainers Emeritus: Gary Kleppe Warr * Former Maintainers: The Eternal Lost Lurker This document may be found on the web at: http://webpages.csus.edu/~seifertv/ffml/ffml-cc.faq http://students.db.erau.edu/~sachss/ffml/what_is_c+c.html WELCOME TO THE FFML FAQ SUPPLEMENT ON C&C Comments and criticisms, or C&C, is the most vital and essential function of the fanfiction mailing list. This document hopes to encourage more C&C on the list by discussing how and why C&C is done. Any feedback on this document is welcomed; please contact the maintainers at the addresses listed above. WHAT IS C&C? C&C stands for Comments and Criticisms. It means feedback provided to authors of posted fanfics by readers, hopefully with the goal of improving the fic. WHO SHOULD C&C? You should. Yes, you. Why? Well, if you're an author, you almost certainly want C&C on the stories that you post. It's only fair that you give the same back to others. If you're not an author but just a reader, the obligation is not as strong, but you still enjoy the privilege of being on the list and therefore seeing fics before they are released to the general public. In general, you should C&C because it makes the list a better place for authors to send their fics. Authors send their fics to the list because they expect C&C. If they get none, they'll look for another venue. WHAT IF I HAVE NOTHING WORTHWHILE TO CONTRIBUTE? There's always something worthwhile to contribute. Study the section on types of C&C below. BTW, C&C is a skill -- it improves with practice. The more you attempt it, the better you'll be at it. AS AN AUTHOR, HOW DOES IT BENEFIT ME TO C&C OTHER AUTHORS? For one thing, the authors you C&C will be more likely to give you feedback on your own stories. But more importantly, doing it will make you a better critic, and that will help you notice things about your own stories that you otherwise wouldn't have. WHICH FICS ARE WORTHY OF C&C? All of them. OKAY, BUT WHICH FICS SHOULD *I* C&C? This is pretty much up to you. One rule of thumb is that if a fic is in a genre that you know you don't like (i.e. it's tagged as a [Darkfic] and you hate darkfics), you should probably leave it alone unless there's nothing else you can find. WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR C&C TO BE "CONSTRUCTIVE?" It means that the criticisms given are aimed at improving the fic. They suggest fixes for problems encountered, or at least are specific enough to allow the author to identify and rectify the problems. "This fic sucked" would be non-constructive. SHOULD C&C ALWAYS BE CONSTRUCTIVE? Ideally, yes. But whether it *can* always be is another question. As a C&Cer, you are only human, and you might find yourself in a situation where you have nothing helpful to say about a particular fic. WHAT IS A MSTING? MST stands for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a cable TV show featuring a man and two wisecracking robots. They are forced to watch bad movies, and they make clever commentary on them as they go. Fanfiction MSTs are based on the format of that show. In a fanfiction MST, several characters (one of whom is usually the actual author of the MST) read a fic and make running commentary. It's important to note that an MSTing doesn't necessarily indicate a bad fic. While it's true that some authors do MSTs to make fun of stories that they didn't like, others do them for stories that they did like in order to give them more exposure. Not all MSTs are C&C, either; some of them are just done for their humor value. DO I NEED TO DO MSTINGS OR SOME OTHER CLEVER FORMAT? You don't *need* to, no. Attention-getting presentations are certainly welcome if you wish to do them. They should not, however, be used to cover up a lack of substance -- for example, an MSTing with a lot of goofing around that says nothing about the fic. DO I NEED THE AUTHOR'S PERMISSION TO POST C&C ON HIS/HER STORY? In general, no. If an author asks for private comments only, you should get permission before posting any C&C to the list. Many people feel that it is good manners to ask permission before doing an MSTing of someone's story, but this is not by any means a universally accepted rule. HOW MUCH OF THE STORY SHOULD I QUOTE IN MY C&C? You should quote however much (if any) of the story is necessary or helpful for readers to understand what you are referring to in your C&C. Sections that you have no comment on should be snipped. Do NOT repost an entire fic or section merely to add a line or two of commentary. The standard method for quoting text (as used by most E-mail programs) is to simply put a > character in front of every quoted line. Whether you use this method or something different is up to you, but a reader should be able to tell at a glance what is part of the original story and what isn't. SHOULD MY C&C BE PUBLIC OR PRIVATE? Public C&C is that sent to the list. Private C&C is E-mailed directly to the author, and only to the author. There is a whole range of opinions as to which is better. (The original author of this FAQ has a strong bias toward the public, but will try to treat the matter fairly.) Public C&C has a snowball effect; readers can comment on other readers' comments, and you can end up with a richer discussion. It may end up reducing spam on the list by getting people to talk about the fic rather than irrelevant things. (Of course, the opposite is possible -- public C&C discussions can veer off topic and become huge spam threads.) You can get an idea of whether people agree or disagree with your comments, and if you make a mistake, it's likely that someone will correct you. Public C&C can be used to deliver general tips on writing that others will find useful. Also, it can sometimes eliminate duplication of effort -- if someone sees that you've spotted a typo, they'll know that they don't need to tell the author the same thing. On the other hand, private C&C keeps the feedback in the hands of the person who you know is most interested in it -- the author -- and insures that no one who isn't interested has to see it. It eliminates the chance that your remarks will balloon into a huge argument, and allows you greater flexibility to include things that might be too controversial, too personal, or just too chatty for the list. Which of these you should do is something you need to decide on a case-by-case basis. Some things to consider are: * Does your C&C say something more substantial than just "I liked it?" (Authors certainly like to hear this, but if it's all you have to say it might be best sent privately.) * Do you address general points that might be of interest to other writers or readers? * Could some people on the list be justifiably inflamed or offended by what you have to say? * Are you interested in seeing other people's reaction to your comments? * Is the story a good one by an obscure or unpopular author? Do you think a public C&C would call attention to it? * Does the author have a stated preference? * Are you doing nothing more than agreeing with something that another commentator has already said? None of these criteria are absolute, unless you want them to be. They are merely things to consider. The only absolutes are that if you must flame, do it privately, and if the author requests private C&C only, you should respect that. WHAT DIFFERENT TYPES OF C&C ARE THERE? It's possible to divide C&C into some broad categories -- though there are probably examples that don't fit into any of them. * Your reaction to the fic. This is the simplest kind of C&C, and one that anyone can do. When you read the story, how did you experience it? Did it make you laugh? Did it make you cry? Did it make you yawn and wonder what its point was supposed to be? Being specific helps. It's okay to get a response that says "I liked the story," but it's better to get one saying "The scene with the cream pies had me rolling on the floor laughing." * Factual information. This includes both real-world facts, and anime/manga series canon, that you think the writer might want to correct or include in the story. Remember that writers are not obligated to follow either the real world or the series that their fic is based on. If a writer makes it clear that he/she is deliberately taking license, you should probably ignore the point. * Comments on the story itself. Is the idea sufficiently fresh -- or at least handled in a fresh enough way -- to allow interest? Are the conflicts in the story clear? Does the plot develop comfortably, taking time to visit interesting story aspects and subplots, but not bogging down or losing its focus? Is the ending properly climactic, and does it offer a sufficiently satisfying resolution of the primary conflict? What about the handling of the characters? For series characters, is the treatment consistent with the major aspects of the characters that we know from the manga/anime? If the character is changed, do the changes serve the story well and make the character more interesting rather than less? For new characters, are they believable and sufficiently developed? Do they fit into the manga/anime milieu? * Comments on the way the story is written. Are there errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc? Are there places where the dialog sounds wooden, or forced, or unbelievable for the particular character? Are any scenes paced so slowly that they drag -- or so quickly that the impact they should have isn't there? What about exposition? Is too little explained, making the story confusing? Or is too much exposition getting in the way of the action? Is information presented in a way that seems natural for the story? For a prose story, is the choice of narrative person and perspective appropriate and consistent? Are character thoughts revealed at appropriate times and in appropriate amounts? Are there any awkward phrasings, or any words or phrases that are repeated unnecessarily? For a script, are the stage directions/descriptions detailed enough without getting in the way of the story flow? Does the dialog beg to be read out loud? Does the author remember to have all on-stage persons mentioned before they have lines? WHAT TYPE OF C&C SHOULD *I* DO? Whatever kind you feel the story at hand calls for -- provided that you feel qualified to give that kind of C&C. Obviously, you can't do grammar corrections until you're skilled with English grammar, for example. WHAT SORTS OF DISCUSSIONS ARE *NOT* C&C? As the cliche goes, all is not gold that glitters. Several types of discussions might appear to be C&C, and are often tagged as C&C, but aren't: * Fic-inspired humor threads. * Offshoot discussions that move away from the fic in question. For example, the use of a gun in a story might lead to a thread on the general topic of which weapons are more effective than others, or a fic in which monsters are slain might lead to an argument over whether killing monsters is murder. * Character debates. While criticism of a particular story's treatment of a character *is* C&C, a general discussion of that character's faults and virtues isn't. * Ideas for other fics. * Use of the fic in question as an excuse to plug your own (or a friend's) fic. This is not to say that the above shouldn't be posted. Whether they should or not is a matter of list policy; consult the FAQ or the moderators. But in any case, they aren't C&C. WHAT IF THE AUTHOR OF THE FIC DECIDES NOT TO ACCEPT MY C&C? There isn't much you can do; this is an author's prerogative. If you feel that the author might not be understanding your point, you might try to explain it in a different way. Don't repeat the same arguments over again; if they didn't convince once, they won't the second time. This is especially important for character issues, as there are a lot of differing opinions out there and many people feel strongly that they are right. If you've made your point and the author still fails to agree, the best thing to do is to move on to the next fic. AS A WRITER, HOW CAN I GET PEOPLE TO GIVE ME MORE C&C? I recommend the following: * Do more C&C yourself. Writers remember who gave them high-quality C&C, and will be more inclined to return the favor when they have the chance. * Don't spam the list a lot. The people who are most annoyed by spam are the same ones who are most likely to give you good C&C. * Format your fics properly when you post them. That means plain ascii-only text, with a fixed 70-80 characters per line. Trying to read sloppily-formatted posts is a headache that many readers won't put up with -- and if you do get responses, the bulk of them will probably just be complaints about your formatting. Also, if you have major problems with grammar, spelling, etc., try to find a pre-reader who will correct your stories before you post them. Make it a pleasure, rather than a chore, for people to read your stories, and more people will read them. This is something that cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Many a good story has gone largely unread because its author didn't take the time and effort to make it presentable. * When you get C&C, reply to the C&Cer. Explain which of the C&Cer's suggestions you'll be implementing, and why the others aren't right for your fic. Even if you're not going to use any of the advice you were given, your reply at least shows that you gave it serious consideration, and that will make the person much more likely to spend time C&Cing your future work. * Earn a reputation for finishing what you start. People are less likely to read, let alone reply to, your current fic if your last five were abandoned halfway through. * If you're a new author, consider starting off with something of short to moderate total length. Readers will be more likely to take a chance on an unknown writer this way, and once you've shown that you can finish what you start you can write that huge epic. * Post in moderation. Most people are looking for quality, not quantity, and posting excessive amounts of material can turn off potential readers. Be especially judicious about reposting previously-released material; including pointers to webpages, or to the RAAC archives, or to the FFML archive, is generally more effective. If you're still having trouble getting C&C, veteran author David Bateson has suggested the following strategy: Find a story that seems reasonable to you -- preferably not by a "big time" author, but by someone whose interests seem to match up with your own story -- and send its author a bit of C&C. Repeat once or twice, then *ASK* that author to C&C the fic you want C&C for. Now, here are some strategies that are NOT recommended: * Writing shocking, controversial fics that people will notice. * Choosing a particular manga/anime series to write in that you think people will more likely comment on. The first of these WILL get you more responses -- but probably not the kind that you want. Mostly, you'll get people telling you that you're a crazy, sick person; some of them will mean this in a good way, others not. If all you're looking for is attention, fine. But this kind of response probably won't help you improve your writing. Note that I'm NOT saying that you shouldn't write this kind of fic -- only that the desire for more C&C is a poor reason for doing it. The second, well... you be the judge. Basing your stories on the better known anime/manga series gives you a bigger pool of potential readers -- but it also means that more writers are competing against you for those readers' attention. As far as I can tell, it pretty much evens out. About all that can be said is that if you have a proven track record writing fics based on one series, you'll probably have a bigger reader base if you keep writing in that series, and a smaller one (at first) if you branch out. In any case, my advice is to write in whatever series you have good ideas for. SHOULD I ADD [C&C] OR [Please C&C] TAGS WHEN I POST MY FIC? No. [C&C] is a tag for posts that contain C&C on other fics, not a sign that the author wants C&C. A [Please C&C] tag merely clutters the subject line and states the obvious; it goes without saying that if you're posting your fic to the FFML, you want C&C on it. HOW DO I GET THE KIND OF C&C I WANT? The best way is to ask for it. Specify in your author's notes what kind you want, and more importantly any kinds that you DON'T want so that no one wastes his or her time doing it for you. WHEN SOMEONE SENDS ME C&C, AM I REQUIRED TO REPLY? It's not a requirement; however, it greatly increases your chances of being C&Cd again by the same reader. C&C takes time and effort, and a C&Cer wants to know that it's not wasted. Whether you are a a newbie or a household name on the FFML, you should reply to C&C. The C&Cer spent his or her valuable time commenting on your story; if nothing else, the least you can do is send a thank you note. This will let the commenter know that you appreciate the time and effort involved, and you will be more likely to receive followup comments as an added bonus. AFTER I'VE GOTTEN C&C AND REVISED MY STORY, SHOULD I POST ANOTHER DRAFT? Be judicious about reposting. Remember that people are less likely to read and comment on something that they've seen before. Every reposting decreases the number of responses you're likely to get. If it's been a long time since the last posting and/or major changes have been made, then it might be advisable to repost, but otherwise it isn't. If you feel that your story needs more rounds of revision than the FFML is likely to provide, consider sending it to pre-readers first (see below). HOW CAN I RESPOND TO C&C THAT I FEEL IS UNFAIR OR ABUSIVE? First of all, DON'T give back the same. Dealing with your critics by flaming, mailbombing, etc. is extremely unprofessional, to say the least, and regardless of the provocation, other writers and C&Cers are not going to look upon you favorably for doing it. Some things you can do are: * Give the person the brush-off. Simply respond with something like, "Your opinions will be taken into consideration. Have a nice day!" * Explain calmly and simply why the person's response isn't helpful to you. "Thank you for your comments. At this point, I don't feel that I can use your suggestion. This is an original flavor story, and for Fiancee X to 'die a horrible flaming death' would make it too much like a darkfic." * Just ignore it. If you can't say anything without getting angry, it might be best to say nothing at all. It won't make you feel any better, but at least it won't make the situation worse. WHAT ARE PRE-READERS, AND SHOULD I USE THEM? Many authors will send a story to selected pre-readers and wait for them to respond before it is put out to the general public. The advantage of this is that it allows the story to go through two rounds of revisions instead of one, and any glaring typos or other obvious errors can (hopefully) be corrected before the story is widely released. This is especially important if you're worried about how people will react to certain parts of the fic, or (in particular) if your English grammar skills aren't good enough to produce presentable output without help. On the other hand, having to wait for pre-reader responses slows down the speed with which chapters can be released, so it's really a judgement call as to whether they're necessary. HOW DO I OBTAIN PRE-READERS? What generally works best is to select people you know and ask them if they would be willing to pre-read your work. If someone gave you helpful C&C on a chapter that you posted to the list, that person might make a good pre-reader, especially if you're willing to return the favor by making helpful comments on his or her fics. Alternatively, you can post a request to the list asking for volunteers. It's a good idea to post a sample of the fic you want preread, a prologue or the first chapter if it's a long one or a teaser if a short one, or at least briefly describe the type of fic and the kind of help you're looking for, so people know what they're getting into. Be sure to ask for private replies only. Again, returning the favor greatly increases the chances that your pre-readers will stick around and give you useful input, though if they are big enough fans of your series they might be willing to do it anyway. Note that requests for pre-readers, along with maybe an acknowledgment of your pre-readers in the posted version of the fic, is the ONLY pre-reader business that should take place on the list; all other pre-reader correspondence should be via private mail. WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM PRE-READERS? Expectations vary, and are pretty much a matter to be worked out between you and your pre-readers. Most authors who use pre-readers expect reasonably thoughtful replies within a reasonable amount of time, but exactly what this means depends on the particular author. It's fine for pre-readers to say nothing more than "It looks fine, post it to the list," provided this is what they really think after a careful reading. If your pre-readers aren't meeting your expectations, should you replace them? This is a decision that has to be made by carefully weighing the amount of help that you get from them against your expectations. Remember that your pre-readers have lives, and won't always have as much time to put towards helping you as you might like. If you do decide that a particular pre-reader isn't worth keeping, we recommend trying to talk it out with that person first, to see whether some accommodation can be reached. --- END OF FFML FAQ SUPPLEMENT ON C&C --- .---Anime/Manga Fanfiction Mailing List----. | Administrators - ffml-admins@anifics.com | | Unsubscribing - ffml-request@anifics.com | | Put 'unsubscribe' in the subject | `---- http://ffml.anifics.com/faq.txt -----'