Latest Review of Subject 15

Hi everyone,

I wasn't going to do this, but after reading the review from Syphax about thirty times I feel compelled to respond. I should note as well that I contacted him and thanked him for the review and his honesty, but he never wrote back.

For the most part, he did not leave me a good review at all. It's negative, snarky and doesn't relay a great deal of truth about the story. I feel he was more bent on discouraging people from reading it then he was on giving an honest review.

For starters...

I don't think he read it. If he did, then he was not paying attention. I think he skimmed through a couple of chapters and formulated conclusions based on a few paragraphs. For instance in his quote here:

The only character who mentions the "population control" theory is Jack. The main character. The only character who mentions "MKULTRA" is the CIA agent in charge of the experiment... No one else.

He also says only two of the "dozen" characters (there are actually around 30) have any impact on the plot, when really it's quite a few more, and if he'd read the story correctly instead of skimming he would have seen that.

He then compares it to Mortal Kombat... and there is NOTHING comparable between the two, and I mean, nothing... He's basically comparing apples to saw blades, they're not even close.

Anyway, his whole review is written with a sort of "Don't waste your time on this garbage" derisiveness which irks me because he obviously didn't bother reading it thoroughly or completely. Also, since his review went live, I've not received one hit from webfiction, which kind of bums me out.

I understand everyone is entitled to their opinion and I was skeptical at posting my story to this site for fear that this sort of thing would happen. I mean here I am, posting a free online story for people to enjoy and took me months of personal time to write. Yet, this one person thinks it's okay to tear it apart and ridicule my creation, even when clearly he didn't read it very well to get his facts straight, and because he did this, people don't even want to check it out now it seems.

If it weren't for a few others that have found the story to be entertaining, I'd probably think that I was a no good hack-writer and quit, and maybe that's what I am... I don't say this to sound pitiful, but only to illustrate that reviewers should take more care to respect other's creations. As many writers know, it's extremely hard work to write a book and even harder to put it out there for people to read. Constructive criticism is a wonderful thing, I want it and need it, but Syphax's review seemed really destructive to me.

I absolutely expect people not to like my story and I expect plenty of negative reviews, but a negative review doesn't have to be pretentious and sarcastic to say, "I don't like what you've written." It can helpful and expose plot holes or areas that need improvement. I really thought that's what this site was for.

That's all I have to say.

Reading it, I think it was harsh in tone (though that might just be me), but to be fair, Syphax gave you three stars and said at the end that it might just not be their cup of tea. That doesn't really seem like a hackjob to me, and there were a few worthy criticisms in there, I think. For example, how the drug's intelligence effect sapped the stuff they liked out of the protagonist. While I personally consider the tone of the review unhelpful, you'll get some like that eventually (and worse), and sad as that is you have to be ready. Reviews of media tend to be written primarily for the readership, not you.

I'm not saying it isn't in your right to be mad or sad that this happened. I get kinda depressed when otherwise glowing reviews find faults in my writing, because I get kinda depressed about *everything* -- but I channel that self-defeating state back to writing and making things better. Take into account that this is one single, lone person's opinion out of billions. It can be discouraging early on, but it's not insurmountable.

Thanks Dennis, you're right of course. It's pointless to get hung up on a bad review, but it sucks for sure. I do realize he mentioned in the end that people should give it a try, but the preceding false comparisons and misinformation will undoubtedly turn many people away from even giving it a shot, which is why I am upset.

I appreciate your effort to console me man. I'll take your advice and use the experience to make my writing better.

Approaching this as a reader, I felt it was a comprehensive review that touched on the important elements I would be looking for (characterization topping my list). The tone was tongue-in-cheek, but it's a review. It's not designed to please you, the author, but me, the reader, to keep me entertained enough to finish reading the review. It did, and now I know more about your story than I did five minutes ago. I was then interested enough to see if how close the review was to the real deal, so I clicked on your story summary and read that over. That's when I realized I'd already gone into your serial a bit, but only back when it was listed under the new arrivals.

Remember the old adage, 'No such thing as bad publicity?' You're no longer on the New Arrivals list. Other than this review, you don't have any WFG publicity. I might have completely forgotten without this reminder. No, it's not the most praiseworthy review of your serial, but it's honest and something I can trust, and it - as I said - actively led me to clicking on your story.

Spin it to the positives. As you keep writing, you'll hear more and more opinions, but better to actually have the less adoring ones in black and white, letting you know exactly what can be improved, than to have silent readers grumble and roll away, spreading their word without giving you a chance to respond (and really, really try not to respond).

I agree with Tartra a lot on the final point. In this community I noticed we tend to reply to reviews to be nice to one another or clear up misunderstandings, because we're a small, niche place with a lot of recurring familiar faces. But for the most part as a writer it is probably for the best never to reply to a review, any review, good or bad (but especially the bad ones), for a few reasons.

It's happened in the past that a reviewer makes a suggestion, an author includes it, and the reviewer swings around and tries to claim unearned influence over the work, yelling up and down that "author A did this because I said so!." This can reach not-harmless levels of discourse, and it's best to nip it in the bud. More importantly, theres long been a spate of indie authors being unprofessional about bad reviews, and getting blown up in the social media spotlight over their attitude to varying degrees. That is also best avoided for everyone's sanity.

Here, it's cool, I suppose, since this has something of a workshop environment more than "product reviews"; and I'm not saying you did anything wrong, though I could be alone in that. But if you ever intend to stick with this dead seriously, file away criticisms or dismiss them silently at your own discretion. Making it a public thing between an author and a reviewer can lead to some bad places.

Tartra, thank you.

I agree that there is no such thing as bad publicity and I'm glad it interested you enough to read the summary.

However, the one factor about the review which compelled me to respond (against every effort against it) was that the review is "not" honest. Aside from the opening line which details the main character, and the fact that the story gets a little flowery in parts, it does not accurately report or portray the story at all. It's one thing when a reviewer's negativity touches upon truth and points out flaws, but quite another when it misleads potential readers by using false comparisons and fabrications not of the story itself. When that happens, the review ceases to be of any benefit to anyone.

I am ready to accept negative reviews, believe me. I want constructive criticism, it will make me a better writer. That's not what Syphax's review was though. It was for the reader, yes, but it basically lied and gave a general tone that the story was crap. He tires to redeem himself at the end, sort of, by saying give it a shot, but that's like saying, "these hot dogs taste like human feces, but hey, you should try one!"

On the flip-side, yes, some readers may check the content to see how accurate the review is, but most will not unfortunately.

Just to set this straight for you though, I'm not claiming my story is awesome and that Syphax had no reason to not like it. Absolutely not. I didn't respond because I'm butt-hurt. I know you can't please everyone, and you're damn lucky if you can please even a few. My gripe is only that he didn't accurately portray what was written and what he did write was written in a very cynical and mocking manner. I'm sorry, but I don't think any writer deserves that. Maybe it's just me.

I think that any story, no matter how poorly written or dull, or flowery or completely far-fetched is far better than the story untold. I would never harp on anyone's creation in anything less than a constructively positive manner. Would you prefer someone to tell others about your story with venomous sarcasm and lies or in a way that says, "it's not for everyone, it's kind of cliche, but there are these strong points you might enjoy..."

I don't know... I think I might prefer the latter. Most rational people would.

Syphax and I have been part of the same writer's group for more than half a year, and I always found him to be harsh, but fair. He's not the kind of person who deliberately makes negative statements to make someone feel bad.

One of my reviewers misunderstood something about my story and pointed it out as criticism, but it was my fault for not explaining that particular fact clearly enough. A lot of readers were confused by the same thing. Thanks to that critical comment, I was able to make some edits that greatly improved my story.

In general, if a reviewer doesn't notice or misunderstands something, there's a flaw in the writing that led to said misunderstanding. Readers don't have the author's background knowledge of the story. If most of your characters went unnoticed, maybe they weren't memorable enough?

Arckrc, every review is honest. Unless the author of the review has a personal reason to attack you, they're giving their personal response to the work.

And just to be clear: you are responding because you're butthurt. I get it. I've been butthurt too. (Should I make the joke about me being gay? No, I shouldn't.) But this thread isn't particularly productive. You're saying that "most rational people" would prefer a review that wasn't "venomous sarcasm and lies." Honestly? That's pretty angry, and it's a bit of an attack.

Just so you know, Syphax actually had me read the review before posting, because he wanted to make sure it wasn't too harsh. We changed a couple things, but I decided that it wasn't too harsh: he was giving his opinion, and as an author, you have to accept the opinions of your reviewers. (If you're curious, he's a pretty popular author himself. More important, he's a GOOD author. So his opinion isn't a bad one to pay attention to.)

If you want traffic from this site, you should contribute to the community. This, right here? That's not contributing to the community. Write some reviews of your own, make some forum threads that can help other members of the community, etc. Or, if you'd prefer, take your listing off the guide. Personally I wouldn't do that -- you have an average four-and-a-half star rating, which is actually better than any serial I've ever written -- but if this is how you're going to respond to (mild, by the internet's standards) criticism, the web may not be the place for you.

Dennis, I know I shouldn't have responded, but I don't feel bad about it. Obviously it's not completely unheard of or there wouldn't be a forum for it such as the one we are clearly communicating upon now. I would never have said anything if the review wasn't so riddled with misrepresentations of fact. It's akin to me saying, don't read Moby Dick, it's a super cliche story about a large white whale trapped at Sea World and trying to find Nemo. I can handle negativity, but only when it portrays the truth.

I notice Arc that you're mentioning "misrepresentation" quite a bit in every post, but I think it would be fairer and more even-handed to say it was a misunderstanding of the writing, if that. It can be difficult to see, because the writing is in your head, but other people approach writing in different ways and from different perspectives, reading levels, language proficiency, and so forth. What seem like bare facts to you can be open to interpretation to others. Every reader will bring in or drag out a different reading of the same text.

In this case, I don't think saying "two characters are important to the plot" or something like that is a misrepresentation of facts. It's a judgment on Syphax's part. In that example Syphax thinks there's only two characters that matter, from their perspective reading the story. To you, more of them matter -- after all, you wrote them. But every reader might see their importance differently. I think it might be better to put this line of argument down for a while. Maybe walk it off and come back later with fresh eyes on things.

I agree with Dennis. You're far too close to this review right now. Take some time to cool off and then think about it, because this is sounding more and more like a tantrum than a clarifying objection to points made in the review.

Billy Higgins, I am not butt-hurt I assure you. I appreciate constructive criticism and I listen to people when speak from the platform of truth. Like I said, I want to be a better writer.

It doesn't matter though, Tartra is right, I'm too close to this review and it totally looks like I'm throwing a tantrum. Which is so not me lol.

I came here to properly set the facts straight and in a sense, "review" the review. If he can make up stuff about my story, I can equally stand up for myself and let people know that he clearly misread whatever chunks of the story he stumbled upon. I don't know if he did this innocently or with malice aforethought. Whatever the case, I'm over it and I'll take some time to read some of the stories on here and write the kind of reviews that I know readers and writers are looking for.

The appropriate response to a review is "thank you" or nothing at all. You're sitting on 4 five star reviews just out of the gate. There are serials I enjoyed much more than yours without a single five star review. My point is that you should have just ignored this review, treated it as an anomaly. You taking it so seriously tells me that he's hit close to home, and makes me feel like it's more valid than not despite your abject insistence that he's misrepresenting you.

You know Melon, I kind of didn't want to respond and you're right I shouldn't have. It's clearly making me look the fool. As a matter of fact, since I started this thread an additional 4 people have found Syphax's review to be helpful, which makes my claims even less valid.

It was a mistake for me to respond, I know that now. I don't know how to undo the damage, but what's done is done.

I'm going to file this experience into my "never to do again" folders and move on.

"Billy Higgins, I am not butt-hurt I assure you." > Proceeds to be butt-hurt


I understand that it can be hard to receive negative feedback on a review, but I agree with the others on this one. If he "misread" your story, it usually has something to do with how it was written. Recognize this as (sassy) constructive criticism, and move on. Maybe even go over your story when you've calmed down to see if you can make things more clear for future readers. You don't have to agree with your reviews, nor do you have to like them, but a review is a review. Honestly, as a reader, I'm more disinclined now to read your story, just because of your response to the review :(

Now, have a strong drink and keep working on your writing ? Just because one reader didn't like it doesn't mean that you have to melt down. You have room to improve and room to grow, just as the rest of us do. Keep growing!


At the end of the day, you can't please everyone, right? I also read the review and thought, damn that was harsh, but at the same time, the fact that he says it's not his cup of tea lets me know that, okay so it's just not for him but it could be for me. I think 50 Shades of Grey is stupid, but a lot of people liked it and it made millions. Don't let it get you down.

Bunbun, I'm sorry my responses have caused you to have complete disinterest in my story. I definitely didn't want that. I promise though, the only "butthurt" item on my list for me is the twisting of facts and the sarcasm he used. I honestly, don't mind negative feedback if it's constructive, BUT... I should have kept my mouth shut. I have effectively let my emotions paint me as a disgruntled ass-hat who can't stand to be criticized. In my defense however, I waited a few days to write this forum. I had sent an E-mail directly to Syphax on his site to thank him lol. I thanked him for being hones, but then I read the review like 30 more times, I saw the sarcasm and the distorted facts, and when he never responded back to me I got the impression that he only wanted to hurt my work and dissuade readers from reading it. So.... enter today and I'm the biggest jerk-off on the site. Sigh. I'm over it though, I have learned a valuable lesson today.

Zephy669, I kind of like the lighthearted way you responded to all of this. I feel a little less hated, so thanks :)

Keep moving forward, keep writing. Recognizing that you made a mistake is very mature and I'm proud of you. Keep writing; maybe I'll check out your work in the near future! Good luck.

Thank you Bunbun, I absolutely did learn a great lesson today. Maybe better here, and now, then somewhere down the road where it might have really kicked my ass. I appreciate your words.

I've been buried in work this week, so didn't see this thread until just now.