Requesting feedback from recent ratings (under 4 stars)

I'm currently trying to figure out where my story goes wrong, and how I can fix it. Ratings have consistently gone down since I started - from 4.5 stars to 4 and now twice 3.5, but I've not received any feedback on story flaws or any aspect that needs improvement apart from not enough explanation / exposition, as described in the review here:

I'm also fairly sure that my writing quality has improved quite a bit since the first arc, and several readers told me the story keeps getting better. So why do the ratings keep going down? I need some help, here.

Thanks for the review, Alexander. It's nice to finally get one, though I noticed it's among the lowest ratings you've handed out, even though the review text doesn't really mention anything negative. Could you let me know what makes the story less than 'solid' in your opinion? From the review text you've written (as well as the forum post about LOVING it), I got the impression there's very little you didn't like.

I'd also appreciate some feedback from Kingandcommoner for the 3.5 star rating, as well as anyone else who'd like to chime in. Thanks!

Hunh, I think that was supposed to be a 4, ive updated it. the star click system on the reviews always screws with me!

I do agree with the review you posted a bit (although, how much can you trust a web fiction reviewer with only two reviews in as many months. CMON!) in that there are obvious sequences in which there are things going on around the main character that would be VERY important to the story, but the character isn't paying attention, so we only get to see what happens AROUND those events and information dumps. Personally, I think this is a much more difficult way to write, and that you're doing pretty well with it, so I appreciate it though others may find it off putting. There are also definitely some polish elements that could be added in, but at the same time, it is clear that you DO go back over each chapter and edit / polish. So I think as you get more practice in, the writing will solidify.

As for the stars, I always do equate them mentally with grades. To me, a 3 is a C, average, decent story. I'll RSS and read every update of a story I DO actually mark a 3. 4 means there is definitely some talent and love there, and I'll rave about it and tell my friends. 5 means its such an excellent piece, to me, that I've started to internalize some of the style, and have often had dreams set in that universe. Heh.

But seriously, YOU ARE DOING GOOD! 3.5 might be lower than you've gotten, but thats STILL a good rating. You are putting up quality content that people enjoy on a regular basis. Are you having fun doing it? Are you making connections with readers that enjoy what you're doing? Then you're good to go! Keep on doing that!

Anything above a 3 is a solid story in my eyes. Everyone has a slightly different scale when they judge things. Don't worry about it. It doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong.

Thanks for the feedback. I wish my commenters weren't so shy about making suggestions on what they feel is missing from some chapters, or what in particular they'd like to know more about. Only one does it somewhat regularly. It's pretty hard for me to know where and how I need to add more polish if no one speaks up, because I'm not a native English speaker and I just don't have the same kind of feel for the language. If no one points it out, chances are I won't see it.

I'm going to start fixing the first arc in about two weeks. Any other feedback anyone would like to toss in here would be really appreciated.

On ratings - personally, I wouldn't read something with a 3 star rating, maybe because I rarely see it handed out. 4 stars are much more common, and people will want to spend their free time on quality rather than something average. If you look at the ratings of most stories that are at least somewhat popular, they're all somewhere between 4 and 5.

I wish I could help, but your story looks too dark for my tastes. I am reading a little of it though.

I'm something of a merciless person, but you asked for it. Also, I am not a writer to some professional level, but you said you wanted an opinion.

I read a bit of the first chapter and a bit of the last chapter. I saw some problems almost immediately in both.

I was about to give reading it a chance, then I noticed that your first line is

"The former actress knew they were coming, but for the sake of the hundreds of people awaiting her or following in her wake, she hid her fear beneath a smile."

So right off the bat we have a tongue twister sentence that is breaking almost half a dozen rules. "The former actress" is telling me that she's a former actress not showing me. The whole thing seems like a run-on sentence, you have two complete sentences separated with commas. Finally the wording is awkward.

I would write it something like.

"A women was doing __________. She seemed ___________. However, despite all of that, she _______________."

You can tell me that she's a former actress later through dialogue. You can make her give a dramatic speech saying "hundred's of lives are at stake".

Remember, you want me to draw my own conclusions. Don't tell me them, give me evidence of them.

I looked at your newest chapter as well, and it seems like you're guilty of it there as well. The first two paragraphs are giant backstories telling me what was going on, not showing me.

"Radiant hung in the air five hundred meters above a grassy field, holding himself in the position Athena had routed him to a couple of hours ago.


The Paris area had received increased newscast coverage over the past hours, and this location was well suited for tapping into radio waves and listening to a large portion of European broadcasts.

bad - I should be hearing about this through character dialogue.

Athena did most of the interpretation and analysis.

bad - again, character dialogue

bad - Not only dialogue, but this is one sentence... Look at the thing.

The ones that contained visuals were projected onto his visor; audio feeds got relayed to his earbud."

bad - dialog

I can think of a couple of general areas that might have something to do with it, though one of them can't really be helped. I'm not saying these are absolutely the case, but they could be contributing factors:

1. I'm not sure what countries make up your readership, but I know that when I review your work, there are little things that come up that distract from reading simply due to the more international nature of your story. Some of it may be the stereotypical lack of concern for events outside the U.S., but most of it is probably because of minor sociological differences. I think you referenced a gesture made during an oath once, which I didn't get. Just little things like that can create a minor break in someone's reading.

Not really sure how much that might have to do with anything, but there's not anything you can do with it.

2. After the success of Worm, there have been various works that clearly take inspiration from it. While not totally a bad thing, it's pretty noticeable. I don't read that wide a variety of stories, but I imagine that the novelty wears off. It may even wear on someone once they see another such work.

I've had another read of my post and I would have liked to edit my corrections in, but I can't. So here's some changes.

Bad and good - it's a run-on sentence, but it can pass as a description. So I take back my dialog suggestion on this particular example.

The ones that contained visuals were projected onto his visor; audio feeds got relayed to his earbud."

good - description is fine.

Basically I'd recommend you just re-read your chapters once for run-on sentences, and remember that the reader shouldn't have omnipotent knowledge of the situation. We should for the most part share our views with the protagonist. Kinda like ghosts standing behind the protagonist. Of course as ghosts we can go follow other people for awhile, but we shouldn't know things that we haven't heard or seen.

DarkD, people who have read all of my chapters have actually criticized the opposite of what you're saying, not enough knowledge / explanation rather than omnipotence. I usually only do 1-2 paragraphs of explaining the current situation at the start of the chapter, then the 4K words or so that come afterwards are showing without telling. It's just that the pacing has been fairly slow as is so far (I'm working on that), and I'd rather avoid doing extremely long chapters where nothing happens just for the sake of showing something unimportant and uninteresting that I could quickly cover with 1-2 paragraphs at the start, instead. And then show the action that is actually interesting.

I'll keep a lookout for run-on sentences and ask the Writer's Lair to yell at me when they spot any. :D

Thanks for having given it a try, though. Maybe after I'm done editing the first arc you won't find it too dark for your tastes anymore.

PG, I think point 1) is maybe my lack of knowledge of commonly used phrases for specific gestures and the likes. So I don't know that something is called 'air quotes' and write up some strange gesture description instead. Or shooting air guns at someone, I actually learned that one from you not too long ago.

2) I can see how that could be a factor, maybe just a general dark superhero tiredness. I tried to do something quite different from Worm even though it's dark, if you see anything that's too similar please let me know.

Has anyone felt that the pacing / not enough action is an issue?

I think what he means about "omnipotence" (which would really be omniscience when talking about perspective) isn't in reference to how MUCH information you provide, but the WAY you provide it.

If you write "he was a very smart man" as description, you are "telling" the audience a detail from an omniscient third person perspective. It is declarative. If you wrote "he rewired the dvd player into a security system using his cell phone camera" you are being descriptive and "showing" the audience what you mean instead of telling them. Showing is what he means by imagining the audience as an invisible ghost, watching proceedings for details rather than being told details. Narrative nowadays gives details of actions and surroundings more than exposition.

I'd be curious to hear if he'd change his mind after reading the whole chapter rather than just the beginning.

With the prologue, I could have shown episodes of Shanti's career before she died, but I decided to start as close to the conflict as possible instead to try and reel readers into the essence of the story. That is, a death that triggers a massive chain of events. Maybe that wasn't a reasonable decision, and maybe my readers really wanted to go through the technical details of Athena's communications setup before getting to the action. I don't know, but I'd feel more comfortable relying on the opinion of someone who read more than a few paragraphs.

That said, the prologue and the entire first arc do need to be fixed. As mentioned above, I'll get to that soon!

Don't be afraid to leave the audience in the dark about things like past events, you can drop in references and build the picture up as required rather than having a single info-dump. Not only is that going to distract and break imersion, keeping the audience trying to peice things together is a great way of investing them into the story and getting them more involved.

Keeping a bit of mystery can good, if you're careful.

Ok I read the whole chapter. The problem is you don't explain things very well. You give me information in the wrong order. You were telling me that she could sense things from a great distance away, but I didn't really understand that you meant she had super-human senses. At least I think that's what was going on.

A lot of your descriptions were vague and lacking detail.

Many of your sentences seemed to relate to each other, but the wording made understanding how difficult.

I made a gdoc of your prologue so I could comment on everything I found. It started out bad, but I was actually interested at the end. Typically I always hate prologues, but yours actually seemed like it would interest me if you just refined it a little more. I'd say you were guilty of speed writing and not reading over what you wrote.

I'm actually working on my own thing, but I've reread and redone my chapter one like 50 times now trying to get everything perfect. This prologue isn't supposed to come together fast. Reread and revise it at least 10 more times, then move forward from there.

Thanks for the feedback, but I was mainly interested in why ratings went down after I've improved my writing with the third arc. Like I said, they went from 4.5 stars to 4 then 3.5 even though my writing quality has increased. I'm aware of the issues with the first arc, I just don't know what I'm still doing wrong after having improved from there.

Then again, votes skyrocketed with 3.3 and reader numbers went back up a bit, so maybe I did something right with that one at least? Maybe my readers really wanted more superpower action?

My numbers have dropped off in the last couple weeks, but they seem to have recovered this week. So sometimes it just happens, even in the short time I've been writing this isn't the first time I've seen this.

As far as ratings go, your sample data is much too small to discern a statistical trend!

, because I'm not a native English speaker

This is the first time I've seen that phrase written, and not immediately thought, sarcastically, NOOO! I had NO IDEA! lol.

That does explain some lack of idiom and phrasing though that I put down to youth and inexperience with writing!

On the info from DarkD, show and tell is usually my BIGGEST pet peeve, but in this case, while you do tell a lot of background, it moves smoothly into showing, and a lot of the small amount of info, letting the reader draw their own inferences, I appreciate that. I dont LIKE being spoonfed. I like being able to draw my own conclusions, setting issues (such as superpowers) being treated as if the reader should already be part of that world, and familiar with them, because showing how such things are treated in the writing, besides giving a thrill of discovery, and that greater thrill of finding i was WRONG about something (I LOVE being wrong) also gives me additional insight into the world itself.

Thanks, Alexander. <3 I really am much better at writing in German (I made a classmate cry with a single page of something random when I was 18), but I wouldn't be able to reach nearly as many readers. Oh well.

The Writer's Lair helps me squash most of the idiom / phrasing bugs, though some weeks they're too busy for a good readthrough. Syphax is GREAT at proofreading. If I had money, I'd hire the man.

As the author of the webfiction reviews site I'm going to posting more soon. I just didn't realise how much my current job search would impact on my spare time.

Shutsumon, Thanks again for that review! I'm wondering... did you ever see my comment about ordering an interlude chapter from me? Name any character and I'll write a chapter for them. If you already have an idea, I might be able to squeeze it in at the end of the fourth arc.

I did see it. Let me think about it and get back to you. :-D