FictionPress is a triumph of the Internet virtual marketplace.
Independent and fledgling writers from all over the world have an immediate audience. It is a platform that encourages networking and niche followings. Regardless of your genre or style, there is a little bit of everything for everyone. If you have a story you want to tell, you have both the capacity to reach your audience and the mechanism to receive feedback from readers.
Unfortunately, that mechanism is underutilized at FictionPress. And often when users do engage it, they do so incongruously. The Story Review function should serve as a more rewarding feature of the website, but we aren't maximizing its availability. It is my belief that all active writers on FictionPress can give and receive satisfying feedback via Story Reviews if we change our mindset about its intended use.
FictionPress is a website of give and take: a two-lane road of open dialogue. However, we trap ourselves in the delusion of what I call Barnes & Noble syndrome. In essence, we have put our story on the bookshelf at the digital store, expecting readership. The responsibility falls on all active writers at FictionPress to engage in networking among each other.
Therefore, I suggest that we make an effort to explore the genre headers for content that fits our specific niche interests. Look for writers that broach similar topics and themes. At the very least, look for authors writing in the same genre. Branch out by investing time to test the waters of other writers' content, and then leave a Story Review that opens a dialogue.
Pointedly seeking out other writers and showing interest in their content pays itself forward. Granted, it doesn't have a ratio of 1:1 success. But the ritual of engaging other active writers will inevitably lead you to those with a higher degree of reciprocation. On FictionPress, active writers who engage in networking feel a responsibility to return Story Reviews to those who have reviewed them, particular if their content fits in a similar vein.
Next, crafting a useful Story Review is essential both in networking and drawing reciprocation. The simplest solution is to state what was enjoyed and what wasn't from a written piece. If you sampled someone's story with content that you appreciated, then tell the author specifically. If you found content that struggled, then offer a constructive suggestion. The most effective Story Reviews combine sentiments from what drew you in and what needed improvement. No one likes a review that criticizes alone; policing FictionPress as a critic won't build much rapport. Remember, something enticed you there in the first place; highlight that success.
Finally, be gracious to those who give back. Someone has taken the time to engage your work. When unsolicited Story Reviews come your way, engage the author and look for points of parity—common ground. Reciprocate where appropriate and review their content. Strive to establish a networked relationship if potential exists. If they came back after you gave a Story Review, nurture that reciprocation they gave.
Ultimately, the degree of networking you wish to achieve at FictionPress is dependent on your status as an active writer. How much outreach are you willing to extend? A writer who posts all day, but never reads from anyone else unsurprisingly finds a lack of attention to their work. My ultimate hope would be that genre-specific authors would start the process of give and take, forging connections within their disciplines. These groups could then make the effort to embrace new or fringe writers of the same genre.
Make the effort to give thoughtful feedback. There is always something that we can say: where it interested us and where it needed revision. It is rewarding to have an audience. The process can start if you make yourself someone's audience.