I am sure many of you by now would have seen some of the many review discussions and games that have gone on these past few months, ranging from AetherX's brilliant lesson on writing them to the debate over flaming and criticism, as well as our new games such as the Review Game, the Workshop Quiz and old favourites like the Review Exchange and still lingering Beta Reader.
The reason why one of my main priorities since becoming forum head has been the idea of reviews is because reviews, quite simply, help make the whole concept of fan fiction go around. We all love writing, creating new plots and characters, reinvisioning the regions and villains in our own way, but it can all seem a bit pointless at times if we don't think anyone is actually reading our work.
Feedback and reviews can do wonders for any story. The author gets a boost from knowing someone is enjoying their work, they can get feedback about what may need improving or what might not be working, therefore improving their story, and, in return, the author may check out your story and give you some feedback. It can be quite depressing for any author if it appears as though no one is reading their work while other stories get ten in depth reviews for every chapter that gets posted.
I am not saying that we all write essay long responses for every single chapter analysing every full stop and exclamation mark. There is seriously nothing wrong with just posting "Hey Bob, I really loved this latest chapter of Generic Journey Shipping Fic #167. I liked your portrayal of Red in this chapter, and I cannot wait to see what happens with him and Green when they get to Pewter City!" There seems to be some thought that these don't matter at all, but it is nice to let the author know you are reading their story and enjoying it, and you can always do a more in depth review later on that gets into the nitty gritty. If you can manage the time to read the story, a few extra seconds to post a line or two of feedback will do you no harm but could make a world of difference to the author.
And while the games and programs to help with reviewing are still there, it should not be a case of it being that the other person has to read your fic if they want a review from you. The whole system kind of fails if you try and make all of your reviews into a chance for you to get more feedback as well: simply share your own thoughts and let people choose if they want to review your fic or not, don't try and force anyone into it when you only have two lines to say about their fic anyway. As I said above, chances are that the person will return the favour in their own time anyway.
So essentially, spread the love around folks! If you read a story, post a line or two at the very end and make the author's day, don't wait around for someone else to do it or until they return the favour first. We all want reviews, and people always complain about no one reading and reviewing their story, but you can't complain if you aren't getting out there yourself and giving people feedback as well. Just remember to not be a flamer and be considerate if you are going to point out a mistake or something (as long as your review isn't just "Here's a typo I found" : that's not feedback, that is being pedantic and irritating, everyone knows that). There is nothing stopping you from posting a little bit of feedback when you read a story, so don't think that it will go unappreciated: just share your thoughts, and together we can make the Workshop a happier place for all :)