I started writing for the Neopian Times two years ago. I had my eyes set on that beautiful NT Star avatar, and after my first two publications, I really felt on a roll. I kept on writing and submitting on a regular basis, always looking through the Neopian calendar to check for upcoming pet days and events that would inspire me to write an article or list of some kind. In the beginning, writing for the NT was new and exciting, and don`t get me wrong, I enjoy it just as much now after earning the NT Star avatar three times over, than I did when I was just getting started. However, writing for the NT can be a pretty thankless task. Sure, it`s something I do for my own enjoyment, particularly after having earned the one avatar I really wanted, but there are only a couple of issues every year that give prizes to those who are lucky enough to get published in those issues. I`m not writing to get rich off selling prizes from the NT, but considering contests like the Storytelling Competition or the Poetry Contest both give prizes, it seems only fair that the Neopian Times should give out rewards on a more regular basis too, if not every single issue.
But it`s not the lack of prizes I want to talk about in this article, though it is an important point to make. Having more publications yield a tangible reward would inspire and encourage more people to submit their work to the Neopian Times.
I mentioned above that although I write purely for my own enjoyment, it is a thankless task. And not just because of the lack of prizes, but because of the lack of feedback from the readers. I am sure that many read the NT every week, and many readers may have come across my work, read it, and hopefully enjoyed it! What I would want more than any prize, is a Neomail or two in my inbox after I`ve been published in the NT. Whether there be a message saying someone had read my article and thought I`d written it well, or a well-meaning reader offering constructive and helpful criticism. I assure you both would be most welcome. I would love to learn more about the writing craft, to grow and improve. And it is a bit difficult to do that when I`m hardly ever told how I could have made my article better, or even if someone thought I`d done a good job.
Don`t get me wrong, I have received Neomails in the past from kind readers saying they had read and enjoyed my work, and a generous user has even taken the time to write proper reviews on my articles. And it truly meant a great deal to me! Nothing makes me happier than to know that my work is appreciated – everyone wants acknowledgement. My point is that those messages are both few and far between. I`m certainly not expecting or demanding in-depth reviews of every single thing I write, but it`s disheartening when you rarely hear from anyone after getting a piece published. Getting feedback, whether positive or critical should be the rule, not the exception.
My hope is that this will change. And as we all know, the best place for a change to start, is with yourself. More on this in a moment.
Before I started writing for the NT myself, I wasn`t a big reader of the Neopian newspaper. I`d usually look in every issue for the Editorial, maybe I`d look at some comics or sift through an article or two. Even today I rarely read stories (my apologies to all amazing story-writers out there!) because I prefer the factual and more humorous pieces in the NT.
Now you`re probably wondering if I took the time to submit some feedback to the struggling artists and the budding authors? Well, the answer to that, I am sorry to say, is no. At least not all the time. I`d occasionally send a Neomail if I`d read an article I thought was entertaining or original, or I`d contact the artist behind a beautifully drawn comic.
Many readers are so-called "silent readers," which means they`ll read a piece and not contact the author, for whatever reason. I was a silent reader for a good while myself. I don`t know what everyone else`s excuses are, but for my part, it was just more convenient to read something real quick and then get on with my business on Neopets without taking the time to write a comment to the author.
Now comes the change I mentioned earlier.
I set myself a task about six months back, to always Neomail a number of people every week upon a new publication of the NT. I figured that if other writers suffer from a lack of feedback to their work, I will not be a silent reader any longer. I thought that if I started always sending out feedback and nice comments, it may encourage others to do the same. Even if I don`t get a lot of feedback on my own work, that is no reason to withhold it from others. We`re all writing for fun, or to express our creativity, or to aim for those two shiny avatars. (We know we`re not in it for the profit and prizes!) But if we rarely receive comments or constructive criticism to our work, how can we know how to improve? We need to know our fellow Neopets players read what we write, and nothing would make us happier than a quick Neomail saying someone enjoyed our efforts.
Giving feedback to others has become a weekly routine that I do my best to stick to. I mainly read articles, and so they`re the pieces I tend to comment on. It`s really heart-warming to receive the grateful replies from the writers, and judging by the tone of these replies, I can tell many aren`t used to readers contacting them. Some have even told me outright that they feel like no one reads what they write, due to the fact that they never hear anything from the readers. This can be a very disheartening feeling, particularly to those who are new to the Neopian Times. For me, Neomailing so-called newbies to tell them I read their article is especially fun, but also regular writers deserve to hear from their faithful readers.
In the months I`ve spent writing Neomails to my fellow authors, I`ve discovered how rewarding it is. I highly recommend others to do the same, as it fills you with joy to read the happy replies and messages of thanks – not to mention it`s a good way to reach out and connect with fellow writers, and even make new friends.
In some cases, people have been inspired to check out my work after receiving a NM from me, and have mentioned which piece they enjoyed, while others have recognized my username and given comments in return on a recently published article of mine.
To my fellow writers: Even if all your readers are silent, you need to remember that they are out there, and they are reading what you write. Someone always enjoys your work, even if they don`t tell you about it. And even when you don`t receive comments on your story or comic, there are many things that make writing for the NT worth it. Such as seeing the number behind your shiny NT trophy on your userlookup grow after your first publication. Like waiting for the acceptance Neomail on a piece that is being held over, or excitedly checking the New Features to see if your article is mentioned, or made the front page of the NT.
Please, dear reader: Don`t be afraid to send that neomail telling an author their story was exciting, their article interesting or their comic amusing. They`ll be so excited to hear from you, and they deserve to know they`re doing a good job. Even a quick comment will do!
If you want to send feedback in an efficient way, just keep the "send Neomail" page open in one tab, and the NT in another. Copy the username of the author, paste it into the right box, and write down your comments! Even a small note can mean a great deal to a struggling writer or artist.
On the submission page for the Neopian Times, it says that all kinds of pieces are welcome, from game guides, to quizzes and even rants. My intention was never for this to come across as a petulant rant, or whining for attention, so please don`t take it as such, dear reader. I`m just trying to bring this issue into the spotlight and in a friendly way encourage more people to become more generous with their feedback to the writers and artists of the NT.
I hope to hear from you, but even if I don`t, I hope that you have enjoyed this article.
Thank you, as always, for reading.