Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Author Tips: How to Review/Critique...

Okay, so last week I posted about the Bad Reviews. If you haven't seen it, or would like to recap, the link for that is here.

I decided, on the opposite side of that coin, to post a topic on how I do a review/critique.

Before we get going, I'll do the usual: This is just my opinion, take it or leave it, blah blah blah.

When I first started writing, I went over to Writing Dot Com (WDC) and created a portfolio. My user name over there is Caledonia Lass as well. I started reading stuff people posted up, looking for "honest reviews" of their work.

I'm blatantly honest, if I'm anything.

So I thought, "Sure, why the heck not. It'll get my work out there, people will critique my stuff" and so on.

Apparently I'm too honest. Or, at least, I was not being helpful. I had one person read my work and critique it to the point I was in tears. He was rude, he attacked me personally, calling me stupid and immature. I avoided WDC for months after that.

Then I went back. I read his review, again, of my work, and looked at the things he was pointing out. And then I messaged him back and thanked him, looked at one of his stories and critiqued the hell out of it. Never heard from him again, I can tell you.

Now don't get me wrong, I did NOT do it out of spite. At first I was going to, but then changed my mind and decided not to sink down to his level and tarnish the small reputation I acquired of being fair and helpful.

So here is my point to all of this. When you review someone's book/work or critique it, there are rules to follow. The first is the most important:

1. Don't. Be. A. Jackass.

2. Make notes as you go, either in a notebook or in a separate document. Don't wait until you've gone through it completely, because you may forget some very important things. Yes, this interrupts the flow of reading, but it keeps you focused on the task of critiquing.

On the other hand, if you are reading someone's book, well, how you do that is up to you. If it is a published book, I'll do an overall review once I'm finished. I take a day or two to soak it all in, then write my review.

3. Be. HONEST. If someone approaches you, asking for a critique or review, they're looking for honest, helpful feedback. So, remember Rule Number One. If you find an area in the story that is particularly troublesome, point it out and move to Rule Number Four:

4. Give constructive criticism. Don't be snide about it. Don't be condescending. Give some helpful advice to problems and issues you find. Unless of course it is a typo or grammatical error. In that case, just keep referring to Rule Number One. Don't put comments in there like, "Can't you effing spell?!?!?"

5. Following that line of thought, when you find a typo, give the correction. When you find a grammatical error, offer up suggestions. However, in the end, the author may just reconstruct the sentence and not use your suggestion. Don't sweat it.

In the end, the author is the creator. Their work is their baby, the physical representation of their imagination. Don't beat it to a bloody pulp and expect the author to be grateful. Don't breed resentment and hate.

As authors, we're all in this together. There are a lot out there who think that they don't need anyone's help except for the people they hire. Sorry, but they're wrong. The readers dictate success and if you're an arrogant ass hat (pardon my language), people are NOT going to read your work.

Among your fellow authors, if you're a jerk and ask for some reviews or critiques, no one will be willing to help you. Or, if you offer the review/critique and are a jerk, no one will ask you again. If you have an opinion about something, be honest without being brutal.

I've been told several times I have the tact of a brick wall, but even I manage tact when reviewing and critiquing.

Have anything to add to this? I'd love to hear what you have to say. Leave me a comment!

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