How To Give Good Review

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Stark Review
An essay on how to write and receive reviews and improve your writing skills along the way.

Submitted: September 12, 2013

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Submitted: September 12, 2013

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HOW TO GIVE GOOD REVIEW--

As I’ve mentioned in my previous essay, On Reading, Writing, and Requesting Reviews, the only pay we receive on Booksie is through reviews.

Also in my previous essay, I suggested how to request a review. Now, I going to advise you on how to write and how not to write a review.

Reviews fall into three basic categories--

THE FLASH REVIEW--

Like a flash fiction story, this type of review is short and sometimes really, really frustrating for the writer.

They read something like this--

YOUR STORY WAS AWESOME!!!!

I LUV IT!!!

AMAZING!! KMU!!

I’ve always been amazed how people can write a novel of over 150,000 words but seem to not be able to come up with more than three or four words when writing a review.

Notice how I italicized the word review, because what those Flash Reviewers are writing is far from a review.

Okay, take the first example. “Your story was awesome!!” Now maybe the reviewer did think your story was awesome but if you’re looking for honest constructive criticism this review is not going to help you.

You may wonder how was my story awesome? Why did the reviewer think it was awesome? What particular parts were so awesome?

These are the questions I’ve always had if someone reviewed my story and said it was awesome! Of course, like too many writers here, if all you’re looking for is someone to stroke your ego and tell you how awesome you are then fine, but if you’re really looking to improve your writing skills, a comment like this is not going to help you.

Another problem with some writers is that after awhile they begin to believe those reviews and think they are an awesome writer, only to have their awesomeness shot down when they get the first of many rejection E-mails from the publishers they have submitted their awesome story to.

I LUV IT!!!

You luv what about my story? Why do you Luv it? Etc. Etc.. You get the picture. You may temporarily feel good about how someone luvs your work but that feeling eventually wears off and if you really think about it, that person has offered you nothing to improve your skills.

AMAZING!! KMU!!

Why, where, or how was it amazing? Keep you updated? If I do are you just going to keep telling me how amazing my story is? I’ve seen this happen so many times on this site and others.

Now lets be honest as to why most of the reviews you get are Flashers, so to speak. Those reviewers are just doing the minimum to get you to return a review. They really don’t want to spend any time actually reading your story, they just want to quickly get in and get out and wait for your slobbering review of their work.

I laugh when I read some of their profile pages too. Especially when they state their review policy. “I give reviews only as detailed and only as long as you give me.” Of course, you can give them a substantial review with well balanced and constructive criticism only to get in return: I luved your story!!

Frustrating isn’t it?

THE MUTUAL ADMIRATION CLUB--

What’s even more frustrating is to see these flash reviews proliferate back and forth from writers until they form some kind of Mutual Admiration Club. In that not so exclusive club, everybody loves everybody else’s stories, everyone fans each other, and no one learns from their mistakes, no one improves their skills, and they all end up happily sailing off to mediocre story land.

The second type of review is the opposite of the Flash Review: It’s the Rambling Review.

THE RAMBLING REVIEW--

When you click on the New comments dot on your home page and see someone has left a comment and you check it out, at first you’re excited because you discover (unlike a flash reviewer) this commentator has left paragraph after paragraph of comments. However, as you read you discover most of what this reviewer has to say has nothing to do with your story.

Maybe they ramble on about how something in your story reminds them of something that happened in their life, or reminds them of someone they once knew.

Maybe they start to write about their own philosophy or some book they read that you may be interested in reading and so on and so on. I’ve even read a rambling review about how the reviewer had just gotten over a cold and was glad to be back on Booksie and went on and on talking about their past health issues. PLEASSSEEE!! Keep your health records to yourself unless someone asks (and they probably won’t).

When I had one of those type of reviews, after the first paragraph I hit delete!! Maybe the last few paragraphs of this diatribe would eventually get around to my story, but I wasn’t going to waste any more of my time to get there.

Now maybe it’s nice that your story did inspire some emotional response and that this reviewer can relate to your story, but what specifically can they tell you to help improve your skills?

Why someone would write such a review is beyond me. Maybe they do it because they are just lonely. Who knows? The fact is they are not helping you in any way to improve.

The third type of review is The Plagiarized Review.

THE PLAGIARIZED REVIEW--

In many ways these are worse than the Flash Reviews. In that with the Flash Review, the commentator may have at least skimmed over your story, but with the Plagiarized reviewer they probably haven’t read a single word you have written.

They are not doing the minimum to just get a review from you in return, they are doing NOTHING!!

It’s really easy to detect a Plagiarized review. Just look at all the reviews that came before it. If you detect similar or the exact same type of comments about the same dialogue, the same scene, or twist in your story’s plot, then this a sure bet that the only thing this reviewer has read has been the previous reviews.

Sure, I guess several reviewers could really like the same thing about your story but most honest reviewers who have really read your story will provide different takes.

When I review a story I will read what reviewers have posted earlier (after I’ve read the story first, of course!!) then if I find several of the same critiques that I was going to mention, I will write that I agree with some of what the previous reviewers have stated, but I will go out of my way to offer a new and different perspective for that writer to consider.

Plagiarism is the lowest form of writing and is against the law. Plagiarizing reviews may not be against the law but in my eyes it’s just as bad and a sign of very lazy reviewers. While you’re at it, you better check out some their writing. You might find they have copied your work as well.

GIVING GOOD REVIEW--

Giving a good review is really very simple--

As I’ve just mentioned: ACTUALLY READ THE STORY YOU’RE REVIEWING-- Yes, isn’t that a novel (pun intended) idea? Tell the author what you liked about their story or novel, or poem , or essay, etc. and ask yourself these questions as you read along.

What characters did you like and why?

What characters did you hate and why?

Did you like the character development, if any?

Was the characters motivations realistic and made sense?

Did the story have a believable plot?

Did the writer adequately describe the story’s environment?

Did the story convey adequate emotion for you to identify with the plot and/or characters and to keep you interested enough to come back if the story has additional chapters?

There are many other questions you could ask but these are some of the basics.

Honestly look for the answers to those questions in every story you plan to review and comment how you feel. Believe me, any writer worth their talent will thank you for your honest feedback. Hell, it’s a compliment in and of itself if someone takes the time to really care enough to help you.

BE CONSTRUCTIVE IN YOUR CRITICISM--- In essence, don’t be an asshole in your reviews. If you’ve been on this or any number of other writing sites for any period of time, you’ve come across them. The Trolls!!

You know, the ones who get their kicks by cutting down others through their reviews. You find them mostly on sites where you can comment anonymously. That’s because they are cowards and are really jealous of you because they have no writing talent themselves. If you get one of those type of reviews, just delete them. They’re not worth the electrons it takes to light up your screen.

However, they are some that will be a troll and still sign their name. Those are egocentrics who have a false sense of worth and/or have to bring others down to their level because they don’t want to be all alone in loser’s world!

Funny thing, I’ve found that most of them can dish it out but they can’t take it. They love giving out scorching reviews but just the wee bit of criticism on one of their own works sends them spiraling into a tizzy!! Tough shit!! If ya can’t take the criticism then get out of the game!!

Always balance your criticism with what is positive about the story you are reviewing. Not all, but most stories have something good in them, so emphasize what you feel the writer has accomplished then offer ways on how you feel they can improve on what you don’t particularly like.

Now, I myself believe in giving out harsh reviews if justified. I think that tough love is important to help a writer improve his or her talents and I’ve had some whom I’ve reviewed consider me a troll and have called me a Bitch (among other names I can’t repeat here) but I’ve always offered balanced and constructive criticism and have never and will never question anyone’s talent or lack of.

HOW TO REACT TO BAD REVIEWS YOU MAY RECEIVE--

As writers we all have somewhat of an ego. After all, we all put a little bit of ourselves (maybe a lot) into our work only to have that ego knocked about a bit by a less than stellar review. Your first reaction is anger and if it is a troll review then you are justified in your anger so, as I mentioned earlier, just delete or ignore it.

If the review does have merit, just take a moment to put your ego aside and re-read the review. Be honest with yourself. Does the reviewer actually have some valid points?

I once wrote a story on another site. I was real happy and proud of it. Then came my first review. It was a long and rambling one and it wasn’t very pretty. This guy pulverized me and criticized me on about every sentence I wrote. My first reaction was to totally dismiss this jerk but I stopped and took a deep breath and re-read his review.

I discovered at no point did he write that I had no talent (in fact at the end of his critique he wrote that the only way for me to improve is to just keep on writing) and I decided to be honest with myself and really try to understand what he was saying. When I was done, I was still mad but realized sometimes the truth hurts and he was justified in his criticism. I took what he had written and followed through and I improved my story and was a better writer thanks to that “Jerk” who did take the time to actually read and analyze my story.

(As a side note: Stephen King has all the critiques, bad reviews, and rejection letters he received when starting off his career plastered on one of his office walls to remind him how hard it was to become successful in this business in the first place. King, Dean Koontz, J.K. Rowling, and Science Fiction legend Robert Silverberg, among may others, have all written about how even today they get feedback from their publishing editors about how they can improve a sentence, plot, or characters from the stories they submit. So if they can take the criticism, then so can you.)

I personally think that if someone really wants to, they can improve their writing skills no matter what level they are at (or think they are at) and will improve if they just take the time to not only give reviews (after all, the same questions you ask of the writers you review, you should ask of yourself when writing your own story) but learn from the writers they read on how to improve and what mistakes to avoid.

Remember, if you didn’t get the review you had hoped for then don’t get angry at the reviewer, especially if the review was constructive and well balanced. Channel that angry energy into something positive. That will not only make you a better writer but a better person over all.

Until next time: Happy writing, reading, and reviewing.


© Copyright 2018 Felix Fossi. All rights reserved.

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