On Reading, Writing, and Requesting Reviews

Reads: 450  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 22

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Stark Review
My perspective on novels, short stories, writers, and reading requests from Booksie writers.

Submitted: August 21, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 21, 2013

A A A

A A A


ON READING, WRITING, AND REQUESTING REVIEWS--?

As a reader and reviewer, I find that Booksie is a great place for amateur writers to express themselves, practice their craft, and receive some feedback. Unfortunately, too many aspiring authors seem to get sidetracked by their own design. The following essay is my observations and opinion as to why.

Writers on Booksie (and most other writing sites) fall into three basic categories--

1. Writing is a hobby. Writing novels, short stories, and poems is something fun to do and to relieve stress. These writers have no plans to pursue writing as a career, so if they get feedback through reviews fine, if not they’re not going to go into a depression or become a raving lunatic.

2. Writing is a way to improve their skills enough to possibly one day become a professional, published writer. They want feed back and take it very seriously and can easily become frustrated if they fail to engage their audience.

3. Writing is an ego boost. Reviews are a way for them to read from strangers what a genius they always suspected they were and how they are the next Shakespeare.

Now there are dozens of other reason why someone writes but they all basically orbit around these three categories stated above.

Writer’s Mistakes---

Obviously writing is an art, so I believe there shouldn’t be too many rules. Let the writer (as an artiste) express themselves in any way they choose, however here are some basic mistakes writers make that in my opinion affect the quantity and quality of the reviews they get.

Mistake #1-- The Info Dump.

You see this quite a bit with regards to Fantasy and Science Fiction but I’ve seen it in many other genre’s as well.

The first chapter borders on 4,000 words and introduces us to dozens and dozens of characters, places, laws, events, powers, legends, backgrounds, plots, possible plots, love interests, best friends, evil beings, etc. etc. etc.. There is so much going on that as a reader you feel like your head is going to explode.

That is a sign of a writer who has the entire story line in his or her head and wants to hurry up and put it down before they forget what their story was all about in the first place. In fact, they usually end up as lost and as confused within their own story as any of their readers are.

Those wrtiters need to take their time in developing their plot line and characters and introduce them gradually. What’s the rush? You’ve got as many chapters as you wish at your disposal. Let the essence of your story sink into your reader’s heads. They’ll appreciate that and enjoy your story even more and it will take the pressure off of you and you’ll become a better storyteller.

Mistake #2--- Outline as the first chapter.

On the reverse side is the brief outline posing as a prologue, or even worse as chapter one of a new story.

Nothing frustrates me more than receiving a reading request for a new story, only to discover two or three sentences of some basic idea, then that writer asking the readers what they think about their idea and should they continue.

First, don’t waste my time. A brief is NOT a chapter or even a prologue, so right off the bat you're deceiving any potential readers.

Second, should you continue? If you don’t have any confidence in your own story, then why should you expect any of your readers to? It's your story. You’re the writer. It's your job to make your story interesting and make your readers want more. If you have to start off by asking if everyone likes your plot line, then do us all a favor and don’t write the story. You’ll only end up wasting yours and everyone else’s time.

Mistake #3-- Gorgeous pictures of actors and/or models posted in the first chapter or prologue, supposedly representing what the characters of this story is supposed to look like.

This gimmick is found mainly in Romance novels and is used by basically lazy writers. As a writer, your job is to describe in detail your characters so the reader can picture them for themselves. The fun of reading any story is allowing my own imagination to become engaged. Your vision of your character may not exactly meet my vision but that’s okay. I’ll enjoy your story even more. If you post a picture then I’m forced to visualize that person (no matter how beautiful they are) and may ruin the fun of how I want to envision them myself.

Plus, you have to be careful what pictures you use. For example, one writer had written a story about a young teen romance but had posted pictures of actors and models who looked to be in their thirties and forties. It ruined the whole concept of what they were apparently trying to achieve.

Mistake #4-- The Paragraph Block.

You know what I’m talking about. You click on a potentially interesting story only to come across a huge block of words where there is no space between the paragraphs and any dialogue is hopelessly embedded within.

Well, you may have written the greatest story ever but I'm moving on. I’m not going to waste my time and ruin my eyesight trying to decipher your nebulous rambling.

I had one writer tell me it was because they posted it from their I-Pod. Who cares! Get to a computer with a word processor that can space paragraphs. Another part of your job as a writer is to make it as easy as possible for your reader to actually read your story. Nuff said on that!

Mistake #5-- Punctuation and Spelling.

I’m not what is called by many writers a punctuation Nazi. I know you’ll probably find multiple punctuation mistakes in this essay. Also, I know honest mistakes are made, even the best spell checkers can miss a word or two. However, if I start to read something that contains multiple misspellings, misuse of words, and/or unstructured sloppy sentences, I will immediately stop reading because this tells me that either the writer has just posted a rough draft or is just too lazy to even run a spell check. If you don’t have a spell checker then there is something called a dictionary that can help. Need I say more?

Mistake #6-- Writing by the seat of their pants vs. the well thought out story-

In a novel or novella, I can usually tell after a few chapters whether the writer has his or her story already written out or are just “winging it”. Now there are a few writers who have the talent to “wing it” but very few.

You can tell a “winger’ because their plot is inconsistent, there is little or no character development, and the story line is just going around in circles. Chapter after chapter you’ll soon discover there is no real progression to the goal of the story, if there was even a goal in the first place.

There have been many times I’ve started to read a story that had started off strong only to later sputter out of control or come to a dead stop after a dozen or so chapters. Or even worse, the writer continues to post an already adrift story that should of been put out of its misery chapters before.

There have also been writers announcing they are stopping a story that has engaged many readers over multiple chapters because they have a case of writer’s block. Well, anyone can get writer’s block but if that occurs it should occur before one single word has ever been posted.

If you have writer’s block in the middle of a story then you’re “winging” it. It’s not fair to your loyal readers and not fair to you, especially if you want to become a professional writer.

The writing pros like Stephen King, Tami Hoag, Dean Koontz, Kim Harrison, J.K. Rowling, etc., never “wing it”. They each will take months, if not years, writing and laying out their stories before even submitting a single word to their publishers.

You think any self-respecting professional publisher is going to publish a story chapter by chapter, as the writer makes it up as they go along? If they did, they wouldn’t be in the publishing business for very long.

So take your time and work out your plot and characters. Think about your character’s backgrounds and motivations. Think about who they are, who they want to be, and what they want. Research the settings, clothing, objects they might handle, etc. It's okay to go back and re-write after you post and maybe take some of your reader’s advice but don’t “wing it” cause those “wings” will eventually break and it’s a long fall from your reader’s grace.

There are many other mistakes writers make but these are the ones I constantly see on various writing sites.

Requesting Reviews--

In a perfect writing world for every review you give, you would receive one in return. Of course, that is in a perfect world.

As such, we are forced to “troll” for reviews. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you plan on becoming a professional writer. Once anyone gets their book published, they have to promote it.

I know some of you may be thinking that if you sign with a major publisher they have will have an entire promotion department to work for you. Well, maybe some promotion will be done in your favor, but even the best selling, established writers still have to get out and hustle for attention, whether it’s on radio or TV talk shows, giving newspaper interviews, pod casts, website interviews, or C-Span Book TV, they all have to be out there.

Here on Booksie, we have reading requests and that’s a good thing. Writers sometimes are solitary beings and hate to come out of their introspective cocoons. By forcing them to get out of their comfort zone and contact fellow writers for reviews, it forces them to "socialize" and become fans of other writers and learn about new ideas and styles of writing.

How to write reading requests that get results--

Request writing can be an art in and of itself but it is really not that complicated. I find the direct approach is best.

Some examples--

Hi, Joe. I’ve just posted a new short story called How to Request Reviews. I’d really appreciate any feedback you could provide. I’ll be happy to return the favor. Thanks for your time.”

Simple, polite, and to the point. Also note I said I will return the favor and if I get a review from Joe, I will return that favor.

Do not under any circumstances promise to return a favor and fail to do so. This happens too many times. You keep that up and you are going to be a very lonely writer (review wise) because your word is your reputation. If you don’t follow through then why should others follow through for you? After all, the only pay we receive here are in reviews. Good or bad or indifferent, that’s all we have.

Another way to receive reviews is to be proactive. That is take the iniative and write the first review for someone your requesting a review from.

Example--

“Hi, Joe. Just read your story “How to Write” and left some comments. Please take a look at my story “How to Request a Review”. I’d appreciate your feedback. Thanks.”

In this way you’ve demonstrated to Joe that you are willing to review his story first and he may feel he “owes’’ you a review in return. Now is this going to be successful every time? Of course not. Most writers will always end up handing out more reviews than they receive but you must remember it's all a numbers game. The more you review, the more you will be reviewed, just not always by everyone you give a review to.

Someone on Booksie once wrote an essay on how to get more reviews. They said to use terms of endearment when requesting reviews.

Example---

Hi, sweetie. Be sure to check out my latest story. Thanks, Love!! XXOO!!!

Now I suppose that may work for some but to me it sounds phony.

This writer did offer one piece of good advice, in that they advised to read the profile of those your are requesting a review from and find something each of you may have in common then mention it in the request.

Example---

Hi, Joe. I see by your profile you like In This Moment. I think they are one of  the best metal bands around. By the way, if you get a chance could you take a look at my story…”

If you do mention a movie or book or band that you may have in common, just be sure you really are a fan or at least do some research. Joe may write back and ask you some trivia question that you may not know the answer to.

Things NEVER to put into a request---

1. Demand someone review their story. (Who do you think you are?)

2. Say you are expecting their feedback. (Expect away!)

3. Give a long detailed synopsis of your story. (I can read your synopsis when I click on your story, thank you very much.)

4. Ramble on about your philosophy on writing, life, and everything in between. (I’ll probably better understand all that when, and if I read your story.)

There are other examples but these are some of the ones I have actually seen and I bet you have too.

Finally, Profile Pages.

As mentioned earlier, you should take the time to get to know your potential readers by reading their profile page. Too many writers don’t want to bother but I say profile pages can give you some insight into your potential reader’s personality and interests. Be careful, however, what you tell your readers on your profile page.

I’m not talking about personal info here; I’m talking about whether you are or are not accepting reading requests.

The mistake that many writers make is when they announce that reading requests are closed, so don’t bother them with any requests. Then they make up some excuse as they are too busy writing four novels, fifty short stories for fifty contests, they have school, etc. and just don’t have the time.

(Which reminds me: Another problem with low quality stories is that too many really talented writers stretch themselves out too thin by writing too much. You cannot honestly write four novels and give each one the attention it deserves. You’re wasting your time and your readers by not providing the best product.)

Now if you do want to close any future reading requests from other writers for whatever reason, then don’t go on and troll for new readers with your own requests. Is your time any more valuable than those of your readers? I think not. Besides, who is going to give you a review and know they are not going to get a review in return? It’s just not respectful or cool.

Also, don’t say on a request you’ll return reviews then on your profile page claim you are so busy you might not be able to return the review for awhile. I even saw on one profile page the person said it might be up to a year before they could return a review! Nonsense.

Again, if you promise to return reviews, then you must do so in a timely manner. No excuses.

Finally, if you’ve been following someone’s novel and have been faithfully reviewing each chapter and the writer has been returning reviews in kind, then suddenly something comes up and you quit reading or leaving reviews, be courteous and take the time to let the writer know why you’ve stopped.

We all have a life outside of Booksie. Maybe your job, school, family, or all three are taking up your time.

Maybe you have just lost interest in their story, or for any other number of reasons but take a moment to let that writer know why.

There is nothing more frustrating to have someone drop off (especially if they have been enthusiastic and reliable about writing reviews for your story up to the point where they just disappeared off your review radar) but later you see them still on the site writing and posting reviews on other stories.

If you’ve lost interest in someone’s story, let the writer politely know why. It would be a great help to the writer and maybe a few changes by that writer, based on your advice, will peak your interest again. Either way, by letting the writer know you’re not going to be continuing reading and reviewing their story, you are saving them time from constantly keeping you updated to their latest chapter and saving you time from having to read or delete their requests.

Also, if you have stopped reading and commenting on someone’s story, don’t send a request for them to read one of your stories. Again, what is in it for that writer to review someone who is not planning to review their stories anymore? To do this is ignorant and rude.

Hope you enjoyed this essay and will take something out of it. It’s all really just common sense and mutual respect.

Happy Writing and Reading!


© Copyright 2019 Felix Fossi. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

More Editorial and Opinion Essays