1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I'm not sure about writing reviews

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by waitingforzion, Jan 9, 2011.

    I know that before I can submit a work for review, I have to review two works, but I I'm not sure how I can write reviews. I don't feel qualified to critique anyone's work; I'm the one that needs critique. And even if I do critique, I know I'll be displeased with a lot of the works, because to me if they sound too common or too lazily worded (even though my own diction is worse), if I compare them with Charles Dickens and even someone like J.K. Rowling, I'm going to feel awkward reading it. I don't want to offend anyone; I know I'm not even that good, but if I read, “It was a dark and stormy night.” I'm going feel as if it were a corny joke or something. I won't like it.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Feel free to pick on mine - I value a readers opinion, what you did or did not like etc. Afterall as a writer I am useless without readers. I tend to put less than well tended early drafts up so they are relatively easy to pick apart, my punctuation stinks and I stuggle with tenses when I am writing third person and attempting past tense lol

    No I am not JK Rowling or Charles Dickens not even close - plus my work hasn't been edited, proof read etc by others. We are all here to grow and critiquing others work helps because it gives you confidence working through your own.
     
  3. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it makes much difference if a work is good or bad when you critique it. The point of a critique is not to assess the writing as a whole; it is to point out the flaws, no matter how large or small they are. As a writer, what one needs is not to have one's work graded on a scale from one to ten, but to get specific information on what doesn't work and why.

    So I don't think a critique of, say, Bulwer-Lytton, needs to sound more negative than a critique of Charles Dickens. In both cases you describe the bad aspects in detail, mention the good aspects in passing, and don't need to mention how significant they are relative to each other.
     
  4. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    If JKR ever posted any of her drek here I'd rip her a new a-hole.
     
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  5. Midnight_Adventurer
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    Midnight_Adventurer Active Member

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    The harsh fact is, like with any aspect of writing, practise makes perfect. Everyone feels a little nervous or awkward telling people what they think they need to change or improve about their story, but unless you give it a try then you can't get more confident at it. When critiquing someone’s work just focus on a few simple points like grammar or punctuation or where you think the story doesn't flow or where there's detail lacking. It doesn't have to be a mile long list and just let the author know they're only your opinions. Be diplomatic and you'll be fine.
    Good luck :) :)
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like J.K. Rowling, and could still write a lot of negative criticism on her contrived plots. There's really nothing remarkable about criticising a writer who is far superior to yourself. Critiquing is much easier than writing.
     
  7. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Zion,

    Don't sweat being an inexperienced reviewer. We were all in your shoes. Here's some thoughts, in no particular order.

    Maybe you could try doing reviews in the "Non Fiction" section. Poetry is quite hard to review as it's so relative to the reader. Fiction less so, but still depends on the sensibilities of the reader. Non-fiction is less subjective. Simply say whether the piece confuses you, &/or how to make it easier to understand.

    Where ever you post reviews, after you post your review, read the others. Some of the reviews may contradict yours, but that's okay - it's actually not uncommon.

    There are common problems that should stand out to everyone. In dialog, were you ever confused as to who was talking, even if you understood on re-read? Likewise, were you ever confused about the setting? Were there any "five-dollar" words that you didn't understand? Don't be afraid to admit they were over your head. Pacing - were action scenes toooo sloooow or was a mellow scene glossed over too quickly?

    Well, just some thoughts. Good luck.

    -Frank
     
  8. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well if you are a reader then you are qualified. Think about all the books you have read. Some of them you enjoyed and some of them you didn't enjoy. Think about the books you loved. Why did you love them? Think about the books that you didn't like. Why didn't you like it?

    Some of the better reviews are the ones you can give as a reader. When you read a short story and review it focus on what you liked and what you didn't like. Explain why you did or didn't like them.

    Also if a paragraph is confusing or a sentence feels awkward mention it. Maybe suggest a better way of phrasing it.

    Also in dialogue. If you find it hard to follow and you are unsure who is talking mention it.

    Remember. We are not all expert writers. Getting the readers point of view is critical. It helps us figure out where we went wrong. Sometimes things can be confusing and sound off yet we don't catch it. Thats why we need fresh eyes to go over it to make sure it works.

    Oh and before I forget if something with in the actual story doesn't make sense. Such as humans breathing underwater, yet there is no mention of some sort of scuba gear or gills you can bring that up. Thats an extreme example but basicly if something the character does or doesn't do that confuses you and doesn't make sense mention it and ask them.

    Also keep in mind that the Review Room is run on the idea that the better you can review other peoples works, the better you are at doing it to your own work. Finding flaws in other people's stories helps you give your own work the critical eye.

    The requirment for the 2 reviews for everyon 1 story is for your benefit.

    You might feel uncomfortable by reviewing others. But take a deep breath and just dive in. No one is going to laugh and point at you. It's all one giant learning experience. The best way to learn is to get right into it.
     
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  9. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    In all seriousness, I've seen much better things from amateurs on here than anything Rowling's ever touched.
     
  10. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Feel free to review my works. :) I like it when people review my stuff because a lot of times people will see things differently than what I intended. This has had good and bad results. The good is always encouraging. The bad shows me what I need to work on.

    The only reviews I don't like is when someone simply says, "I like it!" or "It is good!" Those three word sentences don't really tell me anything. :)
     
  11. twopounder
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    twopounder Member

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    Believe it or not, a pure opinion from someone who hasn't spent the last few years critiquing is quite valuable. It's true that you may not have a perfect sense of grammar or spelling, but very few people do. Just because a work has immaculate grammar does not mean it's worth reading.

    Imagine a regular person, simply buzzing around an airport. They know that the flight will be 4 to 5 hours long. They wander into the book store and start flipping through literature. They try reading the first page or two from a few books they like.

    This person will not be an editor, they will not be critiquing the book, they will not be spending more than a $20 for the purchase, and they probably have no more than a high school education (or maybe a college education in a non-literature field).

    What they think of the story is what will sell the book. This makes them a very important audience to target. Anyone who is new to writing is much like the average buyer. They haven't published anything, they don't profess to know everything about writing, and they just want a bit of entertainment.

    Try giving some stories a read and just type what you feel. You could even do a checklist:

    Was the story interesting within the first couple of pages?
    Was the main character well defined?
    Was the story easy to follow?
    Did you find yourself wanting to read more?
    Was the story Memorable?
    How was it memorable?
    Would you recommend it to your friends?

    These can help you structure comments in a very easy to write/read format.
     
  12. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Also keep in mind that critiquing is just that; it's not like you're telling the writer that he or she is wrong for what they have written. You're just offering your opinions and suggestions on what you think would make the story better. The writer shouldn't take what you say personally, and I think everyone on here knows better than to do that. :)
    I love it when people review my work because it makes me catch repetitive words or sentence structures and things like that, and then I edit things I wouldn't have noticed before.
     
  13. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    I felt a bit the same as Zion, enforced by the fact I have English as second language. Hence, I am very pleased by the feedbacks - will help me to overcome my shyness and post something.
    To analyse any communication, I use the SUCCES formula from the www.madetostick.com book.
    Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story (Scenario). Likely there are other such checklists to be found on the Net. Maybe this helps, Zion (and others)?
     
  14. ArtWander
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    ArtWander Contributing Member

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    My best advice (which doesn't mean a ton coming from a newbie :) ) is...just write what you honestly feel. It doesn't have to be a sentence-by-sentence pick apart of someone's story to get your point across, although that can be helpful as well. If you don't like what someone did in a story, tell them.

    It is much more helpful to give someone a harsh review then to remain silent and let them believe that what they have is flawless.
     
  15. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    Here's one thing I do to review, that I often choose my favorite aspect of writing, like "scene" and "character development." Go with your experience as a reader. If you know how to read, then you know how to critic. A genre that has a scene and conflict you're interested in is what you will review about it. For instance if someone writes something about two fighting coubles, and it's something you really love to read, you will most likely tell someone what you liked about it and what you don't like about the book. I often read the book twice. Like I said earlier, if you are good at writing character development, then you'll know what to expect from the writers and tell them that a character is missing or he/she does not have enough decription in the book.

    Read, read, read! And you'll find mistakes from the writer.
     
  16. D.T.Roberts
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    D.T.Roberts Senior Member

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    Ditto what Unit7 said.
    My writing is for the reader, not the critic, so input from a reader is vital. So at first, give your opinions from the perspective of the reader. As you learn more, by seeing other comments from the more experienced, you will be able to point out the more technical or subtle flaws.
    Don't be afraid of hurting anyones feelings. If something doesn't work, we need to know about it. If we are going to be offended by a critic, then we don't need to be posting or work in the first place.
     
  17. Pen
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    Pen Member

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    Pointer to the general rules aside, I'd suggest that a review can be constructive without delving into technicalities if that's not a strong point of yours. The stories posted are aimed at everybody, really, and so if you read something and think there are places where the author could have done better or times when you were left scratching your head, point it out.

    Nobody's comment is made invalid by their personal situation- you might have issues with spelling in your work but if you see a misspelling in another's you are indeed encouraged to point it out. Even if a piece of writing just reads "wrong" to you, comment to that effect, trying to give as much information as possible. "What do you know" isn't an answer you're likely to see here, from what I've seen.
     
  18. abbigailrosewood
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    abbigailrosewood Member

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    I totally know what you mean. At first, I majored in English literature because I love reading and writing until I realize most of what I have to do is critiquing others' work. So I switched to Creative Writing major instead. Anyway, I joined this forum not knowing what to expect and here I am again facing the same dilemma that makes me want to run. I love reading the stories people posted here, but I don't know if I'll be able to give a thorough critique :(. Ah, well.
     
  19. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    Always believe in what you write....You can be better than any writer.. If you have the will and the ability to work hard,;) you can do anything.... no one perfect, learn from your mistakes and you will be better soon..
     
  20. bahloo
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    bahloo Member

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    I haven't read anything that anyone has said about reviews so far, but I'd like to weigh in my opinion. Yeah reviewing other works is annoying sometimes, but I just like to think that I'm making a difference in somebody's life. Although they are complete strangers, whenever anyone comments on my work, I get pumped up! So I hope that my reviews do the same. It really helps to get reviews, so whoever thinks that reviewing is a waste of time, just put the shoe on the other foot.
     
  21. midwestwife
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    midwestwife Member

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    I too write for readers not writers. That being said, it is vital to know if there is an aspect to my work that you do not understand or that ruins somethings for YOU. I may read your review, and feel that your opinion is reflectively of my writing. Then again I may not. Either way I am not going to be mad at you or think poorly of you.
    Happy wiriting!
     
  22. holaratcha
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    holaratcha Member

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    Very helpful - thank you. Newbie here and don't want to get kicked out of the Writer's Emporium. One day i'll get the courage to post something of my own. cheers. (red wine of course)
     
  23. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I'm glad this post wasn't closed.
    It gets people that know how to review(that have done a few) to explain to us that haven't looked at any work for perfection. (basically there is no perfection, but thats how I interpret no matter how big or small a problem.)

    I will probably have to read and work into this. I offer ways to improve but never a full critique. I avoided critiques in the art websight.

    I can also see, that finding flaws in someone elses work will help work them out of my work.

    I just edited my peice from another websight, but I know now, I am not ready to submit it.

    edited again;
    Never mind, I thought this was in the review room.
     
  24. Jefferson27
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    Jefferson27 Member

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    Just write what you feel and know. And you do know something. Such as since my first name isn't Ernest, I shouldn't have started that sentence with a conjunction of "And." Hopefully it will be better than that critique, but point is, my advice would be don't try to write a critique in the mold of a professional critic if you are not one, just give your opinion as a reader. Also I think what could be holding you back is the weight you might be putting on your opinion to the writer you are reviewing.
    If they have any real experience with publishing their work, they will know being criticized is part of the game, so they will take what is worthwhile of your critique to help their writing, and let the rest go. If they are thin-skinned, then they need to learn to get over it and no better time to start than the present. Bottom line, don't put too much pressure on yourself to write a review. Leave that for your writing. Just joking. Take Care.
     
  25. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    There are manuals online, published by writing schools, that include review outlines (questions to asked, etc). At least gives you structure.
     

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