Critical Reviews vs. Flames


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A negative review.

A critique should never be negative. Ever. If you get a negative critique, you can bet he is full of sour grapes. If he attacks the work in a way that is derogatory, inflammatory, and insulting - toss the review as far as you can.

Honest critiques do not say; “What are you thinking! Why would you post this piece of junk?" and then commence to show them how to write it ‘the right way. ’ Flame throwers are puffed-up wanabe writers who can’t, it doesn’t matter what their credentials say.

Critical reviews are not negative flames.

If someone tells you, or if you tell someone else that something in the story isn’t working, that isn’t a negative flame. Advising the author to work on plot, dialogue or characters is not flaming. As long as we include the ‘Why’ it doesn’t work for us, it is a constructive review. If we say only; this story needs work, without pointing out where and why; or without a suggestion on how to fix it - the review will not be useful. Try to give the author enough information to fully understand what you’re saying. Doing anything less gives reviewers a bad name and makes it harder for the rest of us. Don’t use reviewing as a means of satisfying your own ego. Yeah, reviewers have egos too.

An honest review.

If there are a lot of problems, pointing out each and every one is likely to do more harm than good. Keep in mind the feelings of the writer. Don’t overwhelm with your honesty. It is extremely difficult to critique someone you don’t know, since you have no idea how thick their skin is. The easiest way is to go slow and find one or two areas to comment on. Always point out strengths that you notice, so the writer knows what is working. Leave the rest of the troubles alone. You can’t do it all and trying to cover everything can and does devastate a writer. If the writer is doing something well, tell them.

A constructive review.

Tell the writer why something isn’t working, and give an example. If you just say; this has a lot of dangling participles and don’t show them exactly what and why, you’ve not helped them at all. What makes a participle dangle? What makes a modifier modify? If they knew, they probably wouldn’t have left it hanging. Remember, everyone isn’t as up on technical terms as you are. If you’re going to use them, explain them. Otherwise, keep it simple. If the review lacks clarity, it isn’t constructive and you’ve wasted everyone’s time, mainly your own.

An in-depth review

These are not for punctuation and spelling corrections, though a noted problem could be mentioned. Concentrate on the elements you know well. If you’re a good judge of character, work with characters. There are other reviewers who are good at suggesting plot twists and flaws. Don’t think you have to cover everything, because you can’t. Remember, if you don’t read and enjoy lots of fantasy, you may not understand how a fantasy story is supposed to work. Tell the reader you don’t normally read the genre and comment on the areas that you do understand and feel confident to comment on. No one critiquer will see every problem, and every critiquer is better at something.

An editing review.

This should be done at the last stage of the story. All the revising has been done and it’s ready to send out. The nit-picking punctuation problems will be fixed, along with the typos and small grammar errors. A good story that has been accepted for publishing, will not be turned away because of a few errors left in here. Copy editors of the publishing house will check for those. If there were too many, the work would not have been accepted in the first place.

Subjective and Objective.

Each author must gauge for himself if the feedback has merit. Most of it will be the subjective opinion of the reviewer. What is not subjective is spelling, grammar, (with a few exceptions) and punctuation. There are general rules that are not opinion. Learning to distinguish one from the other goes along with the journey of learning to write well.

Harriet has reviewed over 8,000 new writers and written many newsletters and articles on the topic. She is a Moderator and author at http://www.Writing.Com which is a site for Creative Writing . which welcomes new writers. Her portfolio is found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/storytime


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