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Writing Hurts: Review Forum
I might not ease the pain, but I'll give solid value for your trouble.
Fiction, Poetry, Scripts, Essays: all are welcome
A good review offers insight into how a piece might be improved (or makes a compelling case that it's complete as is). A great review offers the reader insight on how to be a better writer. I will always strive to fulfill the first condition and the second to whatever extent my insights permit.
Let's be frank: if you've been getting 5 star reviews from people who tell you you're great, and you've come to enjoy the accolades, you may find my reviews a disappointing experience. The truth is, you aren't great and the sooner you realize that, the better your chances are of one day becoming great.
Here's how you can tell that you are not yet great, despite glowing reviews to the contrary. Great writers tend to be accompanied by things like editors, publishers and, quite often, agents. Great writers are accustomed to getting notes from people they haven't met that say things like "If you have anything you'd care to submit, we'd love to publish you;" more often than not, such notes carry with them offers of money. Another thing great writers don't do is post their works in progress on public sites such as this. No disparagement meant towards WDC, it's a great site, but writers who publish and live by their words don't give them away for free. And, last but certainly not least, great writers don't ask people like me for my opinion, not so much because I too am not great (I'm not, but like you, I aspire to greatness), but because great writers long ago learned to be infinitely more harsh on themselves than I could ever be. And I can be a real S.O.B.
I'm not much interested in inspiration, creativity or bold new directions. All that is perfectly fine, understand, but it's not what will make or break you as a writer. If you haven't done your homework regarding basic grammar and syntax, and you haven't bothered to learn any narrative technique from the writers that you're already reading, and who, in theory, influence you, all the inspiration in the world won't get you a cup of coffee. So I'll leave you to grapple with inspiration, and copy editors can proof your manuscript for grammar and spelling errors. I'll talk about the craft with which you attempt to bring your inspiration to life. This is not an insignificant topic. In terms of finished product, there is no discernible difference between a lack of craft, and a lack of talent. The former condition can be remedied; it just takes the homework I mentioned earlier. The latter condition is none of my business and so I will assume that all problems are craft problems and address them accordingly.
For the record:
The lousiest possible defense of a story: "But that's just the way it happened!"
The lousiest possible defense of a poem: "But that's just the way I felt."
The lousiest possible review: "I wouldn't have written it that way."
Here's the awful truth: if you're serious about poetry, you're competing with Shakespeare, Eliot, Williams, Ashbury... If you're serious about fiction, you're competing with Faulkner, Joyce, Pynchon... They set the standard, we struggle to meet it. No extra points for sincerity, no pass for being a nice person and no one cares what your message is. To paraphrase Bill Clinton's old campaign slogan: IT'S THE WRITING, STUPID.
A bit about the ratings I give: as I see it, unless you want to play Emily Dickinson and go unappreciated most of your life, writing is about publishing. Pain in the ass though it may be. So a work is either publishable, or not. For me 2.0 - 3.5 denotes varying degress of "Needs work." 4.0 could probably find a place in the market, 4.5 would have an easier time of it. 5.0 is reserved for something that makes my hair curl.
While I don't post reviews for works that might get a 1 or 1.5, if the writer seems to be sincere, just lost at sea, I'll often give them a detailed email suggesting places they might begin their exploration.
All reviews will be public, polite and professional. Anyone who puts words on a page (okay, a screen) deserves a full measure of respect, and you'll find that here.
Post bitem links only, no actual text.
And please place your link in the body of your post. ML tags seem not to work in headings.
A word about gift points: there is no charge for this, so please feel under no obligation to salt your request with a donation. If, after I've reviewed your piece, you feel that there was value to be had, there's a GP window on the review page. While they are neither required nor expected, they will be received with gratitude.
Please note: I'm a little arbitrary, even capricious in choices for what I'm going to review next. Sometimes useful things to say don't always occur to me regarding a particular piece. That's not meant to be a review by default, just an indication that I don't have anything useful to say so far. It takes some time and thought to crank out some of these reviews and I can't always predict what type of piece will catch my attention. 15 chapters of a novel can be intimidating, but I've reviewed multi-chapter works that captured my interest. I don't have a predisposition against any particular genre, though I've found that Sword and Sorcery fantasy and Vampires in general tend to reflect a concentration on the trappings of the genre rather than using the genre to tell a good story. If it feels like you've spent more time coming up with parallel universe type names for your characters then crafting three dimensional personalities and situations for them, I'm probably going to get bored real fast. Sorry. That's just the way I am.
If, after all that, you're still curious, please check out my reviews.