| Konnichiwa, WDC readers! I am pleased to be the editor of this issue of the new
Reviewing Newsletter. This month’s subject is How to Review A Really Bad Item.or How to Balance Your Inner Simon and Paula. We also have Pen Name ’s Tip of the Month for making reviews more helpful.
Since my newsletter is similar to Issue #5 by vivacious 's I make a quick amendment. Everything she wrote is correct. But that is assuming all items on here are by serious writers, writers who care what the reader thinks. Here, I am talking about the people who either don't care or don't have a clue about writing. Perhaps you could think of me as Simon, and vivacious as Paula!
Here is a letter I received about my last newsletter on Reviewer Burnout that nicely outlines the problem we are looking at here:
I have found it increasingly hard to review work that looks as though it has been written by a third-grader. There are many times where I take the time to read something and there are so many grammatical or content errors that I just give up. I will sometimes come back to the item to see if it was perhaps a draft and the author has taken the time to read their own work but most of the time it stays as it is.
I am not a "REVIEW SNOB" but if the piece looks thrown together then I will not review it. This is where I get burned out! An author whose piece is unedited is like a nightmare for me. Of course until you're halfway through the piece you can't really tell whether its going to need some polish or a demolition crew. If it turns out to be the latter case then I won't even bother because there is too much to do and I don't feel like the author will care anyway (since they didn't take the time to read their own stuff and see if it makes sense).
We all miss things and that's expected we are only human, but when the piece looks like it's still a brain storm weeks after its been posted I won't touch it. I am wondering if there are others that feel like me and get burned out from this?
Do you also skip over terrible items? Should a review be an honest critique, or should it serve to encourage an author? You may say, “both, of course.” But in reality, is it possible to be both Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul of American Idol judging fame?
Once in a while, you are skipping merrily along the land of WDC, reviewing here and there, when suddenly you hear a sickening squish. You have stepped on an item that stinks. Every other word is misspelled. There are no capital letters, or even a pass at proper punctuation. Run-on sentences; expletives in place of dialouge. Or perhaps the grammar is all right but there are loads of clichés. Other reviewers look, but quickly avert their eyes. But you just can’t leave it and move on. After all, you are a reviewer. You must review.
A Dirty Harry grin spreads across your face. Make my day, punk. The story is so
staggeringly bad that your inner Simon is unleashed and cracking his knuckles to have a go
at the keyboard:
Dear [insert handle here], How many chimps did it take to type this? Then without
warning, inner Paula appears, in her Glinda-like dress of spun pink sugar.
Leave him alone! Not everyone takes writing as seriously as you do, you know!
Simon: This is a writing website. This is supposed to be your portfolio, not a bloody blog.
Paula: You big meanie.! You are going to make him cry!
What to do, what to do. Type your gut reaction. Sit back and imagine you are the
recipient reading it. Edit it, tame any harshness. It is not impossible to find the one
positive thing to open with. Even, “your handle is cool.” Above all, be honest. You are a reader and a writer. Don’t be ashamed of being true to your craft. Examples of what you could say are:
How could you post a completely unedited item?
DEEP BREATH: - I had a hard time focusing on the story because the grammar and spelling
errors distracted me.
All the blood and guts made me feel sick.
EXHALE SLOWLY: - I like horror stories, but excessive gore turns me off.
Reading this is like listening to a five year-old ramble.
FIRST FROM ABDOMEN - I only have limited time to review, and your story could use some
Your characters are diarrhea-mouthed.
THEN FROM LUNGS - Profanity has its place, but your characters seem to use it excessively.
At the end of the day, you will sleep well if you were honest and did the best you could to consider the person’s feelings.
Finally, I will say that if some of you think I am being harsh, you should see some of the publishing editors out there. How editors of writing publications review will be a future topic.
TIP OF THE MONTH: Include in your review how an item made you feel:
dreamy, nostalgic, happy, sad, sexy, or silly.
I only have one this month. This is, quite simply, the best poem I have ever read. On this site or anywhere else. My challenge for you is to review only this one perfect poem. Come on; you can do it! I am not featuring any other picks because I want people to experience it. After you all give her some reviews, I will bestow a big fat awardicon. E-mail me, and let me know if you think it deserves one.
ASK & ANSWER
Thank you for your wonderful feedback! For my next newsletter, I would like to hear from you regarding inner critics, or anything else WDC-related.
This was such an enjoyable newsletter. Really, our views of reviewing when we first joined in and now have changed a lot. It is also true when you say that the most important thing is when one receives a thank you e-mail. Thanks for sharing your views!
From essence of thought
That was a very interesting newsletter. You made an important point, too. I found though, that what keeps me reviewing is an absolutely selfish motive: With every review, I learn.
My intuition improves, my judgment improves. It helps me focusing my thoughts and
sharpening my tools in reading as well as writing. When I sit down for a review, the image of an excited and anxious author is before my eyes. I'm with him (or her) during my review. But I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't find reviewing a rewarding activity in itself.
Thanks again for the great newsletter!
Anne Anne Light
I just wanted to say that your topic this week is a good one. I'd also like to point out that there definitely appears to be a season for reviewing. I notice that in the winter you typically get more reviews than in the summer. It is almost as if reading/reviewing takes a back seat in the summer. I'm not complaining because I am guilty of this too.
Excellent advice on how to avoid Reviewing Burnout. I especially liked how we should note where we found the piece we're reviewing.
REVIEWING NL FEEDBACK FORUM Comments on ideas for a future
newsletter? All the editors and readers meet here. Join in!
"Feedback Central" by Storm Machine
** Image ID #1271397 Unavailable **
From Parade Magazine article 3/11/07; "The Most Unwanted Inventions" - Television - "For the greatest promise betrayed," explains Bob Altman of Mount Pleasant, S.C. "TV has desensitized the world to violence,; reduced political discourse to sound bites; fostered short attention spans, sendentary lifestyles and crass materialism; and demeaned women and fathers."