|Issue #62 of the Writing.Com Reviewing Newsletter.
Your editor is: Arwee
[ Table of Contents ]
1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask & Answer
5. Useful Links
[ About this Newsletter ]
Short items are a favourite for a reviewer who is on the go. But, for the in-depth reviewer, short items are some of the most challenging. This newsletter will address the issues involved in in-depth reviewing a short item and give you some tips to more effectively analyse and review these items.
[ Letter from the Editor ]
Just because an item is short does not necessarily mean that it is easy or quick to review. In-depth reviewing a short item is very often more complicated and difficult than reviewing a long item. It might even take you longer.
So, why does this happen?
1. Most short items are more polished in terms of technical merit because there are fewer opportunities to make mistakes. A 250 word item makes typos and easily fixed grammar problems stand out like a sore thumb because there are fewer words for those mistakes to hide in.
2. Due to the usual lack of technical problems, short items often demand an in-depth reviewer to take on the more complicated issues such as pacing, characterisation, plot, and clarity.
3. The writer has less real estate to expand their ideas and work in what they have to say. As an in-depth reviewer, you have to look at the effectiveness of their ideas in relation to the size constraints of their item.
Now that you know why, how do you go about reviewing?
First thing’s first, do a quick run through to make sure the short item really is spotless. Don’t nitpick at little grammar or formatting things that don’t really matter in the end. You can write an in-depth review without having to resort to pointing out technical flaws. Just do a run through to make sure everything looks okay and mention any grammar or spelling issues things you do find.
Read through the item once, do you understand what it’s trying to say? Is there a sense that the ideas in the item are presented clearly and are effective? Pay attention to how the writer works their ideas into the story and utilises the length of the piece to communicate their story.
Something I always do when I in-depth review short items is to talk about how effective the writer’s idea was conveyed in relation to the length. Many writers find writing short items more complicated than long items because more thought has to be put into the words they use. Every word in the story must serve a purpose. Superfluous words take up valuable real estate. Sometimes in choosing just the right words, ideas get lost in the language. This is where you come in. Seek out any areas that confuse you and tell your reviewee!
Consider how the item would work as a longer piece. Do you feel like the ideas in the short item would work better if they could be fleshed out in a longer piece? Or, do you feel that making the item longer would ruin what it’s trying to say? Are some ideas in the piece really good but need more detail? Did the writer put too much attention in one idea?
Consider and look at everything. Go over the words, the characters, the main idea, the symbols that are there, the symbols that aren’t there. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Were the characters fitting for a short item or did it feel like they should have gone into a long item instead? Does the item elicit an appropriate emotion from you or did you feel like there was a lot missing and that it could have used more words to bring the emotions forward?
Talk about a lot of questions, huh? I told you it wasn’t easy. To me, a short item needs the little things analysed because it has so few words to really make an impression on its readers. While I mostly discussed short items like flash fiction, the techniques of in-depth poetry reviewers are excellent. Take a look at an in-depth poetry review if you're looking for a good example of how to in-depth review short pieces. These people are the masters of the short item and know full well how hard it is to analyse a few lines of text for clarity and effectiveness.
Writers and reviewers alike should keep in mind that short items invite readers into a more intimate discussion. They will ask you to analyse them in a focused manner. They need you to look deeper than the surface to see what their ideas are and how those ideas are formed. So, it’s important to keep in mind that just because it’s short, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
[ Editor’s Picks ]
[ Ask and Answer ]
If you have any questions, comments, general suggestions, or suggestions for editor’s pick (even your own work! ), please send them to me. I’ll be more than happy to feature them in the next newsletter and address them to the best of my ability.
If you e-mail me a comment and don't want me to post it in the next Ask and Answer, please clearly state this in your e-mail. I will presume all e-mails sent to me regarding a newsletter can be re-posted in Ask and Answer unless otherwise stated. I will exercise some discretion in not re-posting e-mails of a personal nature or e-mails that point out grammar/punctuation errors (who wants to read about my typos, anyway? ).
Fallser Wrote re: “Critiquing an Item vs. Abusing a Writer”:
I read with interest the comment by EarthenAura on the "abuse of a critique". I do think some people take the reviews personally, as opposed to understanding the critique is of the work, and not of the person. Once we post something in our port, we are asking for what others think of it, and everyone has tastes and opinions on writing!
One issue to consider is if the review and the rating align. On one of my first reviews of a piece of flash fiction, I gave a paragraph of feedback, all positive, and a 3.5 ranking. I learned a lesson when the writer emailed me and complained about my rating, which she thought was low compared to the comments. Now I try to give more indepth review, with positive and constructive suggestions, so that the rating and review are more in line with each other.
I participate in the Rising Stars monthly review of three other Rising Stars. This is a good way to read a variety of work, but I still find it frustrating to conduct "cold call" of reviews. With much of the reviewing here, the reviewer is going blind into the process, without a full understanding of the skill and goals of the writer. If the reviews are balanced and thoughtful, then hopefully they will be welcomed by the writer. Reviewing takes time, just as writing does, and should be appreciated if it's clear that the reviewer took the work seriously.
Anyway, just some thoughts on this newsletter. Thanks for the listing of all the reviewing groups here!
Arwee Replied: Totally agree. A lot of writers can get offended with reviewers who are just trying to express their opinions. There’s a very fine line between critique and abuse and that line is drawn at different spots for everybody. I believe what’s most important for a writer to understand is the difference between a personal attack and harsh criticism of their writing. And even that is mostly a matter of opinion. It can get really hairy out there, that’s for sure! But, keep at it, we can’t please everybody and it sounds like you’re doing great.
[ Useful Links ]
"Feedback Central" – Send the editors some suggestions and general feedback.
"Reviewing Newsletters" – View previous issues of the Reviewing Newsletter.
"Reviewing Handbook" - See the handbook containing our previous newsletters.