This week: In-depth reviewsEdited by: Elle
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For as long as I have been a member on Writing.com, I've been part of various reviewing groups. Not every reviewing group operates the same way or has the same requirements for reviews. Many encourage positive reviews of any length because as writers the members of Writing.com love to get feedback of any length. There are some that encourage (or require) in-depth reviews. But what is an in-depth review? And does everyone want to receive one or do you risk wasting your time? Is there anywhere you can learn to write one?
Recently I read some interesting opinions on in-depth reviewing and it got me thinking. What resources are out there for those who would like to write or receive in-depth reviews? A number of Writing.com members have shared their wisdom on this subject, and there's no point re-creating the wheel, but I did find that the information was scattered all over the place. Some forums were abandoned, some used links that no longer worked... So what I would like to do today is share a variety of informative sources with you, so that you can gain multiple points of view on this subject and form your own opinions about in-depth reviewing.
What is an in-depth review?
First off, every review, whether it is in-depth or not, should comply with the "Guidelines To Great Reviewing" .
Secondly, there's no set criteria for what is and is not an in-depth review. It is, to some extent, a matter of opinion although some groups will have set criteria for in-group reviews. I have found that the general guide is that it takes more than a surface-level look at an item. The reviewer doesn't just tell the author whether they liked a piece or not, they go into detail of why they liked or disliked it. They tell the author what worked and what didn't work. They dissect the item and comment on various aspects of it. For fiction, this might include characters, plot, pace, world building, etc. For poetry, it might include form, literary devices, the reviewer's interpretation of the poem, pace, visual appeal, etc. It gives examples of what worked well and what might need revision.
An in-depth review may include spelling and grammar corrections, however I would expect an in-depth review to cover significantly more than just spelling and grammar, as noted above. If you, as a reviewer, feel that a piece needs significant revision, there may be no advantage to noting spelling and grammar mistakes that will be rewritten. If the piece feels near completion, then spelling and grammar corrections could be very welcome.
Length does not determine whether a review is in-depth or not. However, an in-depth review is likely to be longer than a simple review that merely lets the author know that you enjoyed reading their item.
How do I know if someone wants an in-depth review?
Is it always appropriate to do an in-depth review? Does everyone want to receive an in-depth review? How do you know if you're wasting your time?
Generally speaking, you don't. Sometimes people will ask for one. Make sure that your Review Requests are enabled, so that people can request a review from you, and note that you offer in-depth reviews.
Whether someone has requested an in-depth (or any) review or not, I truly believe that writing an in-depth review is never a waste of time. I particularly love this item from Northernwrites . For me, it helped me understand why I was reviewing and what I should expect from the recipient of my review.
But there are also groups where the members specifically swap in-depth reviews. Joining a group like that can help you in both the sending and the receiving of in-depth reviews. I have found that most of these groups are specific to a theme or format, e.g. "WYRM" is for speculative fiction and "Novel Workshop Group" is for novel writers. Hopefully you can find one that fits your needs. Try searching the site for groups and choosing the one that best suits your needs.
There's nothing to stop you doing in-depth reviews for items that come up when you use the 'Read and Review' function, or for any items shared on review request forums such as "Please Review" , shared on the newsfeed or that you stumble across in someone's portfolio.
How do I write an in-depth review?
So, you've decided to do an in-depth review. Where do you start? What do you include? What should be excluded?
There's obviously a difference to reviewing different types of works, and there is no simple no one-size-fits-all answer. One of my personal pet peeves is those reviewers who use a review template and when a section is not applicable to the item they're reviewing, they leave it in and note that it is not applicable. Customise every review for the item you're reviewing. Only leave in what is appropriate and applicable for that review. And no, a review template is not necessary for an in-depth review, although I do personally find it helpful.
This item from Dave covers some great tips for reviewing poetry and what you can cover:
Roseille ♥ 's item covers both fiction and poetry:
And while mine isn't nearly so eloquent, in "Poetry reviews" , I have a basic list of different facets of poetry that I like to comment on in a poetry review. It's basically a bullet-point reminder of things to look for and that may be worth commenting on.
You don't need to be an expert to write an in-depth review. I found that this item from ~A.J. Lyle~ had some great suggestions on what to say in a review if you're feeling intimidated by the idea of dissecting a story or poem:
Although a number of the links in these archived reviewing newsletters are out of date, the information is very helpful:
"Reviewing Novels & Novellas - by Satuawany"
"Explaining Technical Suggestions to a Reviewee - by Arwee"
"What To Look For When Reviewing - by Arwee"
"In-Depth Reviewing The Perfect Item - by Arwee"
How can I get an in-depth review on my work?
And if you're thinking 'I'd love to get some in-depth reviews!', then here are some suggestions for you:
Note: Make mention of the fact that you're looking for an in-depth review.
Check out the public reviews and then use the Review Request function and request a review from someone whose reviews you have appreciated or admired.
Request in-depth reviews for a specific item on the newsfeed. While not necessary, offering gift points or a merit badge in return for quality in-depth reviews may encourage more responses.
While searching for items to highlight in this newsletter, I noted that a number of members have requested in-depth reviews in the short descriptions of their works. This is a great way to let people know that you're after an in-depth review.
Of course, in-depth reviewing is not for everyone. Some may not have the time, and others may not have the inclination, but I hope that those of you who are so inclined are encouraged to do more in-depth reviews after reading this newsletter.
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