Do you know the basics of a good review?
Are you comfortable with reviewing?
In the past couple years on WDC, I've reviewed many items and received a lot of feedback to my reviews. I can spend as little as fifteen minutes on a review and as much as an hour or more. It all depends on how detailed I want to be. I think it's important to take the time to do it right.
The first thing I'd like to say is, the most important thing you can offer in a review is your opinion. Beyond that, reviewing for me is about quality not quantity. People display their writing here for many different reasons. For some, it's a release of personal nature and for others, it's for critique with the hope for improvement. For most, I believe it has a lot to do with the encouragement. Considerate reviewing gives them that encouragement.
With that in mind, are you giving "honest, encouraging" reviews? I don't mean running through someone's port tossing out five star ratings like candy on Halloween either. I mean thoughtful, helpful, encouraging reviews. When I first started reviewing, I was intimidated. What should I look for? Did I have a right to review this person? What were my qualifications? Now I don't ask these questions because I know. Not because I am a superb writer and have an ego the size of a small football stadium but because I realized, it's my opinion as a reader that is important. A wonderful item to read is ...
I like her thoughts in general and she also addresses something that I myself find a little confusing. When I get a wonderful review that basically says "This piece was perfect, I loved it!" but rated as a 4.5, I'm left wondering... why not a 5.0? It must have been missing something, what was it? I think someone along the line has given some reviewers the impression that if you rate something a five star, that the author will feel they have no room for improvement and give up trying. I don't think that's true. Five stars are very encouraging when accompanied by matching reviews and you shouldn't be afraid to give them when appropriate.
Unsure about how to properly rate an item? Check this out.
Okay, so what really is a good review?
I'll give you my opinion, which if you think about it, is really what a reviewer does. Before I send someone a review, I try to do a quick scan through their port. I check out the bio-block then what type of items are filling the majority of their portfolio. Are they Children's stories? Poetry? Erotica? Polls & Interactives? Are they pouring out their heart in a blog or personal essay? I'm not saying I read every item in an authors port before I review, not at all. I just look around to get a feeling for them and I'll tell you why.
Using appropriate language in your review
Are a lot of the items listed in the author's port you are reviewing listed in the "Teen" category? Well, then chances are you are dealing with a young person, probably with limited experience. If you see some with "Family" or "Adult" categories listed, chances are you are reviewing the work of an adult, possibly with children of their own. Keep in mind how the language in your review will affect the author.
My point is, I like to get a feel for the person I'm reviewing so I can review them in a manner that is appropriate for them. You don't want to use a bunch of fancy terms that the person you're reviewing won't understand and won't help them grow as a writer. Take a moment to get to know the person behind the words. These are not nameless, faceless beings. What is the first thing you look for in someone's port? Do you run for the images and sigs? Perhaps you are a blog person or even poetry. Myself, I look for the personal essays. It's a great way to get to know the author.
But what does all this have to do with reviewing?
Well, I'm getting to that ... be patient.
Reviewing is personal, let's face it. When we (as authors ourselves) create something, it becomes a part of us. When we write someone we've never met and give advice, that should be kept in mind. Putting yourself out there for the world to critique is an act of bravery. We want to be honest, but we also want to be respectful too.
I recently started doing most (not all) of my reviews public. This, I've found, is a very rewarding experience. I used to think making public suggestions for improvement would embarrass an author. I've since realized, that is not the case. On that note, let's look at another wonderful piece.
If you give respectful reviews, you will never embarrass anyone.
What do you look for in a story?
A review is an opinion, it should be our thoughts (filtered) and translated to the screen. There are many things that you can consider while reviewing. We all have strong points and weak points. Do you know yours?
It's not necessary to look for all these things and comment on every one. This is simply meant as a guideline of things to ask yourself when reading a story.
Remember, reviews are not meant as a race to the finish line. We need to take time to read and think about the work before we can be of any help reviewing it.
This is a wonderful item that covers review content top to bottom.
Now if you'd rather take it piece by piece, I've listed some questions below. It is not necessary to ask yourself every one of these! This is merely meant to give you an idea what a story might be missing to achieve that elusive 5 star rating. Maybe you liked it but it was just so-so. This might help you determine why. Most of us are NOT experts in every category and in a review, we shouldn't act like we are. I know I'm not and I make sure they know in a review, when all is said and done, it's THEIR work, not mine and these are just my opinions. If you have trouble in certain areas, I've listed links to help improve your knowledge after every category.
Could you follow the story easily? Did you have to stop and reread a lot?
Did it make you sad? happy? Did it evoke emotions within you?
Were the characters realistic?
Did you get a clear visual in your mind of the scene?
Want to learn more about Character and Setting? Check out this helpful article.
While reading, did you notice a lot of misspelled words distracting you?
Did the sentences seem to go on forever without punctuation?
Is grammar not your strong suit? Try checking out this wonderful item when you have time. It has a lot of helpful information!
Form: Was the story laid out well? Perhaps it was hard to read because they didn't space out their paragraphs. Did they use a font or color that made it difficult to read?
POV: (Point of View) Did it start out from one character's perspective then quickly shift to another? Sometimes this can make the story confusing or hard to follow.
Dialogue: Was the speech between the characters believable? Easy to understand? Did it flow with the idea of the story or didn't it fit? Why?
Looking to learn more about developing good plot lines, scene specific writing, even character development? Look no further, you'll find a wealth of information in this folder.
A good review has a closing, try to summarize your thoughts at the end of a review. Explain a little why you gave them the rating you did. I always try to end a review on a good note. Tell the author again what you enjoyed about their work. If they are a new member, why not welcome them to WDC?
I know what you're thinking, HOLY COW! That is a lot of things!
RELAX... Your review doesn't have to be 5000 characters or contain a ton of Writing ML to be considered a quality review, mine certainly doesn't.
Reviewing is a great writing exercise
Time spent reviewing other's work is time well spent. Reading is an important part of growing as an author.
Some reviewers use templates. I do also, there is certainly nothing wrong with it and it can be very handy for multiple or group reviews. Don't know where to find the review tool? It's directly across from the SUBMIT REVIEW and PREVIEW buttons along the bottom of the review area of every item. Have a question on using Templates or the Review tool? Look no further.
A review doesn't have to contain a fancy leading message or a hundred categories to be helpful. It doesn't even have to be long. It should be honest, encouraging, and helpful. Some writers thrive on long, detailed reviews, others may be overwhelmed by them. Either way, reviewing is beneficial to you and I'll tell you why.
Each short story/prose/novel/poem/article you read and review makes you think. When we write about a character or story not "working" for us and giving suggestions on how we think it could be improved, We benefit along with the author. We are learning what works and what doesn't and that helps us become better authors also. How great is that!
Remember, YOU can make a difference in someone's day here, whether it's a good or bad difference, is up to you.
Speaking of that, it's also important how you respond to a review and I found this piece that has a lot of valuable points. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Well, those are my reviewing thoughts. Thanks for listening!