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Rated: E · Non-fiction · Reviewing · #1858984
An ongoing process as help for constructive reviews.
         You are probably reading this because I included a link as part of a review I gave your item, as opposed to including all of this in the review body.  Within this document you will find an explanation of how I review, the motivation behind the review, and the meaning behind any emoticons I might use.

         I do not do unsolicited reviews; I target items that can either be found on pages like "Please Review, give GP’s which inherently implies a request for a review, or by direct request from the author.  I will specify in the review where I found your work.

         The following statement is the foundation of how I review:  I can’t tell you if your item, or parts of your item, is good or bad; all I can do is tell you what it said or meant to me.  You have to look at the review, as well as all the other reviews on the item, and decide if what you wanted to say came across clearly and in the manner you wanted it to be portrayed.

         As for the motivation behind the review, I do it for myself as much as I do it for you.  I can’t correct your work, which is for you to decide and do.  What I can do is correct my own work; seeing something in the items I review from the outside looking in may very well help me see the same traits in my own writings, from the inside looking out.  Hopefully the how and why I review will be more apparent once you read on.  I will start with the emoticons I use.  One note:  ignore the colors I use for the emoticons, I regularly switch them depending on my mood; that way, if I’m in a bad mood I’ll take my ire out on the emoticons instead of the review.

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         *CheckR* – Marks things I looked at, and is usually followed immediately by what I looked at in bold, such as:  *CheckR*Scene: .

         *Bullet* – If there are several points about something I’ll use bullets.

         *Dollar* – You’ll like this one.  If I find something I really like about a piece, I’ll put a dollar sign next to it in the review, and yes, I will send a few GP’s along with the review.  When I go to a bookstore I’ll read the cover and a chapter or two of a book I’m interested in; if I like what I see, I’ll reward the author by buying the book.  This is the same principle; I’m rewarding with GP’s what I like to read, hopefully encouraging the author to write more of the same.

         *QuestionG* – I’ll use this if I have a question about something.

         *Puzzle4* – I use this if I don’t understand something or am not quite sure what you are trying to say.  To you this may be good or bad.  Perhaps I’m not in the target audience, maybe everyone who is, ‘gets’ it, or maybe nobody does and it needs work.  Only the author can evaluate the value of the reviews an item receives.

         *Heart*, *Smile*, etc. – I won’t get into these here; nowadays they’re as common as words and self-explanatory.

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Review Outline:

         *CheckR*Title and genre :  Before I read your story I will read the title and, in conjunction with the genre(s) you have given it, tell you what I expect to find.  I will not edit this section of the review after I read the body of the story, and it may or may not agree with the rest of the review.  If you are having trouble with your title, hopefully this will help you.

         *CheckR*Scene:  I should be able to imagine a scene (or setting), even if it is not defined explicitly.  I will tell you what scene I see or imagine, and you must decide if it is what you wished to portray.  I will tell you if I can’t see or imagine one, in which case the story lacks credibility to me.

         *CheckR*Characterization, Dialog, and Diction:  I have grouped these here together because they are intertwined, and in flash fiction, where words are sparse, it is likely they will be so dependent on one another that they can’t exist apart.  In flash fiction even characters can be implied.  Even if the main focus of the story is an inanimate object, that object means something to some character somewhere, it had better, or it certainly won’t mean anything to me.  I will tell you how I perceive the main character(s), and the clarity of this perception.

         *CheckR*Crisis, Obstacle, and Resolution:  In short, there has to be a point to your story. 

         *CheckR*Wordage:  I consider this to be the most important part of a review of flash fiction.  A story this short has all the components of its longer cousin; the difference, because of the small framework, is that some of these components are left to the reader.  The words and how they are used are everything.  My favorite example of this is a six-word story purportedly written by Ernest Hemingway in response to a bet:  “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

         *CheckR*Grammar, spelling, etc.:  This is the nitpick section.  It is also one of the most important aspects of the review because it is an area where unintended mistakes can slip an author’s attention and mar an otherwise good story.  Grammar/spell checkers are great, but they’re not perfect, and they notoriously fail in character dialog.  Most people don’t speak or even think as English professors.  Grammar and spelling rules are deliberately broken all the time for the sake of diction, with good results.  I will comment on obvious mistakes that look as if they slipped past the author.

         *CheckR*Overall experience:  Here I will reflect on how the piece made me think, feel, believe, etc., and as with the rest of the review, it is meant to express what the piece means to me. You, as an author, after many different reviews, have to decide what overall experience you wanted to present, and if you achieved it.

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         *Star**Star**Star**Star**HalfStar*Ratings:  Ratings can be a great tool or a great burden for authors. An adequate number of ratings can tell an author a lot about how their work is received, and with an upgraded membership the author can look into the statistics and learn a great deal about the demographics of the rating audience.

         The burden can come because of the visibility of the ratings.  Readers can be affected by the ratings an item already has.  The problem isn’t so much with the low end of the rating system; you can get around a bad rating or two by getting more visibility for the item, or ask for ‘no rating without a review’ which will not only hide the ratings, but require an explanation for the rating that was given.  The side effect of the later is that you tend to get more ratings than reviews, which subsequently means you’ll probably start to get fewer ratings.  Eventually though, with work and patience, a worthwhile piece will weather the storm.  The main problem with the visibility of the ratings is on the upper end.  People tend to like what they conceive other people like, and unfortunately their reviews can follow that trend.  You probably have enough relatives and friends to tell you how wonderful your writing is, what you don’t need is a fellow author to tell you: ‘I loved it. I wouldn’t change a thing!’  Praise may encourage, but does not make a story better; only criticism can do that.

         I will send a rating with the review unless the item was set to “Accepts reviews only”.  The rating will be based on the completed review, and with every effort I will try to be fair; it is, however, a subjective opinion.  Be aware though, that the likelihood of receiving a 5, or for that matter a 1, is remote, but not impossible.  The following is a rough outline for the value I give the stars.

         *Star*  ▬   No redeeming qualities.  A work this low of stature, with terminal flaws not only in the foundation and structure of the story, but also in the mechanics, such that it is found to be unreadable, should not have been submitted for rating or review.  It is understood that the point of the review system is to supply the author with opinions that may help the author determine and correct flaws in areas like plot and characters, but with spelling and grammar checkers, and the variety of free online dictionary, thesaurus, and search tools that are available, it is only laziness to submit works that are unreadable due to a high quantity of mechanical errors..

         *Star**HalfStar*  The story did not work for me at all, but at least it was readable.

         *Star**Star*  ▬   Although the story didn’t work for me, I can pick out individual elements that I liked, whether or not I believe that they will work together as a whole.

         *Star**Star**HalfStar*  I can see the beginnings of a story and there are one or two elements that are starting to pull everything together.

         *Star**Star**Star*  ▬   I liked the basic elements, and even though I think they may all need work, they are coming together as a story.  It is my opinion that there is still a great deal of work left to be done, because with flash fiction there is little room for errors, and no time for it to be anything but indiscernible from reality; that is, from beginning to end, it must be believable.

         *Star**Star**Star**HalfStar*  I liked the premise, can definitely see its potential as a whole, and even though at times I could see or imagine the elements of the story, something, be it wordage, scene, dialog, context, or another element, seemed out of place, taking away from the story’s believability.

         *Star**Star**Star**Star*  ▬   I could envision the larger story, but there were elements that I felt needed strengthening.  All in all, though, it was an easy read and I liked it.

         *Star**Star**Star**Star**HalfStar*  I thoroughly enjoyed your piece, I felt I came away with all that I look for in a story, and even though I thought there were small flaws that needed fixed, they didn’t overtly distract from the story.

         *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*  ▬   Perfection, and I sincerely hope that I will recognize it when I read it.

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         One final note:  I use my review notes as an ongoing process to help me do constructive reviews and, by such nature, it is under constant edit.  If you see a point where I am in error, by all means, review this item or flash me an email; if it helps me correct this piece I will, as always, reward with GP's.

© Copyright 2012 Alexander Briant (briant at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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