How do I assess people's work when reviewing?
|This was written after receiving a particularly low mark in a WDC Contest for a poorly written piece. I reviewed the reviewer's own rating philosophy agreeing with him that rating inflation was a problem on this site and that I needed to lower my ratings. I also wanted to review what people looked at when reviewing my own work. In the interest of fairness and consistency, it seemed important to write down a coherent strategy and system for reviews which I will try and keep to as of October 2021.
WHY REVIEW AT ALL?
1) Reviewing should help others. So if you give a poor mark, say why and make it helpful.
2) Reviewing helps us grow also. We can learn from other people's stories and the mistakes they make. Reviewing helps us to see our own writing flaws more clearly also.
3) To promote the good, beautiful, pure, noble, and the true.
STRUCTURE OF MY REVIEW (Marking)
1) Why am I reviewing your piece, where did I find it?
2) My summary of what I think you are saying.
3) Commentary on the content of your piece. An assessment of the truth and quality of what you said.
My personal reactions to this content. ()
4) Mechanics ()
So a perfectly written piece with drivel for content will get a three. Edifying, realistic, and high-quality content but with too many mistakes will get two stars.
5 stars are for perfectly written classics. I should expect to find one of these once a month if at all, not every day I review. A five-star review should probably also gain an automatic award icon because it is that good.
4-4.5 stars is very good work, perfectly written, realistic, and with some kind of stirring message.
3-3.5 is above average and well written. This is a good mark for a solid piece of work that could still be improved.
2-2.5 Is average or below and requires a lot of work to improve it. If I give you this rating it should be accompanied by an explanation of why with the aim of helping you write better.
The lowest mark is for unreal poor content and it is full of errors. Mainly I will simply not mark a piece where a 1-star rating is required.
i) CONTENTClick to expand ▼
ii) MECHANICSClick to expand ▼
MAJOR CONTROVERSIES ABOUT REVIEWING
1) Should a story mean something?
Should it hint at, affirm or demonstrate values? Not all moments captured in literature can readily be integrated into some kind of overarching meta-narrative, nor should they be. But when something is clearly designed as an attack on truth then it is a different beast.
2) Tell versus show.
As a preacher, I have a message to tell and work at making that compelling for actual real-live congregations. Sometimes the show versus tell brigade sounds like they have nothing clear to say and are suggesting that the Omniscient Narrator does not exist. This kind of moral relativism must be rejected. That said even good preaching requires anecdotes to connect to people and to show them the meaning of what is being said. The God I believe in generally explained Himself to mankind by demonstrating what he meant in history. The abstract interpretation of what He did came later. A novel that preaches could sound more like a textbook or be a little boring and you need to hook your reader in by pulling them into the narrative where they can do their own thinking and where the actions of your characters speak louder than words. In practice therefore a balance between the two is required with more show than tell in longer works especially. As with real-life, actions reveal the real character of a person more effectively than their words do.
3) Personal preference and Objectivity.
This was partly covered in the Content section above. For those who have no religious moorings the question of theological truth is an open one. I have been dismayed to find even some Christians are free-floating on many theological issues where definite answers have already been agreed on by the church. But historical and scientific argumentation can lead to more definite conclusions for all readers and somebody who has lived or heavily researched something is generally better equipped to talk about that.
4) The balance between technical skill in writing and content of what is being said
So for example, if someone writes a beautiful piece glorifying pedophilia do you publish it? If someone writes a piece glorifying demons or Satan is that worthwhile literature?
5) "I am not a Christian, so why do you apply a Christian perspective to my writings?"
We all argue from definite positions even if sometimes these are entirely confused. The difference here is that I am being very clear on what my perspective is. Since much of modern literature stresses the importance of POV this should hardly be an issue. There is an 'objective' spiritual and moral perspective. It is just saying that rubs against the grain of the moral relativism of the modern Western world. People in the West forget that most of the world has much more certainty on the big questions than many of them and Westerners often think that to argue from a definite position is non-inclusive and antagonistic. In response, I would suggest that this is how the world is and that it is not Christians that are creating conflicts by suggesting definite convictions but rather those that disagree with them. Mutual respect without relativism is more honest than suggesting nothing is ultimately true and we are all just stabbing in the dark. I believe that ultimate accountability is to the Christian God. Showing that I have misunderstood the Christian perspective is another thing and critiques of that sort are of course entirely welcome.