How I review and rate ...
|As everyone is aware, the rating structure of Writing.Com has been under a lot of debate. Not about the rating structure in general, but people's use of it. Everyone seems to be at odds with each other, what with ratable and nonratable items, what is deserving of a 5 and when to give a 1, and through all this seemingly pointless controversy, one thing remains clear - there will never be any way to force members to follow a specific rating guideline.
No way for you to know what will be in someone's head when they hand you that 5 or that 1. No way for you to make them give you the constructive criticism you want, or the lack of it. So where does this leave us? With headaches and no solutions.
I, however, have prepared something for you that may put you at ease - something that may give you some hope in this time of darkness. Yes - I have written a document that tells of the secret workings of my mind. It will reveal to you what each star means to me. It will explain what I value in a piece. And then, my friend, you may rest assured that there is at least one reviewer out there you can be certain of.
Please note that these are my opinions and not the word of God. If you don't like what I say here, I am sorry - but this is honesty.
R E V I E W S
Whether you have a ratable or nonratable item, you are almost gauranteed a review from me. Unlike what "Rating/Reviewing Preferences" says, I do not view an unratable item as one that doesn't want or need constructive feedback. Maybe that author doesn't care to measure their work in stars. Maybe they have an unfinished item that they don't want rated until it is done, yet they require some assistance in the creation - some editing and reviews if you will. Maybe they just clicked the wrong choice in that darn box. Who knows? I don't. And so I treat them all the same.
How do I review? Simple really.
My number one factor in a review is my response. How did this piece make me feel? Was I overwhelmed by the emotions of your characters? Did I sympathize with your cause? Did I feel educated or humbled by the facts and truths you brought forth? No matter if a piece is a romance novel, a poem, or a thesis for school - there will always be a response. Always. And, in my mind, this is the biggest part of an author's work. Truth be told, if there is no response, then you won't get a great review - even if there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes.
Beyond this, there is a matter of time. How much time and effort did you put into this piece? There are a few factors that play into this. Are there many spelling or grammatical mistakes? Does this piece seem as if it is still in it's rough form? If it does, how long has it been around?
I realize that there are some divas out there that can just write a piece and send it to the wolves - where it will triumph magnificently. But generally speaking, most pieces need to be nourished and handled with love. Do you realise the difference between a finished and unfinished piece? And no - we are not talking storylines here. I think a part of being a good author is knowing when you need more editing and revisions. Likewise - have you spent too much time on this piece? Does it seem stale and frigid? Like reading something manufactured? Believe me people, it is possible to do too much editing and revising. Have you become a wise enough author to realise when enough is enough?
Also, how unique is your piece? This can encompass many things. Is your topic unique? Is the way you approached your topic unique? What about your style? Your format? I love to see something different.
Strange styles - even if I don't exactly connect with them - will always be viewed positively by me. Why? Because this author is showing creativity, non-conformity, self-discovery, and sass. It is refreshing, and even though they may not hit it right on the head the first time - at least they are trying.
Strange topics are embraced eagerly by me. I love something that makes me think - stimulates my brain. Reading the same hogwash over and over again - though in different formats - can be mind numbing. If you want to connect with your reader you need to have something that sets you apart. You need to be able to have something unique to you - or you will forever be classified with a million and one authors whose name they will never remember.
And last but not least, continuity. Does the consistency of the piece flow smoothly? Are there rough spots? Or - if the piece is meant to be awkward - does it keep the same texture throughout? Or do I find myself tripping over the author's intent, a little confused as to what is intentional and what's not?
How about the tone? Is the tone stable throughout? If this is an educational piece - do you keep the topic or go off on tangents? The piece needs to be smooth from one end to the other. Any variations may only result in losing that connection with your reader that you worked so hard for.
These are all things that I try to touch upon when reviewing an item. Sometimes I may review with nothing constructive to say - this is either because there was no need to say anything, or because I too am at a loss for what should be done. Sometimes I will review and send back a thousand suggestions. I don't expect all of these suggestions to be used. In fact, I plan on that not happening - so not all the suggestions I make will sound right together. I simply give you as many options as I can so that you can find the set that is right for you.
With that in mind - let's objectively approach my rating system.
Please note that these specifications may not apply to all pieces reviewed. I do realize that sometimes, that varying continuity, lack of style, and lack of emotion are necessary to an author's portrayal of his vision. Or that these specifications may not work in educational or some non-fictional items. This is simply a general overview of how I review and what I look for. Please understand that not everything I say is set in stone.
R A T I N G S
To be honest, I have never actually handed out a 1 in the rating system. I don't know - maybe I just haven't hit any items that I thought needed a lot of work. I do believe the lowest rating I ever gave out was a 1.5. The highest was undoubtedly a 5.
Confession time - when I first joined I always gave ratings between 4 - 5. Why? I thought that was basically how everyone else did it - and I didn't want to come across meanly you know? Then I started my own forum. Well, going through so many items and being able to compare them to so much - I quickly lost that and began to rate how I thought they were - honestly.
Some may think that I rate too slack - and others think that I am too hard. So how exactly do I determine what is worthy of each star? What goes on in my head?
There are a few ways that you can get a 5 star rating from me. The most obvious one - meet everything I look at for my reviews with an undeniable grace and talent. That's because this makes an item, in my eyes, perfect.
Another way - my response. Sometimes I am just so overcome by my reaction to your piece, I am so caught up in the tale you have spun, that it would be unjust to rate you anything less than a 5. Maybe you had a mistake - but I was too involved in you writing to see it.
This piece was good, generally speaking. Maybe there were no mistakes, the format was perfect, the style was sassy - but I didn't feel anything ... I didn't get anything out of this piece. If I'm not feeling it, the best you could get would be a 4.
Some pieces may have a modicum of mistakes - but there was a definite soul to it. I would come back at a later date to see if there were any revisions done - in hopes that I could change my rating for the better.
Most of the ratings I give fall in this area.
This item was mediocre. It was blah. Not necessarily good, but not neccessarily bad. There was a lot of work that needed to be done to it - whether fixing mistakes, smoothing out the tone, or bringing some actual life to the story.
At the same time, there is a level of talent behind this work still. Most likely, someone who is still new to writing - yet shows a lot of potential. Sometimes these pieces are rough drafts - first drafts - things that have never been edited or revised before. Maybe it is a school paper and the facts don't line up.
Generally speaking, it was hard for me to read and understand, I didn't enjoy this piece, yet there was a solid base to it, and I see potential for what it could be.
In my opinion, this piece was very amateurish. Honestly, this is the type of writing I would expect from a third grader - except the person is not in the third grade. (I do try to judge well upon age and experience factors)
There was a rather large amount of mistakes - things that should be caught even in rough draft form. Maybe everything about this piece was too clichéd - sounded like too many books put together. Nothing about it was original. There should have been a lot more time spent on this piece.
Most importantly - items that I give this rating to were lacking in either creativity or factual support all the way around.
I am not sure what there is that I could say about this rating, as I have never actually given it out.
I believe that, for me to give someone's piece a 1 star rating, it would have to be something that was definitely not worth my time. There would have to be no line of thought to it, no style, no originality, mostly incorrect spelling and grammar, no format, etc. This would essentially be a bunch of words thrown together in the hopes that it might actually mean something.
I don't really know what else there really is. I mean, my whole reaction to your piece would have to be negative - it's as simple as that. I would have to feel that there was no saving it. no way to make it seem more ... pro-caliber. Does this make sense?
Rating, to me, is an afterthought. I may not have the best rating scale on Writing.Com, but then I don't feel it is the rating that is important. My focus is more on the review - what I can tell you. My ratings may not always make sense, but they are always done with honesty and objectivity. You are more than welcome to disagree with something I say to you or with the way that I rate you - everyone is allowed their opinions. I simply tell you mine - use it or leave it at your discretion.