Daily Writers Challenge: Do You Know How to Review… And Be Reviewed?

Over the last three years I’ve written about the process of reviewing… and of being reviewed a number of times in different venues.

Why, you ask? 

Thanks.  I love it when you ask.

I do it because I’m still trying to work it out.  Still trying to understand what works, what doesn’t work, and why.

We all have our opinions about it.  Ask 7 writers and you’ll get 11 answers.  All different.

What have I written about it in the past?  (Non-canonical list follows:)

  •  Honest reviewsLOL and “I leik it” (sic) are pretty nearly without value, if the one receiving the review is serious about writing.
  • In-depth reviews.  Getting to the nuts, bolts, commas and semi-colons.  A hard thing to write, and a harder thing to hear (especially if the writer thinks he or she knows what they are doing.)
  • LISTENING to reviewers.  Sorry, gang, but it is pretty much a truism that even those of us who ask for honest, harsh, particular reviews bristle when we get them.  Most of us can get beyond the bristle and get to the meat of the review eventually, but not without difficulty.  Pride, dammit, pride.
  • ARGUING with your reviewer.  I got one thing to say about that.  Grow up.  It is immature to ask for guidance and to then argue with your guide.  ’nuff said about that.

Then, yesterday when I was planning this post, I recalled this: 

Image psdho.me

Responsible Reviewing  Anyone who reviews other people’s writing knows that the process is at once very easy and very difficult.  Easy because it isn’t our work being chewed up and spit out.  Hard, because to do it well, we need to think before we type.  Something that is more difficult than it seems to be.

But there is one more point, and that’s what this piece is primarily about.

There is another component to reviewing.  I almost added that this component is for the young, but on reflection, it is for everyone who is reviewed.  It is for everyone whose heart we surgically remove, hold up to the light for examination, and then comment upon. 

While a certain percentage of people I’ve met are writing because they believe that writing makes you look smart (cough, cough), or that writing is easy (hah!) or that writing makes you a lot of money (buddy, can you spare a dime?), my impression is that a percentage of the writers I know actually “feel the calling” (whatever that means).

Writers comes in all sizes, shapes and flavors.  Look around if you need proof of that. 

My favorite “flavor” to poke fun are the writers who claim to only write for themselves… and then ask for your opinion.

Perhaps there is a strain of writer who truly does only writes for themselves.  If they exist, I can’t imagine why they would care about being reviewed, though.  Certainly not for critiques, acceptance of praise, right?  I mean, really…

So, if you are you are serious, you want to get better.  Yeah.  I can buy that.

Definition:  Young Writer.  (Not related to age),  a person who is new to writing.  Any young writers out there?  Don’t look around.  You know who you are.

Yeah, I know.  It seems like I’m rambling.  But stick with me a little longer before you review me.  Maybe I’m not.

I submit to you that there is something we need to consider in our reviewing.  You may know this.  You may DO this.  This may be a part of your every review.  But if it is, do you do it on purpose?  Do you make the distinction?

All right, already!  WHAT?

Encouragement.

Yeah.  Imagine that.

See, just because a writer is 12 years old, or writes like he or she is 12, it doesn’t mean that this person isn’t a budding genius.  Not knowing does not make you stupid.  Not learning when you have the chance does.  …and learning comes from experience.  And experience comes from failures.

Too many failures and a person crawls into a hole for self-protection.

I think it is our job, yours, mine, and everyone’s, to dish out some strong and heartfelt encouragement with each sling, arrow or spear.

Yes, we need to point out the weaknesses.  Yes, to a mature writer that can mean everything.  But to a nascent talent, to someone who is just starting out, and may well be the next Gaiman, King or even a Shakespeare, a careless word, a joke, poking a little fun—well you get the picture—could be the straw that breaks…

I submit to you that we need to encourage as well as point out errors. 

We need… we need….  What we need is something I saw on a bumper sticker years ago.  A profound message.

We need to “Look for the good, and praise it.

May I suggest that our duty to writing is to review, to correct, to help, but also to encourage?

Sorry for so long a post, gang, but this, I feel is important.

Today’s challenge:  Look at both how you review others, and look at your own experience of others reviewing you.  Do you just listen?  Do you take what you can from what they say?  Or is the first thing that occurs to you is a laundry list of why your reviewer is wrong?

Your thoughts?

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4 responses to “Daily Writers Challenge: Do You Know How to Review… And Be Reviewed?

  1. Going to leave this one. I do think though that a writer can be aware that a review may not necessarily be neutral with respect to making the difference between the writer’s work and the writer as a person as perceived by the reviewer. Perhaps the reviewer should consider him/her self as needing parenting skills, one of which is the importance of giving constant encouragement as you point out. And also attempting to speak ‘to the level’ of the person whose writing is under review. In other words, to be able to discern what it is that the writer is attempting to achieve.
    (A prime ability needed by someone who want to consider themselves a competent reviewer).

    • Don’t want to get ‘into a rant’ here, but the distinction I was trying to make was that between a ‘critique’ of the writer’s work, i.e. pointing out its strengths as well as its weaknesses, (technical review) and criticism which is ‘generally more general’ in content than dealing with specifics.

      • As you know, more and more I am practicing giving reviews (feedback) which are my personal impressions of the work, i.e. from the perspective I have at the time I read the work. Thus they are not absolute statements. (Plus corrections of typos, spelling, etc.) I am still learning to give a ‘technical’ review. Want to learn really what pacing, etc. etc. etc. entail.

      • Indeed, perhaps this is a little too ‘general’ – philosophical. So what makes a ‘good review’. Helping the author put together the pieces, to make a whole?

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