Writing is a talent that grows over time. The more I write, the better I become at it. This is largely in part to the feedback provided by those who read it. Their comments, reviews, and critiques of my work let me know what I need to focus on, and what I need to keep doing.
When I first started writing, responses were terrifying. I was afraid to know what others thought; I was afraid of negative criticism. But through time, and practice, I was able to find the potential within reviews.
It also helped when I learned to write them, too!
As a reader, the review/comment/critique can be the most helpful thing to give a writer or artist. It doesn’t have to be negative, even if the work wasn’t that great. As a reader, we make better writers.
When I first started reading online stories ten years ago, I learned the value a good review could have. My good reviews didn’t always have to be praise; a good review can be telling the writer the parts of the story that needed improvement. Maybe they need to look harder at their spelling and grammar. Maybe their characters are a bit flat, and need more dimensions added to them. Maybe their plot is a bit too predictable, or inconsistent.
Leaving a good review, in my mind, is leaving one that is helpful. It doesn’t need to be harsh, rude, or negative feeling. Positive and helpful information is what the writer or artist is looking for. And the reader is the one who can provide it.
What is inside a good review?
There are many ways to leave a review, comment, or critique. I find the most helpful ones, as I stated earlier, have details that can help us improve. “This sucks,” lets me know that the reader didn’t like it, but it doesn’t tell me why. In this same thought, “This was great!” doesn’t help me much either; while I’m glad the reader liked it, it still doesn’t tell me why. Both are not very helpful, though I prefer the latter to the former.
When I review, I like to follow a basic format. This helps me organize my thoughts and impressions,
First, I like to leave the impressions that I had as a reader. “This was great!” or “This sucks!” would be those. After that, I like to tell them why I felt that way. Was it the plot? The characters? The words? The flow? The dialogue? What did I like, or not like, about their writing?
After that, I list the things that I found was working. Even in a story I think needs improvement, I do this. It helps lessen the negativity of my review by letting them know what they are doing well. Their plot might need a lot of focus, but if their spelling or formatting is not an issue, I let them know this.
I follow the praise with the things that need to be fixed. Even in well-written stories, I try to point these out, as there’s always something that can be improved. If I really loved a story, but a few spelling errors were present, I make mention of that. It doesn’t need to be harsh or rude, but just helpful. “I noticed a few mistakes in spelling, but other then that…” might be all I need. Some might have more then that. “There were a lot of inconsistencies in the plot,” or “The characters don’t feel real to me, they come across flat…” It’s all in how they are told to the writer, how the writer will interpret them.
Finally, I repeat my impressions. “Again, I still feel…” It reminds them not to quit, to not just give up. That, even if I pointed out all the flaws I noticed, I still want them to improve their trade.
Why respond at all?
It might be easier to just read and leave, look for another story or piece of art. But even taking a few minutes to leave a response shows respect. A writer might not be putting their work up for this, but it helps to leave one all the same. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be in their shoes, and their responses will help you be the one fine-tuning your trade!
The Review, Simplified
Again, here are the steps for leaving a review, simplified.
- Leave your first impression.
- List the things that worked.
- List the things that didn't work.
- Repeat your first impressions.
- Anything else you want to add afterward.