Lesson Two: Reviewing Part One

Lesson Two: Reviewing Part One

A Lesson by The Perfectionist

Yeah, this is the one you've all been expecting.


I spend a lot of time criticizing people and their writing. I touched on the problems with the reviewers on this site in my two-part blog The Problems With WritersCafe, and I talked about it a little more in my blog Why There Are So Few Good Reviews. But I always like to try and make my ranting constructive, so instead of just yelling at you all for being horrible, I'm going to try and educate on how exactly to write a five-star review.

As I said in WTASFGR, there are nine types of reviews. Your review can be destructive, constructive, or fluff, and you can either get the point, not know the point, or miss the point. Obviously, you should try to aim for the best category, being constructive and getting the point. The problem is that this is hard. Really hard. So we'll save that lesson for part two. For now I just want to talk about some of the lower categories of reviews, and how to avoid giving one of those.

By far the most prevalent problem I've seen on this site is fluff. Take virtually any poem or story out there with 5+ reviews and you'll find at least one fluffer. These are the reviews that say "Good job" or "I loved it" or "Well done" or something else to that effect. They don't tell the reviewer anything except that you liked it, which your rating will tell them already.

I've talked to someone who fluffs a lot and I asked her why she does it. She replied that she often just can't think of anything to say about it besides that she likes it. Next to laziness, I believe this is the most common reason for people to write a fluff review. If you fall into this category, then I offer the following suggestion. Ask yourself the following questions when you read something and don't know what to say:

1) Did I like it?
2) What about it made me like or dislike it?
3) How did it make me feel?
4) What about it made me feel that way?

You don't have to write an essay, a simple set of sentences that answer those questions move you from fluff to constructive, and that's a big step in the right direction.

I'm not going to drop too much on you guys with this one, but there's one other thing I want to talk about. You destructive people. Stop it. You know who you are. You're the people that read something that is absolute s**t and you praise it anyway. Maybe you want to make the writer feel better about themselves, maybe you want to look like a nice guy (or girl). I don't care why you do it, stop it now. You're harming everyone with your bullshit.

I can understand the temptation not to rip people apart (not everyone is as heartless as me), but you don't benefit them at all by telling them they are good. Telling people that their work is of quality doesn't inspire them to get better. It encourages them to stagnate, and sooner or later they are going to run into someone like me that WILL pick them to pieces and they aren't going to understand why I hate their work so much after what you said. If someone's work is bad, TELL THEM. They will THANK YOU for it. Trust me, I have a dozen or more messages in my inbox to prove it.

Stay tuned for the next lecture.

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Posted 6 Years Ago

I have to agree with this. I don't always give particularly helpful reviews, especially when it comes to truly bad pieces of writing, because, like C. Boylan, I feel bad only pointing out the flaws. I refuse to just leave a comment saying "Good work" but, at the same time, when I can't think of anything nice to say, I simply don't say anything.

But yes, this was a great lesson ^^ and I'm glad I'm not the only one who worries about the quality of my reviews (although mine are far from perfect themselves).

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Posted 6 Years Ago

Will your further lessons on reviewing help us to write diplomatically-honest reviews? The only aspect I'm able to be truly blunt, and therefore constructive, about is grammar; I feel bad dissecting the other elements of people's work...but equally I refuse to leave a 'lol'/'good work' review on something that has potential.

This is a good lesson so thanks. I hope it helps some people to stop bullshitting their friends and instead actually help them develop their writing.
Glad there are others on here who care about the quality of reviews. Mine can do with loads of improvement, but at least I fecking try, unlike around 90% of WC members.

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Posted 6 Years Ago

WELL SAID. I could not agree more. A good, effective critique, is a huge amount of work.

I am wondering what your opinion might be on my process for critique. I use the following as a guide, more or less in chronological order. For example, if the piece doesn’t pass basic spelling and grammar I stop reading and ask the author to revise and I will work further down my list on the revised post.

This list is by no means definitive and I revise it often as I see repeated problems. I am curious, since my assumption is, you’re much more experienced than I, what your opinion would be of my critique process as follows:

• Spelling
• Grammar:
• Consistent Tense:
• Showing/Telling:
• Pacing:
• Suddenn Shifts:
• Clunking:
• Description:
• Excessive Exposition:

Beginning (Does it draw the reading in?
(action, dialogue, description, etc.).


• Character Development:
• Continuity:
• Dialogue:
• Most Compelling Character: why?
• Least Compelling Character: why?

• Exposition
• Rising Action
• Climax
• Falling Action
• Denouement

• Did any plot shifts pleasantly surprise?
• Feel lost at any point?
• Plausible?

• Favorite Passage:
• Passage felt most present:

• Least Favorite Passage:

Clarify first impression paragraph:

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Posted 6 Years Ago

I used to try to do massive and critical reviews. Now, after I have reviewed someones work a few times and left the same advice each time and they never follow it, I just give up. If they don't take the advice I just let them go to fall or stand on their own. I will find certain nitpicks every once in awhile that I can't resist.

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Posted 6 Years Ago

You make a great statement about telling someone their work is good if it isn't. I have a hard time telling someone I don't like their work, but I have from time to time pointed out it needed to be more descriptive or give little helpful hints that could improve it. There is one person's work that I won't mention that I don't review very often for their work doesn't hold my attention for it lacks description and I'm not the best speller in the world and I'm not great with punctuation which I am working on, but I notice tons of errors in the work, so now I don't review it very often for I don't want to hurt feeling and repeat the same thing again after people have said they loved the piece time and again before me.
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The Perfectionist
The Perfectionist


Send me Poetry RRs at your own risk. They will be read but they will not be reviewed unless I actually have something to say. All stories, no matter how terrible or boring, will be reviewed. Review..