There are good reviews and bad reviews.
I’m writing this because I heard (through the tumblr grapevine that I illicitly wiretap) that a swarm of bad critics have descended on a popular fanfiction site. They’ll gang up on a story, telling the author how terrible it is and how they ought to be embarrassed. Then they report the story en masse in an effort to get it removed.
These are bad reviews. Obvious, right? Tearing other people’s work down is not cool. When I was critiquing on Inkpop, I tried to avoid being too harsh. Even if a story is god awful, the writer is trying. They’re taking a huge risk and being brave by putting themselves out there, and an attack could end their writing career forever. They don’t need hate. They need help. Of course, these fanfic critics are trying to hurt people. However, there are some people who think overly harsh is helpful. It’s not, unless the writer in question has a self-esteem of adamantium. Typically, it’s closer to tissue paper.
The other type of bad review lies on the other side of the spectrum. It’s the peppy, 100% supportive one-liner that does no one any good.
But I just said writers had a low self-esteem, right? Yeah, but it’s not the reviewer’s job to patch it up. A comment like “This is perfect. No suggestions. Great job!!!111111111” might make us feel warm and fuzzy, but it doesn’t help. I got loads of comments like that on a project. Now that I’ve pulled it out again to prep for an incoming review, I can see loads of errors and issues. I wish someone had pointed them out.
So what is a good review? It’s a critique. It’s balanced. It points out what you’ve done wrong and suggests improvements. It also tells you what you’re doing right. I always search for at least one nice thing to say after a review full of corrections.
A format I often found useful was this:
I’d fill in questions, comments, and corrections as I read. Being a critic taught me more about writing as well, showing me what not to do. Reviewing is a way for people to learn and help each other out – but do it right.
Next time I’ll talk about the good and bad of reactions to reviews.