1. The stories I will and won't critique
I am Imogen and I have been a member of Elliquiy since 2008. As some of you may know I enjoy writing critiques for the Coffee Corner and Elliquiy’s Writers Group. In this little series of blogs I would like to share my techniques for reviewing and provide some hints and tips.
In the past four years I have had the privilege of co-writing with authors whose level of perfection challenged me to become a better writer. Determined not to be outdone I studied their posts and tried to figure out what made their writing so incredible. I learned a lot from picking their posts apart. One co-writer had a knack for adding tiny details at just the right time to make an entire scene come to life, another excelled in the words he did not use. Every redundancy had been expelled and his post quality resembled a gorgeous bonsai tree; pruned to perfection. All the things I have learned from these writers I keep in mind when composing my critiques.
Of course, to critique you will need a piece to work on. This is the first topic I would like to discuss: how to select a story for reviewing.
First of all I believe a review should be constructive. That means that whatever comments I will make later their goal will be to help the author improve their work. That sounds like common sense, but it implies a series of consequences that help to determine which stories I can and cannot review.
The first hurdle is the amount of effort the writer has taken before she put up her work for review. If it looks as if it’s never been edited and never felt the chastising caress of a spell checker, I will not review it. If the writer doesn’t want to spend time on her work, neither do I.
Another deal breaker is post length. I am more likely to select one scene/story of manageable proportions than a bulk post of epic proportions. I might take on chapters of a novel but when that happens the opening paragraphs must have appealed to me, and given me confidence that my time will be well spent.
The next step is to find the gem that makes the story worth reading. Sometimes there are so many wonderful things it’s hard to choose, but that’s for later. At this stage I am just looking for one thing I can compliment the writer on.
It doesn’t happen often but in those rare occasions I can’t find anything positive or inspiring, I will not review the story. I want my reviews to be constructive, encouraging and honest. Paragraphs filled with criticism are not likely to bring the desired effect. If I am lucky my reader may get to the end, but it’s more likely that she’ll reach the conclusion that either I hate her work, or that she is a hopelessly case, long before the final dot.
Funnily enough, the opposite is also true. If I cannot find any point of criticism I will rarely review the story. If it is particularly outstanding I may write a quick comment but that’s pretty much it.
This is how I make my selections. How do you choose which work you’ll review?
Next time I’ll discuss how I choose the points of criticism I’ll work into my review and which ones I will save for another time or skip entirely.