Review Tips

We know it can be a little intimidating to offer critique when you're new to a workshop setting.  You may feel that some of the authors are so far beyond your current skill level that you can't possibly identify what would help them to improve.  You may feel that others are so much in need of mechanical basics that you'd never complete the review without shreading and rearranging every sentence.  The intent of the following tips is not to reduce the reviewing process to a simple formula, but to share useful and general guidelines that will see you through, regardless of perceived imbalances in knowledge and skill.

  • Adopt a helpful and respectful attitude.  You're not out for blood.
  • Read anything you are going to review in its entirety.  Maybe twice.
  • Take your time with each review. Don't rush.  Show an investment of time and care.
  • Praise and positive statements are completely welcome.  But a quick paragraph of vague encouragement or cheerleading is no substitute for a review that demonstates you've given the story a close reading.
  • Make margin notes that capture your immediate responses.  First reactions are valuable.
  • Reflect some and develop first impressions and quick notes into a substantial review of 250-750 words.
  • Develop and support your critical arguments.  When you make an assertion, back it up. 
  • Pay close attention to the Author's Agenda and address those specific concerns.
  • You can always focus on the basics, devoting a paragraph each to Characters, Dialogue, etc.
  • You may also focus on Hook, Theme, Exposition, Story Arc, and so forth. Take some time to learn these terms.
  • Read Chuck Palahniuk's craft essays and be conversant with the terms he sets up: Head Authority, Heart Authority, Horses, Burnt Tongue.
  • Don't expect more awesome reviews than you're giving out. But expect our patience if you're new and here to learn.
  • Remember, this is a Workshop, not a place to showcase finished products. Toughen up. Expect criticism and receive it well.
  • Use the 'Not Helpful' rating on reviews you receive to cancel points when someone takes a shallow approach.
  • Don't punish with the 'Not Helpful' rating when someone goes to tremendous lengths to give you a thoughtful and careful review that you don't happen to agree with or that you find unflattering.
  • Separate you ego from the equation and look for ways to improve your work.
  • Show gratitude that you're getting read, at all, but reserve your highest praise for reviewers who take obvious time and care with your work. 
  • Hesitate from posting when you're upset or angry. Bring mindfulness to every stage of the process.
  • When it doubt, apply the Golden Rule to all your interactions.  Treat others as you would have them treat you, because most often, they will.

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