Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games April 15, 2012 - 4:33pm

Backstory: I'm new to the Workshop part of Lit Reactor and just recently posted my first submission. After doing so I began trying to do some reviews of other pieces in hopes of gaining some more points. Never having done a review before, it was a bit intimidating for me. After seeing other reviews and even downloading their attach manuscripts to see the added notes, I went further in my cave. "What could I say that wasn't already said?" "How should I know whats working or not?" "what if its not hulpful?" These question went on in my head, but wanting to make the best out of my craft and membership, I pressed on and did a few. Now I like doing reviews and find it fun. Plus it became helpful to myself in my own work in that it helps better my understanding of the errors that others saw and I didn't. 

The Topic at hand: I had recently been given some helpful advice by a more experienced member on how to better my review process and would like to share it with the rest of you just getting your feet wet. So here it is.

 

1. When you sit down to tackle a piece by someone else, try to really hone in on what you consider weak spots. A great example of a review done entirely in this style is here. Look for the one by Bill Tucker. He completely zeroes in on what needs to improve and makes his review entirely focused on that.

2. Try to explain your ratings. If you do what Bill does, it's not completely necessary, but a lot of great reviews are founded on the idea of explaining the reviewer's choice of number of stars.

3. Dedicate serious time to reviewing. It can make you a better writer, enhance your understanding of the craft, and give you a solid foundation to start. One thing that really got me on my feet was looking for articles in the Craft Essays and Magazine sections that were relevant to the stories I was reading. I've set timers for two and a half hours and forced myself to review the entire time; I usually get through three to four stories when I do that.

From Courtney to me. Thanks Court

Final Notes:

Try LBL (Line by line) When your reading someones work, it will be in Word so you can add note while you read. Just be sure to color your notes. Red is often used.

Also try downloading already reviewed pieces to get an idea. Just look under a review that someone wrote and you'll find the attached file in Red.

It will only take you 5 very helpful reviews to be able to post another submission. Thats easy. So think of it this way and don't focus on anything else.

The main thing here is that you try. I understand your first review can be as scary as your first submission,but press on, its worth it. ;)

Further help: Here are some other discussion's of the same topic to help you along. Check out Matt Attack post further down where these were first brought to my attention.

Judging on style

Quality Critiquing, or, Punch Me in the Face

*Still need more help? Then click Help. It gives more detailed tips.

**I ask that any Vet Members who read this to please chime in and give your tips and helpful opinions also. And just maybe we can get a lot more reviews flowing through here.

***Please keep this post on topic the best you can. And keep in mind anything you contribute maybe added to original post here. This will help keep it up to date and fresh to see.;)

The First Draft

.'s picture
. April 15, 2012 - 5:00pm

I tend to touch on individual lines that don't set right with me. Usually dialogue. I like the technical reviews rather than a long paragraph explaining the plot holes and such. Mainly because I don't have an eye for that sort of thing (most of the time.) 

Regarding repeating what other reviews have covered, I don't read the other reviews until I've wrote mine. Because it does mess me up. If I repeat something someone else mentioned, that just means the writer will more likely change that problem. Plus chances are, I'm going to point out something someone else hasn't due to opinion or a grammatical error or whatever. 

I don't usually sugar coat my reviews though I'd like to remember more often to throw in a compliment or two. 

Steve's picture
Steve from Southwestern Chicagoland, IL April 15, 2012 - 5:01pm

That's a great set of tips. My first and to-date only review in the Workshop took three straight hours to write, and that scared me away from digging in any deeper. With the advice above, though, maybe it's time to dive back in.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 15, 2012 - 5:03pm

In all honesty I think R.Moon's reviews are what I try to emulate as best I can.
He puts so much detail and time into them that they blow me away.

Give praise.
Be honest.
Don't put people's writing down or tell them how to write their story. Just tell them what you would suggest.
Be strict but fair.
Hone in on their work.
Read the author's agenda and what questions they want answered.
Give constructive criticism, not hypercritical. Don't tell people what an amazing editor you are and how your writing greatly improves theirs.
Read the story first, then review it.
I usually reread a story twice, then do an LBL.

This is just what I do. It doesn't mean it will work for you.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 15, 2012 - 5:24pm

Where the hell is R. Moon?  I want to hear his method for reviewing.

For me, I read the story and use insert comment as I go along.  Then I summarize my opinons on the whole story at the bottom (trying to find the major things to praise or critique).  I make suggestions as much as possible, because I like it when someone says, "Maybe try it like this '....'"  So, I do offer rewrite suggestions.

I try my damnedest to mention when I like something, but most the time I don't.  This is because if I am liking it, it doesn't jar me out of reading it.  Still, I mark when I laugh (usually it just says "funny").

I include a nude picture with each review.  My reasons are my own.

 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 15, 2012 - 5:30pm

I also try to reference the Palahniuk writing essays as much as possible in my reviews.  I keep the On the Body, head/heart authority, Submerging the "I", and "thought" verb essays in mind the most.  I really suggest that everyone read all the Craft Essays (especially Chuck's) before reviewing or submitting.  It's the common language that most of us speak.

 

Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games April 15, 2012 - 5:33pm

Good on you Steve! Glad you posted bro. ;)

 

-Bobby D

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 15, 2012 - 5:35pm

Howie is right.

I just started reading a couple and they're great.

I really liked Craig Clevenger's essays too.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 15, 2012 - 5:38pm

I've only done 4 reviews and I'm meaning to do more - this week! I haven't submitted anything yet but I will soon(ish). Anyway, I did a real life class/workshop this past Fall and the teacher was really good, but what l liked about his critique's was he pointed out his "Favorite Moment" of the story. I thought that was pretty cool and it started out the critique in a positive manner. Then he went in to some of the things that he didn't feel worked as well, could use improvement, suggestions, etc. When I do reviews, I try to emulate that the best I can. 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 15, 2012 - 5:53pm

I review in a chaotic and mostly inconsistent way.  I don't try to make anyone feel good about themselves.  Sorry for that.  But I also do not actively try to make anyone feel bad. 

I will rewrite your sentences.  But I will also tell you why I rewrote them.  Usually. 

I will attack your grammar, because if it is wrong, I know it is wrong.  And you can't dispute me on it.

I will review it like a reader and tell you if I am interested, where I got hooked, if I figured out your twist ending, and how well you held my attention.

Sometimes I arbitrarily love a story and i go mildly crazy telling you how great it is.  This is sort of rare, but it happens.  On the other side, I don't think I have ever gone crazy telling people how much I dislike their writing. 

I don't much like some genres, so I avoid them.  But if you ask me to read, I will.  Also, if you ask me questions about my review, I am very sweet and loving.  I will ramble on to you for what will feel like eternity, and possibly never answer your question. 

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 15, 2012 - 6:11pm

Sometimes I attach a blank page and say I did an LBL, even though I didn't. I just tell them it must be their word processor. I look forward to the revisions.

Or I paste my own story, which forces them to read it and wonder what happened to theirs.

Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games April 15, 2012 - 6:22pm

Panda to funny. Its on topic I'll allow it. Oh but you should know, I added it to the OG post on top. No joke.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 15, 2012 - 6:38pm

Hm...

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 15, 2012 - 8:24pm

he pointed out his "Favorite Moment" of the story

I'm going to start doing this.

Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games April 16, 2012 - 8:25am

That sir, is a great tip. 

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts April 15, 2012 - 11:23pm

Pay attention to the goals and questions that the writer has. If they are focusing on characterization, if they are questionable about the ending, if they just want proofreading for grammar and typos, make that that the focus of you're review. A lot of writers edit in passes, or lack in areas that others have good eyes for, so they will have specific goals by the time they bring it to the workshop. Some writers don't know what they want when they're trying to fix a story. So be thorough but also find the main points that need to be lifted up in a particular piece. This is easier when you find your strengths as a reviewer and your weaknesses as a writer (the two, oddly, sometimes don't go hand in hand.)

Bring whatever experience you can to the workshop. Palahniuk's essays are good, but they're not the only criteria and those are concerning a certain style, you don't want to put yourself in the place of editing people's work to sound more like Chuck. Build on the things you learn and the various tricks you've picked up from reading books and suggest those when you think they will improve the story, as we all have a different philosophy as to what prescribes a good story. Brush up on your grammar so you know the difference between what is actually broken and something that is technically right but doesn't look good to you. Comment in both cases, but I think it's a big fault to reviewers when they mistake a stylistic choice for bad grammar.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 15, 2012 - 11:33pm

Palahniuk's essays are good, but they're not the only criteria

I didn't mean this at all.  I meant that the essays (especially Chuck's and Clevenger's) provide us with a common vocabulary to use while discussing writing.  And they are brilliant, of course.

Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games April 15, 2012 - 11:43pm

Don't be fooled by the review count. I noticed that if you or someone else just post a reply and not a review, it is still counted as  one of the reviews. If the content matter is something you want to check out, then do so despite the review count. Just look to see how many true reviews are there and then chime in. :)

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 15, 2012 - 11:46pm

I used to tell people this, but they still reply.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts April 15, 2012 - 11:51pm

@BHowie Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you. My comment was based more on what I saw during my short time at The Cult, when there was a less diverse group of writers who would kind of chide people if their prose didn't include the whole bag of tricks from the essays, or if their prose was more post-modern or classical in style and didn't look like Palahniuk's school of writing. (Don't take offense, classic culties, you know it kind of prevalent for some reviewers.) I think it's a wonderful vocabulary short-hand to have, and all those things work and improve writing. But, don't let it be the end-all of techniques you can bring to someone else's writing or your own.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. April 16, 2012 - 12:09am

I've been too busy to review. Plus I have all these damn points I never use. I guess I should use them and then do more reviews.  But all I can think about is WAR! 

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 16, 2012 - 4:18am

I really liked Craig Clevenger's essays too."

Yeah these are my favorite.

 

So, um, I think I myself touched on this in a previous thread.....soooo, here it is if you didn't see it... LINK

 

Of which Utah started a thread before that...soooo, here it is...LINK 

 

Bill had the best comments on either thread. 

 

HA!  Every time I get a review, Dave's intro image flashes in mind.  Leave your feelings at the door is damn right.  As far as reviewing / critiquing goes, style has to be ignored if you want to be constructive.  For me, it's all about technique and highlighting what works and what doesn't work. I spend a good amount of time reviewing film and I have a few rules that I live by:

1)  The Golden Rule:  No matter how much you didn't like something, NEVER attack the writer.  Just because you didn't like the story, doesn't mean the writer is stupid, awful or untalented.  In my opinion, you have to respect the work that went into something before you do anything else.  From there, you can be brutally honest but it always has to be done with respect for the person who spent a ton of time working on that project.

2)  Artists Need To Be Fed:  I'm a firm believer that a helpful, "Wow, I really liked that" comment is just as crucial than everything you would change.  When we write, we open ourselves up to a world full of people who are built to tear us down.  While we don't get better without honest critique, it's also important to get those high fives every once in a while.  Again, everyone here has been great at that in the couple of shorts I've thrown up but it's something to keep in mind.

3)  If Something Stinks, Say Why:  This is more appropriate in my film reviews, but if something didn't work, be as specific as you can as to why.  With writing it's different, because if something doesn't work for you, it may go back to that style issue, but if something is wonky in the technique, be specific as to what it is. Matt Attack has been brilliant at that in the couple of reviews he's done for me.  In film reviewing, many pro critics will smash something and never explain why exactly it didn't work.  For me, that's imperative.  If it didn't work, how will the artist know what to do differently.

Going back to the point of the thread, style factors into your personal enjoyment of the piece but good technique is good technique.  Good critics should be able to put their style preferences aside and simply judge the work on it's technical merit.  Me, I'm still figuring that out in the writing world, but that's how I approach film, especially if I didn't like the movie.

Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games April 16, 2012 - 8:04am

Hey thanks Matt. I made sure to include your links above.^^ ;)

HA!  Every time I get a review, Dave's intro image flashes in mind.

-Matt Attack

Bill Tucker's picture
Bill Tucker from Austin, Texas is reading Grimm's Fairy Tales (1st Edition) April 16, 2012 - 3:07pm

Thanks to both Bobby Detrick (via Courtney) and Matt Attack for referencing my reviews / thoughts.  Glad they were helpful enough to make an impression.

Just to chime in here, I agree with jack in that I never read other people's reviews before doing mine.  Better to form your own opinion and if it matches what other people think, then it's obviously something glaring.  For example, if five people say that a character is underdeveloped, then it probably is.  

Also, never think just because you have little to say means it's not worth saying.  I've had people do very thorough critiques of my work and one comment will change my entire perception of the story.  This happened on my first workshop submission thanks to a comment made by Deets999.  Amongst many comments, he made one about the characters lack of interaction and it completely blew open a whole new train of thought on the piece.  If he had just made that one comment and nothing else, it still would have warranted a Very Helpful.

In the end, what works in writing, works in critiquing:  "Do The Work".  If you put in the time and effort to make a real go at critiquing a piece, the effort will shine through, regardless of the comments you've made.

Damn, there I go rambling about critiquing again.  Just really enjoy it and I'm glad to help anybody who would like some advise on it.  Or you could do what you've been doing and just read reviews by members.  There are some fantastic reviewers here on LR, so you'll pick it up really quickly!

 

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 16, 2012 - 10:08pm

Thanks for posting this, Bobby. I learned the hard way, through reading other reviews and learning what helped the most. I think this thread is long overdue.

My own personal notes:

Really, the best reviews I've gotten have been from Bill and Howie. Bill's are insanely helpful because so many writers are blind to their weaknesses, and the way he goes into detail on each point makes it so much easier to focus on fixing the bad. A lot of reviews focus on expanding the good, which is important, but the true way to improve your writing is to fix your mistakes.

Howie's LBLs have helped shape each draft for me. The second draft of Incidentals, my story for my Thunderdome battle with Grigori, was a marked improvement solely because of Howie's LBL on my rough. I'm not discounting the value of my other reviews, but I literally opened Howie's LBL and honed in on each piece of advice he gave me and used it to really improve what I was doing on my revision.

Another important aspect of reviewing is learning how to use your critiques to revise. Until I got down to revising Incidentals, I had never focused in on my reviews as my jumping off point. Now, I have a notebook where I write down common complaints, good advice, and any notes I glean from my critiques, then open the document and the most helpful LBL (Howie's in the case of Incidentals, the first one on which I used this technique) and really tore into my story.

I mention that because I've done a lot of grammar-edit LBLs and then read revised versions to find that almost none of the changes were made. I wasn't personally offended, but I did wind up finding that I had a harder time reading revised versions that didn't take grammar notes from me or any of the other reviewers (I checked) who had made notes about it, too. I think that's partly because some authors don't care about grammar, which is a personal choice to which I don't take offense, but I think a big part of it is that there's a lot of talk about how to review, but not how to use your reviews to your greatest advantage.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 16, 2012 - 10:15pm

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 16, 2012 - 10:17pm

I agree with Courtney.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 18, 2012 - 6:10am

Now, I have a notebook where I write down common complaints, good advice, and any notes I glean from my critiques, then open the document and the most helpful LBL (Howie's in the case of Incidentals, the first one on which I used this technique) and really tore into my story.

 

I do that myself. It's especially helpful for parts of the story you wrote that seem to be clearly working and then you find that it's not working for a good portion of the people who read your story in workshop. 

I'll also make sure to put all the compliments (if I get any) on a specific aspect of my story to keep in mind not to alter that area too much as it already seems to be working.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 18, 2012 - 8:50am

Richard's newest Storyville about revealing character has lots of tips of what to look at/for when reviewing. 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest May 5, 2012 - 4:34pm

Okay, so I was tipped off to Courtney's wonderful Intro thread, then tipped off to this one. As most of you know, I've been away, and still face the possibility of going away... maybe as early as Monday. So, with that said, I believe it was Howie that wanted to know my method of reviewing. Thanks Howie for asking. It means a lot that my peers on here regard my reviews so highly. Thanks, also, to Panda. And to everyone else who's ever 'very helpfuled' my reviews.

My method isn't very methodical. Unlike a lot of us who have been around here for awhile, I usually do read the reviews first. I do this because, I've found, that a lot of rehashing can occur. However, it is important to note that if you get ten reviews and over half of them point out the same things, it's probably wise to take into account changing whatever it is they pointed out. When I review, if a problem is glaring and has been pointed out, I probably won't pin-point it. But, if the problem hasn't been given any explanation of examples of corrections, I will do so. That's another aspect of reviewing that's important. It's one thing to say something like: 'This sentence doesn't read right.' Why? What can I do to correct it? Could be it's a syntax error. Could be it's word choice. Pacing. Too much or too little description. Metaphor? Simile? Any number of things could be the issue and just telling the person that the sentence reads weird doesn't help the writer in any way. Give examples. Give an explanation. Give the writer something to work with. Doing this can be the difference between a 'helpful' or 'not helpful' review and a 'very helpful' review.

I also try to cover each aspect of craft that LR has laid down for us. In an LBL, my notes are usually more about technical issues; syntax, grammar, sentence structure, etc... But, when it comes to those aspects given to us on the site, I usually address those right in the review. Are the characters flat and bland? If so, give reasons why. Show an example of how the writer may punch up the characters, giving them life. How about plot? Is the story linear and does it follow a linear path? Is the story non- linear? Non-linear stories can be tricky. You don't want too much time elapsed between scenes, the reader will forget what's happening and quickly lose interest in the story. I usually address plot issues within the 'structure' category. Dialogue. Dialogue can be tricky, too. A lot of dialogue can come off as bland and wooden. One thing I say a lot is to think of conversations with your friends. When you're out, listen to people talking. Pick up on their verbal nuances. For those of you who've been a part of, or read, anything from the seduction community know what 'trance words' are. The words people put particular emphasis on or repeat frequently are so-called trance words. Maybe someone, particularly a female, says 'like' a lot, and maybe you want your female character to do the same. But, in writing, using the same word over and over and over again becomes redundant and exhausting to the reader. Use those 'trance words' sparingly, but enough to make your point. 'Trance words' can help to eliminate a lot of speech tags. When the reader sees those particular words, they'll know it's that character speaking. Reviewing dialogue can be hard. If you haven't developed an ear for dialogue, I'd highly suggest doing so. As I tell a lot of writers, read some Elmore Leonard for amazing dialogue.

Another thing I do is to review books. I don't do the same as I would a story on here, but I like to highlight, underline and make margin notes, much like a school textbook. No published book is perfect. I know that a lot of us don't want to ruin the book, but making notes can be a very valuable learning lesson. A lot of the books I own I have doubles of. The majority of my Stephen King books are hardback (I never mark up a hardback) but I have paperback doubles of a lot of those books. Highlight what you like, make notes about how it works and what you like about it. Highlight things you don't like and make more notes. How would you have written it? What would you change? Granted, you can't give your review to the author, but you'll find out what you like, don't like and pick up on your own style. I think this can be very helpful to new writers. This also can be helpful when doing traditional reviews on here.

I take my time doing an LBL, and before starting the LBL I read the story first, making notes in my head or on paper. I need to be familiar with the story before I go in and LBL it.  I want to give the writer as much 'helpful' info as I possibly can. I give examples and explanations why I pointed out something. If I can't give an example or explanation, I will say so. 'This just isn't working for me, and I can't really figure out why.' I always, always do LBL's in first person. The things I point out are merely my opinions and suggestions and whether or not the writer accepts them is up to him or her. I think this is important because I don't want to rewrite the story. This gets the writer, and myself, nowhere. I learn from doing reviews. I always point out those things I like. This is very important. Receiving a review with nothing but criticism can be discouraging. Give the writer kudos for what works. Is that metaphor original? Tell them so. How about the sentence structure? Let them know. This is constructive criticism. 

This is how I tend to review. Sometimes, depending on a story's word count, it may take anywhere from a couple of hours to several hours spaced out over the course of a couple of days. I've easily spent three to four hours on a 1k word story (I smoke a lot and do it outside, so that takes time, too. lol). 

If you're new to all of this, find the people that have been here the longest and read their reviews. Some of those people have been mentioned already: Howie, Bill Tucker, Averydoll, Courtney, Panda, Wicked, Voodoo Em, Renee, myself and a whole host of others. If you're lucky enough to receive a review from Brandon or Richard, pay close attention to what they have to say. Brandon reviewed a story of mine and I can say it's probably the best I have ever gotten. 

I hope this helped someone, anyone. Like I said, my method isn't too methodical, but works for me. Find the best way for you and run with it. You'll know you're doing well if you consistently get 'very helpful' reviews.

~Rian

Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games May 6, 2012 - 10:37am

Thank you for Chiming in Rian. After reading what Howie said about you, I was waiting for you to post with high anticipation. :)

 

-Bobby D

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest May 6, 2012 - 11:47am

Thanks man. I appreciate that. If you've got a story submitted I'd be happy to review.

Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... from I'd prefer it if you didn't know. So would you, only you don't know it. is reading whatever he makes time for this week May 6, 2012 - 12:08pm

Great thread, Bobby. This has been really helpful for me. I'm going to be in Jamaica with severely-limited-to-no internet access for a couple of weeks this month, but I have given serious thought to joining the workshop after I return to the States. One aspect I that worried me was writing reviews, as it seems equally arrogant and intimidating. I'll be sure to keep this thread in mind when my time comes so that I can provide the most helpful critiques possible.

I also try to reference the Palahniuk writing essays as much as possible in my reviews.

@Howie: I of course do not mean to disparage Chucky P., but his advice, in my limited experience, seems restricted to his writing style. He's a very distinctive author, so his style is by no means universal. [I should probably say that I have not yet joined the workshop and thus do not have access to many of Palahniuk's essays. Sample bias is possible.] I do think "Disembodied Action" and "Devil in the Details" by Clevenger have insights that can be applied to multiple styles.

Another thing I do is to review books. I don't do the same as I would a story on here, but I like to highlight, underline and make margin notes, much like a school textbook. No published book is perfect. I know that a lot of us don't want to ruin the book, but making notes can be a very valuable learning lesson. A lot of the books I own I have doubles of. The majority of my Stephen King books are hardback (I never mark up a hardback) but I have paperback doubles of a lot of those books. Highlight what you like, make notes about how it works and what you like about it. Highlight things you don't like and make more notes. How would you have written it? What would you change? Granted, you can't give your review to the author, but you'll find out what you like, don't like and pick up on your own style. I think this can be very helpful to new writers. This also can be helpful when doing traditional reviews on here. 

@Rian: This is really interesting. I find myself doing the same thing mentally with novels. Noticing the parts I liked and parts I didn't in Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter series led me to edit my own work and, hopefully, improve it.

Thanks to everyone who's posted here. You've each contributed nuggets of wisdom for me to reference whenever I review. I'd rate everyone "very helpful."
Especially PandaMask, 'cause that image made me giggle.

Victor's picture
Victor from U.k May 7, 2012 - 1:45pm

I try to recap the story in my reviews briefly and hit on what the authors trying to convey and communicate. I add excerpts that i like from the story in my reviews and comment on prose, characters and the whole reading experience it offered.