Matt Neputin's picture
Matt Neputin January 22, 2017 - 4:44am

To be honest. I'm a bit intimidated by the fact that a lot of the submissions there are by writers who are attending a creative writing masters etc. English is not my first language so I'm double-intimidated by critiquing their fiction.

Has anyone had a similar experience?


Daltonwriting's picture
Daltonwriting from Charlotte, NC is reading As many short story collections as I can get my hands on January 22, 2017 - 8:33am

Just dive right in. I'm not a professional writer but I love to write. My first story I posted in the workshop was published thanks to comments from this group. It's a great supportive group. Give it a try.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal January 22, 2017 - 9:00am

I've worked with someone who didn't speak English as a first language (though I should say she was quite good with it, from Sweden where they all learn English and buy books in English, so..) and I actually found it useful in a unique way. I figure if I can present thingsin a way that isn't confusing to her, then I'm golden.

Kedzie's picture
Kedzie from Northern California is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien January 22, 2017 - 1:32pm

I'm pretty active on the workshop and authors seem to gain value from my reviews. However, my very first review was trite and useless. The author rated it Not Helpful, and rightfully so.

That was a wake up call, and it caused me to read this article:  

From that point forward my reviews improved.

Suggestions to help you write good reviews.

  • Read the story twice.
  • If you inlcude an LBL, make that your third read.
  • Read the first time for pleasure without taking notes.
  • Read the second time for critique.
  • During the second read (if on paper) have two different colored highlighters and a sharp pencil in hand. Highlight the words, sentences and/or paragraphs that you wish to discuss in your review, using one color for positive and the other color for negative. Use the pencil to write your notes.
  • Not sure how to replicate this from a laptop or tablet, which is why I prefer paper.
  • When it comes time to write your LBL (not all stories will get one) use the comments (thought balloons) feature in WORD, rather than striking-through the author's actual words on the page.
  • As the article suggests, find something positive to say.
  • When being critical, couch your words in non-biting language.  

Re: your concern about English: I had no problems reading your post, above. But if you're concerned about it, perhaps you have an English speaking friend who can look over your first review before submiting. 

Re: workshop participants edumakshun, I don't have a college degree. Don't know about the others. If you're looking to improve your stories and not just your reviews, Litreactor classes are excellent. I can't compare them to college classes, but my instincts tell me they compare quite well.

Here's a truth: College can't make you a writer any more than studying boxing can make you a boxer. Two things can make you a writer: read a bunch of varied stuff from really good writers, and write a whole lot.

Then step into the ring, throw your punches and take your blows.  

Good luck!

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman January 23, 2017 - 10:48am

It can be an intimidating place, for sure. But it's also a great place to work those skills and find your critical voice. Check out some of the other reviews to get an idea of what people are doing, and then jump in! 

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. January 28, 2017 - 1:04pm

@Matt Neputin. Hi Matt. Gail here. Most of the time when I meet or read the work of someone who uses English as a second language, the work is quite a bit better than people born into an English speaking culture. There is a care and selectivity and simplicity in usage that is refreshing, when contrasted with a careless English speaking writer. ESL speakers and writers hold themselves to a standard of communication that is focused on getting a thought across, rather than showing off.

Secondly. The Workshop is strengthened by any new voice.

Third. We need you. I am a self taught writer. An MFA was not in the cards for me. This is my MFA. Join in. Add you vocie and see how it feels. If it doesn't work for you, you get to quit. No problem. Thanks for your post. gail.


bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann January 30, 2017 - 10:35am

You don't need your Master's to give helpful feedback. Sometimes simple reader feedback is invaluable. Let the author know what worked for you and what didn't. Most people already know the technical ins and outs of grammar and don't need too much help on that. If you don't feel qualified to be an editor, just be an audience member. The audience reaction feedback stuff is something you can't figure out or come across on your own as a writer. You can give a diagnosis (e.g., the story felt rushed) even if you don't know exactly what the underlying problem causing it is. Just do your best and try to phrase things kindly when you can. You'll figure out as you go what sorts of comments are helpful and which ones aren't.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal January 30, 2017 - 11:10am

^ Yes. I've more than once found "audience" feedback more helpful than "fellow writer" feedback.

Eric Romm's picture
Eric Romm from I'm from California February 21, 2017 - 2:43am

A good fiction work is something that invokes interest and as a critique, the first thing you should see is how interesting the writing work is. Does it make you want to read more? That's all.