Everyone is a critic, smashing out reviews left right and centre. Is there a problem with this? Not all the time. In fact, there are plenty of critiques that are what the author, creator or artist need to continue improving upon themselves. Whether or not the review is negative or positive, we are able to learn. Sure we have seen those who refuse to comment on something they had read because they feel that it didn’t make their three-star guidelines. But even if you didn’t enjoy the work produced, would a little tip cause you to go astray?
So here a few pointers on how best to review a person’s blood, sweat and tears.
1. Don’t be the grammar police
Not everyone in the writing world passed English at school, nor did they receive a masters in communication at a university. So with that everyone is prone to making some errors in their work. So what can we do, I suggest that we mention what we enjoyed about the piece. If you are to bring up issues with grammar, find the most common errors and explain to the author, the area/s that can be improved. No one is going to achieve greatness within their work if they are oblivious to the mistakes they are making. I know that within my own work there are areas that I need working on. So point out what key points they need to work on, instead of being a grammar Nazi.
2. Don’t say something is unrealistic
Fiction, a story that lives within the realm of imagination. It is a form of writing that is untrue, imaginary. If an author is saying a woman is wearing a dress in a season other than summer, wouldn’t it be less likely that the location is somewhere other than America, Europe or the United Kingdom? Or rather that the place of this town or city doesn’t exist in the realm as we know it to? I had one recently tell me because a girl wearing a short dress on a light breezed day it was unrealistic or even that the killer didn’t meet the psychological box that he should be in that the whole thing is fake. I don’t know about you, but the last time I read fiction, I wasn’t making sure the writer had every square inch covered in idealistic truths. It is a book, one of fantasy, let the author dictate your imagination not the other way around.
3. Don’t be someone you are not
If you love reviewing that is great, there is nothing wrong with that. We need more critiques in my opinion. What I don’t enjoy though, stems from my time working as a chef. A foodie is not a chef, no if’s or buts’ you may love to eat food, but without the qualification, you are nothing short of a home cook. Even if you make some fancy dishes at home from time to time, stand against a chef in a professional environment, and I am sure you will crumble under all the pressure. So what do I mean, if you are going to review something, make sure you can stand on your own two feet first. Show us that you can string a few words together before you say “your work is a pathetic mess.” Having pages upon pages of other shared work does not make you a writer. And please, oh please do not put down the word ‘smart’ on your profile, it makes you look like the opposite.
4. Don’t be a know-it-all
You may be an expert on a subject, but most of the time you are nothing more than a self-appointed expert. Some writers may not have friends in industries to help with Characters. Google isn’t always filled with the best research either, so the author is left to improvise, leaning on to what they are seeing in their own mind rather than an in-depth detail of a characters day to day life. So if you see a story that is lacking in an area you are more profound in then offer some insight into that field, I am not saying write the book for them. But instead, offer ideas on how they can gain more knowledge.
5. Don’t, not give valuable feedback
There you are reading through a book, a short story even a poem. If you have been asked to look at someone’s pride and joy, don’t ignore it if it stretches below your standards of commenting. The harsh truths to life are that not everyone will like what you do, but through the experience of hearing what people did or didn’t like a person can get a better understanding for what is needed the next time they put pen to paper. It is always better to get a 1 star and a critique explaining why the article didn’t touch with you than a blank space. If you are worried about the person’s ability to write again after a seemingly negative review, don’t. You are more likely to end the person’s writing career by not giving a helping hand.
Just like the blogging community, we need to be there for those writers. A helping hand in the journey through artistic freedom can be the difference between keeping people expressing themselves and locking themselves behind closed doors. The next time you go to write a critical review of a book, poem or story remember these five don’ts, and everything will be a lot better for both parties.
Till next time, keep smiling
The Stubborn Australian