Critiques and Reviews: two ways to help Writers
As a writer, I’m all too aware of my humanness. I know I’m not perfect. When I try to critique or proofread my own writing, it doesn’t work very well. I miss things that are obvious.I’m thankful that I have people in my life who are willing to give me honest feedback on my writing.
If you want to help your writer friends, offer to help them by providing a critique or a review. Others may differ in their definitions, but I see the two as different. When I’m asking for ways to improve my writing BEFORE something is published, I’ll ask for a critique. When I’m asking for a review, I’d like people to tell others why they should or shouldn’t read what I wrote AFTER it is published.
Dictionary.com defines a critique as:
I expect people to be critical, but also tell me what they like about my writing. I want to know:
- Does my title accurately describe what I’m talking about?
- Do I grab the reader and keep his attention?
- Am I communicating clearly?
- Are there points that need to be reworked?
- Does the storyline make sense?
- Are my facts accurate?
- Do I have any passive sentences?
- Am I using any cliches that need to be reworked?
- Have I chosen words that convey the right mood?
- Is my grammar correct?
- Is my reasoning clear?
- Do I have typos or typesetting that need to be corrected?
- What descriptions did you like?
- Can you picture what I’m writing about?
- Did my writing evoke emotion? How?
Some helpful comments from recent critiques:
- I want to “see” Jack’s immediate reaction – to be inside his skin. Maybe add. . .
- It has good vocabulary, though controlled for the age, familiar objects and activities, and action that children can relate to.
- I would like to see the Dad more involved if possible. You talk mostly about Your experiences with the children. Maybe now you should write one for the Dads and let your husband share some of his thoughts.
- I was trying to figure out is the theme to show independence and responsibility in something a child of this age can do? Or did I miss the boat?
Remember: When you offer a critique, make sure you’re kind as well as honest. Help the author improve what they’ve written, but make sure you tell the author what you like and what he or she has done well.
Many readers read reviews to help decide whether or not to purchase a paperback or e-book. I appreciate people who are willing to exchange a free copy of a book for an honest review. (Note: If you would like to join my list of reviewers, send me an e-mail!) When a book or article has all 5-star reviews, I get suspicious. Most books and authors are not perfect! However, you should be careful about being “nitpicky” when doing reviews as well. Be gracious, but honest.
Amazon.ca has this to say about writing reviews:
“Tips on writing a great review
- Include the “why”: The best reviews include not only whether you liked or disliked a product, but also why. Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.
- Be specific: Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it.
- Not too short, not too long: Written reviews are limited to 5,000 words. The ideal length is 75 to 500 words.
- Be sincere: We welcome your honest opinion about the product–positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers’ buying decisions.”
If you read a book and appreciate what the author has to say, make sure you write a review. This not only informs potential readers, but also encourages the author to keep writing and/or to try harder next time.
Here are some reviews I’ve appreciated. Notice how specific the reviewers are about what they like:
- She writes with a light touch and a lot of humour about the chaos that reigns in her household.
- The author’s personal experience living in Africa lends a powerful authenticity to the story.
- The details of the foreign setting help us feel the scorching heat, smell the stench of sickness and decaying flesh, and experience Cecile’s nervousness as she faces government officials who are determined to shut her clinic down.
- There were lots of lose ends and they come together naturally and with the right amount of believability. It was romantic without being over the top.
- Ruth L. Snyder takes us on a fast-paced ride with dizzying plot twists. Read it.
Do you offer critiques or reviews? What advice would you add?