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Young Writers Society
Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:36 pm
Chain reviewing is when you choose a novel or a series and review the chapters one by one. The tutorial I’ve put together here is a way of providing the most useful feedback to a novelist, and an efficient way to boost review counts.
Before you Begin
There are one or two important things you should check in order to save efforts.
Check to see if it’s still in progress. If there’s been no update for two or three weeks you might want to wait until the next one comes.
PM the author and let them know that you’re about to go through their novel. They might be able to fill you in on any major rewrites or updates you should wait for, or offer something in return.
Some chapters may have been edited but not updated on YWS, so asking for the updated ones would be better for both.
Take a look at the review counts. Earlier chapters tend to get a lot more reviews than the latter ones. If the first three have six reviews and then the rest have one, you could read the first few chapters and save the reviews for the more neglected ones.
A note on novel openings
Read the first few chapters. That’s before you start your review.
It will be much easier for you as a reviewer to know where to start and how to improve the first chapter when you have an idea of where it’s going and a better grasp on the persons writing style. If you’re Chain Reviewing then you’ll be reading them anyway, and I find this method speeds up the process.
Okay. Now onto the review itself. Remember this is a tutorial, so it’s about giving you a guide rather than a concrete format. Adjust it depending on your own style of reviewing.
First Part: Plot and Characters
Imagine you’re sitting in a group discussing a book the same way you would in class- your opinion matters. It may be the author you’re talking to, but seeing how other people perceive their characters and work, and the effect their words are having, is one of the most crucial pieces of feedback.
General impressions of characters and atmosphere are significant, so if you can talk about this then the author will know if they’ve gotten their point across. Think about them as real people, and how you'd feel meeting them for the first time or listening to their story.
People interpret actions and dialogue in different ways, so if something startles, intrigues, angers or amuses you then it’s worth mentioning.
Question, debate and speculate, that’s the best part of reading. Talk about where you think the plot is going or how you want it to go. When considering where to move on to next this kind of feedback is critical to the author.
Second Part: Tutorial
The first part is mostly ambiguous as far as critique goes. This is the part where you put the things that need to be improved. The trick is not to do a line-by-line critique- that can be left to the nitpickers who jump in and out of novels. As a Chain-Reviewer you’ll be aiming not to fix work, but to work with the author and teach them how to fix it themselves.
Keep it neat. By choosing only one or two things you’ll be giving the author enough to focus on for improvement without overwhelming them, and you won’t be expending all your wisdoms in one review.
Say what you’ve noticed in their work (or this chapter), why you think it needs fixing and, most importantly, give some advice on how to go about fixing it.
It never hurts to include a bit of personal experience. If it's something you've struggled with in the past, or you have any particular tricks or exercises that help you to avoid the same pitfall then talk about them. We're all in the same boat, right?
Third Part: Summary
This is where you comment on the chapter as part of the overall novel, in terms of quality, entertainment, e.c.t.
Make a point of anything that has improved since last time, or anywhere you notice the author has taken your advice. We're all kids at heart and like it when someone notices our efforts.
If the author is starting to slack in any areas where you know they can already do better then make a note of it here.
As well as encouraging someone to improve, as a reviewer the aim is also to encourage them to keep writing, and since bad writing is better than no writing I'd say this is the most important part of your review!
Lastly: Pace Yourself
Reviewing can be as much of a challenge (sometimes even more) than writing, so it’s important to take care of yourself as well as the author.
It’s alright to skip a review if you don’t really know what to say about a chapter, or just to leave a comment. Honesty is important, so you don’t always need to be super smart or overly critical in order to justify the review.
Just as an author decides on times to write and deadlines to meet so that they don’t exhaust themselves, as a reviewer this is a good philosophy to have too. Set a time limit on how long you’ll spend on a chapter, or how many you’ll review in one sitting.
And Most Importantly: Have Fun!
Hope this helps =]
You are all the colours in one, at full brightness.
— Jennifer Niven, 'All the Bright Places'
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