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Reviewing Optimistically



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Lauren2010 says...



Spoiler! :
I'm posting this in Fiction Discussion because even though this guide is applicable to anything, I hope to let it lead into other guides about how to review specific aspects of fiction - like character, pace, plot, etc. I can't fathom a way to begin those discussions, though, without having this one first. Enjoy!


The most important – and most difficult – lesson I’ve learned about how to critique another person’s writing is to be optimistic. Now, we’re all familiar with the conventional definition of optimism. And if we’re not, well, here it is:

Optimism: noun hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.


When talking about giving critique, being optimistic means two things:

1. The writer is in control of their work.
This means beginning every story, poem, essay, etc you read with the assumption that the writer has done everything on purpose. When we read published writing, we make this assumption automatically. We understand the writer has approached their work with intent and has made choices they think will make their story the best possible story they can write. Being optimistic means you give any practicing writer the same respect you would give a published work.

If this sounds familiar, you’re probably right! It’s common advice not to impose your own ideas/preferences/aesthetic on another writer. Just because you wouldn’t write a character or a scene or line a certain way doesn’t mean another writer can’t do so successfully. Instead of telling a writer the way you think they should write their story/poem/essay/etc (which is often actually how you would write the story/poem/essay/etc) take a minute to try and understand what that writer is trying to do.

When you assume a writer is being purposeful, you allow yourself to be more objective. You are not the author. Your job as a reviewer or critique partner isn’t to make the piece into something you would write. It’s to help the author make their work the very best version of what they’re trying to write. Other writers are allowed to make decisions you would not make. That’s the beauty of art!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to assume every error or typo or poor story decision is right and shouldn’t be pointed out. There are often objective issues with writing, because we’re all learning. You’re allowed to make comments and ask questions about things that aren’t working. However, being optimistic means hesitating to frame these as criticisms. Instead it means reporting your observations:

Edited because @Rosendorn provided a really fantastic example.

"This story felt really distant to me, which is probably because you use a lot of sentence structure x. Sentence structure y could make me as the reader feel a lot closer to what's happening in the story."

You're not telling the writer their sentences suck, but that their sentence structure is likely the culprit for what is keeping you distant in their story. If they didn't mean to keep the reader distant, you've provided a possible fix!

But being optimistic also means remembering that other writers can, and do effectively, make decisions that you wouldn't make in a story. There can be well written, effective stories that just aren't your cup of tea, as well. I personally love writing and reading stories where I'm brought really close to the story or the characters. I love getting inside people's heads. But not every story can or should be told that way. So as an optimistic reviewer, you might also leave your critique open to the possibility that this distance was intentional:

"If you're trying to keep the reader distant, then I would ask what you're trying to gain in the story from that distance because I didn't feel the pay-off for it. Maybe there's a way to make it feel more purposeful by the end of the story? One answer might be to include a moment or two of direct address (where the character or narrator speaks directly to the audience) to make that distance more effective."

Of course, this kind of feedback can get more specific in the context of an actual story, where you can better tell if being kept out of a character's head is helping to move the story forward. The more you read and review and write, the easier it is to gain a sense for whether an author is being intentional or not. Sometimes you can just tell someone didn't do something on purpose!

When you remain optimistic, you’re remembering that the author set out to write the story, poem, etc in the best way they thought to write it. And that's what you're reading. So you're letting yourself believe that this writer is capable of writing something better. Being optimistic means you don’t go in assuming the writing will be bad, but that you can help this writer craft their piece into something really great.

2. This is only a draft.
One of the common trends among new (and even seasoned) reviewers is to hone in on grammar issues (often called nit-picks, or line-edits) to fill out a review. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these kinds of reviews, but it’s not the most effective form of critique when you understand that what you’re reading is only a draft.

No one expects a first, second, or even third draft to be perfect. Even finished books go to print with errors. Work gets posted to YWS with the express intent of receiving critique, so we know going in to reading a piece that it will have errors. Things like spelling and grammar are minor issues compared to an essay without a strong thesis or a poem with conflicting imagery. Avoiding focusing on nit-picks requires the assumption that a piece will change substantially between first and second (or even second and third, etc) drafts. It’s pointless to correct the grammar in a sentence that might not even survive the next draft. These are final draft concerns, and writers are rarely seeking to point final draft work on YWS.

Of course, if spelling and grammar errors are significant and distracting it’s always appropriate to mention it. You can tell a writer to look at their punctuation (and link a helpful guide from the Knowledge Base! There are many!) without picking out and correcting every single error in a piece. Instead, understand that any story will have small nit-pick errors and have faith that the writer can learn to catch them on their own.

This allows you to focus on the content of the piece and help iron out the major story-changing (or poem-changing, or essay-changing) issues in this draft, which will ultimately be that much more helpful to the writer (and you, as reviewing is one of the best ways to build your own skills as a writer!).



It takes time to hone this perspective on reviewing. Especially when you encounter a piece that needs more than the average amount of work to make it better. But aiming for optimism and trusting the writer to know what they’re doing (even if you’re absolutely positive they don’t) not only makes you a more supportive artist, but is ultimately better for both the writer you’re critiquing and for you!


What do you think? Does intent matter? Are you aware of the mindset with which you approach a piece you're going to review?
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Tenyo says...



I think intent definitely matters when approaching a work. I find if I approach a piece of work with the intention of fixing it then it comes across in my reviews, and the result is a series of narrow comments that regard the piece as a series of sentences rather than as a piece of literature. If I approach it with the intention of writing a really good review and imbuing my expansive knowledge onto the person, then what I write is a review that is spectacular to read, but also rather pretentious and unhelpful.

I actually once stumbled across one of the most pretentious reviews I've ever seen. It was awful. I remember thinking how the reviewer probably didn't have a clue what they were talking about and just wanted to sound good- until I realised that the users avatar looked startlingly familiar. I don't know what's worse, that I had posted such a gross review, or that I had engaged with the work so little that I didn't remember it when I read it the second time.

"This allows you to focus on the content of the piece and help iron out the major story-changing (or poem-changing, or essay-changing) issues in this draft, which will ultimately be that much more helpful to the writer" - this is so true! It's really easy when reviewing random works to forget that each piece is part of a larger picture, either a bigger project or a writers own personal journey.
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Mea says...



I think intent is a really interesting question. I'm definitely guilty of not always assuming that something the author did may be intentional - it actually really depends on the work and whether other aspects of their writing feel "professional." Maybe that's something I should do more, because I can see how it's easier to review optimistically with that mindset.

However, I think you can learn to gauge what's likely to be intentional and what's not. That's helpful because if it a certain "flaw" is unintentional, telling the author it's not working can be confusing for them because they have no idea exactly what they did or how to fix it. For example, me saying "your pacing felt too fast" wouldn't help someone who has no idea how sentence structure, amount of description vs action, etc. all affect pacing, and/or is not good at regulating that. I'd need to go into more detail and give suggestions as to how to slow the pacing down. But another, more experienced writer might have deliberately decided on the fast pacing, and so all I have to do is say "the pacing felt too fast" and they can adjust as they see fit. I remember early on as a writer getting reviews that correctly diagnosed the problem, but didn't tell me how to fix it, and I had no idea how to do it myself. Heck, I still get that.

It’s pointless to correct the grammar in a sentence that might not even survive the next draft.

Exactly. As much as I appreciate any reviews I get on something, when I post novel chapters I can't get much out of reviews that are mostly line edits. I'd much rather hear about what you think about the plot and the characters, even if you're plunging in not having read anything else.

Because of this I always try to focus on the general, not the specifics. For example, if their writing is rather stilted in places, instead of re-writing those specific places, I'll point out that it feels stilted, try to pinpoint why that is (maybe too many sentences with the same structure) and then tell them that. Similarly, if they have consistent grammar errors, I explain the grammar rule they're having trouble with, fix maybe 1 error as an example, and leave a link to a site that explains grammar in more detail, rather than going through and fixing every error.

I'm interested to know: when following a novel, do you focus on just each chapter, or do you comment on the overall pacing and plot structure like you were reading an actual novel? I know that's the most helpful kind of feedback for me, and I try to give that kind of feedback when following a longer work, but it can be hard when there's long gaps between chapters. What do you think?
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Lauren2010 says...



@Tenyo oh god I would hate to look back at some of my earliest reviews. I'm sure I've left plenty of pretentious reviews myself xD It's all part of the process of growing as a literary thinker and critic, I think!

@Mea For novels I follow on YWS, I usually focus on each chapter specifically with brief tie-ins to how the overall novel is shaping up. It's hard to make a lot of big-picture comments until a novel is finished (which doesn't always happen on YWS, as far as chapters being posted) because you don't know which plot threads are left hanging until everything ties up.

For example, if I'm beginning a new novel on YWS I'll comment on how the beginning is shaping up in the first few chapters (do we know the plot yet? are we grounded in the characters? is there a clear sense of what the MC wants? etc) but I'll also focus on how each chapter is working on it's own. Chapters should always have their own beginning-middle-end arcs, like mini-stories of their own, which is hard to master as a new writer so I find a lot of use focusing on those things! And then at the end of a review, I'll comment on how things are tying together/building as a whole. And it *can* be hard with long gaps in between! So sometimes I go back and re-read my reviews on earlier chapters to refresh myself on the things I've been watching for.
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Rosendorn says...



I will always caution against ignoring grammar and syntax error under the assumption that writers will pick up on it on their own.

Because disabled writers who cannot improve their syntax without extensive help exist, in vast numbers.

I am one of them. If I didn't have reviewers point out "your sentences make everything sound distant because you use x structure, use y structure to improve", then I would continue to use x structure because I cannot tell that x structure has problems nor do I know what to use instead. It's only after years and years of people pointing out my grammar issues and walking me through fixes that I have actually improved in the mechanics of writing.

Assuming everyone can fix their writing leads to a lot of pointless reviews, because telling me "it feels distant from the grammar, but you'll improve next draft!" has about the effect of a cream pie on a target. Annoying, but nothing's different. I'm not the only learning disabled writer out there, so I always try to point out stuff that people like me struggle to intuit. Not everyone has the ability to point out they need help with that, too, so giving them the advice without a roadmap can be extremely frustrating.

On a related note, "assuming things were purposeful" doesn't really stand up under, well, unconscious bias. This article has the assumption everyone has the physical ability to improve their grammar in their own time, when not everyone does. Pointing out stuff that you doubt was intentional but comes off way wrong helps writers improve, even if it can sound harsh. Like, I'm positive you didn't mean to erase learning disabled writers from your advice, but that ended up happening. As a result, your advice would lead to less effective reviews for a segment of the population, which is the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish!

When you get into the idea that everything is purposeful, things can get really disheartening, really fast. I go about it the exact reverse: assuming people probably didn't mean to come across that way, but they did, so absolutely 0 judgement but going to point out an issue to help people make less mistakes like that in the future. People don't mean for their characters to sound flat, they don't mean for their writing to be awkward, they don't mean to reinforce systematic problems.

When I approach works with the attitude "none of the mistakes were intentional", then it's a lot easier to point them out. Yes, it can mean pointing out lots and lots and lots of mistakes. But that doesn't mean the review isn't optimistic. It's very optimistic. I actually believe people care about changing what's coming across. If I believed they did it on purpose, then that would be a punch to the gut.
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Lauren2010 says...



@Rosendorn I think you mistunderstand what I mean!

"your sentences make everything sound distant because you use x structure, use y structure to improve" is different advice from "this sentence should have a comma here!". Use of language is an important component of storytelling, and keeping a reader distant is an issue larger than grammar. It's also something that can often be done with intention to great effect, because not every story does or should ask the reader to be close to the story.

Being conscious of the way language works in a story, and commenting on the ways it feels that works or doesn't work, is super effective and I'm glad you brought up the distinction. What I find to be less effective is line-edit nit-picks that correct misplaced commas. Line edits are important, but I find it more effective to focus on elements of story when pointing a writer toward their next draft, rather than elements of grammar (or, the likewise elements in poetry or nonfiction).

It's also not necessarily an assumption that everyone can "figure it out themselves" but more of an acceptance that everyone (learning disabled or not) takes time to learn grammar and spelling, and these imperfections are not a mark of a bad storyteller. It doesn't matter how lovely of a sentence you can craft if the storytelling is off! So unless a writer has specifically requested line-edits, or if there are really glaring and consistent issues, as a reviewer I am less inclined to spend time focusing on what I find to be less essential elements of storytelling.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean about believing an author has intention being disheartening? That it's disheartening for you as the reviewer to believe, or leads to you as the reviewer writing a disheartening review?

I don't mean that we should go into a story, poem, etc believing the writer made any existing mistakes on purpose. Obviously most writers don't write poorly on purpose. Approaching a piece optimistically means you believe the writer is capable of improving, and that they already possess the talent and ability to write a better story (note: "better" doesn't always mean "good" or "perfect" considering we're all in a constant state of improvement).

Believing in authorial intention means remembering "this is a person who sat down to write this story the way they have written it". Most of us don't get a story right the first go around, but we write the draft the best way we can think of to tell the story. As a reviewer, I want to keep that in mind as I'm giving advice. I can advise on points that didn't work for me as a reader, and give suggestions based on how I think that writer might improve it. Using your sentence-structure-keeps-me-distant example from before, I could tell a writer "I felt really distant from the story as I was reading it, probably because of the sentence structure. It would probably help bring me closer to the story if you varied it up a bit, maybe tried using more of sentence structure y." But I would still want to keep in mind that distance is often effective in storytelling. I myself might not write a story that way, but I don't have to place my own aesthetic or preferred mode of storytelling on another writer or their story. I would always mention how I reacted (as above!) but I would also recognize that this could be purposeful (because I don't know!) and add "If you're trying to keep the reader distant, then my question would be what you're attempting to gain from that distance? Maybe there's a way to make that purpose clearer at the end of the story, perhaps with a moment or two of direct address (where the character or narrator speaks directly to the audience) to make that distance more effective in your story."

Does that make sense? Thanks for bringing up those points for clarification! And, of course, I'd never advocate for one way everyone should review. We'll all find our most valuable ways to approach a story, this is just one that has really changed the way I look at reading and responding to fiction (and in turn affected the way I approach my own writing) that I wanted to share. I also think it's valuable to encourage more interactions between writers and reviewers. If a reviewer didn't hit on the kind of feedback a writer would find most valuable, why couldn't a writer ask for the kind of feedback they want?

I'm really glad this has become a discussion. As an aspiring teacher, I'm always fond of discussing different approaches to responding to creative work.
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Rosendorn says...



You put the example in the wrong place. I was responding to "this is a draft" first, and "the author is in control of their work" second.

My point about grammar advice was in response to this:

2. This is only a draft.
One of the common trends among new (and even seasoned) reviewers is to hone in on grammar issues (often called nit-picks, or line-edits) to fill out a review. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these kinds of reviews, but it’s not the most effective form of critique when you understand that what you’re reading is only a draft.

No one expects a first, second, or even third draft to be perfect. Even finished books go to print with errors. Work gets posted to YWS with the express intent of receiving critique, so we know going in to reading a piece that it will have errors. Things like spelling and grammar are minor issues compared to an essay without a strong thesis or a poem with conflicting imagery. Avoiding focusing on nit-picks requires the assumption that a piece will change substantially between first and second (or even second and third, etc) drafts. It’s pointless to correct the grammar in a sentence that might not even survive the next draft. These are final draft concerns, and writers are rarely seeking to point final draft work on YWS.


Because, for learning disabled writers, grammar will not improve across drafts. Ergo, it actually is important to point out the grammar portion of a work, because we can't tell what's going on with the grammar.

Might it get rewritten? Sure. But by holding the assumption that grammar is "unimportant" or just deserves a passing mention, you frustrate disabled writers because they get "I'm sure you can pick this up!" when most of us can't.

So my point is to avoid the lines "I'm sure you can pick this up"/"there are grammar mistakes, proof according to xyz" because assuming that people can pick up their own mistakes isn't realistic. I can't pick up my own spelling and grammar mistakes. I have never been able to pick up my own spelling and grammar mistakes. I can't even pick up on works shifting tenses unless it's particularly bad.

The whole tone of "this is only a draft" comes across as "don't worry about grammar, people will improve over time and catch their own mistakes as they keep writing!" when that is false. By going into the work with the thought that grammar will improve, you're not serving a portion of the population.

Do you have to do a full line by line critique? No. But by saying "You have consistent grammar mistakes along x lines, here are examples of the mistakes, let me know if you want more detail" is much better. Because if you don't provide examples and explain the grammar mistake in detail, people won't improve.

As for unintentional mistakes being disheartening:

Had I read this very thing with the assumption you were purposely ignoring learning disabled writers, then I would've had a very negative opinion of you. Because the way you came across with "grammar is unimportant, they'll fix it over time" is something that will not help people like me. But because I came in with the assumption of "this is an unintentional way stuff's coming across", I just pointed out how you came across and didn't put a moral judgement on you.

There are other times like— an effeminate man, or butch woman being the villain. If I assume people intentionally created that to villainize non standard gender presentations, then I'll feel that person actively hates queer people. When in reality, they probably didn't even realize that they were reinforcing queer people= evil. Or villains with hooked nose and big ears and curly hair. Most people don't realize that's a Jewish stereotype, and just associate that with villains.

So when you start to pick apart work, while being sensitive to marginalized identities, if you assume everyone is purposely putting in harmful stuff then it gets really depressing, really fast. Instead, I assume people don't know about how they're coming across or what they're reinforcing, and am much more optimistic as a result.
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Mea says...



The solution to this is that context matters.

When I review someone who I know is learning English as a second language, I almost always make sure to take the time to point out the majority of grammar errors, because the grammar is obviously not intuitive for them and won't be for years, if ever. In general, if I notice that it's a particular rule of commas being continually abused, I'll explain the rule and correct a few instances of it being wrong. But if the description of the work says "oh, this is a really rough NaNo draft" or something of the sort then no, I'm not going to spend my time correcting the random, inconsistent grammar mistakes because there are so many other things I could comment on that will improve them more as a storyteller in the long run. People that are completely unable to get better at grammar over time without constant outside help are in the minority, and so I offer my fine-toothed comb should they need it, but don't presuppose that they do.

And, like Lauren said, it's the difference between critiquing it in the way that would improve it as a story and in the way of "this is how I would write it." For example, when I run across stories and I don't like the main character, too often I've assumed that the character is supposed to be likable and told them how to "fix" it, because I neither enjoy reading or writing stories with extremely unlikable main characters and I assumed they just didn't know how to write the main character.

I think your example isn't what was meant. To redirect it, what I got out of this thread is not that you should think someone wrote a butch villain to reinforce "queer=evil" as opposed to thinking they weren't being sensitive enough, but that you shouldn't assume they didn't intend to write the villain as butch at all. Which clearly you didn't, in your example.
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PenguinAttack says...



I think it is important to remember as well that if you don't like reviewing grammar or punctuation, you don't have to. There's going to be someone who loves that stuff to help you - for example, I am awful at commas and probably will always be because despite YEARS of Jabberhut vainly trying to get me to understand how they work, I still over use them. Less than before tho, so thanks to her!!

How I review has changed a lot over the years, as I learnt exactly what you're saying here, Lauren. The author's work is theirs. And while I may wish things were different, I have to respect that sometimes the author intends things as they are even if I think they could work better.

I tend to read over a work and decide what I did or didn't like about it - this often involves general feelings about the characters or the setting and I comment on those casually. I like to explain why I like or don't like something and provide a specific example from the text. If I don't like a thing, or I think it could be done better, I explain how I might go about it and provide an example.

What I try to stress, and what I think Lauren is also stressing, is that this work is the author's. We, as reviewers - not editors - look at the work as a continual work in progress rather than a completed work. Commenting on whether a semi-colon should be used or a full colon seems pointless when the work is going to change - probably a lot - in a very short time.

If the author specifies that's all they need, I usually ignore the work and go find another. Or I ignore the suggestion if I think the work needs help regardless. In the end though, it is the author's right and duty to explore the functions and systems of writing and not the job of the YWS reviewer to teach them what is right and why. Certainly because many YWSers are also still learning, and also because conventional writing is, in modern terms, more often being ignored and changed.

Assuming that the author intends everything to be as it is, is a really good starting point because from there you respect the author's choice but can also be like "Okay I see you've chosen to write this in this way. I'm going to suggest you have a look at writing it in this way, and if it doesn't work nevermind, but I think you'll find it works better because of..." And your comments assume that the writer is eager to improve and loves writing and so will try new things.

Overall, I love how positive the idea of optimistic reviewing is, even if I sometimes don't comply!
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Holysocks says...



I haven't read ALL the comments, so mostly commenting my own thoughts! c: Also can I just say; reviewing is so cool, like, it is it's own art, and everyone does it differently- and that is beautiful.

When I review, I really try to take into consideration WHO I'm reviewing for. There's a lot of clues you can pick up on about a piece and person based on all sorts of things (not explaining this very well) and I find it can really help. For instance, my reviews vary in levels of tone based on who I'm reviewing. If I'm reviewing someone that I know is a "no monkey-business" kind a person, I'll be a little blunter with them. If there's a member I know who I've seen post on their wall about not liking reviews where the reviewers jump in on the middle of novels- I'll think twice before jumping in on their novel. If it's a new member, then I tend to be a lot more cautious how I approach their work.

On the topic of grammar/spelling/syntax: I find it's generally pretty easy to judge what are typos and what is the author not knowing how to spell something, etc. For instance, if you see them spelling the greeting "hey" as "hay" more then once, that's a good indication. I agree that too many grammatical corrections on an author's work can be... disappointing!- and that's speaking as someone that has had a lot of trouble with grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax- the whole nine-yards. The kind of reviews I appreciated (and still appreciate) are the ones that cover a bit of grammar/punctuation/syntax but also include other critiques. It's not helpful to me if the reviewer points out every typo I make (I still appreciate the time and effort they put into the review, but I feel honestly a little sorry for them because that's a LOT of work). The only time I point out technical stuff like grammar, etc, is when I see the mistakes being made over and over again- or just a couple times. And if there's an abundance of grammatical-type errors, I might not point many out at all because pointing out too many of those things can be really disheartening (speaking from experience). For the most part, when I point out technical things like that I tend to only mention a few things, and try not to repeat every example I come across- it only needs to be said once, most of the times. If I see them making the same mistakes in the next, say, chapter, then I miiight mention it briefly again- but these are only mentions, they're like a "oh and by the way, I noticed this..." they are not the meat of the review.

I forget what else I was going to say, to be honest! But basically my approach is centred around the author and the feel I get about them (a huge clue as to how someone will take your review, is in their responses to other reviewers; you can generally tell what kind of approach you'll need to take based on those comments- of course taking into account the review they're responding to, as well). Though it's easy when taking this approach to get into a mindset where you think you know everything the writer is trying to do, and how they're thinking, and that's dangerous because this approach is based off of impressions and educated guesses... and if you forget that you just end up looking really ridiculous, and not helping the author out much. :P So I think it's always good to have an open mind and realize that your way isn't the only way.
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Lauren2010 says...



@Holysocks I love what you're saying about tailoring a review to the writer. This is really important! And a great way to build relationships that lead to even better reviews in the future. Gosh I love reviews <3

I think ultimately (and having studied writing/teaching writing academically for 6.5 years) is that I entered way too many critiques feeling superior to the writer or eager to really rip something to shreds. Which doesn't help the writer feel good about their work, and doesn't help me become a better writer or critic. I'm still working on it myself, but this very broad concept of "reviewing optimistically" has done so much for my mindset as an artist and a teacher. I want to love writing so freaking wholeheartedly and I want to see other writers throw themselves fully and joyfully into improving themselves. For me, approaching critique this way helps me get massively excited about writing. To think "this writer is really putting themselves out there and trying something new or hard or different and that's AMAZING" or "look at all the great potential this thing has, even if the writer is still carrying some problematic preconceived notions about writing or the world, they're trying to engage with a style or a tradition and that's so brave."

Man, you guys, writing is so brave and I am so excited about writers writing. It's just against my mission as an artist to continue to tear young, learning artists down. This is my way of doing that.

And I'm so thankful for everyone who has shared some of their methods for doing the same thing! Because I have to believe that in the end we're all here for the artist. However that ends up looking.
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Sun Feb 05, 2017 3:20 am
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Kaylaa says...



Since I've been following the replies on this thread, I might as well jump in and state my own opinions here. I love reviewing, I see it as its own art like @Holysocks and find it to be quite unique and it's not something that I see exactly as critique. Or, I wouldn't critique the same outside of YWS as I would inside because here I'm allowed to be honest about the work in all ways, and I think that's one of the most important things about reviewing--being honest. I find it something that you should be, first and foremost, before anything else. I think reviewing optimistically is something that can and often will come with it.

Since I've seen grammar popping up a lot in the discussion, I'll go ahead and state my opinions on that. For some people it may be a thing that needs focused on more than others, and I do believe that it's an important aspect to reviewing that you shouldn't ignore, but at the same time, it often gets annoying. I'm not saying that all reviews that include critique on the grammar are annoying, more so it is when the reviewer is nitpicking and that is the only thing in the review. I don't find it to be or have enough substance to form a whole review, nor should it.

I like getting comments on my flow and pacing as well as structure and everything of that sort, but when it's the only thing there, I find the review to be lacking. There are so many other aspects of a story or poem or whatever you're reviewing that can be tackled. There's so much more out there in fiction and I think a lot of people forget that.

I usually like to think I know for the most part what's intentional and what's not when it comes to grammar, though I usually like it best if I put that aside and tackle it, because it often doesn't hurt to. The author doesn't lose anything from the critique if you interpret something wrong or happen to tackle their grammar without knowing if it's intentional or not--it's still critique in my mind.

I'm going a little off-topic of grammar by now, but I find the intention of the author vs the perception of the audience and the different views different people can have on a piece to be quite the interesting thing. This tends to happen a lot more in poetry than it does prose because there is a lot more lee-way there, but I'm not saying it doesn't exist in stories. Something else that I think people often forget when reviewing is that there's a person on the other side.

When I'm reviewing, the person I'm reviewing often comes to mind as well and sometimes if I know them well enough I'll refer to their past works or ask if the work was inspired by something that happened in their real life. I like to know if something happens to be pulled from their real experiences or not so I know how gently or softly to tackle it at points because in some cases I find a piece that has a strong subject matter and I usually am cautious of how I go about it.

The author is always something that I find important when it comes to reviewing and I always try to say or word my review in the way that they will best get the message of it, and that's more of an instinct thing. If I know the person to want more blunt and upfront reviews, which is for the most part what my reviews happen to be anyway, I'll be sure to give them that, but I'm honest no matter how I happen to go about it.

There's a stigma around reviewing that length happens to mean quality, and I don't see this to always be the case. I have found that I have gotten more out of reviews that have been only 1000 characters long than the ones that are 3000 characters long. You can find a lot out about what a reviewer really means even if they don't intend to put that in their review. Length ≠ Quality.

I often find people thinking that the length of a review often equals the quality of it, and in that, they misinterpret what Quality over Quantity means. Sure, reviews that are made only to get the full points usually aren't quality reviews, but that doesn't mean all reviews that happen to be short are bad ones. This doesn't mean that reviews of long length are bad either, it really all depends. It is true that long reviews have a tendency to go more in-depth, but that's because, well, they're long.

I don't believe that people should have their work ripped to shreds, because, they're writers with a dream the same as you and I, though if you do ask for it, you know and should be ready for what's coming. Sometimes I ask for reviews that rip my work to shreds for me to improve on them, and it helps. Though, reviewers shouldn't try to make the author stop writing, they should make and help them to keep writing and become better.

I find that something I often forgot to do in my reviews for awhile was to give praise where praise was deserved, and that's something important in reviewing as well, whether you think it's sugar-coating or not. It tells the author the strengths of the story as well as that it tells them that it's something they've done a good job on.

I will continue to review honestly, and reviewing optimistically is something that will come with it because it has a place in critique as much as other things do, telling the writer when they've done things well and they don't need as much improvement in that area.

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Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:58 am
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Lightsong says...



I can see these long posts have many inputs in them. But they're too long that I decided to read them later. o.o

My way of reviewing optimistically is rather simple - there must be something positive to talk about, and there must be something negative to talk about. A piece should never be 100% excellent or 100% horrible/or thrown-to-the-toilet-bowl worthy.

And if one still thinks there is nothing good in the piece, one should look for the parts that have potentials to be better. I think it is important to give a message to the writer that the review is made to help them improve, instead of showing them how bad their piece is.

About grammar, I say note them, but make them as a minor part in your review. The most important point of nitpicks is to make the author realizes that his or her grammar has an issue that affects readability, and pointing out where the errors are would be a motivation for the author to find the rest later on.

I would also like to say delivery is important, but this is subjective. For me, I tend to avoid using words that have negative connotation, and try to get across my message in the non-offensive way.

At the end, as a piece is dependent on how readers interpret it, the same goes to review where the final judgement is given to the author who receives it, and if we consider what readers would think about our pieces, we should also consider what the author would think about the reviews we give them.
"Writing, though, belongs first to the writer, and then to the reader, to the world.

The subject is a catalyst, a character, but our responsibility is, has to be, to the work."

- David L. Ulin
  








What orators lack in depth they make up for in length.
— Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu