Writing detailed reviews is time well spent.
Reviewing itself is a writing exercise. Creating detailed feedback for a fellow writer is one of the best tools available for improving your own writing. That said, if you're going to spend the time to do it, helping the author is important. There is a better chance for the ideas in a review to get through to an author if they are well presented.
Key Characteristics For Reviews
- Reviews should be honest. Helping writers improve their craft should be the mission of any reviewer. Honest opinions are what help writers improve. Giving false feedback doesn't help anyone and can lead an author down a long road to bitter disappointment.
- Reviews should be encouraging. Everyone at every level should be encouraged to continue writing! Encouraging reviews are more likely to be used by an author which means the time creating the review was well spent. Whether the author decides to use the reviewer's honest suggestions or not, the review should be motivating and encourage the author to keep writing.
- Reviews should be respectful. Regardless of an author's level of skill or talent, a reviewer should always respect that the author is an individual person. A reviewer flaunting that they are better than the author they're reviewing is not respectful and is counter productive.
- Reviews should be well rounded. While honesty is very important, a review that points out only flaws without any mention of an item's positive points is not nearly as helpful to an author as a well rounded review with both positive and negative remarks. Don't forget, the same goes for reviews that only point out positives! Even the greatest pieces of writing have room for suggestions and opinions.
- The rating should reflect the review. If you're sending a review full of corrections, it's important to consider that with your star rating selection. 5.0's shouldn't need any corrections. On the other extreme, a 1.0 should have endless errors and you couldn't possibly list them all. Offering to return and rerate the item after a round of updates makes it more likely your suggestions will be considered.
- Reviews should make good use of color, bold and italics. When reviewing, presentation is very important! Color can be used to make corrections stand out or quote small portions of the work. Emoticons can highlight important points in the review and can be creatively used to make the review feel more friendly.
The Content Of A Review
Keeping in mind the six (6) points highlighted above, a review should contain your opinion. While grammatical, typographical and other errors can be included within a review, don't forget to tell the author how the piece made you feel. Give them your thoughts about the inside of their writing, not just the outside.
Some example questions you may ask yourself about the piece to help you get your opinion across are as follows: Did the plot interest you? Were the characters believable? Did the story fit the time, place and other setting characteristics? Is there anything you would change within the story?
Incorporating these thoughts within your reviews will expand your own analytical skills allowing you to better analyze your own writing. Whether the author agrees with any of your suggestions or ideas is not relevant. You have given them another perspective on their work they would not have otherwise had. They may hear the same thoughts from a number of different people which may give them a better understanding of their readers as a whole.
Use "copied and pasted" portions of the item you are reviewing as little as possible. Posting sections of an item within your review leads to "review bloating" and takes away from the impact your comments and suggestions will have on the author.
Your Own Review Format
Developing your own format for reviewing can be a great asset. Determine what aspects of writings you like to focus on most, create a short outline to follow and start reviewing. Following this process will help keep your reviews honest and consistent. As your experience grows, you'll find ways to improve your format and your skills.
Get into the good habit of using a custom tag-line of encouragement within your reviews. Including a "Keep Writing!" or something unique and individual within your reviews goes a long way to motivating an author. We know you mean it, so don't forget to say it!
Make Reviewing a Daily Creative Writing Exercise
Remember, reviewing grows your own writing skills unlike any other writing tool. Critically analyzing and reviewing others' writings makes a writer stop and think about what works and what doesn't. Putting that into words and communicating that to another writer, ultimately helps the reviewer to improve his or her own writing skills, as well. So it's about helping others, but it's a valuable way to help ourselves!
Have Fun & Happy Reviewing!