Did You Ask for an In-depth Review?
Or, why I believe reviewers should 'critique' only those who ask – specifically.
Did you ask for a critique? No. Did you
want to be read? Yes. Does posting on a writing site automatically
set us up for rip-apart critiques whether we're ready for them or
not? Yes, but it shouldn’t. I don’t agree with the idea that by
posting in our portfolio, our work becomes fair game for in-depth
critiques. A writer should have the choice of being read and reviewed
or being critiqued, and those are definitely two different actions.
That choice shouldn’t be taken out of his hands. There are review
forums for those who want critical reviews, and in my opinion,
reviewers should respect the writer's choice.
Self-esteem is a fragile thing, and we shouldn’t treat it lightly. Writers may take months getting up enough nerve to post their first item; it’s damn scary. They know they need their work checked, but some also know their confidence isn’t ready for a full out in-depth, and may plan on avoiding those by not using review forums until they learn a bit more.
They need time to learn how the site works and how review forums differ from each other. Some forums are gentle and some are for indepth reviews. They may not know they can ask for certain types of feedback. They don’t know about passkeys or keeping items private if they're new to the site.
If reviewers used the review forums when they intend to criticize extensively, they would help writers who wanted and are asking for help. By choosing from the forums, reviewers would also be protecting themselves from any backlash they may receive by giving an uninvited critique. They need to protect their self-esteem, too.
If reviewers only critiqued those who asked, and read and commented on the others, I believe we would be more encouraging. As a writer’s confidence and skill grows he will ask for deeper reviews and be more accepting of them; but he needs time. I think the responsibility of deciding who to give deep reviews to lies with the reviewer. By discerning the experience of the writer, we can decide whether a writer is ready for in-depths or not. We are here to learn, not necessarily to get a piece ready for publication. Some are, of course, but they know how to let us know what kind of feedback they want.
Sometimes I feel as if we are a bunch of vultures just sitting and waiting for writers to set their babies down. I don’t like the feeling. Saying things like ‘ they chose to post their work publicly so they should be prepared to take the critiques’ would work if the site was only a critiquing group. But even on those, an item is posted on a review forum before any critiquing is done. Choosing our reads randomly puts us into the reader category. We should certainly point out spelling or other errors, and offer suggestions, but not overwhelm. Comments on the story are always welcome from random reviewers. What writers really want to know is if you read and understood their story, article, or whatever they wrote. If it needs a lot of work we can point them toward the review forums or offer to do an in-depth if they wish one.
As with all of my articles, this is only my opinion. I’m not on a campaign to change anything. I’m attempting to show an alternate way of helping writers meet their own personal goals, with as little controversy as possible. Choosing from review forums or specific requests found on a Bio or brief description, allows the reviewer to be as honest as he can with both his comments and his rates, and it takes a lot of stress from the job to have an invitation in hand.
Reviewing is important - in-depth's especially. We love them and hope more are given; but giving them to writers who aren't ready can be harmful. The in-depth review forums are full of writers who are begging for help. Don't leave them begging; go in there and tear their work apart - you'll be doing a good thing - by invitation.
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