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Reviewing New Writers

New writers are vulnerable and need to be handled gently, but not with kid-gloves. Keeping a friendly tone is very important for the reviewer.

Because we are working together online, we can’t see each others faces or body language. You may slip into a tone that sounds arrogant and bossy to the author, but is completely opposite your intention; especially if there are a lot of errors and the reading wasn’t easy. Your mood will show through.

It isn’t easy to give constructive suggestions and avoid destruction of self-esteem with the same comments. It always helps to sum up your comments with a few friendly words of encouragement, and always, always point out the good stuff! Pointing out every technical error or element issue in one review can be overwhelming to both the new writer and the reviewer. The ideal way is to work with them step-by-step. Begin with the plot. Did you get it? Tell the writer you understood the piece and don't mention all the errors at this time. They aren't ready to hear everything that is wrong with it. That's okay. Understanding the plot is a good thing for a first time writer.

As a reader/reviewer of novice writers, I try to look past the spelling errors for the story hidden within. Knowing the author likes what he wrote, my job is to help him see how a few changes may make it better. Sometimes it’s impossible and I advise him to correct the spelling and I’ll try again.

*Bullet*  A side note: I think those who advise against editing until the story is finished must not be active readers or reviewers of novice writers. Proofreading and spell checks should be done before posting for reviews.

Wrters, fixing spelling errors is not rewriting. This is to make the work readable for the most helpful feedback.

True self-esteem can only be built on truth. When someone has truly accomplished something good from a bad first draft, they’ll know; they can feel it, and will be justly proud. To avoid hurting a writer’s feelings, especially a young writer, you may be tempted to tell them their work is perfect, when it isn’t.  Leave that to their family and friends, it’s their job. The writer joined a writing site in order to learn how to write; don’t deny him that opportunity or the pride of accomplishment by lying about his work.   Just begin slowly with one or two problems on the broad scale, such as plot and characterization.  He doesn't need to know active or passive voice at this point.

Any item can be improved if the writer wants to work at it. Never rewrite it for him, it will no longer be his work and he will trash it. I would. Giving a few examples to show him how to fix something is being constructive. Writing a completely new piece is not. Work with his words, not yours, except when necessary.

Reviewing honestly is an integral part of writing - and it's difficult to do. Keeping the tone light, friendly and pointing out the good stuff helps. In fact, it's more important to tell the brand-new writer what worked, than everything that didn't work. If you do point out something that didn't make sense to you, it's imperative that you offer a way to fix it by an example. Otherwise, they have no idea what to do. Remember, they're learning. Save the nit-picks for those who ask for them, and for those planning to publish.

Begin and end with encouraging comments, and squeeze one or two into the middle. It helps the author swallow the bitter, and it's easier for you to dish out.

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