icanhaspancake: (Draco - Pureblood)
Sarah ([personal profile] icanhaspancake) wrote2009-03-05 09:32 pm
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Sarah's Guide to Constructive Criticism!

I’ve noticed lately, especially with a fanfic I’m posting that needs constructive criticism, that most people just don’t know how (or simply don’t want) to leave a helpful review.

I see a lot of reviews like this:

“Interesting.” Good interesting? Bad interesting? I really don’t know.

“That sucked.” In what ways? How can I improve?

“LOL COOL.” I assume this is good; but it makes me wonder if they actually read it or not.

“Nice.” Was that really worth either of our time?

Based on those types of reviews, I decided to make this handy dandy little guide on what I like to see. Obviously there is no ‘right’ way; this is just what’s helpful to me, and it’s also what I try to stick to when I leave reviews on other people’s work.

By the way, the examples I used were made up off the top of my head.

Step One: list some things that you like about the fic in question.

This is especially important if your overall view of the story isn’t that great. A lot of the time (and I’m guilty of this, too), writers tend to be offended and might ignore a review that is only made up of things that they did wrong. So for starters, try to point out a few things you actually enjoyed (feel free to gush a bit, but don’t lie; that’s a little counterproductive), even if it’s just something small like characterizations or the general idea of the fic. You can even quote a favorite line or two; writers love it when you quote them. :D

Example: First of all, I have to say that I absolutely love the way you characterized Draco. You perfectly captured his snarky attitude, but also gave him just the right amount of depth and emotion to make it believable. Your descriptions of Hogwarts were also brilliant; the choice of words really set the mood for the fic.

Step Two: point out any blatant errors.
I try not to be too nitpicky here (like pointing out an overuse of commas or something), but repeated spelling errors, especially with a character’s name, need to be pointed out. Inconsistencies can also be mentioned, or if something wasn’t explained clearly enough. And yes, it is possible to do this without being unnecessarily rude.

Example: However, I also noticed a few little errors you might want to fix. You put ‘condemn’ several times, and I was a little confused at first until I realized you meant ‘condom’. You had a few other grammar errors in there, but nothing too bad. You might want to find a beta if you don’t have one; that’ll really help clean this up and make it even better.

Step Three: give suggestions on how errors can be fixed.
This step is so important! I can’t stress that enough. Don’t just tell someone that their fic is stupid or that you hate their characterizations if you’re not going to suggest ways to fix it. This step can also be meshed with step two, which is what I did. Like, in the previous example, I didn’t just say “You spelled condom wrong, stupid!” or “You have horrible grammar.” I pointed these out in the nicest way that I could, and then tried to help find a solution.

Step Four: give your overall opinion.
This is more or less your conclusion; you might want to restate some of the things you liked or disliked, and then give your overall opinion. It doesn’t have to be good, but there are ways to do it that’s helpful and inoffensive.

Example: While this fic really wasn’t my cup of tea, you had some excellent characterizations and you have a delightful style. Just find a beta (and I can recommend one if you’d like) and this fic will be even better. Keep up the good work!

The fact that you liked or disliked a fic shouldn’t really be the focus of your review. It’s suggestions on how to improve, because that’s what everyone needs. Of course, if you really like a fic, that can be perfectly obvious in your review, and I always love it when I read a review someone’s left for me in which they’re obviously really in love with the fic. It can’t get much better than that. :D

Obviously, the steps listed in this guide can be condensed a lot, so you can still manage to leave a helpful review that’s no more than a sentence or two long.

And that’s it. I mainly just wrote this to blow off some steam, but hey, I guess everyone could benefit from it.