Are you guys finding the review swaps useful?

5 years ago | Tartra (Member)

There's been quite a bit of swapping happening, and I've been watching it go without joining. I wanted your opinions on whether it was working out for all of you.

I'm asking because I don't personally notice any consistency in what people are getting. The swap threads now and the ones in the past seemed like general, "Give me every thought you have!" I can see a little bit of benefit in that, but the (kinda few) where the author said, "Could you focus on the characters/plots/sub-plots/major weaknesses/something else in particular?" got a lot more positive, "Wow, XYZ! This nailed what I was looking for! I'm going to take this and really put the advice into action and keep going with what you said was working!" But in the last few, the traditional thank-yous have been more, ":) Thanks, I liked it." And sometimes they've even a bit - uh... less smiley-faced.

So, are you guys actually getting what you want out of the trades? What's the general end goal: having a review of your serial on the front page for publicity's sake, an overall happy-reader-positive-light opinion, a serial writing peer's advice for improvement, a highlight on only the strengths, a list of both pros and cons, actual editing...? I can't get myself to wade into the swap pool until I figure out what's in there!

The Other Kind of Roommate — Like Fight Club meets X-Men meets The Matrix meets Superbad.

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  1. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Didn't Chris say, at some point, that he generally doesn't put reviews that were part of a swap on the front page?

    I'm also curious to hear if you guys find the swaps useful, though.

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world.
  2. Tartra (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    @Chrysalis - There's a bunch on the front page now. If it's not Chris, it might be a different editor.

    The reviews themselves are good, but I just see so many relatively lackluster responses following them. If everyone's just going for promotion, whatever, they're always honest that it's part of a swap, but if it's for something more than just being on the front page, I'm kinda missing the full value. :/

    Numbers game? Hope to convert another writer into a fan? Again, actual edits? Just a contribution to the community? All valid reasons, but whaaaat oooone is iiiiit? No one's really saying in advance!

    The Other Kind of Roommate — Like Fight Club meets X-Men meets The Matrix meets Superbad.
  3. Grey (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I haven't really done any review swaps yet, but I'd mostly be looking for a genuine critique from which I can learn and improve.

    I write games and guides, too.
  4. Tartra (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    @Grey - So what would that look like? A section of Strengths and another for Weaknesses? (Someone here does 'Good, Bad and Ugly'.) Would it be from a reader's perspective, as another serial writer, or from an editor's POV? Would it be something you'd want public or private? If it focused purely on giving advice and not at all on whether or not the person enjoyed it, is that better for you or worse? Would you want it to change as you made progress or be a snapshot at that time?

    I'm trying to dig into the details because usually all I see is, "Give me your honest opinion," but the delivery of that opinion doesn't match up with what was wanted. What if someone said, "I hate all of this, but here's why"? Or if they focused exclusively on semantics that actually could be improved but gave you no 'real' help, in your opinion? Would those be useful and worth it or a waste of time?

    Edit: Sorry, more thoughts are coming to me. If you do get advice, how much do you expect to take from it? If someone said to overhaul your first ten chapters or scrap them entirely, would that sit well? Or if they said, "It just didn't feel right to me," or "I don't even like (genre you write), but since I swapped, I guess I have to give an opinion" - would the lack of specifics or enthusiasm kill the idea of being genuine? Are you looking for things to apply going forward or to use and go back to incorporate?

    The Other Kind of Roommate — Like Fight Club meets X-Men meets The Matrix meets Superbad.
  5. Emma (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I've only done one review swap so I can't exactly say if it was useful or not. It did point out something that I never noticed before and no one ever mentioned to me. It's something that I'm looking into. I guess I can say some good come from them. It really depends on who you get to review your story. Not everyone is going to notice the same things or the things you want them to look into.

  6. Madiha N. Santana (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I don't participate in them because I don't have the time to read other people's stories much (and sometimes I lack the inclination unless it's stuff that catches my eye very strongly, so I can't promise I'd review anything). I think were I in the position to participate in a swap what I'd want out of it is just to see someone's opinions from "outside the bubble" if you will. I'm less interested in raw mechanical critique, though that's cool too (I used to mistype onto as unto a lot, which made for some embarrassing streaks of typos). I'm more interested in just seeing what someone else makes of the story and what I'm doing with it. It's more interesting to me seeing what they took out of a read.

    Though I might be mistaken in my impression, I consider this forum a more mainstream/less niche venue compared to some of my other haunts. When I get a review from here I think it's (probably?) not from a hardcore military simulation fan, or from a UC gundam die-hard, or someone who reads a lot of queer lit, etc. So that's useful to me in the abstract no matter the content of the critique itself. I'm doing some weird stuff, I roll in weird spaces, and I accept and love that and wouldn't change it. But outside takes are cool.

    Of course, for a lot of people here, it's probably the opposite, and this is their super niche obscure weird community and the rest of their engagements are what they'd consider more mainstream. I can only speak to myself, and what I do and how I roll and such.

  7. Fiona Gregory (Moderator)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Just FYI, the primary purpose of the reviews on WFG is for the benefit of the potential readers, to help them decide what they want to read. Thus, asking for something specific from the reviewer like "please comment on the character devolopment, am I getting that right?" wouldn't produce the overall, balanced review that is helpful to readers. That's more like something you should be doing in a writing circle, or maybe in forum comments.

  8. Marn (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I started a review swap thread because I was looking for reviews of my serial that were from actual serial writers! The reviews currently up on the Antlers, CO WFG page are all from other writers/artists who found Antlers either through knowing me IRL prior to me starting to write it, or through my personal Tumblr, so I was really searching for unbiased critique from people who also write in the serial format, people more "outside the bubble" as Dennis said above. Antlers is the first serial I've ever done, so I feel like I still have a lot to learn about writing in a weekly update format and I could stand to learn from people who have been doing it for quite a while.

    I'm also hoping to make Antlers into a book (or a book series) after it finishes it's run online, so any critique I get now will absolutely shape the way I go about editing it for publication.

  9. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I am generally more suspicious of review swaps than spontaneous reviews, because they are essentially paid reviews. However, this batch have seemed largely okay, in that respect.

    As Fiona pointed out, I view the main site as reader-oriented, not writer-oriented. As such, I'm more inclined to send a review to the home page if it speaks to other readers. Detailed critiques, while useful to the writer, often make for a boring read—particularly for someone who isn't already a reader of the story. So, I'm less inclined to send those to the home page.


  10. Tartra (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    @Fiona - Right, that's what reviews are supposed to be. The swap threads are sort changing the direction, though. They've become more of a long form grading, in a way, which is... fine, and helpful for people who are trying to find high quality stuff, but leaves out a lot of the 'You should/shouldn't read this!' element I - when I go through 'em - would've expected.

    @Marn - Based on that, and on what Fiona said, have you tried Scribophile? The other serial writers can give you serial-based structure advice, but maybe you'b be better off workshopping Antlers as book with other book writers (such a technical term!).

    The Other Kind of Roommate — Like Fight Club meets X-Men meets The Matrix meets Superbad.
  11. mathtans (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I think the key thing here is the distinction between REVIEW and CRITIQUE, which are different (a subject which I believe has come up here before). If you're looking for a critique, as Fiona says, that's something for a writing circle, or something you could organize here... akin to Grey's "Feedback Solicitation" thread (which intrigued me, and I did drop by his site). Not the same as a review, which is what the front page here is for. Granted, a review can include mention of whether the characters are believable, and whether the punctuation is detracting from being immersed in the story, topics which may also come up in a critique, but (in my opinion anyway) the review is looking at things from the broader (and reader) context. Which is why I feel like asking for specifics in a review is... incorrect.

    Part of the reason I don't do these "review swaps" myself (aside from time constraints, not unlike Dennis) is because I find the idea of writing a review damn hard -- I can't turn off my critique brain. I'm constantly tracking continuity, noting grammatical confusions, projecting what characters might do next, and generally not immersing myself the way I feel a reviewer/reader should -- that's not the way my brain naturally approaches things, I'm very analytical. If you can find a typo in my story, I'd be very, very impressed. I imagine I'd get better at reviews if I tried, but it's not a priority... my reading system instead is to pop in a comment into someone's serial every 5 or 6 parts, remarking on my feelings at that particular time. (Some of you were subjected to this over the summer. ;) The added benefit to this (again in my mind) is that a review is fleeting, whereas a comment is embedded on the site for others long term (and if the author doesn't like my remarks, they can delete them!).

    Now, granted, a serial writer approaching a read will be different from someone else, as the serialist will know some of the typical elements of the genre... so by all means, get their take on it too, particularly if you've mostly had other viewpoints. As for me, if I felt confident writing reviews, honestly the "end goal" would simply be having ANY viewpoint (we're halfway through the month and I've had 20 hits) so individual expectations are liable to vary wildly.

    Writing a Time Travel serial:
    Writer of the personification of math serial:
  12. Marn (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    @Tartra I've actually never heard of Scribophile, but I'll definitely give it a look! I'm kind of saving workshopping Antlers as a book rather than a serial for when I finally have the first four chapters finished, since they form a complete arc and will probably make up the first book. I figure it will be easier to get more specific edits at that point, rather than the broader impressions I would look for in a review.

  13. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Perhaps I'll say a bit more on home page criteria. Mind you, it's all a bit nebulous—and volume of reviews can shift the needle one way or the other (I won't generally put multiple reviews of the same story to the home page, for instance, unless they have distinct viewpoints). But, basically, I look for reviews that seem an honest, reader reaction to the story, without a lot of filler or visible scaffolding. Basically: have a viewpoint; talk mostly about the story and your reaction to it (not about yourself, not about how you came up with your review or rating, not about whether you like or dislike the author); talk about why a potential reader should or should not spend some time with the story. Recognize that WFG's readers are investing time in reading your review, and that that time is valuable.

  14. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Chris, I have been wondering for some time now why the one 4.5 star review of Anathema (by Sten Düring) never made it onto the front page. It seemed to be the kind that would be useful to readers. Back then, I thought it was because it could have been interpreted as a swap review (which hadn't been my intention, but oh well). The review was based off chapters that had been professionally edited (by an editor with decades of experience), so someone who read the earlier unedited version might have felt the praise for the writing was undeserved. But if it was undeserved, then I'd have to talk to my editor about how much I pay her. XD

    Sorry to bring this up after such a long time, but I'm still wondering about it.

    p.s. Not complaining at all! I'm super stoked to be in the featured updates section every week. <3

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world.

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