Awkward Reviewing

4 years ago | Jane (Member)

[Sooooo not sure if this is the right place for this.]

So is this just me, or is it awkward when you write a review that isn't absolutely glowing?

Just reviewed Worm -- which I'm not entirely fond of (though still a little fond) -- since it's the quintessential read at the moment, aaaaand...

I mean, Wildbow's obviously active here and stalking around (sup?), and it just seems like most people here are pretty active in this tight-knit little community and being critical of someone's work seems... very awkward, especially when you read with a very critical eye. >.<;

This may be influenced by my fear that it'd be pretty karmic to get bombarded by critics once my own work gets approved. xD;

Anywho, was just wondering how you guys thought of it since I see that even people who are a bit critical of a work tend to rate the stars pretty high. I'm used to doing art and writing critique, which tends to be pretty middle-of-the-road. I guess the extremes of the star ratings threw me off a bit. It seems like you might be expected to rate high almost out of courtesy, even if your review is actually critical.

Unless you just hate something and 1-star bomb it or something, since that seems to be the other extreme. xD;

Rhonda: What if you could fly? - Updates Mondays

Read responses...

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Responses

  1. zephy669 (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    To be honest, I don't think the stars help that much. Giving a book a star is in itself a bit awkward, and getting a three out of five is actually not that bad a score at all, even though it may seem like 3/5 is bad. So I agree with you on that.

    The words in the review should speak for itself, and give the reader an impression of whether or not he or she should read that story. It's the review itself that really matters.

    There's also nothing wrong with being critical or not liking a piece of work. Worm may not be your type of story. No big deal. Wildbow has been around for awhile and likely understands that you can't please everyone (nor would you want to!). Sometimes you offer pizza, but the person wants Chinese food instead. No biggie.

    I don't think there's any such thing as karmic reviews. I'd like to think that we're all mature enough not to get all bent out of shape.

  2. melonmonkey (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    You do you. You are entitled to your opinions, and if people disagree with them they'll just ignore your reviews. The Rolling Stone gave Taylor Swift's new album 4/5 stars, so clearly there's no accounting for taste.

  3. Emma (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    You can be critical of a piece of work, and still enjoy it. You may feel it's a 4.5 star piece, but know that it had many flaws. Doesn't mean you didn't enjoy it any less.

    I haven't seen any karmic reviews on here thus far. I don't think you'll have a problem with that.

  4. Jane (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    [Mother duck! I just realized I put this in Site Reviews when I meant to put it under Review Discussion. I am teh dumb.]

    Holy cow. I didn't expect such quick replies. Haha.

    But no, I don't mean low reviews in revenge or anything. Just that it'd feel like my comeuppance for being critical if it happened. :P I don't think anyone here would actually be intentionally malicious. :)

    And aye, Zephy, I reviewed Worm first specifically because Wildbow seems like a cool guy who'll take it in stride and there's enough reviews that I'm not going to destroy anyone's self-worth or anything. xD I'd be very leery of leaving a very critical review on any story that had few or no reviews, I think; just because I know very much what it's like to have your baby and not want to see it get trampled on. And how discouraging it can be if that's the only feedback you get.

    Personally, I've written fanfiction and at first, all the praise is great and very comforting in that "Oh gods, I can actually entertain people, yay!" way. But after that, while I still absolutely adore positive feedback, I really start loving those ambivalent (or even outright negative) reviews. The ones who aren't happy with what I wrote and tell me why. I learn what kind of readers won't like my stuff, or where I can improve. It tends to be the attitude I take with reviews that I make.

    Emma, I just meant that I noticed there seemed to be few reviews in the 3 star range. I know you can be critical and still rate highly. :) I just thought it a bit curious because you'd think it'd be more a bell curve instead of the reverse. Haha. (But then again, I haven't looked around an awful lot yet, so what do I know? ;P Tis why I asked, after all. Haha.)

    Thanks for the replies, though, y'all. :)

    Rhonda: What if you could fly? - Updates Mondays
  5. DJ Clarke (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Unfortunately if a person wants to write for the public they should expect some bad reviews sometimes. Sometimes bad reviews are better than good reviews, even if it tramples your baby, because you learn more from criticism than senseless praise.
    When I give reviews, I take something I learned from my teaching experience, tell the person what they did right, then tell them the bad stuff, and then give a bit more praise. That way they learn from their mistakes, but they don't feel too bad about it, unless they're really thin skinned.
    So don't feel bad about leaving a bad review, just try to find a few nuggets of goodness in it to soften the blow.

  6. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I think you may have a problem, Michelle, where you assume too much of what others may be thinking or doing. You write "It’s very clear when Wildbow gets bored with what he’s been writing" and you seem to fret about a violent review bombing or some kind of counterattack. Both interpretaitons are unfair and inaccurate, I feel. Being misrepresented is sort of a pet peeve of mine, and that's really the only thing here that bothers me any.

    I've received more negative reviews, I've received a lot of better ones. I take it all in, and I figure out where I stand. One more bad review doesn't change anything, I'm fine with it. If you count Webfictionguide and Goodreads (and ignore other sites) I've had somewhere in the neighborhood of 1150 ratings and 180 reviews; if I truly cared about a negative review at this point, I'd be a quivering lump of jelly on the floor.

    I hesitated to post what follows, but as you seemed to start this thread to ask for feedback...

    If you do want feedback on how to review effectively, and if you do care about how your review is interpreted, you might choose words more diplomatically. 'Utterly fail' and 'horrible slog' are bombastic terms that read more like you're trying to get attention or slap the author in the face than actually saying something, and use of terms like 'Plot Armor' or 'Mary Sue' tend to be very loaded; some people will take great offense at them. I'm not offended, myself, but I think they're lazy terms to use and the value they add to a review isn't matched by what they take away - they're overused and misused so often (especially in fanfiction circles, where I know 'Mary Sue' first arose), and they're overused and misused to the point that they lose meaning and hurt the person using them.

    More than anything, though, I thought it was a little incoherent. You don't structure your review in any way, and you sort of seem to contradict yourself or don't seem to know what you're saying, going this way and that about three or four times in your paragraph about characters, and you repeat yourself four or five times (depending on whether you count the title or not).

    Writing reviews like this may be fine in other areas, but I don't think the critical part of things is what you should be dwelling on.

  7. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I'd just like to add one teensy thing: Stars matter when you put them in relation to other star ratings on the site. If you look at almost every story on WFG, 3.5 and 4 are by far the most common rankings. That appears to be the 'average'. But different people will interpret stars differently.

    Note that this isn't a comment on your review, just a general observation. :)

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world. http://anathemaserial.wordpress.com/
  8. Jane (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I suppose this is what I get for checking on my phone before I go to bed; I had to get up to reply to this.

    First off, right away, no, I am not fretting about some kind of counterattack. I simply mentioned it because it's an illogical fear that (and this is inaccurate, but the best way to explain the ephemeral that I have right now) the universe will somehow conspire against me. You get what you give and all that. It had nothing to do with any actual logical fears that people were going to review me into oblivion. It was meant as a kind of joke. Like "haha, this is what my subconscious is giving me; let's all laugh about how silly it is."

    I read over the review shortly after I posted it and you're right about the "utterly fail" part; it was a wee bit harsh. (Unfortunately, it seems you can't edit reviews once posted?) However, I don't feel that terms like "horrible slog" or "Plot Armor" are loaded or lazy. They're useful shorthand to quickly get my point across, rather than have even more of a meandering mess explaining in several sentences what I can do in two phrases. People misusing them is rather irrelevant; people misuse "literally" all the time, and I still use it properly. Besides, I'd rather write a succinct review that can quickly relay "would I like to read this?" to a potential reader, rather than an epic ballad that might be skipped over by someone looking for a quick, useful review.

    Perhaps this is the wrong style for Web Fiction Guide, to write a review in order to answer "should I read this?" but it certainly doesn't seem to be the case. (Please note, that wasn't sarcasm; I am literally considering the possibility that I am not understanding what a review should be here, as opposed to say, Goodreads or Amazon.) For example, I'd write a much different review if I were talking to you directly, Wildbow.

    I also disagree on the need for structure. Each paragraph makes a point about how I felt about certain things. I tend to be a pretty chaotic individual anyway, and this is how my thoughts work. It seems easiest to simply state things, rather than go back and turn it into an essay. I'm not trying to be eloquent or entertain, I'm simply informing a potential reader and maybe the author about one person's opinion. And in short a time as possible.

    Part of the incoherence is because I was trying to avoid spoilers and communicate points without giving anything away, honestly. My thoughts became a little muddled when I was trying to phrase things around specific examples and ended up not using them.

    Back to phrasing, I said it was "It’s very clear when Wildbow gets bored with what he’s been writing" because it felt very clear to me. Did you actually get bored? I have no idea. But it certainly felt like it to me. And since it's my review, it really shouldn't need to be stated that this is just my opinion. That's inherent in giving one's opinion. Assuming what someone is thinking or doing isn't a problem; everyone does that and it's quite healthy. I tend to find that it gives me insight that most people don't see, but in this case, no I had no idea. Again, it just felt that way. I thought that was pretty inherent in that it was a review of a work, not a review of you.

    Repeating myself? I tend to do that. Sometimes it's to sum up. Other times it's to drive a point home. And others, I just plain forgot I already said something. So combined, yeah, it can be a little excessive. (You should have seen my review before I edited it. Haha.)

    As for contradictions, I don't really see it, but then again, I know what I'm saying. It might not be clear to a casual observer. xD Happens with me a lot. (I thank my partner for proofreading my writing quite a bit.) Still, it's not that I don't know what I'm saying, it's that part of me believes both things.

    But no. Really, you're partially right that it could have been less harsh. Old habit from high school and college that I haven't gotten over. Being wishy-washy got you Cs and Bs, after all. But be a being of conviction and you had professors eating out of the palm of your hand. Haha. But I still disagree with calling it a slog as being something to be avoided. If it was a slog for me, I'm going to call it a slog.

    Anywhoooooo... that was rather long. xD Don't feel like I'm upset or anything; I just felt your post warranted a full response, and I'm rather curious on your thoughts on my thoughts on your thoughts on my review. :P Of course, if you're simply saying that things might not go over well with others if I'm so brazen, I can agree. Like I said, I could have been less harsh, though perhaps not as gentle as you think I should be.

    Chrysalis Thanks for the observation, darlin'! That's totally what I was looking for; if it was just my perception or if there was some major imbalance going on here. Good to know it's the former. :)

    DJ Clarke Oh gods yeah. That's pretty basic critique etiquette which I love when I don't know how to structure a critique. It's far from the only way, but it's a great one. (Gods bless those painting classes. xD) This also came in really handy for when I started tutoring; you can still tell them exactly what they did wrong, but immediately shore up their confidences by giving them more praise. Did wonders for my conscience. x.X

    Rhonda: What if you could fly? - Updates Mondays
  9. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    To be fair, WFG includes 'tough slog' as a term in the star ratings when you hover over them.

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world. http://anathemaserial.wordpress.com/
  10. Sten Düring (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    When you read a review it ends with a 'helpfulness marker'. You'll see the number of members who thought your review was helpful. It tends to run between zero and five. Personally I'd say that anything above one means you did indeed write a review that had worth.

    Basically it's a numerical review of your review.

  11. Patrick Rochefort (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    As a critic, never apologize for your critique (assuming, of course, you engaged in it in honest good faith).

    As a writer, never apologize for your writing (with the same disclaimer as above).

    I'm a tough reviewer, apparently. I feel bad about bigfooting around on fellow webserials. I also very firmly believe that an author should never respond to a review at all. If you absolutely must, "Thank you for your review." is all an author should say. Absolutely nothing is ever gained, as an author, by responding to reviews and critics.

    We're all human, and some authors are going to be more thin-skinned than others.

    But at the end of the day, if you engaged in a review in good faith, whether or not the review is positive or not, don't ever apologize for it, or regret it. Be tough, be fair, be honest.

    From Winter's Ashes: A Detective with nothing left to lose, against a Necromancer with a world to gain.
  12. Sten Düring (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    @Partick Rochefort While I mostly agree with the not responding sometimes clarifications can be helpful. My dialogue is weak, well is it a matter of poor choice of words spoken, or am I not giving enough context to the dialogue? Stuff like that can be helpful tools for me when I continue writing.

  13. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Generally, yes, you shouldn't respond to reviews on other platforms. BUT. WFG is the kind of community meant exactly for this (and with a forum section dedicated to review discussion). You should definitely not ever respond to, say, a review on Amazon.

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world. http://anathemaserial.wordpress.com/
  14. Tartra (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    You know that moment when there's a crowd of people having a good time, and someone says something a little off colour? And how the next person rolls with it and actually adds on, then another, then another? And then everyone gives a giggle 'cause they got a good running joke going and they take a breath and let it simmer? Then that one last guy who doesn't quite get it tries to keep it going for just a line longer and it sort of hangs there uncomfortably? And everyone knows the joke's over but they're still in a good mood from the funnier parts, and they appreciate the slightly-too-late addition for what it was, so they give a smile and nod and go back to enjoying the nice, post-joke silence like it's restarted? But then the guy feels a little on the spot for not getting the timing right and as big a laugh as the others, so he does an anxious shuffle in his spot and says, "Awkward..."?

    That's this. It's awkward now.

    Do you. Review how you want to review. We want your opinion.

    Yes, we'll all most likely read it.

    No, it won't always be stellar.

    Yes, we'll recognize it's not stellar.

    No, we're not going to flay you or your work for speaking your mind (but we're people too, so if you'd never say it to our face, try not to leave it on a screen). We appreciate the effort as it comes through on your part.

    But don't go, "Eeee... Awkward." Stand by your opinion, or else it seems as though you were writing to impress someone specifically and suddenly realized you weren't going to get the reaction you wanted. That's not the honest feedback we're looking for.

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