Review style

6 years ago | G.S. Williams (Member)

I did a blog post about how I approach reviewing, and why I have the perspective that I do. I don't know if I should just move it to this forum, but here's the link if anyone has an opinion on its usefulness to the community. Summary -- I compare writing to architecture and point out how there are frontiers as well as comfortable neighbourhoods.

http://gavinwilliams.digitalnovelists.com/node/1226

If it's useful, I'll move it here. I'm not objective enough today to judge for myself. However, so everyone knows, my site has a spam problem so I have to save comments from the approval queue if you leave any. I'll get them, but don't be surprised if it's not right after you post.

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Responses

  1. SgL (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    As you have posted it here, I wanted a little more clarification on your standard. Do you feel that when you write a review you compare it to the best of or your favorite of a genre? Or does your usual reading have a lot of variation (i.e., some stinkers that creep in with the good reads) and you look to compare it to an average work within that genre?

    Do you look for continuity that should be there?

    On this point -- I wonder how to judge this point and then also how to apply this standard to both ongoing and completed serials.

    I support the idea that independent writing and serials should strive for quality. There's a lot of support for that in the indie book world. (Last week on indiechat there were a lot of people pushing for hiring freelance editors without really specifying what they do. Thankfully Kris Rusch's blog on editing at http://kriswrites.com/2013/01/30/the-business-rusch-hiring-editors/ is a good read for this. )

    From an economic standpoint, though, I did the numbers on what they thought should be done to make your book meet industry standards. And after running the numbers for my own serial of 200k I really felt discouraged.

    The sort of deep thoughtful editing/review needed for a 200k work is frightening. Hourly rates for developmental edits are anywhere from 40-80 dollars per hour. The page rate is 1-5 pages an hour. That puts the structural edit of a 200k serial at a low end of a few thousand, and then the high end of 32,000. This is before the additional round of line/copy-editing that should occur.
    (I got these rates from http://www.the-efa.org/ and from http://bibliocrunch.com/.) Industry standard is -expensive- and time-consuming. Neither money or time I think works for serializers.

    That said, I'm not arguing with your review methodology. It's not going to please people, but I don't think you should feel pressured to change. Rather, if you're going to be Ebert, some of us will have to figure out how to be Siskel. And perhaps some of us need to account for the lack of access webwriters have to the QC that published writers do.

    On a note about your future reviews -- I do think that your blog post would be great to keep handy in case people continue to have questions about your reviews. Maybe it can go in your forum sig ?

  2. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I automatically compare everything.

    So for example, I compare the way a stranger walking down the hall at work reacts if I say hello to all the other hellos I deliver to people and their reactions.

    So when I review a book I am comparing it to every book I've ever read. Then, to help sort it, I narrow down the genre and think of exemplars, so people don't get confused.

    I look for continuity in everything. I read quantum mechanics and string theory because high school physics didn't explain enough. I read genetics and neuroscience because biology was too vague. I read history and then philosophy because the philosphers helped teach the rulers. I read sociology because history didn't explain why the population reacted the way it did to the philosophy and the rules.

    Ongoing serials and complete stories are different in that the ending for a complete serial should finalize the text. The archetypes and moral and meaning are less-debatable because it concluded. A serial that's still ongoing is not "perfect" because it might go off the rails before the end -- but some are so impressive that they get five stars anyway because I enjoy them more than I worry it will get bad.

    I don't worry about "industry standard" because I think web fiction is a bit of a frontier, and we should be looking to create our own standards, the same way we're capable of experiments that traditional publishing can't do. That being said, we should be carefully proofreading and engaging our audience to help us, and revising, and working. The more one writes the better they get, just by experience. Checking in with other books and other writers helps, so that it's not in a vacuum.

    I don't feel pressured to change. I'm autistic. I'm unlikely to change when something is functional for me. I'm not worried about pleasing people because their emotional reaction matters little in the face of observable facts. I'm making my standpoint more known because people questioned its value. I think knowing why something exists helps one to understand its value, because it becomes measurable and testable. If I can be shown a flaw in my reasoning, I am able to learn from it. But the only way to discover a flaw is to illustrate the reasons.

    Is it a helpful blog post? Because then it would be good to put in a signature. I'm not sure I know how to do that right now, it's been awhile since I've looked at anything like that -- sometimes I forget functions I'm not using on a regular basis.

    I think if I'm "Ebert" and someone has a problem with it, then yes, they should Siskel it up. An argument is not invalidated by emotional responses -- it is to be debated vehemently with better logic. If someone can't debate better, then they can't prove me wrong. A good argument strengthens everyone involved -- by teaching them logic, self-advocacy, endurance and resolve. I am open to learning something if it is factual and well-argued. I don't see a value in irrational responses. Teach me something, and I will learn. Insult me and I don't learn anything except that the insulter lacks objectivity.

    The beauty of this place is its basis in freedom of expression -- within reason. Anyone that disputes a review can write their own. Censoring that freedom makes no sense to me. Pressuring the opinions of others because you don't like them doesn't make sense to me. Arguing an opinion based on merits and measurements makes sense because the measures should be testable and then they can be learned from.

  3. SgL (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hm. I didn't mean to invoke Siskel to actually state people should debate the review itself. Rather, I think it's important to cultivate multiple perspectives from those read a lot of fiction in order to engage differing sets of review criteria.

    The best part about that show for me was that I got two in one. Over time I actually figured out that my tastes were a little more Ebert later in life, but early on I was a Siskel. In that same respect, I think with more reviewers the site will benefit. Currently (admittedly) there are probably three or four consistent reviewers and I have yet to decide if any of you are my best proxy for if I'll like something. But for now, I'm glad we have consistent reviewers.

    As for your post - I think it is helpful. It might not be popular, but anyone laying out their approach in a transparent manner is better than someone reviewing whose motives you don't understand. I do think people will still not like your toughness, but on the whole, as long as you apply your standards predictably, I think people will relax in time.

    But - my own filters might be really off here. I hope others will chime in honestly since you want feedback!

  4. M.C.A. Hogarth (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I wouldn't be too attached to those prices on editorial review. I idly do typo/wordo-counts on traditionally published manuscripts while reading them and they happen. Some of the more famous authors often have pretty lackadaisical editing teams. Even Tolkien's works have typos (I stopped counting at 6, but there were more).

    The issue there is that people often overlook them in books they assume to be professionally edited. In works they know to be self-published they are often already looking for them, so of course they find them.

  5. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I have written over a hundred reviews over five years, so I don't think "relax over time" is likely. I'm just articulating my review style out of the reviews instead of inside them to make them more transparent.

  6. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    ... and here's Einstein to back me up:

    "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thoughts in clear form."

    I am striving to give a clear form to my thought process on what I observe. I make that process as transparent as possible so that where it errs, others can teach me. And where others have erred, I teach something. I think that is the proper use of a mind. Clear expression of observations for the betterment of the self and those around them.

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