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Monday, April 30, 2007

The Effective Reviewer

Oh, for Pete’s sake. Someone brought up finding the right reviewer on OWW. Boy-howdy, that’s a subject I’m well qualified to discuss.

When I first got it in my head to write, I dabbled. I wrote my first short story three years ago and felt I needed some feedback. So I trolled. I trolled a lot; analyzing different reviewers, different writing styles, different chemistry.

While I earned my “bees” (OWW uses bees to determine how prolific you are in reviews.) I realized that it wasn’t about how much I reviewed or how much others reviewed me. It was the quality of those reviews and by extension, my ability to comprehend and employ that feedback.

I’ve mentioned before, sometimes we’re just not ready to hear certain hard truths. I can guarantee you that there have been more than a few occasions when someone pinged me on something stupid I did in my novel and I ignored them, only to discover later they were dead right.

I don’t dismiss anyone’s opinion out of hand anymore, but then my crit partners have earned my respect and attention.

On the same token, I don’t rush in and take everyone’s suggestion either. My CPs can tell me where I went astray, but they still can’t write my story. Nor do I want them holding my hand. After all, this isn’t a novel by committee. LOL!

But finding excellent reviewers is not easy. In my case, I did it quite methodically and earned my reviewers because I gave as good as I got. Below are my criteria for a good reviewer/reviewee relationship.

• Try to see the scope of what the writer is trying to convey.
• Be honest, but diplomatic.
• Provide sound logic for your conclusions.
• Be succinct. Waffles are for breakfast.
• Be available for follow-up questions.

• No whining.
• You are not your story. It’s not personal.
• No "explaining" your story in follow-up emails.
• Thank your reviewer. Every time.
• Don’t be needy. That's my dog's job.

Reviewing is hard work. And a thorough review is an incredible amount of work. Don’t overwhelm reviewers with too many requests. The other day on our private forum I posted my synopsis. I actually have two synopses, a 1-page and a 3-page. Since I knew the one page would be the harder one to nail, I opted to post only that one for review. Whatever feedback I get should be more than enough to help me strengthen my 3-page synopsis.

I try to use my CPs only when I really need them. They are too valuable to me to exploit. And I kinda like ‘em.