Friday, October 18, 2013

What to Look for When Writing Reviews

By M. J. Joachim
Writing reviews is a touchy business. Reviewers have their standards for what qualifies as good, mediocre or poor quality work. Many standards are based on personal preference or opinion, rather than a set of inflexible guidelines. However, there are some things that all reviewers can’t help but notice, to help them judge all works effectively across the board.

Solid Beginnings: Creating a path to follow makes all the difference for the audience. Without a good draw, boredom will rule the day; distraction will become a matter of course, and poor reviews are likely to follow.

Writing Skills: There’s nothing worse than reading a book with numerous punctuation and grammatical errors in it. Considering the tools available these days, this should be a no brainer, because most of us only have to have our computers check for our errors, before publishing our manuscripts. There’s simply no excuse for poor writing skills, considering all the tools available to make our writing far above reproach.

Spelling: Using spell check, a dictionary, a Thesaurus and the like will only help you, when reviewers are reading and writing about your work. Don’t just use them for spelling either. Use them to make sure you didn’t use the wrong homonym, and to find a more suitable word choice, so that your writing is top-notch, and far above the basic standard.

Research & Flow: Know what you are writing about and be able to back it up. Once you’ve mastered your subject, use your knowledge to tell a story, not regurgitate facts in an awkward way, as you tell your story around those facts. Stories must flow like rivers, from one chapter to the next. Those big rocks they hit need to be energized and filled with anticipation; they should not be awkward, clunky and hard to understand.

Consistency: Good stories are good all the way through. They don’t fall prey to sloppy writing, tired endings and obviously less enthused authors, who clearly got tired of working so hard, thus letting their audience down with a thud, instead of a desire to read their next book. Consistency can make the difference between a really good review, a so-so review or a really bad review for any author out there. 

We all know what we like when we read a book, which is why we should write to the standard we expect to find, when we spend our hard earned money on someone else’s book. If you’re a reading perfectionist, it’s only right you should be a writing perfectionist as well. At least that’s how I feel about it. I don’t want to read poor writing, so I do my best not to deliver poor writing. It takes a little longer, but I’m certain it is time well spent. 

How do you feel about reading books with a critical eye? Does it affect your writing, or do you separate the two activities, compartmentalizing them as completely different tasks? Do you or have you ever written a review? If so, what is your criterion for doing so, and do you apply the same criteria to your own writing?

Thanks for visiting Writing Tips. I hope you’ll join in and help make this a very lively discussion, so all of us can benefit from each other’s different perspectives here.

M. J. 

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