Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Feedback - Nits, Crits and Reviews...



By Ian Smith


One of the great features of being a contributor to the ERWA is the "storytime" mailing list, where we can post pieces of our work for constructive feedback. Of course, reading this can sometimes be disheartening, but I strongly believe that knowing what readers make of your work is a key step to becoming a better writer. Once I started offering feedback, I found it helped my own writing, particularly if I could mentally "step back" and be fairly objective about my work.

I'm sure every writer feels insecure and hopes for "wow, this is great". Realistically, the best we'll ever get is a variation on "this is good, hope I can help you make it even better".

So, if you want to give a writer some feedback, how can you be helpful?

The first thing is to remember that the writer doesn't have to agree with you. It is their work, after all!

The simplest form of feedback is to tell them what you thought or how you felt about the story as a whole. You don't have to write a lot. Simply knowing that it engaged and entertained a reader can make a big difference to the writer's confidence, especially if they're having a rough patch and doubting themselves. If you really liked something, maybe the characters, dialogue or "action" scenes, say so. 

And why not make it your feedback? All you have to do is use "I" rather than a generic "you" or "the reader".

If you want to give more detailed feedback, this is typically in the form of "nits" and "crits".

Nits are details like punctuation, grammar, spelling, misplaced name tags, confused descriptions of action and so on. These are things an editor would look out for in a submitted manuscript. Remember that UK and US English have differences in spelling, vocabulary and usage.

Ideally "crit" means a constructive critique, not criticism in the everyday sense - someone put time and effort into writing that piece and will feel anxious about how it's received. Critiques may be fairly general comments about how you found the style, plot, use of dialogue, or the way characters are described, or they can be more in-depth, such as suggestions on how to rephrase sections.

Reviews posted on book purchasing sites are what published writers want. Positive reviews encourage potential purchasers to buy. Amazon's system means a book is more likely to be suggested to customers once a certain number of reviews have been posted. Fake reviews can be purchased, but thankfully Amazon is taking steps to minimise this. I've seen claims that Amazon makes apparently arbitrary judgements about the reliability of some reviews, especially where they consider the author and reviewer to be "friends".

Any Amazon customer can post a review, and if they got the book from Amazon, they're shown as a "verified purchaser". Their system doesn't always share comments between the UK and US sites, so I have accounts with both and post the same review on each. If I bought the book from the UK site, I say so in the US review. If I was offered a free copy, I only accept it on the basis that I'll post my honest opinion, and I say so in the review.

I'm not a fan of structured reviews which summarise the story, as these can unwittingly include "spoilers". I try to say, in general terms, what I enjoyed about a book and acknowledge anything I didn't, basically what I'd say to a friend who asked me about the book. If I read a story to the end, I must have enjoyed it, so there are always things I can write about.


Now and again, we'll all come across a book we really don't like, either because it's not our sort of story or because we didn't like the way it was written. Do you post a bad (honest) review, or just not bother? I'll leave that to you.

5 comments:

  1. Good post, Ian. Would like to include a few thoughts: Don't ever doubt your own opinion. Plus, e-correspondence can often come across not as intended. Objective, constructive comments are what's needed. Crit with the same consideration you would want for your own work.

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  2. Excellent post, Ian. In case anyone reading is tempted to join us on Storytime, you can find instructions here:

    http://erotica-readers.com/PRIVATE/index.html

    I just rejoined Storytime after many years hiatus. I'm really impressed by the quality of the critiques I have been seeing.

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  3. Good article, Ian. What I like most about ERWA’s storytime is that it’s not an insular group where the feedback is based on how long you’ve been participating, previous commercial successes or anything in between. It’s about the writing. Yes, you’ll make friends, but I also received very useful feedback on my first submitted piece just as I did with my latest.

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  4. Totally agree with you about the art of reviewing - too many reviews seem to be little more than summaries of the plot, which can usually be gleaned from the blurb, category and title of the book. A good review should talk about the good stuff that kept the reader reading, or perhaps warn the reader about an unexpected style, darkness in theme etc which isn't hinted at through the way that the book's been titled and marketed.

    Good summary of ways of tackling critiques, too. It's a helpful model to work with.

    Tig xxxx

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  5. I hear that for the most objective take to only read the first and last paragraphs of a review.

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