is a series of posts focused on better understanding books, trends in writing, and the labels associated with these.
One of the best parts about reading communities are the connections you make. Over the last year, I have made a ton of new friends all over the world. While we all share a love for books, we don’t all share the same perspective, which I adore. Similarly, I have started to make more connections with writers. Working with an author is an incredibly rewarding experience. When someone asks you for your personal opinion on their works, their written baby, they are putting a lot of trust in you. It’s your responsibility to help them nurture and develop that baby. Your feedback could be the tipping point for that acceptance letter. I love working with writers and I always jump at the chance to help out when I can fit it in my schedule.
At the beginning of the year, one of my friends reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to be an impartial judge in a writing contest. The Empty Pages Writing Club needed motivation to “actually put pen to paper”. A friendly competition where everyone writes and puts some money into the pot for a victor. The problem was how to determine said victor. That’s where I was brought in. My job is to read their submissions and provide feedback. That’s it. I obviously jumped at the opportunity! After all, that’s what I do, right? Whichever story I deem as the best will be considered the winner. No pressure. For me or them.
This is an honor I am taking seriously. It takes quite an act of bravery for an author to request feedback. Let alone a series of budding authors who are all friends and all have hopes and dreams in writing.
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemmingway
When I read literature, I almost exclusively read for my own personal pleasure. I have a wide variety of genres I read. I read for book clubs, based on recommendations, and just because I want to. I might not have a dissertation in mind, but when I read, I am always thinking about what I’m reading. This includes some of the basic elements of fiction, but also how I feel. The emotional investment is important to my reaction to a story. Sometimes, I will be indifferent about a great work of literary art because it just doesn’t catch me emotionally. Or, I’ll fall in love with a novel very few others enjoy because I connected. My current state of mind is critical to my enjoyment.
For this writing critique, I’m getting a bit more formal in my review. I am going to focus on the basic elements of fiction while I read:
- Point of View
I have a brief rubric I am using to define and categorize all these terms. But, I will still be reviewing these short stories more-or-less as I would any other book I read. I am providing structure so I can compare apples to apples, as they say. I will rate each book on those basic elements of fiction and provide some feedback for my rating. But I will also identify how emotionally invested I was in this story. The personal connection is key to developing readership, and therefore cannot be ignored when compared to the traditional elements.
In the end, the story with the highest score wins.
Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing they evidently prefer. – J.R.R. Tolkien, forward to the second edition Lord of the Rings trilogy
When writers ask for feedback, they are exposing part of their soul to the world. They want to grow and improve, but it involves vulnerability on their part. When we, book review bloggers, write a review we are sharing our experience with that vulnerability. I won’t always enjoy a book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.
Literature reviews are important not only to help the authors grow as writers but also to provide them exposure. Even a negative review is still publicity and exposure for the author. Critical reviews set expectations for readers. You cannot possibly like every book you ever read. Heck, I look forward to negative reviews from some of my blogger friends because I know our taste in books differ so much that I will really enjoy the books they dislike.
Something worth noting: all the bloggers I call my friends make it a priority to never personally attack an author. It’s hard enough for someone to hear that you don’t like their magnum opus; we don’t need to hurt them as a person too. Authors are people, and it’s important we treat them that way. They have trusted their baby in your waiting arms. Be kind.
In the end, I couldn’t be more honored or excited to participate in this competition. I will be posting my reviews here, but I won’t be including author names. This is meant to be a fun exercise among friends and (to my knowledge) none of these authors are published yet. I will be sending the authors a detailed breakdown of my rubrics so they can get feedback.
Let’s do this.
What do you think?
- Do you have specific criteria you consider when reading?
- Do you provide feedback to writers? If so, how do you provide that feedback?
- Have you ever participated in a writing contest as an author or reviewer? Share your experience!