It’s assignment time again and this time I have to write a 1000 word critique of someone else’s piece of work. I’m fairly confident that this one will go ok as I’ve been reviewing in some form for the last 3 years.
I’m a member of netgalley where you can request to download books (some are out already, most are due out) for free in return for an honest review. I started this around 2014 and reviewed a small number of books before picking this up in earnest about 18 months ago. I love doing this. I think it’s made me a better writer within myself as looking at what I’m liking in people’s work and what I’m not looking informs how I write. I get a weird thrill when I see books that I read before release and reviewed showing up on a book shop shelf. It feels a bit like one of ‘mine’ especially when I gave it plenty of stars.
The other reviews I’m involved with are for unpublished books. With these I have a set criteria to look at and feedback to the publisher. Again though, this helps me. I have an idea for a story where based on the 6 months I’ve read these books and used the criteria questions I’ve already decided when I start writing it will have a different ending to the one originally imagined. It may even now have multiple points of view.
There is a lot of back and forth on twitter regarding reviewers and my friend specifically stays away from Goodreads. This isn’t because writers don’t like criticism but more that some people choose to attack. This is constructive, it’s personal and downright nasty but keyboard warriors are a topic for another time. I don’t understand the mindset though. There are plenty of books I’ve downloaded and not liked. There are one or two that I have been unable to finish but I would never attack an author because of this. I try my best to say why I didn’t like. For example I couldn’t finish a health book earlier this year simply because there was far too much science jargon within the book and I felt it was way above my level of understanding. So with that the author can either say tough and keep future work at the same level or they can look at their wording and see if there is anything that can be learnt from it.
Books are authors babies. They spend many many hours writing, editing and writing again. If you don’t like a book say why but without a personal attack. A good reviewer will do this.
This new piece of work for my latest assignment takes a lot of these elements. As well as critiquing the work you have to link back to how it informs your own writing. It’s an interesting experience and one that takes what I’m used to into another level again. I’ve found it easier to write so far. Let’s hope the grade reflects this.