What do you look for when you’re reviewing?

Reviewing is an important part of Writer’s Carnival. It’s one of the first things we try and get all the new members to do, and it is what makes this a fantastic writing community to be a part of.

We do have a few rules that go along with reviewing. Three reviews for every post you want to put up. No copy-and-paste reviews. We really frown on generic reviews that only say “I like it!” or “Worst. Post. Ever.” We want out members to be as specific as possible. What worked for you in a poem? What part of the story made you struggle or threw you off? Why do we want you to be specific? Because it is a site for writers to improve their craft. We don’t expect anyone to come in here writing bestsellers out of the gate, and there is no expectation that work posted here is in any way flawless. If it was, well, you wouldn’t need us, now would you?

I know for myself, I tend to look for SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar) first. If I was more disciplined, I’d be better at reading through an entire piece first before going back to make my comments. But, there’s this little editorial demon sitting on my shoulder that likes to jump up and down and scream and point and shout and the only way to shut him up is by making notes. So I make some notes. When there’s a repeated pattern of abuse I’ll draw attention to the pattern, and try not to focus so much on individual incidences. This is where I notice how often an author uses that, had, very, or just. Is the author of the piece repeating phrases, or using dialogue tags in the wrong places? Is the author consistent with point-of-view and tenses?

After SPaG, I look at how the piece is structured. Is the author telling as opposed to showing? How many adverbs are used, and could stronger verbs be used instead? Is the writer giving a lot of unnecessary detail, devoting word count to the inconsequential? For example, is it important to tell the reader that the main character fished in their purse for the key, put it into the lock, turned the key, and opened the door?

Around the same time, I’m looking at inconsistencies that jump out at me. The things that jump out at me, as many people on this site can attest, are booze and weapons. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an expert on either, but I know more than the average layman. So if you call a whisky that doesn’t come from Scotland Scotch, I’m going to call you out on it. If your warrior is wielding a ten pound sword, I’m going to call it into question.

Now, I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to structure their reviews, not by a long shot. This is only what I’m looking for, where I spend my time. So what do you look for when you’re reviewing? What are your pet peeves, and where do you find yourself devoting the majority of your time?

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