On Writing: Reviews


Yesterday, I asked for a quick review of my most recent piece, which was written in kind of a hurry for a writing contest prompt.  (If you would like to read or review my piece, please find it here.)

To be plain, I’m more of a ‘write what I want when I want’ kind of a writer.  However, I feel that my writing will – eventually – improve if I throw myself into unknowns, and allow myself to be pushed out of my comfort zone.  So, bring on the writing prompts and contests.  (That and, let’s face it, I’m a student so I’m broke.  Entering contests where I can win money between semesters seems like quite a good idea when it might allow me to continue to pay for rent and dog food and, I suppose, my food, as well.)

So, when I write things about which I’m unsure, I ask for reviews.  I have accounts on both DeviantArt and Writing.com for this exact purpose.  They both have very different readers so the same piece posted in both locations is likely to get a very different response on each, though not always.  I’ve gotten some very good, constructive reviews in both places, actually.

However, today I’ve been made to wonder: what do you do with a review that is completely useless?

Let me explain: I recently got a review on a short story, which I wrote to explore the mental devolution of a female character as she entered into madness and, later, to became a serial killer.  Now, I’ve gotten some very good reviews of this piece, and a few that were very harsh but in areas that, yes, could have used improvement.  Today, however, I received a review that criticized the fact that my character ‘is not confident enough to be a serial killer’ and that she ‘doesn’t get sexually aroused enough by the thought of murder to be a serial killer.’

Now, I have no idea what to do with this review, which was clearly written by someone who’s read one book or seen one movie about a psychopath or sociopath or narcissist type serial killer, and knows nothing whatsoever about the other types of madness that can lead to this twisted occupation.  What frustrates me is his insistence that, until these things are fixed (and here’s exactly how you should go about fixing them, listed here in my ‘oh-so-helpful’ review), my piece is worthless.

I know it could use some editing, obviously, or I would not have submitted it for review.  I also know that it’s a good piece.  Coming from a writer, that is saying something.  (I can say this because I had two fiction professors and an entire short-story writing class review it last semester.  I also had a literary magazine hold it for possible publication for four months even though it was over a thousand words longer than the suggested word-count.  It didn’t get published in this issue, but they’ve asked if they can hold it for consideration in the next one.  It’s not perfect, by any means, but if at least three separate people who read and write fiction for a living tell me it’s a good piece, it’s been considered for publication, and an entire class seems to approve of the story-line, if not the content – then it’s a good piece.)

So I’m debating what to do with his review, which is unnecessarily harsh and misleading to other readers.  I have the option to hide it.  I have the option to respond to it (which I have not done because every time I begin to write a response, I find myself correcting his ignorance about mental issues relating to serial killers as well as serial killers themselves).  I don’t know what to do with it.

Now, I should also point out that this is a male reviewer, and, to be honest, the piece could be seen as offensive to male readers.  That’s just the character; the situation.  She has a background of bad experiences with men and sex, and it’s an integral part of her descent into madness.  There’s no way to make the piece easier to read for men, and, to be frank, there’s enough bloody fiction (movies, tv shows, etc, etc, etc) out there that caters to men and their male power so why should I edit my one piece to make it easier for a man to read?  I shouldn’t.  This reviewer thinks that my character should have a better relationship with sex and arousal, equating it with the one thing she finally finds as a release for all of the pain she’s been feeling for years.  So, since she’s a woman who gets picked up by men at bars often, he thinks that she should have some positive relationship with arousal?  Is every woman who goes to a bar and gets hit on constantly supposed to want sex?

I’m not entirely sure, but as far as a review goes – this one is entirely useless.

Of course, I do realize that I’m complaining about a review to people from whom I recently asked for reviews.  However, I doubt very much that you guys write useless reviews, or you wouldn’t be bloggers.  Bloggers think about things, then arrange these thoughts into sentences that lead from one thought to the next in a nice, if sometimes roundabout, line.  This reviewer couldn’t put two and two together – simple foreshadowing and mentions about the past that rounded out my character (according to other readers) completely eluded him.  I think most readers, and – especially – writers can spot the little things that add to situations, and turn them into stories.

Perhaps I should have began this post with the phrase: ‘Sometimes I just need to vent.’  Anyhow, thank you for reading, and may you have a lovely day.

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