Welcome back to the guide. It's been awhile. My fault, and I apologize. But I haven't forgotten about it nor have I given up on this project. There's still so much to cover.
This chapter was requested and is dedicated to @moimoi_chan here on Inkitt. Go check out her page.
By the title, you've probably already guessed what today's chapter is about.
How to write a proper review.
And this relates mainly to Inkitt, but can also count towards reviewing other books in general.
Some people here on Inkitt take this method to heart. I've seen a lot a people use a similar method to me, many in different wordings and formats, but it's the same overarching idea.
Many, on the other hand, don't.
Now, if they're just the casual reader, there's some forgiveness since that's unsolicited fawning over a story they've picked up and just so happened to take time out of their day to leave some sign of their enjoyment. From my stories, I've had a few people review my stories as the silent reader wanting to let me know how much they've enjoyed it. Their reviews, it's easy to tell they've read it. And they mean a lot.
When it comes from a review swap, there's another story.
Oh, before launch into that tangent, there's another two types of reviews I've encountered. The review people leave wanting you to read and review their stories, where they butter you up and then squeak in that little line "I've enjoyed your story. Maybe you'll read mine and leave a comment/review."
Yeah. Not kidding.
When I didn't leave a review for them, they went back in and fixed the review to take out all of the comparisons and compliments they left until it was barebones.
The other is the troll review. Now, anyone who's read my previous chapter detailing reviews and review swaps knows about my past experience with review trolls. And they, sadly, haven't gone away. The sad fact is, there isn't any fixing it from what I've seen. Except for smile and move along.
So, before I move along, here's all the different type of reviews I've seen and encountered like a wild Pokémon here on this lovely site.
I. Review Swap Reviews
- honest review swap
- half assed, I-just-want-a-good-review review
II. Reader Review
III. Here's-a-free-review, Self Promotion Review
IV. Troll Review
If you couldn't tell, the top one is broken down into two categories. It really shouldn't be that way, but it is. Like in many things, reviews shouldn't have corners cut. But, people do. Some people want free feedback. Though, the free feedback is more them wanting free, good reviews and publicity.
Also, just because it's a reader review, doesn't mean it doesn't have to be insightful. I had a review done by a fellow author who found my novel How to Love that was both very honest and insightful. He clarified some things for me off the site and it's helped me fix some things when I went back to do a mini edit for silly errors and some wording issues. Man, still got to finish it before I go in for the huge fixings edit and revision. And his review is going to help with that as well.
This is my three tier tip for an insightful, helpful review full of feedback.
Tier I. The Intro or What They've Done Great
I'm a big believer in hooking the reviewed author with explaining what they've done great. This way they go in with optimism. Also, no matter how many things need to be fixed or how harsh it may seem, they already have what they've done good there, so they know it's not complete shit but also know you're trying to help. They're less likely, from what I've experienced, to click off if you start with the positives. It's always nice to know what you've done good off the bat. The readers are more likely to listen to you and potentially more receptive to your advice. Also, in this section goes if you haven't read through the entire novel, you can also let them and other readers know how far you've gotten before you reviewed it. Or if you have any spoiler alerts since the last thing people want is to have the whole novel spoiled from reading a review. And yes, some people do read the reviews before they spend any time actually reading the novel.
Example (just creating some random novel off the top of my head so don't go looking this up haha):
This is through the first fifteen chapters -
Congratulations on taking the first step in uploading your novel! I know it's ongoing, so there's some things not yet resolved, but you've mentioned uploading the last few chapters in a day or two, so some things should be resolved.
Your cover is well done. It really hooks the readers in and relates back to the novel well. Both your name and the title are obvious, and the fancy yet legible font for the title is a nice touch. The image is fresh, though the random music notes are a tad off putting.
Diving right in, the hook is obviously there with a punchline straight out of left field, one that would send many readers cackling but curious to dive in for more. Sort of like an intro to some stand up comedy.
The characters are lively from the bat, ready to pounce with some one liner or kick you in the crotch, spit on your neck fantastic joke. The romance between your two main leads obvious from the get go with enough sexual tension to keep one interested to see how it all plays out.
Whether it's a small number of positives or a huge list longer than the Nile, positives are the best place to start. Seriously, who doesn't like to read what they've done good? I know it feels refreshing to know all your hard work has paid off.
From here, this is when you reach section two.
Tier II. Negatives/How to Fix It
This is a bit more recognizable, and also the natural conclusion from where you started.
This is also the part where many reviewers skimp on or skip all together. Some, I know, either out of fear they would receive a bad review in return, or they just don't want to. Some leave it out because they haven't read the novel and don't want it to show or they make something up/truly don't know what to fix whether it be inexperience or something else.
Not everyone is a literary master.
No one knows everything. And it's okay to have a difference in opinion.
What might seem like too much telling to one is a literary masterpiece to another.
Now, don't take what I'm saying to mean everyone that has a differentiating opinion from you is incorrect. Take what they're saying into consideration. And, if you see a pattern in reviews, then you definitely have a problem on your hands. Some things, like punctuation/grammar/spelling, there is no questioning that. The fundamentals don't change from novel to novel. Either you have it down or you don't.
Here, you explain what's wrong and needs to be improved on within the novel. And, you can, and I encourage you to, provide clear examples of what needs to be fixed along with how to fix it, if you do know, that is.
The big thing is, these people are here to help. Well, most of them are.
Can't forget the few assholes who are just trying to cause mayhem.
Now, you can really tell this author tried to create believable characters but fell short. Something many authors, especially new ones, struggle with. Your main character falls under the Mary Sue trope where nothing bad ever happens to them and the whole world revolves around them. Your supporting characters are way under developed and seem to have no lives outside of the MC. Some characters seem to just be caricatures of typical high school tropes, like the bully head cheerleader who harasses the MC for no reason and the evil teacher whose sole purpose is to destroy the spirits of their students. Many of them have wavering descriptions that seem to change without care. One person doesn't typically go from having green eyes one chapter to brown the next.
Also, not every character needs to be funny or the punchline to every joke. It leaves them bland and underdeveloped. They have no personality. It's okay to have one character who is more of a comedic relief whether they're a main character or not. In my novel, Fanfictionalized, Jack Marshall is a main character with depth and personality but also is the comedic relief in many situations. Characters are allowed to have other emotions. And not all of them are sassy or sarcastic. People in real life have differentiating emotions and personalities. If you need help, perhaps model some personalities off of people you know, like friends or family. Many authors do that. They leave a piece of themselves or others into the books they write. Doing that can even be therapeutic.
Also, your main male lead is toxic. Like Harden from After and Noah Flynn from Kissing Booth lead male toxic. Which isn't okay when you're professing these two 'belong together'. It's just portraying a negative view on impressionable people that toxic relationships are okay. Reality check, they're not. Not in any way. If you don't know how a couple should act, do your research. Some great TV and literary couples are Monica and Chandler from the sitcom Friends, Will and JJ from Criminal Minds - especially one episode showing how they overcome their jobs plus keeping their relationship and family in check after a tough case for JJ -, Hardison and Parker from Leverage, Jesse and Becky from Full House, Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother. The list goes on.
If you do want to portray such, then don't profess they belong together. Show them working through their differences and going to counselling. Or break up and work on their lives outside of it and perhaps get back together when they're in better places. Oh, and not toxic then. Give them a healthy one. Typically, the end to a toxic relationship is breaking up and moving on. Many inflict pretty bad psychological damage on the people involved. This needs to be fixed bad.
While this is a first draft, some issues are understandable, but the issues in yours are grave. Too many punctuation errors. Especially the formatting of your dialogue. There needs to be a comma at the end of it before the closing of the quotation marks and the dialogue tag that followed. There also needs to be a space between the end of your ellipse ( ...) and the word that follows. Many times throughout the tenses changed, creating a story that was hard to follow. It really needs a hard edit. Perhaps hire an editor or put it through a website that specializes in that or read an editing guide like Helpful Hints by @TheGreenShoes here on Inkitt.
You see how long this was? That's okay. It is totally, one hundred percent okay to write such a long section for a review. Even if it's all negative and helpful. Telling someone what they did wrong and showing them how to fix it is how people improve. They find their weaknesses or errors and fix them, working until it's turned into a strength. Back when I was first starting out, I struggled with commas among other things. Though, no one really pointed it out to me, I had to find it out myself through reading other pieces and then reading my own plus other schooling. Once I found the issue, I fixed it and improved until I got to where I am now.
See, people got to figure out what's wrong with their writing to improve.
Some people, however, don't always want the feedback. Here's two examples of such:
I did a review swap with an author who's first language wasn't English and they were trying to write their first book. There were a few things wrong with their book, including punctuation and some job errors that couldn't happen in real life. Many people loved their novel, most likely given the stereotypical mafia ties and billionaire romance and not so developed plot, characters or narrative. But I read some reviews on said story before I wrote mine. One reason because there were a few things I encountered that really needed fixing and I was wondering if anyone else caught that or mentioned it.
I wasn't the first one. And they didn't like being told when they messed up.
So, I wrote my review. It was pretty long and I explained why the things were wrong. I even provided some tools to help and my further assitance if they wanted to change. They were mad and tried to use the fact it was 'fiction' to justify such. But they took my advice for some editing and I started to edit and did almost a hundred comments over the first few chapters, but they didn't listen and I basically stopped. They continued on with the same stuff and didn't fix any of it.
Another author was in the process of writing their first novel and me and them did a review swap. They too were also non native speakers and asked for honest feedback. I gave them advice on all aspects, including clarifying a few things that they got misconstrued. They responded with enthusiasm and told me the review was beyond what they expected. They thanked me for all the advice and told me they were going to start doing edits ASAP. Even did research on what I told them was wrong, admitting that they themselves did make a mistake and were going to fix it and start doing more research.
Not everyone is going to be super receptive, but when one might not be, there will be tons of others who will thank you and take your advice to heart to improve.
Two authors whose books I reviewed in the review section of this guide I know truly took my advice to heart. Both were newer authors and asked for the in-depth reviews I provide in that section. They both began to fix what I pointed out and are using it to better themselves as authors. One of them just finished the novel she started back when I reviewed it and is in the process of writing another. Her first novel I reviewed just moved on to Round 2 in the Masters and Legends Awards plus is up for Best Book Overall in the Special Categories as well.
My point is, feedback matters. It hits whether you see it immediately or not. And it really helps. These authors are growing and improving because you took the time out to give them true feedback paired with them taking the action to implement it.
That brings me to part three of the review.
Tier Three: The Closer
With the closer, I try to tie it all together and give them a few words of encouragement. Telling them to keep writing and they're doing well so far from all the effort they've put in.
If you take anything from this, know that reviews can help. Feedback can help whether it's positive or more critical. Your reviews have the power to help.