R = Real Reviews

In a previous post, I talked about giving back and various ways to do that. From some of the comments on that post, it seems that giving reader reviews or providing constructive feedback on a friend or fellow writer’s work was the most popular method for giving back.

I must say, I struggle with this. Though it’s important to give honest feedback, sometimes trying to give feedback to a close friend or family member is difficult because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or crush their dream. It’s all too easy to imagine them giving up because you didn’t give them a rave review (or really, a “friend review.”)

However, I’ve also been on the other side of the “friend review.” Though I feel lucky that friends and family read and offer opinions on my work, being on the receiving end of that all-encompassing, “It’s great!” isn’t helpful. In fact, it can be misleading, especially if the story needs to be tightened up for contextual reasons or sections needs to a little livening up to keep the reader interested. When I receive those kinds of “friend reviews” I have to remember to take them with a grain of salt. I take the compliment to my work, but remember that the reader is seeing through friend-colored glasses.

On my last book, I was really lucky to have a friend reviewer who takes her literature very seriously. It was the first time I’d really had someone review my work through the eyes of an editor or literary agent. She pointed out context issues, grammar mistakes, and places where the story lost traction. It was wonderful!

Now that I’ve experienced what it’s like to receive a real review, I know that I can’t give those watery “friend reviews” to other writers anymore. Friend reviews are not really giving back because they don’t help your friend improve his/her writing. Though it will take more of your time and focus, to truly give back to your writer friends, it’s worth it to provide a real review, constructive criticism and all.




4 thoughts on “R = Real Reviews

  1. I had the same problem, receiving “friend reviews” that provided no constructive criticism as to how I could improve my work! Instead, I would ask my friends if they found any points of my story to be confusing, trying to keep them focused on the task at hand rather than giving the blanketed statement of “I really enjoyed this piece!” Many of my friends who aren’t writers are in my “focus group.” Instead of reading one piece and saying they enjoy it I have them read multiple pieces (the process takes a while) and tell me which piece they enjoyed the most and why so maybe I can apply those techniques to the story they found least enjoyable.

    Good luck on your novel!!!!! Happy to hear you are getting constructive criticism on it!

    1. That’s smart to have your friends read multiple pieces, Kellie! Hmmm. I wonder it it would be maybe even be beneficial to give friends/family a list of questions with space to write their answers while they review some writing. Thing like you mentioned above, “Do you find any parts of the story confusing?” “Were there any sections that you struggled to get through because they weren’t interesting/entertaining?”
      Hmm. Definitely something to consider! Thanks for commenting! (And for the ideas!)

  2. No. Friend reviews leave you with all the original questions and doubts you had originally. “Does the plot make sense? Is the pacing consistent or effective? Which characters are likeable?…” All these things have to be honest answered to be any good to the author, and while a “nice” friend review may feel good, since there were no criticisms, it’s actually a disservice in the long run.

  3. I agree. But I also know that it’s difficult to give a “real” review to a friend who is a writer. I once gave a real review to a writer friend who I knew from a writer’s club. I couched constructive criticism in with positive comments… but I think she’d gotten used to those Friend Reviews and had expected glowing reviews instead of suggestions for how to tighten it up. I guess part of giving a real review is making sure the writer knows that is what they are going to be receiving rather than a Friend Review.

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