Reviewing New Writers
By Harriet Silkwood
New writers are very vulnerable and need to be handled gently, but not with kid-gloves. Keeping a friendly tone is very important for the reviewer. Because we are working together online, we can't see each others faces or body language. You may slip into a tone that sounds arrogant and bossy to the author, but is completely opposite your intention; especially if there are a lot of errors or suggestions to make, and the reading wasn't easy. Your mood will show through. It isn't easy to give constructive suggestions and avoid destruction of self-esteem with the same comments. It's always good to sum up your comments with a few friendly words of encouragement, and always, always point out the good stuff!
Pointing out every technical error or element issue in one review can be overwhelming to new writers and the reviewer. The ideal way is to work with them step-by-step. Small writing groups are helpful for this.
As a reader/reviewer of novice writers, I try to look past the spelling errors for the story hidden within. Knowing the author likes what he wrote, my job is to help him see how a few changes may make it better. Sometimes it's impossible and I advise him to correct the spelling and I'll try again.
#a side note: I think those who advise against editing until the story is finished must not be active readers or reviewers of novice writers. Proofreading and spell checks should be done before posting for reviews.
True self-esteem can only be built on truth. When someone has truly accomplished something good from a bad first draft, they"ll know it. They can feel it, and will be justly proud. To avoid hurting a writer's feelings, especially a young writer, you may be tempted to tell them their work is well written, when it wasn't. Leave that to their family and friends, it's their job. The writer joined a writing site in order to learn how to write; don't deny him that opportunity or the pride of accomplishment. Any item can be improved with honest reviews if the writer wants to work at it. Never rewrite it for him, it will no longer be his work and he will trash it. I would.
Reviewing honestly is an integral part of writing - and it's difficult to do.
About The Author
Harriet Silkwood is a reviewer of new writers and has written newsletters and articles on the subject of novice writing and reviewing with common sense and encouragement. Her portfolio may be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/storytime.
She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers.