Tuesday, May 26, 2015

HOW TO REVIEW STUFF

Authors and soap makers constantly need reviews and critiques. They need people to read their books or wash with their soap, and then they need those readers/washers to write down and post what they thought of the book or sudsy soap in a public place like Amazon.com. 

If a writer can get enough readers to rate and review their book on a single special day, the list maker fairies will sit up and take notice. 

“Hey,” the list maker fairies will shout, “Look here! Someone who knows how to post on Amazon has read this book. To the cool book list.” 

And then other people see the cool book list and say, “Hey, what’s happening here? I want to be cool too and read that book.”

I don’t know if it’s the same for soap people. I guess it is: soap, suds, rinse, repeat . . . write a review. 

It’s possible to review everything from coal tar soap to goat halters on Amazon.com. It can be a lot of fun to say stuff about goat halters.

In the interest of encouraging more reviewing of everything from goat halters to fire starters to gummy calcium chews to my newest book, Beyond the Strandline, soon to be launched and thrown into the happy winds of the book judging public, I’m writing this checklist, “How to Review Anything.” 

#1. Go with saying something nice if you can and be specific! Find one to three positive things to say about the soap: nice packaging, good heft, quick delivery. Or about a book: excellent title; snapping dialogue; I wet my pants over the ending. Or about the gummy calcium chews: tasty, gummy, fruity—not chalky at all. 

#2. Sometimes a quick description is helpful. Like: “The soap comes in a nice thick black bar and smells like coal tar, but it cleans like Windex for skin.”

#3. Constructive criticism is a fine art. Comparing a book to whale dung is neither helpful nor constructive. Extending the criticism to compare a book to the stuff under whale dung isn’t helpful, nor constructive, or enlightening. How does a writer improve from the stuff under whale dung to actual whale dung? There’s no path to a better way. 

#4. Be constructive. Try starting the beginning of a review with an upbeat observation. For example: “While I enjoyed the strong bones the calcium gummies might give me, the chalk-like texture and flavor which cause my tongue to cleave to the roof of my mouth prohibit me from giving this my highest rating.” 

#5. If you must be scathing and sometimes you must . . . be brief. All that should be said at times like those, “Yikes.” 

#6. Actually, it’s the rule of threes. Find three strengths or likeable aspects and comment then follow that with three areas that could be improved upon. It’s rarely that there isn’t something happy to say or suggest, although I’ll confess I’ve critiqued papers that I’ve struggled with a bit. Don’t underestimate the importance of creative writing.

I learned how to review some real stinkers as a mom with teenagers because there were days it was tough to find something—anything—positive to say about kids who rolled their eyes at me so hard I could heard it. I have been known to say to my grumpy, hostile teenaged offspring, “Hey, no one can breathe in or breathe out like you do, kiddo. I was just hoping you might take this pickaxe and clean that fungus bloom out from under your bed.”

If I were reviewing this posting I would start by saying to myself, “Nice use of the word yikes and chalk-like. The numbers are in the right order. I like the juxtaposition of soap, books, and goat halters.” 

And then I would add, “One) Name names: Which kids? What do eye rolls sound like? Any smells you’d like to include? Two) Is everything a joke with you? Get serious once in a while—or not. Three) Try using more dashes. I like them. 

And that’s how to review stuff.

Linda (Five Stars) Zern 

1 comment:

Betty Horn said...

I'll have to keep this for future reference. Thanks, Linda!

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