Holly Bella Toschi's picture
Holly Bella Toschi from San Francisco is reading "Dance Dance Dance" May 15, 2015 - 2:23pm

Not to diss the one that was posted previously, but LR is in dire need of a comprehensive and revised version that helps its Workshop members (especially Newbies) learn how to objectively critique and review a workshop submission!  If we're going to rely on a star-rating system, then it's imperative that reviewers understand what the four main criteria actually mean when incorporating this into their reviews!  While certain authors prefer to review certain genres and writers, it's crucial to understand that the same elements of storytelling and writing should be present in any genre and/or style.  \

Membership should have its privileges, right? (Or is this slogan limited to American Express cards?!)

Thoughts on this?  Anyone?

Anna Gutmann's picture
Anna Gutmann from Ohio is reading American Gods May 15, 2015 - 2:33pm

Agreed! Been meaning to type something up for a while to see if LR wants it but I've been on a break from workshop to spend time on my own writing for a bit ... If anyone has anything they have questions about or want included in a possible new guide post for reviewing, you should leave a message here :-). That way if a new one ever does get written, we'll be covering all the bases!

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break May 15, 2015 - 7:41pm

A column was done about this some time ago, but I don't believe it was ever put in workshop per se. I think the points system has changed since this was published if I'm not mistaken.

Read and chime in on whether this is something that should be made required reading for newbies: Rookie's Guide to Workshop

Rob and Kirk could probably cook something up to remedy the issue.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this May 16, 2015 - 5:43am

Outside the points change, Brandon's guide is pretty damn comprehensive. I'm not even sure there's anything in there that needs updating. 

Holly--want to give it a read and let us know what you think? Is there something you want to know that the column doesn't answer? 

Curious to know--always helps to have an outside set of eyes. 

Holly Bella Toschi's picture
Holly Bella Toschi from San Francisco is reading "Dance Dance Dance" May 16, 2015 - 9:37am



@Rob: yes, I am more than happy to review Brandon's guide.  And to answer Brandon's question above, the current point system is 5-3-0.

I've only been active in the Workshop for a year, and during this time I have encountered some GREAT reviewers who have really helped to shape my writing.  However, I also am aware of three people who were quite active reviewers in the Workshop who have since stopped posting and/or canceled their membership because of reviews they received.  While I realize we writers are sensitive and can be hypercritical of ourselves and others; however, what I've learned is that certain members aren't always aware of the objective elements of crafting a story of any genre.  Therefore, certain reviews are more subjective than objective, and can be downright rude in tone. 

Before anyone chimes in about the value of criticism, especially within the domain of the competitive writing world, I see LR as a place to help other writers and not a place to breed competition and/or dissuade writers from writing.  While I think most others agree with me, sometimes the lack of understanding as to how a review should be structured in terms of rating discourages others from participating.  I'm not advocating that reviews be "cookie-cutter-like" in form or formulaic, but structure is critical to writing, isn't it? 

The Workshop can be a double-edged sword of sorts; its a venue that allows writers to review other's work, and to speak their opinions and offer feedback based on their impressions.  But some do so with a certain disregard for the recipient.  While this is not a place for hand-holding, I feel if LR encourages its members to follow certain guidelines and offers an easy-to-find tool that helps them do so, then perhaps all of us can reap more benefit from the review system in general.

<End soapbox rant>

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin May 18, 2015 - 2:06am

To be honest, and it may just be me, but the star system means little to me when it comes to reviews. I'm far more interested in the comments and lbl. This is what tells me what works or doesn't. The online classrooms functions perfectly well without the need to give shiny gold stars so I suspect the workshop would also. I'd rather someone rip a story apart as a whole than focus on specifics like structure/character/etc/etc. But then I haven't used the workshop for quite a while, so I have no idea how good or bad it is now.

Not that this is me asking anything here. I don't care whether you keep the stars or not, I'm just throwing in my opinion, I guess.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics May 18, 2015 - 8:29am

I'm with Em. The stars are a nice way to stroke someone's ego, or make them wonder what's wrong with a generic component of a story, but the actual value of any review is in the details of the feedback - be they from commentary or lbl.

As to Holly's comments, I have habitually been tough on work submitted for review, because I figured that if you are asking for feedback that's what you should get. When a story is flawless and stellar, I say that too - but so few stories are ever flawless. Maybe I'm a dick, and I'm sure many people here will say there's no maybe about it, but I think that the more comprehensive a review can be in its dissection of a submission, the more worth the nine bucks it all is each month. If I want someone to read my work and tell me I'm cool, I'll send my stuff to my mom. If I want someone to show me every little blemish and mole in my work so I can reshape it to as close to perfect as is in my ability, I come to a place like this and try to be a professional when someone says something sucks and here's why. That's the key, I think. If sometihng is wrong, TELL THE WRITER, but also tell them WHY. If they still get hypersensitive about it, perhaps this isn't the place/field for them.

I've had my share of bitchfits when someone has criticized my work, and I've thankfully grown out of that because I realized it was my own issues, not theirs. Once in a great while, you get a total tool who brings personal shit into things, but for the most part, everyone wants to help everyone else get better because outside of fellow writers, the rest of the world doesn't give a fuck about the process only the bound and discounted results in a bin at Barnes and Noble. We have to stick together, but we also have to realize that for most of us (here anyway) it isn't just a hobby to make ourselves feel better about orselves. It's a path to a career, and if someone's harsh criticism gets me there faster/better, I need to be mature enough to appreciate it for what it is - help.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest May 18, 2015 - 10:13am

^^^ Exactly.^^^

Holly Bella Toschi's picture
Holly Bella Toschi from San Francisco is reading "Dance Dance Dance" May 21, 2015 - 8:37am

@Rob:  I went ahead and read through the outline/guide that you referred me to.  I'm going to PM you with my thoughts. 

Jimothy Scott's picture
Jimothy Scott from Canada is reading The wise mans fear June 21, 2015 - 1:53pm

@Strange Photon 

Wow. And agreed.

@ Holly

Thanks for bringing up this thread. I too am going to reread those guidlines and hopefully give better reviews because of it. Lately I've been giving people half assed feedback I feel.