Reviewers. You know the deal; they respond to fics with more detail than the average posters, getting into the specifics of what makes a fic good, what makes it so-so, and what can be improved on. Seeing their replies can be encouraging or overwhelming. We hate them, we love them.
Nobody’s perfect. No writer is – there is always the potential for improvement. There will often be flaws, big or small, that have to be overcome. It can take an entire lifetime to reach the pinnacle of one’s talent, whatever one’s craft, and we acknowledge that.
So does that not, then, also apply to those whose craft it is to review?
There are many reviewers who are professional, experienced, knowledgeable, and are earnestly invested in helping writers improve. They dedicate their free time in the hopes that their advice can make a difference to a writer. It’s a fairly selfless act. There are also those who do their best to review, but may lack the professionalism, experience, knowledge, or the drive to really see a writer get better. Others may let their own subjectivity and personal preferences get in the way. Others still kick writers down, whether they intend to or not. And sometimes, it can be really hard to tell them from a good reviewer.
(I should also clarify; just because a writer thinks a reviewer is mean or unfair does not actually mean they are. In addition, whether a critic delivers a review sensitively or harshly, if they give decent advice, you may as well take it. Most reviewers really are trying to help.)
So the question is: how do we know when a reviewer is reliable? How do we know who to listen to? How do we know whether a reviewer knows what they’re doing or is being objective? And how do we respond to them as writers, readers, or fellow reviewers? Can we review reviewers?
In my opinion, it’s not too hard to decide whether or not a reviewer is reliable. Admittedly, a big part of it for me is just seeing how long they’re been around and taking a look at their reviewing history. Are they respected by the community, and do I respect them? I watch how they contribute to a discussion and what they have to say. Open-mindedness and objectivity are also vital to a trustworthy reviewer. I don't have to agree with them on everything, but I'd have to trust them to review even my little brother.
As for criticizing critics, I can see it being a little risky. While it’s common in the literary world, you don’t see a lot of mainstream book critics being criticized. I also really haven’t seen much of it in the world of fan fiction, where reviewers have far less credibility. So what would happen if the reviewers among us put ourselves out there and received a little crit?
I propose we as a community find out. I’d love to see what happens when reviewers start putting themselves out there the same way writers do, and I’m eager to take the first step so others may follow.
So I am currently opening my long history of reviews to criticism! I think I’ve been reviewing since 2006 or so, and I did go through a phase of being awfully *****y to writers, so there is a lot to choose from. To give some background, my credentials are mainly composed of many years of writing/reviewing, plus I spent the last three years working for a minor in Professional Writing/Editing, which I earned in May. I’m not perfect and I’m always willing to improve, so I’d like to see what people have to say, and if there’s anything I/we can learn by doing this. Pretty much any of my reviews are game, so long as you review respectfully.
Feel free to join in! I invite any other reviewer feeling up to it to volunteer in this thread if they feel up to it. This is a great community, and I’m confidence that we can learn a lot this way.
Reviewers Volunteered to be Reviewed:
The Great Butler
Kutie Pie (includes Shipping Fics reviews)
So let me know what you think, and to those brave enough to take up the task, good luck!