The Writeoff Association 927 members · 663 stories
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Now that (more than) a week has passed, the writing time is quickly coming to an end. We'll see an influx of submissions soon enough, and what this means is that the hard part of the contest is over, and the really fun part begins. Once the submissions are revealed, the time to read and review begins.

Each participant should read and rank each submission on the voting page. Ideally, you should also write a review of the story in the review thread. During the past writeoffs, many contestants thought that the reviews were the best parts of the competition, even better than the announcement of the winners! In order to make the review stage as pleasurable and painless as possible, I've decided to write down a few suggestions based on my experiences.

The review is usually a short summary judgment of the story in question, but it can be as long as you like. It's not usually a technical review—the critics simply describes their impressions after reading. Many reviewers also write the point ranking they gave the story on the vote, but that is not required. Of course, you're free to write your review however you like, and I'm not about to discuss reviewing style, but I believe that there are several tips that can help you make the best of this part of the competition and potentially avoid a headache:

Don't Read Other Reviews. Not until you have made your own judgment. The reviews are usually highly opinionated, sometimes divisive, and almost always filled with spoilers. Resist the temptation to check out other's feedback until you have read the story in question and made up your mind about it. You can read other reviews before you post your own, however, to address the points others have made. Remember that your personal opinion is the most valued opinion.

Remember That This is a Competition, and Review Accordingly. The stories you'll be reviewing are different from the usual FimFic fare in the sense that they were created for a contest under a tight deadline and the limitations of a set prompt. Accordingly, your usual standards might be a little unsuitable for reviewing submissions. Editing time is usually very limited, resulting in more errors getting through, and there is often a greater strain in the author's writing. There's little time to develop an idea as well. Take that into account when you give your opinion.

But at the same time, remember that fairness is the best policy in a competition. Blanket praise is boring and useless, and most contestants find honest, detailed criticism the most interesting. The author who enter do so because they want to learn where they stand and how they can become better. Try to be specific in your criticisms and don't be shy to voice your displeasure.

Spread Your Marks. It's often tempting, during voting, to give story marks objectively, or give very similar marks to all stories you review. This is pretty bad for the result as it dilutes the final rankings and makes the score less meaningful in general. Try to give as many different marks as possible. It might be a good idea to rank the stories between each other, and give a 1 or 0 to the worst and a 10 to the best. Even if you prefer to have a set standard for giving out the highest and lowest marks, do try to increase variation. Every 10 or 9 you give out lowers the impact of each other high mark.

Discuss the Story, Not the Author. This is just another way to say not to descend to ad hominem and attacks on the author's integrity. This became a problem on a couple of the earlier writeoffs, but the community had cooled off since then, thankfully. We don't want a repeat of that situation, so please, exercise some basic human decency. Everyone entered the competition with the same hopes, fears, and under the same deadlines and limits as you have, and they deserve to be treated as you'd like to be treated.

The same is also true in reverse. As the old adage goes, a dismissal of your story is not a dismissal of your person, unless it comes with a punch in the nose. So don't react like you've been insulted when a review gives you low marks. Which brings us to…

Take Criticism Gallantly. I shouldn't really have to say it, but I'll say. If somebody doesn't like you fic, or finds some serious fault within it, take it like a responsible author. Nothing stops you from defending your vision or your choices, but there is no reason to turn a fic review into a personal insult. Show respect, and you'll be respected in return.

Do you have any suggestions on this topic? Do you have any advice to share on this topic? I imagine the /fic/ old-timers would love to. Feel free to write in this thread and discuss.

Except for when your entries are unmitigated garbage of the highest caliber.

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