New Review Policy
This post is going to serve as a link that I’ll probably use on my GoodReads reviews for a while. It’s looking like I may become an author (co-author, whatever) later this year, and because I want to be open about linking to the things I have a hand in writing, a relatively substantive change needs to happen in my reviews. You see, it’s one thing when I review a book when I’m just a consumer/critic, but it’s something else when I’m an actual colleague. It feels like I carry more emotional weight, or that I could be seen as tearing down a competitor. Or something?
So this is for clarity, both to keep it straight in my own head and to have it available for reference for those who want details.
Reasons to Review
I write reviews for two reasons. First, to remind myself what I thought of a book. My memory is bad enough that I’ll completely forget what I thought if I don’t take the time to make relevant notes.
Second, to discuss what worked and what didn’t in terms of story and structure. I love breaking stories down into their parts and seeing what works and what doesn’t. And I love when others chime in with their reactions and responses and we can talk about how our reactions and opinions differ or line up. My hope is that it can be helpful for others as well (both writers and readers), but I don’t kid myself that I’m some great illuminator of modern storytelling.
The biggest change I want to make is that I won’t indulge in the passion of a rant. This will probably disappoint current fans and followers and I’m sorry for it. There’s a place for passion and a shared catharsis with fellow-sufferers who can bond over stumbling into something they dislike. And humor in general, but particularly wit, is at its most entertaining when aimed at something we consider deserving. But it’s one thing when coming from an outsider with no stake in the market and something quite different when coming from the inside. By becoming a writer, even those things aimed solely at the work, and not the people behind it, can have the edge of a personal attack.
I won’t give star ratings to anything that isn’t outstanding. Which is to say, I’ll give four- and five-star ratings but anything lower is just going to be a review. This includes detailing partial stars and rounding that I normally put at the end of my posts. I don’t want my reviews to be able to act as a ratings punishment, even if they are buried in the noise of thousands of other reviews. So the lesser ratings are out (the reviews will stay, just without a star rating). At the same time, I want to give merit/reward to those that are outstanding, even if I’m buried in the noise of thousands of other reviews. So I’m keeping the higher ratings in.
Allusion and simile will be used to illustrate rather than to entertain. This is my kryptonite because I love coming up with a way to illustrate a point that pushes it into the absurd while still maintaining relevance—it entertains me and feedback suggests others find it entertaining as well. That said, there’s no reason illustrative allusions cannot entertain. It’s just that the primary purposes won’t be because something struck me as funny.
This will probably be a work in progress and things may change over time as I feel my way into what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not. The internet is a weird place and nobody knows all the social interactions and rules. I want to be more helpful than harmful and to be careful with those around me. And I hope anyone reading will cut me some slack and let me know what they think. Good and bad.
Congratulations on entering the world of authorship! Are you going to go back and edit your old reviews to reflect your new policy?
Thanks! No, I don’t foresee going back to edit existing reviews. a) too much work. b) I really hate stealth edits of things like opinions and reviews.
Congratulations on being author/co-author whatever, Jacob!! Go you!!
Hey, Jacob. Congratulations and good luck on this new and exciting stage in your life!