Edit, Critique or Review

Is there a difference?  You bet ya.

An edit is a rare bird these days.   Must be an endangered species.  If you see one fly by, don’t kill it, maim it, or, in any other way, hurt its feelings.

Do not expect a complete edit from anyone except a professional, who will probably want a gratuity for their troubles.  Editing is hard work and very time consuming.  Your chances of getting a full edit from a causal acquaintance are about the same as winning the lotto. If you do receive one you should be properly stunned and grateful. But as someone once said, ‘Those who need it the most are the least gracious.’

I have to giggle at this point.  I use to take certain stories that I favored, usually something in my own genre, from different writing sites and do a full edit on them with a red magic marker.  I did this for my own benefit, no altruism involved.  At the time, I had been out of the writing game for a long time and needed some practice.  I knew perfectly well that I could not, would not reveal all that I had found.  Instead, I’d only comment on one or two of the most important issues, and I also knew that the author in question would only come back with a nasty retort over the few suggestions that I did make.  I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut, er, my pen capped…well, no, that’s not right either.  My comments got shorter and shorter, until they finally disappeared.

That’s kind of sad, isn’t it?    Oh, well…


A critique is given before publication at the ‘presumed’ request of the author.  Theoretically, this takes place on writing sites; although, you can’t prove it by me.  I’ve seen a few writers attempt to give a critique only to get their fingers snapped off.  The only real critiques I’ve ever been involved in were akin to a backroom poker game.  Cards were dealt in secret, away from public eye, and I seldom got as good as I gave.  My hand always came up with a pair of deuces, and in the end the other player never really took any of my advice, so I added it all up to a big waste of time.  (All the same, I have heard rumors about critiques working for other people, and I would never discourage anyone from engaging in this activity.  I’m just saying: it’s a unicorn to me.)

In a critique anything goes, as far as you dare anyway.  Spelling, grammar, typos, silly gaffes, structure, theme are all up for inspection and comment.


A review happens after publication.  A threshold has been crossed, and for reasons that I can not explain to you, I have always felt that, at this point, it is impolite to point out mechanical errors.  A review should not stoop down for these things.  In my mind, a review is an opinion piece, offered up to the next reader.  A review is not a letter or a note to the author of the story, but a marker left for the next wanderer.  The big questions being these:  should I take this path or not, should I pull out my money, should I invest my time in this book.

There are three kinds of reviews.  The first is a professional review by critics, which I find highly suspect, because I never agree with them.  (I suspect that they get paid under the table to yak up certain stories like disc jockeys on the radio yak up certain songs and not others.)

Then there are book reviews by dedicated readers, which would be nice if they were more organized.  We find a lot of these on private blogs, and the names of the blogs seldom give any indication what type of books they review.  Like all things on the internet, the sheer volume of places to go can be overwhelming, and like all writers I have to think about the amount of time that I spend in extraneous pursuits.

The third type of review–and the one that I’m having trouble swallowing–is the one-line or one-paragraph snippet that can be found on places like Smashwords and Amazon.  These blitz offerings are permanently attached to the book.  Some are puzzling and ambiguous; some are just in bad form, and others are written in manner that would lead me to believe that they never read the whole story.  Some even read like notes from Mommy.  Quite often the ‘reviewer’ gives away the ending to the story, which can’t be right.  Everyone knows that you don’t give away the ending to a story.  DUH-HUH!


Now…  here’s my question:  Given the questionable value and gross naiveté of this third kind of review, and its death grip on a work of art, I’m wondering if it’s advisable to allow them.  On the other hand, I’m wondering if it would seem cold and cowardly not to allow them.

What do you think?????  I would love to hear what you think.  I’m ready to be enlightened–as always. 

Author’s note:    And just incase you’re wondering:  No, I have not received a bad review.  At least, not the last time I looked.  But who knows.  Whahaha!


17 thoughts on “Edit, Critique or Review

  1. Let’s face it. Most people don’t know the difference between them, and could care less. About mentioning or not mentioning grammar and other problems in a review, I can’t agree with you. I paid for a book this morning. Not the author’s first book, and not self-published. The reviewer went on and on about the in-depth psychology, which appealed to me, but nary a word about the writing itself. I wound up leaving a polite but extremely negative comment for the review. Why? Because the writing was so bad that it constantly distracted me from the story. But to be honest, most reviewers (unless they’re professionals) can’t tell the difference between good and bad writing — just like their readers. Of almost a dozen comments, mine was the only one that didn’t rave about the book. I have to believe that in this case, it was the publisher’s fault, and if the publisher doesn’t give a damn, what difference is there between books that are “officially” published and those that are self-published? [End of rant. Thank you for the opportunity to vent my spleen.]

    • Wait now, I didn’t say that you couldn’t leave a bad review, did I? Surely not. Of course you can, especially if you laid down your money and feel cheated. In a way, you are highlighting my point about unprofessional reviews by pointing out the one that seemed to recommend the book, when in fact it was poorly written.

      If I were going to write a review about the above book, I give it a line like this: In this story the reader finds himself wading through pyschological twists and turns. However, the writing is so weak that one also finds themselves distracted to the point of abanding the book altogether. (see, what I’m saying. the use of the word ‘wading’ suggests toiling, and I only call it weak witing.

      Perhaps, we should attack the reviewers that leave us with a false impression. Nah, bad idea. Personally, I’ve stopped reading these reviews. Instead, I carefully read the description. If a writer can’t write a interesting description of his book, he can’t write. Period.

    • Mister DO will, indeed, do a full edit on your prose. He has a sharp eye and a very sharp tongue. Although, I’d call it more of a full re-write. Whahaha.

  2. I *Love* this post!!

    The differentiation of Edit, Critique, and Review is right on.

    As far as sites that are unfriendly to critique, I wonder if I’ve mentioned BestsellerBound to you. I’ve written about them on my blog but can’t remember if I’ve specifically told you about them. It’s the friendliest damn set of writing forums I’ve ever encountered…

    • Thanks for the info. I think I did slip over there one time to have a look over. My biggest beef with a joining a writing site right now is time. It takes me only two minutes to think of ‘what’ I want to say in a critique, but it takes me an hour to figure out ‘how’ to soften the blow. Whaha!

  3. I have asked friends to do edits on my work, and vice versa, and have found that here the massive problem lies in being scared to hurt someone’s feelings. So my friends will tiptoe around, telling me only that ‘there’s a weeny typo on p.30’, and maybe even go as far as pointing out a minor continuity thing, but will balk at anything bigger. While I’m always grateful to have typos and small mistakes pointed out, what I really, really need (and hardly ever get) is being told eye-opening ‘big’ stuff such as the story moving too slowly or the characters not being realistic enough, ie. genuine criticism of my writing as opposed to mere human keying errors. On the rare occasions that I was lucky enough to find a critic who told me exactly what I needed to hear, it was the best thing that ever happened to my writing.

    I find the arrogance of writers who bite the heads of their critics amazing! Why would anyone who wants to improve their writing ever do that?

    • What you have written here is the undeniable truth. Doesn’t the politeness drive you insane? When I was on writing sites, I often wished that writers who wanted to talk about writing would have a gold frame around their avatars, and writers who wanted to hear their praise sung would have a black stamp over their avatars that said: Loser.

    • Nothing has helped my writing as much as people whose opinion I respect telling me what just wasn’t working or pointing out typos. I can’t afford to spring for a professional editor, but putting my work up on my blog has been valuable because many of my readers are writers also, and more than willing to sit down and write out a short critique.

  4. There are a lot of people out there who could do a good job, but they have their own writing to deal with. One of the people who gave me some valuable critiques later offered to be my beta reader for my next novel — to my complete surprise. But she’s writing her own novel and I know she has a busy life, so I’m not sure I’d ever be able to ask her. It’s a huge job, and asking feels like such an imposition. I’d love to be able to pay a professional editor, but it’s completely out of the question.

    • This is exactly why I would not snub my nose at a few errors in a book produced by an indie author. We all know how hard it is to catch every little thing. Let’s face the Big Boys in the publishing houses have resources that we don’t have–teams of people looking over their stuff.

      Stephen King’s wife is also a writer. Can you imagine how sweet it would be to just turn to your honey and say, ‘Would you look over this for me, before I send it off?” BTW: I found a typo in one of his books that I downloaded onto my kindle, rather a repeat of the same line. I must admit that I loved finding it and I loved seeing it slip threw the net. Whap-a-dap!

  5. Oh yeah! By the way, honey, when you’re finished doing that line edit, don’t forget to do the dishes and throw the laundry in the dryer.

  6. I haven’t cultivated a love for critics. Yet. Too often, what I see is just ill-disguised snark. Just as a good agent will tell you that “maybe I’m misjudging this work” shouldn’t critics do the same? They probably wouldn’t have jobs if they did, no?

  7. I found a critique group I like, and am excited (and scared) about sharing my novel with them. I think they have been helpful with all the books we have looked at so far. Of course we are not online, which I like. I think it helps to see the person who is telling you your story sucks. 😀

    As far as allowing reviews goes, yes, let it all go. I don’t care. It would be nice if people were required to put “spoiler alert” on things when they are planning on giving away the ending though.

    • I think you’re right about allow comments.

      I’ve never had anyone tell me that a story sucked. whaha. Most of the time they say things like: too much character developement, too many things happening and too short. I’m a cup-is-half-full person, so I translate that into: I’m a compact dynamo. whahah! Okay, I’m kidding, my ego’s not that big.

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