Is there a difference? You bet ya.
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!