General Fiction posted March 5, 2023

This work has reached the exceptional level
Or... my rant

Public Service Announcement

by Wayne Fowler

Call this my rant, if you wish. I prefer to label it a FanStory Public Service Announcement (PSA). I remember when television networks broadcast such pieces – patriotism, driving safety, drunk driving, household poison control, and etcetera. Here is my two cents worth.

FanStory member reviewing. There, that ought to get your attention. How many of us, or am I the only one, have issues with how members review their work? Am I wrong to believe that a review should focus on the writing, and not the subject matter? It would be interesting to see whether a piece was evaluated differently if the pet was a dog, a cat, or a hamster. Or had no pet at all. Aren’t we about helping one another with our writing, and not the colors of the flowers?

For my own work, I wish for reviewers to help me to be a better writer, as well as to help me improve the piece offered up. In no particular order, I would think that reviews would at least include the following, and hopefully more:

Spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. With auto-correct, a word may appear correct, but knot be what I intended. While editing, it is extremely easy to fail to remove an unnecessary, comma. And misplaced modifiers can be overlooked no matter how many times we re-read our own work. It is also likely that I don’t know certain rules and would learn from you. A textbook example of a misplaced modifier: Neil Armstrong made history as the first man to step on the moon in 1969. This implies that there were more firsts in 1969, or that there were more firsts in other years.

Simple tpyos, while perhaps not reflected in the awarding of stars, ntypos should be pointed out. Perhaps you are intending to submit the work for a contest in another venue, wouldn’t you want FanStory members to help you clean it?

Grammar. I know… this word sounds archaic. I agree. But word inflection, syntax, and the relationships between words is writing. Among the many instances of grammar review are: verb tense, double negatives, subject-verb agreement, and a host of others. Even if the reviewer doesn’t know the detailed description of a particular error, he or she can say, “This sentence feels wrong, or feels awkward. As the writer, I might not know exactly what to fix, but the heads-up would help. I would find a way to rewrite the problem sentence.

Word choice. I could write “the big brute”, or “the gargantuan behemoth”, “scared”, or “terrified”, “walked quietly”, or “tip-toed”. If my writing could be improved, I would like your help. Help me to think more broadly.

Spacing. Just before posting, I might errantly hit the enter button, or the space bar and spoil the presentation of the piece. My brain might overpower what my eye sees. The ever-watchful eyes of FanStory reviewers could save embarrassment and possibly help me win a contest when the deciding factor comes down to the look of a piece.

Flow. Does the story, poem, or whatever, flow naturally? Or are there abrupt, jarring changes or logic gaps?

I am probably as guilty as any with my real rant. I pray, though, that I am not. The crime is judging content over craftsmanship. Because the piece mentioned politics or religion in a manner contrary to my belief, the writing should not be differently evaluated. I once received a three-star review with the comment: “I am an atheist. This left me feeling cold.” I wanted to reply, “Enjoy it while you can, because you will soon enough be wishing for the cold.” But I didn’t. (If I embedded a seed, though, that caused that person to seek the truth, the three stars were well worth it.)

In the same vein, a reviewer shouldn’t overcompensate. A reviewer shouldn’t award a sixth star out of a sense of proving that they are tolerant.

The bottom line is that posts should be fairly reviewed for the quality of writing, not the content. Or to pervert the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – the color of our skin (writing mechanics) and the quality of our character (style and content). By that I mean, the obvious – ink on the page. And I also mean, does the writing titillate, inspire, or pique your interest? Does it make you want to read the next sentence? Do you care what happens to the characters? Do you get a physical reaction to the word choices?

When my writing falls short, I would like to know what made it fall.

So the bottom line is – please review my work. If you can, point out my writing errors. If you can’t be specific, that’s okay. Just saying that it seemed choppy, or unconvincing is good enough. If you agree with what I’ve said, it’s fine to say so, encouraging, in fact. If you disagree, don’t expect me to debate you. If you are hostile to my point of view, maybe it’s best to take a pass and save yourself a possible stroke.

Thank you for getting all the way through my rant.

There, now I feel better.

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