Out of the blue this week I was asked to critique a story for someone I really only know through frequenting the same reviewing circles over at ASIF!. When I queried why she’d made this request, the response was because I’m insightful in my reviews. Now, first of all, I am flattered 🙂 However, it got me to thinking, because to my mind, there are very different methods involved in reviewing, critiquing, and editing and I wonder if others find the same thing. While some of the skills are similar, you are really doing very different things, and I’m not sure being insightful in one makes you good at another…
For me, reviewing is made up of a few different parts. Firstly, I am not working for the benefit of the author. While many authors do seek out an read reviews of their work, I sincerely doubt many of them are going to read any criticism I might make of their work and decide to completely change that aspect of their writing! That’s not what it’s about. Reviews are for the benefit of other readers, essentially, and I think my job as a reviewer is to try to articulate what I liked or didn’t like about the book in such a way that gives the potential reader the option to agree or disagree with my opinion and make an informed decision about whether to seek the book out for themselves, or not.
Critiquing IS of course for the writer. But it’s a very different beast to editing. When I’m critiquing someone’s work, my goal is to point out areas that don’t work for me as an informed reader, and to applaud bits I really like and that make the story awesome. In a critique, I may suggest that I find a section overlong or dense, but I won’t make specific suggestions for changes. When I’m editing though, I’ll draw red lines through words, lines and sections, and ask for rewording of specific bits that bother me. I think the main difference for me is that in a critique, I’ll make general suggestions to offer guidance to the writer of where I see problems with a story, but when I’m editing, I’m working with the author to tweak out the best possible story for the publication I’ve already bought it for, and therefore I will be far more specific and definitive about what changes I want. It’s still a give and take situation, but it’s far more concentrated and detailed, for me.
I think I use a similar skillset for these things – of course spelling, grammar, punctuation and the like are important for all, as is an educated idea of what makes a story work. But they are distinctive disciplines to me.
I’m interested to know if others look at these three things differently as well. Of course, we all review, critique and edit differently, but is there a correlation between them for you?