What’s a good rating to receive? A high 5? 4? The much hated 0.5? Really, no rating is perfect without an honest opinion to back it up.
We’re all writers here, and I’d wager that most of you are like me and prefer words to numbers. Words are more expressive, and symbolic of something more. Beyond the meaning with give the assembly of letters, word show that people care enough about something to transcribe their feelings and thoughts into language.
There’s been some recent chatter surrounding comments and ratings, specifically in regard to so-called hater raters. This blog isn’t about that, but if you’d like to know about Protagonize’s policy on low ratings please read Nick’s blog post from a year and a bit back. Rather, this post is about commenting on Protagonize, and my thoughts on it. And just what do I think?
It’s really fluffy.
Unlike puppies, kittens, bunnies, or slippers, fluff is a bad thing in this case. I’m sure a lot of us have been told in middle or high school that something we’ve written has “too much fluff.” That’s the stuff I’m harping on here, the strings of words that do nothing but fill space.
Like, “Oh my gawd I love this!!!”
What do you love about it? Do you love the story itself? The choice of words? The characters, setting, names, tone, mood, lack of spelling and grammatical errors? Tell the writer what it is you love, no-one can read your mind!
I know that the Protagonize community is capable of engaging with a poem or story beyond a superficial level. I’ve seen the lengthy comments that come from members of the Critiques Wanted group, I’ve (metaphorically) sat on a judging panel for the Seasonal Poetry Tournament, and I’ve seen the thoughtful reviews that are such an important part of the Seasonal Prose Competition. We’re capable of critique. You’re capable of critique.
So why not try it out?
Giving a critique doesn’t mean you have to be rude or condescending, and in fact those are two things a critique should never be. The purpose of a critique shouldn’t be to make yourself feel high and mighty or more knowledgeable than others; the purpose of a critique should be to help an author correct mistakes he might not have seen, to grow as a writer. Leaving behind a piece of fluff with a 5.0 rating does very little to help the author, other than validate that a good job has been done and an audience is present.
Abraham Lincoln perhaps said it best: “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”
So that’s my challenge to you. Read something, click that sometimes scary red Critique button, and engage with the author. I promise that it will be appreciated and welcome over a simple squee of delight.