In order for a review to be effective, that is, constructively received, it must be balanced, not all good and not all bad. All of either one will negatively impact the writer. No one is perfect and no one is all bad; we all know that. So, how do I get that balance?
First, I read the story as a reader, looking for something that will hold my attention. This first read is usually a quick one, unless I stumble around, bumping into glaring mistakes.
After the quick read, I start looking for plot, characters, conflict, resolution and possibly a theme. Then, I make a point of answering these questions:
- How did it make me feel? What emotions were invoked?
- Can I relate to it? Have I had similar experiences?
- Is it believable? Even sci-fi and fantasy must be believable.
- Does the dialogue flow easily? Can I hear it? Does each character sound like he should?
- Is there a time period mentioned? How about a place? And setting?
- Did anything in particular stand out or especially draw my interest?
- Is there anything in the story I would change if I were writing it?
- What was memorable about the story, something I might think about later?
I also like to scatter a few relevant emoticons throughout my reviews for attention, for color, or to get a point across. They help lighten the atmosphere.
I always begin and end with a few words of sincere encouragement, and I stress that the review is my opinion and meant to be helpful.
I hope something in this post will help you review others and perhaps allow you to receive helpful reviews with the intent in which they are given.