Zyn's Crit Tips - Part III - The Quick Crit
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Hi all! This is ZynZyn, admin for the SCP wiki, captain of the Forum Criticism Team/Butterfly Squad εїз εїз here with even more tips on critiquing. In this page, I’ll cover one of the most important skills for high-demand reviewers: the Quick Crit.

General note: these tips are for anyone and everyone, newbies and veterans alike!

General note II: these tips are geared towards giving feedback in the drafts critique forum: http://www.scp-wiki.net/forum/c-50864

General note III: these are not rules! These are suggestions on how to write helpful critique at a relatively quick pace.

Here we go!

First up, the absolute basics to keep in mind when writing a review. These are ported from the SO YOU WANT TO BE A DRAFT REVIEWER? thread:

1. Reviews should match the draft. Don't just post the same thing on every draft thread. Authors should be able to tell your review is for their draft, not just any draft.

2. Reviews should give the author an idea of what to do next, and why. The point of critique is to help an author improve their work and grow as a writer. Not just laundry listing mistakes or saying you liked something and leaving it at that.

3. Reviews should be honest. You don't need to be an expert on physics, the Serpent's Hand, or even the Foundation in general to be a reviewer. If you're a site member, you have a vote on the site! That said, you should let an author know if you aren't sure how an Einstein–Rosen bridge would work in reality, or if you're not 100% confident on whether the Foundation would blow up a bridge instead of containing it. That's just common courtesy!

Next up, some things to keep in mind when writing a Quick Crit:

1. You do not need to list out every single small problem. Authors should be able to handle fixing the small stuff on their own, especially with writing assistance tools and spellcheckers. If you’re going to provide some specifics to work on, stick with just mentioning a handful of examples.

2. Try to first read as much of the draft as you can, and then think about how you feel at the conclusion of the first read. Most mainsite readers don’t read an article piece by piece the way a reviewer does. To make the most of the Quick Crit and respond the way the wider audience might, do a full readthrough and then collect your thoughts at the end based on the most memorable portions of the piece. That said…

3. If you reach a spot where it feels like a strain to continue reading, remember that and tell the author! People who read and vote on mainlist articles are doing so for leisure, and are under no requirement to finish a read if they don’t like it. If the first half of an author’s work needs some serious revamping, they need to address that before they can expect everyone to read all the way to the end. Even if there’s something utterly amazing at the very conclusion, it’s not likely to save an article if pretty much no one wants to read that far.

And now, the structure of a Quick Crit. There are a couple of ways to I’ve used approach a quick, concise review, including:

Way of the Butterfly #1 - The writing/concept balance:

  • Two paragraphs, one discussing the writing skill (grammar, mechanics, tone, formatting) and one discussing the core idea.
  • Typically for drafts that need a lot of work.
  • Structure the paragraphs by mentioning a few specific things you reacted to, and then what the author needs to do next to address those things (or build on them, in the case of good drafts).
  • Broken down simply: How was the writing? What should the author do to improve, and why? How was the concept? What should the author do to improve, and why?
  • Remember: make sure that your suggestions can be backed up with references so you’re not just saying random stuff that might not actually be helpful!
  • Example!

Writing-wise, you have a fair number of simple issues that make it difficult to get through the piece smoothly. This includes stuff like incorrect spelling (“personnel”, not “personell”) and shaky sentence structure (you have a lot of overly long, run-on sentences mixed in with fragments that are not complete sentences). There’s also a lot of incorrectly presented science stuff and casual character interaction that seems more like a teenage roleplay group than actual professional scientists in the Foundation universe. And so on. Definitely do more background reading to get a feel for how IRL researchers interact and maybe check the related pages in the Guide Hub.

Conceptually, what you have here seems about halfway there. I haven’t read an SCP about anomalous specific cravings for fast food before, but I didn’t really love the direction this draft went because it seems overly predictable and I felt like I knew the ending before I read it, making the ending kind of a letdown. Maybe develop the core concept more in the Ideas and Brainstorming forum or chat to see what kind of twist or unusual setup the audience would prefer to see to make this more exciting and attention-grabbing.

Way of the Butterfly #2 - The general “if I saw this on the mainsite” free verse spiel:

  • As many paragraphs as you like, basically describing how you would react to the draft if you saw it posted to the mainsite. Pretend like you’re talking to a friend IRL about a movie you just saw.
  • Typically for drafts that have some good points, but need some more work.
  • Use the first couple paragraphs to explain your reaction/what you remembered from the piece, and then end with an overview of what the author should do to move forward.
  • Broken down simply: How do I feel about the piece as a reader seeking entertainment? What should the author do next, and why?
  • Remember: these are your personal reactions as a member of the community, not necessarily the same reaction everyone else on the site will have! Make sure you sound like you're speaking for yourself, not dishing out laws for writing that everyone must follow.
  • Example!

I’m just kind of confused when I read this. You have a lot of wall-of-text paragraphs that can make it a bit hard to process the piece, especially in the description where it takes more than ten sentences to actually describe how the primary anomaly works.

I never really get a good feel for which fact bits are important and which ones I shouldn’t think too hard on, especially in the first addendum with all of the patient data. Trying to sift through all that to figure out the mystery gets kind of tedious, especially when most of it doesn’t really improve my understanding of the piece much with each successive log.

I will say that I think the prose overall is very professional. I do feel like I’m reading an official set of documentation here. I also didn’t personally find any grammar or mechanics mistakes.

In the end… I feel like I missed something big here? Maybe make it more obvious to the audience what the big reveal is so they don’t feel like they need to comb through the entire piece and potentially get frustrated doing so. Slim down the non-essential details and make the plotline hints clearer so the readers don’t just miss them with all the other minutiae information?

Way of the Butterfly #3 - The “heart of the matter” overview:

  • One or two paragraphs, discussing the reviewer’s main takeaways per their reading.
  • Typically for drafts that are very good/mainsite ready.
  • Broken down simply: Did you like it or not? Why? How should the author move forward? Why?
  • Remember: Try to reserve these responses for pieces that you particularly love, and moreover, believe that the rest of the audience will love too. If you’re not 100% certain that pretty much everyone else on the site will really like the piece, tell the author that they should also seek out the opinions of others as well. It’s great if you really like the piece and it’s totally your style! It’s less great if the rest of the audience thinks differently and the author gets hit with insta-downvotes right when they mainlist the piece.
  • Example!

Okay, so I will say that I like the premise a lot. I thought the anomaly was well-developed and unique, and the primary person of interest (the guy with a cockatiel head) was pretty relatable and likeable overall. There were some parts where I think the dialogue was a bit heavyhanded with the exposition, but the interview length works well at its current length so it’s up to you whether you want to trim it down a bit to be more subtle. I do recommend reaching out to [insert name of person here lol], since they’re great with writing humanoids that aren’t dangerous.

Remember, you don’t need to spend hours or thousands of words on a critique to make it good! Also remember: when you write reviews, you’re essentially speaking for a portion of the audience. Make sure your words are helpful and accurate!

As always, thank you for reading!

« Part II: Reviewing Overhaul Works | Part IV: TBD »

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