We all love to read. Not many of us like to rate though. The reasons could be anything – from not feeling comfortable rating a friend’s story, being conscious to fearing that we may not be fair in our ratings.
But, there will be times when one is asked to rate the stories (ArtoonsInn events, for instance). It is a tricky job, agreed. It may have an adverse effect on personal friendships, noted. It may be embarrassing for both the reviewer and the writer, accepted.
Yet, as a reader and a reviewer, one has to be at least a wee bit ruthless. How freely do we criticize books written by famous authors? That’s because we know they aren’t going to ask us. We tend to play safe when it comes to people we know. Who’d want to upset a friend or risk getting an adverse review in return?
Are we helping ourselves or them by playing safe? Definitely not them; if they don’t know what you really feel, how will they improve? Most writers want to develop their writing skills. They understand feedback is one way of knowing which areas to improve.
Granted, writers are sensitive beings. Stories are babies. They do not like anybody pointing out the flaws. At the same time, they do accept that the story is not ultimate. There will always be scope for improvement.
True, writers love to see 9’s and 10’s along with some extraordinary adjectives thrown in. So, does it really help them?
They may feel disappointed when someone says the story could have been better. They cannot stop thinking about it. And, there lies the point. It helps writers see things from the reader’s perspective. Reviewers play a crucial role in helping the writers hone their skills.
The ratings play a significant role in deciding the winners. Innocent looking numbers have to be dealt with extra care. Giving every story a 9 or 10 might appear safe, but in reality, we may be complicating the process of awarding a story. When the calculations come down to decimals, a story that is honestly worth winning might end up being placed second or third. It happens a lot often than one would care to admit. There are times when the winning write knows it too. Imagine how they’d feel about it.
Another misconception we have as readers is that any story by a person we like or by someone who has previously written amazing ones is that any story by that person is bound to be marvelous. It may be. Or it may not be. Not even Kohli can score a century in all the matches (lame comparison, I know).
Some stories do not reach the mark while some surpass it. In fact, the writers themselves know that.
As a reader and a rater, it is important to consider this factor. The fundamental criteria to rate a story is to ignore the name of the writer. Stories written for a prompt demand more attention than the others. Each writer perceives the prompt differently. It’s a unique experience reading a wide range of stories for the same prompt.
At the same time, readers should not just focus on world-building, characterization, dialogue, setting, and prose, but also on how well it fits the prompt.
The ratings should reflect the real opinion of the reader, irrespective of the fact that others seem to have loved/disliked a story.
Coming to the rating scale, when there are ten numbers to choose from, it is the responsibility of the reader to find the correct/nearest rating.
If 5 is the average, 6-7 would be above average while, 8-9 would denote distinction and 10 would mean perfection (similar to our university percentages).
Example: When a story has minor typos, jumping tenses, confusing sentences, the nearest rating for it would be around 6-7.5 and not 8.5 or 9.
Being an honest reviewer/rater will help in the long run. The last thing we’d want is to become stagnant in our work because everyone praises whatever we write. It’s probably the worst ways of killing a writer’s creativity and zeal to do better.
The post will soon be followed by two more posts detailing how to give constructive feedback/ positive criticism and about how to deal with any kind of criticism.