Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review Ratings and General Criteria

As a reader, I've never been comfortable with "grading" other writers. But, seeing how often I now use the number of 4s and 5s a book receives to influences my purchases, I thought I'd best establish a system for myself.

What I read: 

  • Pretty much anything that requires me to suspend belief.
  • Novels, novellas, screenplays, teleplays.

What I don't read

  • Stories that focus on gratuitous amounts of sex or violence; if your aim is to shock/sicken - I'm not your gal. I'm young at heart.

Do I accept submissions?

  • Not at this moment. My to read pile is scary. I do, however, take recommendations - though I can't guarantee reviews or purchases.

The Numbers

Rating Enjoyment Re-read Buy more from author
1 I probably didn’t finish the book Unlikely; Only if someone I truly respected convinced me to No
2 It was okay Doubtful I’ll watch what the author is up to, but will probably wait until he/she releases something that I can’t ignore, but I’ll probably only buy it if it is on special
3 I mostly enjoyed the book; minor niggles or it wasn’t from my preferred genres Probably not Only when the author is in my price range – bargain bins, second hand stores; Smashwords/Kindle ebooks
4 I really enjoyed the book; great storytelling or characters Yes; these are either comfort reads or stories that require more exploration from me Absolutely. I’ve been entertained by great storytelling and that’s all I want in my reading life
I LOVED the book so much I want to study it as though it were a new language Definitely; these stories make me love the craft of writing, and I’ll read them again and again in the hopes of learning from the masters I’ll be a true fan of these writers and gobble up every book they release

How do I come to this thrilling conclusion?

Beginning (first ten pages / first act / average eBook sample size)

I live by the "kill someone by page 10" rule of writing. It doesn't mean that someone has to physically die, it's just a nice way to remember that your story needs to have kicked off (or been very interestingly set up to kick off) at this point.
  • Is the tone/genre clearly established?
  • Is there a decent enough hook early on?
  • Arrives late; leaves early?
  • Is opportunity wasted by misplaced exposition?


  • Is the main character someone I want to follow?
  • Do the supporting characters have their own unique voices and lives?
  • Is the antagonist a worthy obstacle to the main character?
  • Are the relationships believable and genuine?
  • Personal stakes?
  • Are the “physical” obstacles believable?
  • Are the conflicts realistic or contrived?
  • Is their adequate tension throughout?


  • Did the story keep the promise set out by the premise and beginning?
  • Was there a satisfying pay-off? That is, a complete story was told, even if sequels have been set-up.
  • Did the characters learn anything / grow?
  • Was the Point Of View effective?
  • Did the writer “skip the boring parts”?
  • Did the writing seamlessly fade into the background of the story or did it come to the fore and distract from it?
  • Is there anything else that made this story sparkle?
* criteria will change from time to time; I read, I grow.

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