How do I...
... review a story?
This month we look at reviews – what are they, and how can you review a story?
Member participation is crucial for reviews. The more people are involved in reviewing, the more different opinions are represented. Just as importantly, having more people involved means that stories pass through review more quickly - which is good for everyone. If you are an active reviewer, why not go and check out a story?
Or, if you are a writer, take the plunge and submit a story for review; and when you do, remember: Put one in, take one out.
By submitting a story for review, you are asking nine other members to read and evaluate it. So why not do for the other authors who have a story in review what you'd like other reviewers to do for you: check out one of the stories already in review and give it a read.
Daunted by the idea of reviewing? Don't worry; at its simplest reviewing comes down to asking yourself: 'Would I recommend this story to someone?' Then, whether the answer is 'yes' or 'no', you can make a choice from the capsule reasons to clarify your decision. If you want to, you can add a few more words to convey what you (dis)liked about the story, but just the capsule reason is perfectly fine as well.
And remember: even if you think you're too critical or not critical enough: your review is only one of nine, and all points of view are welcome. Not every reviewer has to review every story and in the end it does all level out to a balanced judgement.
What are reviews?
A story at HASA can be put up for review by its author. This means that the story will then be read by nine anonymous reviewers, who are also HASA members.
Each reviewer individually submit an opinion on whether the story is an outstanding work of Tolkien fanfiction. If the story is approved by five or more reviewers, it is marked "Reviewed" and is flagged with a blue star. It also is featured for a week to two weeks on the home page of HASA.
In previous times, a story was not allowed into the public archive at all unless it passed through review. As time went by the decision was made to open the site for general posting by HASA members (hence the "General" status of most stories), but to keep the reviews as a challenge to excellence.
Why do we have reviews?
To challenge fanfic authors to do their best and reward them when they achieve that goal.
Who can review?
Anyone who has been a member of HASA for 30 days is eligible to be, and strongly encouraged to become, a reviewer. When you have been a member for 30 days, a link will appear on the HASA home page, on your My Profile page, and the main Review page. Simply click the button and your reviewer status is activated.
The waiting period exists to be sure members understand how serious this is. You are being asked to pass judgment on another person's work. Decisions should not be frivolous - either in accepting or declining a story. A waiting period is imposed to prevent someone from joining the list merely to vote a friend or a particular story into the archive, or to decline a particular story.
The system also is complex because it is intended to be double-blind - you do not know the author of the story you are reading, and the author and other reviewers do not know who is reviewing the story. This is to encourage people to submit stories, and to make people comfortable that they are free to vote as they please in the reviews. Only the Review Admin and the Site Manager are ever allowed to see this data put together in one place.
How do I review a story?
Before you can review, you must be an active reviewer. Check your status by going to the main Reviews page. If you are not yet a reviewer, follow the on-line instructions to activate your status. All members are encouraged to be reviewers.
- Once you are active, look at the stories under review. (It may happen that there are no stories in review at the moment; then simply try again in a few days.)
- Click on a story link to see a story overview. If the summary appeals to you, read at least some of the story to see if you have an opinion on it, or if it is a type of story you like.
- When you find a story that interests you, press the 'Checkout story for review' button. You are now a reviewer for the story.
- Read the story and come to a decision - Do you think this is an excellent story? Would you recommend this story to a friend?
- You cannot review any other stories until you have completed the review for this one.
- When you have made your decision, go back to your review page and pick from the drop down list. Pick 'Approve' or 'Decline' to mark your decision.
- Pick a capsule reason that best illustrates your decision for approving or rejecting the story. It does not have to be the only reason for your decision. Simply pick the capsule that fits your reasoning best. If your decision was wrong, you can still change it at this point.
- You may give additional comments. Please be aware that if you leave a comment, your review is NOT anonymous.
- Once you have finished, press the 'Decision' button and you can then review another story.
- Authors may contact reviewers and ask for clarifications of the review decisions. However, no reviewer is under any obligation to reply to an author. That is strictly optional.
What are the review criteria?
Every reviewer is encouraged to read the story before checking it out for review. This way you can review stories where your decision is clear, and avoid the types of stories you personally just don't like. Should you check out a story and then discover that you cannot or don't want to complete the review, a reviewer can return a story to the reviewing pool without accepting or declining. When you are in the 'Reviews' section simply click on the title of the story and you will see the "Return Story" button located to the right of the "Select a decision" button. Click it and you will be automatically removed as a reviewer of the story.
After you have read the story, you will have to select a 'capsule comment' that gives a standardized, primary reason to either approve or decline a story. There are no gradations for the decision, only 'approve' or 'decline'. However, a declined story can always be revised and resubmitted. It is even possible to tell an author to "please consider revising the story".
The reviews process is not a beta-reading or an editing process. However, constructive, considered and considerate criticism, and comments that contain explanations and suggestions for improvement are important for the second aim of our reviews process: to inspire the authors to keep writing and to improve their writing skills. Therefore it is not only important what you say in a critique, but also how you say it. Even if you don't think that this particular story belongs in the public archive, it is not the aim of our reviews process to discourage the author.
Remember that it is not a competition. There is no limit on adding new high-quality stories. Try to be consistent in your evaluation, so that you have the same standards in mind for each story you review.
Most of all it is important to accept a story because of what it does right, and not simply because there is nothing wrong or because it doesn't violate criteria.
Mostly, though, exercise your judgment. If the story grabs you and keeps your attention, you've got something good on your hands. If you find yourself skipping lines and paragraphs just to get to the end, it's probably not a keeper.
What happens after I make a decision?
- Your decision is recorded by the system
- You can check out another story for review
- The story waits until it gains 9 decisions and then is processed by the review admins
If there is any topic you'd like to see in the how-to, please let us know!