Write the World member David Levitsky knows that giving and receiving feedback is paramount to becoming a strong writer. In our latest ‘Writing Life’ entry, David talks about what he’s looking for in a constructive peer review and why exploring new literary traditions can improve your writing.
When I receive a review from one of my fellow writers, I am looking for specific feedback. All the praise and criticism in the world means nothing if there are no specific points that can help me in the revision process. For example, the comment, “I loved the tone” is nice and encouraging, but it doesn’t really tell me what I did right or wrong. A comment such as, “I loved the tone of the story because of this, this, and this, which helped to advance this” is far more helpful for me and tells me exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of the piece are. I know why the reviewer liked my tone and I know, going forward, why my tone was successful. Again, encouragement, validation, and constructive criticism are useful in a review, but only if there are specifics to back them up.
When the tables are turned, and I am offering a peer review of someone else’s work, I try to suggest exploring and learning about new styles of writing. My 10th grade English teacher suggested that I explore prose poetry and recommended authors that I should look up. Because of these suggestions, I’ve started to develop my own distinct style of writing poetry.
While I was reviewing some of the submissions for the Fantasy Competition, I noticed that a lot of the stories reminded me of Magical Realism. Not every world that the authors created was full of witches and warlocks. On the contrary, many of the worlds seemed to mix magical and fantastical elements with the normal world that we live in. Magical Realism takes the magical and mixes it with the mundane. As such, I found myself advising writers to explore the style of Magical Realism and seek out the works of writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Recommending authors and suggesting new writing styles to explore is such a great part of the reviewing process—stories are such a powerful way of connecting with other people.