What Are Reader’s Reports?
My reader’s reports are detailed written critiques broken into sections, which look at different aspects of the writing separately. These include specific elements such as premise, structure, characterisation and use of language. My aim is to help writers identify the specific strengths and weaknesses of their work, and give guidance on things to think about and how they might improve the work further.
My reports are usually 4-5 pages at a minimum, even for short stories.
I always begin reports with a summary of the whole story; writers often find it helpful to see how far an independent reader “gets” what they are trying to do. (See my post What’s Really On The Page for a more in-depth look at the virtues of summaries in assessing work). I will often also include any specific tips, links to further resources and books, for example, if I feel they might be useful.
What My Reader’s Reports Are Not
I strongly believe in empowering my fellow writers; offering tools and guidance to enable them to improve work for themselves. My reports are therefore not what we’d call “coverage” – short one or two-page reports used to filter and make a yes/no judgement on whether or not the writing is worth further attention. A form of grading, if you like. Such reports are valuable, widely used and worth knowing about but are intended as a filtering system for busy publishing professionals and decision-makers. They are NOT designed for the writers themselves. My reports are not about making yes/no decisions; they are all about the writer.
Nor do my reports involve detailed copyediting and proofreading guidance. There are specialists who provide these particular services. My reports focus instead on the big picture elements of the work; the foundations of the whole story. The elements that, when got wrong, weaken entire stories regardless of the beauty of the prose or the perfection of the punctuation.
You can find a sample of one of my short fiction reports below.
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