Useful and Useless Peer Reviews

Any creative writing class you take will include peer reviews where you exchange creative works and review them before returning them to the original author for revision and feedback. This is pretty much the only way that you’d get another student to give you a response to your work because if you could just turn it in and get feedback without giving someone else feedback, you’d never hear anything from anyone and you’d be just as lost in the revision process as I would.

Peer reviews can be useful because you can get useful feedback on your story that’ll help you bring out its true potential. The downside is you’ll also get useless reviews from people who barely read it, if at all, only to provide you with the bare minimum response in order to get a passing grade. Also, other students providing feedback have only as many credentials as you do or less and can have little to no experience in actually reviewing or writing a piece. In an introductory creative writing class, you have people who took it to enhance their skills and those who haven’t written anything and only took the elective because grades and the material are subjective. The feedback you’re given can be really hit or miss.

Some teachers make sure to provide valuable feedback to the student but they can’t provide it all, hence the peer reviews. Unfortunately, many students don’t care or don’t have the knowledge to know what they’re talking about. There are few things worse than reading someone’s draft that is laden with grammatical and structural errors, exhibits no comprehendible plot, and whose character’s’ names are all illogical mixtures of the alphabetic as an attempt to be “unique.”

Another thing I’ve noticed, and I must admit as I’m guilty of this too, is not putting much effort into the peer review because you really only want feedback on your work and aren’t invested in anyone else’s, making it tough to receive a quality peer review as most students are similar in effort.

I’ve given good feedback and horrible feedback, each depending on the level of effort I’ve received from the author. If you haven’t taken the time to even slightly edit your draft and it’s filled with easily fixable and blatant mistakes, I’m giving that exact same level of effort into your review. You write me a damn good piece with a lot of potential, I’ll give you quality feedback to help it reach that potential. Peer reviews, like the authors and stories themselves, can be hit or miss.

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