Friday, June 23, 2023

Quick Sips 06/23/2023

In which I...

- give some brief updates

- share some reviewing advice

- am very tired

Well I continue to be rather tired, so I thought I'd share this picture of Morn being very cuddly but also basically asleep because that's what I'd like right now. It's June and I'm mostly trying to enjoy it being warm but also wishing I had some more time and energy to get out on my bike and hit the trails with my husband. Geocaching and the like. Because yeah, good times. Instead I'm mostly in a cycle of taking care of business, doing chores, and waiting for the next minor emergency to crop up. But maybe things will calm down. We shall see.

Really there's not too much to report at the moment, aside from having turned in my latest Locus column. I did, however, want to maybe talk about that because I feel like I'm finally mostly settled in after a year and a half of doing this to the point I can reflect and maybe offer some pointers to people who are looking to start reviewing. I'll break things out into some categories.

1. Style

This is probably the most important thing because everything else is going to come out of this. When I say style I mean really the type of reviewing you want to do. I think the most common sort of review column is one that casts a wide net and then tries to find the "best" of the bunch (the reviewer's favorites). These kind of monthly or other regular columns are the most accessible to the general reader and the most called for by people who want some help navigating the large field of speculative fiction and poetry. This is what I did at Nerds of a Feather with The Monthly Road and at Book Smugglers with X Marks the Story.

But there's also reviewers who look at complete issues and review *everything* in them. This both removes the need to specify what works you liked best and pushes you to engage with works and review works that you might not like. This is what I did at Quick Sip Reviews.

And finally there is a hybrid approach where you're not just reviewing your favorites but you're also not reviewing all the works in every issue that you read. You mention some of the works, and maybe on top of that you also mention your favorites. This is what I do now at Locus.

2. Workload

And then we come to the question of how much you want to cover. That in part will help guide you through the decisions to be made on what style of reviewing you want to do. Because it's harder to have a robust recommendation column if you don't read a lot of stories. In general, I strive to recommend roughly 1/10 of the works that I read. The top 10% for me is a good indication that these were the stories I really liked. The A stories, if you will.

And with that, you can sort of work backwards. Want ~5 stories in your recommendation column? Then aim for reading ~50 stories total. This does mean if you want a more robust column of 10 recommendations/reviews, you are looking at upwards of 100 stories. But then, this doesn't need to be every month. Many columns cover two months. Or four. It's really up to you but I do think that keeping a 1/10 rule recommended/read is a pretty good metric for reviewing if you're doing a regular favorites column.

For reviewing everything in an issue, that also depends on how much bandwidth you have for it. Reading 50 stories and reviewing 5 of them is a lot less work than reading and reviewing 50 stories. As someone who reviewing over 50 stories a month for years, it's A Lot and will probably burn you out. But that's mostly a discussion to have with yourself.

For hybrid approaches, it somewhat depends on the word count and etc that you're aiming for. My Locus column is supposed to be ~3000 words, and I keep pretty close to that these days. At ~150 words a mention/short review, I can include ~20 works in each column, and aim to mentions somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of what I read, with recommendations of ~1/10 what I read. Now, if I had 5000 words a month I'd probably actually just write more on each story rather than adding much more to read, because right now 60-80 works is just about manageable to read every month (100, which I do occasionally, is just a bit much).

3. Adjustments

What I would recommend as well is that you always leave room to make changes to what you do. Transitioning from Quick Sips to Locus did take some time (and going over word count by quite a bit a few times), and there's always some give and take between what you want to do and what you'll be able to do. I do suggest starting smaller and then scaling up, but never be afraid of scaling down. Sometimes you scale up too much and don't realize how much that will effect your work. Sometimes life gets in the way and makes needing to do less necessary. Sometimes you'll just find the groove that works for you and that might be less than where you're at. Don't fight it (unless someone is paying you good money to fight it but that's pretty rare in reviewing).

I still think reviewing is a wonderful thing and a useful practice for readers and writers alike. It stretches mental muscles and is an art in itself. And I like reading reviews, so maybe I'm just greedy in wanting to see more of them (though also please just don't be an asshole about it). But anyway, there are my thoughts on that.

In other news...uh...I'm getting a little better at playing Tears of the Kingdom, and did get a few nice days to sink into it over the last weekend. But it's slow going (and there's nothing wrong with that). And that's been about it for me lately. I hope life is treating you all as well as possible. Cheers!


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