Mumbling's Sages Review Taxonomy:
In the reviews of 'Feng Shui', a couple of readers suggested that I state my guidelines for reviews- how to differentiate flames from otherwise harsh reviews, for example. Here's my rough breakdown of different review types, and how best to respond to them.
'Review' review: This review tells you what the reader thought of your story, but says little or nothing about style, grammar, inconsistencies, or problems in the prose. Another type is the kind that points out mistakes but has no advice on how to correct them, or which points out problems vaguely. These reviews are still helpful and you should try to contact the reviewer and give them a reply, or at least a thank-you.
Constructive Criticism: Says what's wrong, and suggests how to improve it. More importantly, CC will also tell you GOOD THINGS about your stories, or at least will tell you what the best parts of it were, if they found nothing especially good (sometimes they don't, because they're picky or because you were not a shining beacon of authorial brilliancy that time). Just pointing to bad stuff is discouraging, and doesn't give an accurate picture of the story anyway. Constructive Criticism is constructive, and should always be kept in mind even if it isn't followed. You owe these reviewers a big thank-you and perhaps a return review.
'Meh' reviews: These are normally about one sentence long, extremely vague, and usually complimentary. They'd make you feel nice if you were convinced that the reviewer actually read the story.
Flames: Flames come in two kinds; people who are out for blood, and people who mean to write CC but forget that constructive part. It's normally easy to tell the two apart. CC would-bes state specific problems in your writing, while other flames are just nasty (like 'Meh' reviews evil cousins). However, all reviews that contain insults directed at you, or inflammatory comments about the story, are flames. There's only one way to react to a flame: ignore it. Even if you normally promise to return reviews or reply to reviews, do not acknowledge that you received the flame. If the flame is anonymous, feel free to delete it.
For 'Critique' flames, politely thank the person and try not to review one of their stories with a flame of your own. The temptation is very real. Most flamers of the 'Critique' variety actually mean to help you, they just have a bad way of showing it.
Final comment about flames; You don't need to be thin-skinned to not enjoy someone ripping apart your story. It's not that hard to keep from being a flamer. If you have a problem with someone's writing, offer suggestions for improvement. Don't flame.
If you are flamed, the mistakes may be your fault, but the rude way they were pointed out in is still uncalled for. Feel free to wallow in self-pity for 2.5 minutes following the point when you received the flame. Then write an essay. Seriously, it'll make you feel better.
Oh yeah, and you'll probably want to correct any mistakes that were pointed out. However much it galls you, it's quite possible they galled the reviewer worse, thus the flames.
How to Avoid giving 'Meh' Reviews
Write more than one sentence. Mention specific incidents, characters, and objects in the story. State one thing you like. State one thing you didn't like. Write down every thought you have while reading the story, and then delete any that are irrelevant or odd-sounding ('I like peanuts' is both odd-sounding and irrelevant).
The final part of the Feng Shui- insert plug here
To continue on the idea of improving reviews, I have formed a C2 community called 'Pay it Forward'. I am also a staff member on a C2: 'Pay it Forward: Sci Fi/ Fantasy edition'. Both these C2s contain stories that return reviews. If you would like me to add your story, PM me or say so in a review. I'd be happy to have more.