Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reviewing another Writer's Work

You know how I said a while ago (and probably multiple times since then) I draw inspiration from the world around me? Yeah? Cool. *gives cookie*

Story time! I'm on Twitter in the #amwriting tag when I stumbled upon a blog post. I love reading blogs about writing because they give a lot of info and hey, I'm a writer so they're pertinent.

Can I remember where I found the blog post or who wrote it? Nope. I'm not good with names or remembering important dates. The only dates I know are the birthdays of my two best friends, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and my cat's birthday (old and new cat). That's it. I vaguely recall various cousins' and aunts' birthdays but I didn't have a lot of contact with them for a few years so...ANYWAY.

I remember the content of this blog post because it made me feel bad. In case you didn't know, notice, or realize: I've started up a Book Review section for this blog. The review section happened for two reasons: 1) I have a library of over 1,500 books, most of which I've read or am planning to re-read because they're fun and I love them. 2) I've become a voracious reader again since I have regulated breaks at work (again) and need something to do during those breaks.

The blog post in question was about writers who review books and why it's not a good idea to review a fellow writer's books. Something along the lines of "you shouldn't do both because it's bad for your writing" was said. All the commenters agreed with it and I considered taking down the review portion of this blog.

Then I thought: wait a second. The writer of this blog also said something along the lines of "remember, reading can take up to 12 hours a week of your time which could be spent writing. If you're reviewing what you're reading you're also taking time out to write the review."

I started giggling and decided to keep the review section. Why did I giggle? First off, in order to be worth anything as a writer you have to read. I'm not talking about flipping through a magazine, reading your own work, or reading the subtitles of anime (GUILTY). I'm talking about sitting down with another author's work and ploughing through it for those 12 (or more) hours a week. I'm talking about picking up books in genres you might not even like and reading them as a kind of guilty pleasure. I'm talking about reading at least a book a month, if not more.


The more you read, the better your writing will become. It's like learning through osmosis. You innately pick up on what works and what doesn't. You figure out how to form appealing sentences and learn how to set up scenes. You discover how to create engaging dialogue and you know what words you shouldn't be using. You learn HOW TO WRITE if you read.

Secondly, in order to be a writer you have to write. I'm not talking about sitting down in front of your computer and pumping out story after story (sheepishly raises hand). I'm talking about writing a journal, writing a blog, or writing a review. See, when you're reading then reviewing what you're reading you're doing two things: you're learning how to write and you're writing something. Double bonus.

The blog in question also said something to the effect of: "if you give someone a negative review then they won't give you a positive review and you'll look bad as an author who reviews other people's reviews negatively." Mmm, yeah, I can understand that. I've given out some lukewarm reviews all ready.

I explained why I gave those reviews though. I didn't connect with the main, I thought the main was stupid, I though the plot had too many holes (then pointed them out), or I thought the novel had too much going on. I also gave a glowing review to a book a lot of people didn't like.

I didn't write a direct message to the author. I didn't post the review on the amazon.com or goodreads.com page for the author. I posted it in my review section on a blog that doesn't get a lot of hits. The chances of the author seeing said review is pretty much nill BUT even if the chances weren't nill I'd still write the same review, and yes, have it public.


Because an author can improve if they get a review with constructive criticism. Feel free to give me constructive criticism. I've got some old (and free) novellas out there so pick one up and have at it. I will warn you: I know what's wrong with them and they will be re-worked and re-published. I got too excited about the whole self-publishing idea and went a little crazy, thus releasing a few stories too soon. I'll admit it: I done goofed.

You know why else it's okay to write reviews? Other authors do it and you will be asked what you think of the new biggest sensation if you become a well-known author. For example:

"I read Twilight and didn't feel any urge to go on with her. I read The Hunger Games and didn't feel an urge to go on. It's not unlike [my novel] The Running Man, which is about a game where people are actually killed and people are watching: a satire on reality TV. I read Fifty Shades of Grey and felt no urge to go on. They call it mommy porn, but it's not really mommy porn. It is highly charged, sexually driven fiction for women who are, say, between 18 and 25." - Stephen King

Then there is Anne Rice on Stephanie Meyer. We have GRR Martin on Tolkien. And we all know about the Stephen King and James Patterson thing. If not, Google is your friend. *winks*

Even if you don't want to be one of those authors who reviews another author's work you will have to eventually. You can't remain silent on someone in the world of writing, especially if you want to be as popular as any of the above mentioned. You will be asked what you think of other popular writers and you better make danged sure you don't come across as vapid by saying simply "Oh they're great!" or "oh they suck!"

Every writer/author will get the question "Who (what authors) inspires you?" and you are going to have to answer. You won't have to give a review right then of their most recent release but you may be asked "Why do they inspire you?" and again you better be able to vocalize the good and bad of that author.

So I say: read and review. Make it public. Let people know what you think and what you expect from a novel. You'll have to do it eventually and you may as well get used to it. Besides, we're writers. We're supposed to have tough skin and a writer has to learn to handle a 1 to 3-star constructive review from a fellow author. Why? Because every author will receive 1 to 3-star reviews from readers that might not be so constructive.

We shouldn't fear or hold back from reviewing fellow authors because of the need to "be nice." Do you think editors hold back because they have to be nice? Do you think non-writer readers are going to hold back because they have to be nice?

BUT, we should be constructive. Don't say someone sucks because you don't like them. Write the review with the reader in mind, in fact: write the review as if you're not a writer. Be the reader. Try to point out some positives and if you absolutely despised the book and can't think of one positive: don't do the review.

Contradictory, I know, but it's better not to say a horrible word than to put your foot in your mouth and have the author you're reviewing say as many horrible things about your work because you started it. Remember, these are YOUR FELLOWS. As a friend of mine on Twitter says: "Be honest but don't be a dick. Recall and consider this is your network, too." Also remember that you and your fellows are not going to improve if all you get are glowing 5-star reviews.

We definitely shouldn't stop reviewing (or reading) fellow authors because it cuts into our writing time. Again, to be a good writer you have to read. You have to write. The more you do of both the more of a chance you get to become better.

So to the fellow blogger who said writing reviews is a bad idea: I respectfully disagree. I also understand you have your reasons for thinking the way you do and hey, you're entitled to believe as you do. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind but I am giving my opinion on the concept. We'd be nothing without personal opinions.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Author note: I found the blog I mentioned thanks to Jane Hunt, fellow writer who believes reviewing is fine for authors. The original blog was by Kristen Lamb. Yes, I could have changed the above to reflect both but I decided not to mainly because I believe it would have taken away from the post itself...and it's my birthday so there. :P

No comments:

Post a Comment