Welcome. This blog was started three years ago by four aspiring writers who are now three published authors of novels and short stories (Barbara Elsborg, Dawn Jackson, Arlene Webb) and one multiple award-winning writer (Laurie Green). We blog to keep readers updated on our new releases or other random topics. We hope you enjoy your stay. :] Coffee?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Telling the truth-

- as far as your opinions of books are concerned. Always, sometimes, never?
I suppose in a private conversation you can say what you think about a book, assuming you're not my husband and it's not my book he's talking about. Only - it's wonderful - will do, dear, if you value your bits ands pieces.
But on the internet where your opinions can be read by the world and possibly the author you're reviewing , how truthful dare you be? If you hate a book, would you tell everyone? If there were aspects you didn't like, would you always temper them with praise for the few bits you did? Easy to proclaim your love for a story. Far harder when you detest it.
I made the mistake once of telling the truth about a debut book in a very blunt way and I upset the author. She said I didn't but I know I did and I apologised. Not for the fact that I hated her book for so many reasons, but the way I expressed my opinion. I don't like to upset people and I thought about how I would react if someone hated any of my stories. Rejection from agents and publishers is one thing, but a deep down detestation of something that might have taken a year to write is something else.

But in this world we live in, praise is seen as all -important. Do we only want to hear praise? Can't we learn from constructive criticism? We should be able to and I hope I do but I'm very cautious now about reviewing anything I really don't like. Consequently I wonder if authors get a false idea of the way their books are perceived. If everyone gushes, do they think they've written a masterpiece? Are you brave enough to tell them you didn't like it, when the rest of the world appears to?

I'm reading a romance by an author I like very much. It's her latest book and I paid $14.00 for it. She's a bit formulaic but generally I like the formula. Forceful MCs - straight down to the heavy stuff with blunt language. But in this latest, the woman is vulnerable, trying to look after her sick brother, even contemplating the horror of sleeping with a guy (not the MC) in order to get her brother the help he needs. All OK so far. Then suddenly, the MCs are in bed together. The woman who was sweet and gentle although determined and brave- is so desperate to get into bed with the hero I was taken aback. Her language changed, her behaviour - everything. It was such a character jump, I wondered if I'd skipped a few pages by accident. In addition, the POV changed so much it was confusing.
The story has been bought by one of the big publishers so someone must have read it and loved it but I don't know why. I've read almost every book by that author and this is the second that has left me disappointed. (Not the one I read prior to this but a year or so ago) It has to be the name that's sold it and to be honest, the name sold it to me but I wonder if these big names ever get anything rejected?


Laurie said...

You raise some interesting points. I know how many books you read and when you say a book is great, you must feel it rises far above the norm. I think I'm much easier to please because I don't have the time to read the volume of novels or variety of authors that you do, so most stories are fresher to me. I know I've adored a few books that you outright hated. That's okay. We have different tastes and that's what the industry is built on. If we all had the same taste, we'd all be buying one book. :)

I have read a few books I just couldn't finish. If I enjoy a read, I tend to lay on the praise, because the book did its job--it entertained me. I don't post bad reviews for a couple of reasons, but that's not to say I won't point out elements that I don't like or don't feel worked well in a story. I think most (not all) writers tend to be more forgiving or less willing to post negative reviews, where readers who don't write sometimes go at it no holds barred. As a writer, like you, I'm sensitive to the blood, sweat and tears that our peers endure to write and market a book, so I'm more skittish about brutal honesty. I don't want to hurt my peers, for one, and as an unpublished writer, I don't want to sound superior. If their work made it through the meatgrinder, that's a miracle in itself and I have to respect the effort. If I can't post anything nice, I probably won't post anything at all. :)

But do I read and consider negative reviews? You betcha.

Dawn said...

Okay, you know me, I will tell you straight up if I don't like something. Face to face, you might get it a little harder than if I posted a review. I believe all writers do have some good things in their stories and yes they have some bad stuff too. Everyone does. Don't tell me they don't. I've seen enough roughs and polished stories to know that even the great authors struggle to make their stories come to life. Have I posted something in the public that wasn't exactly a shining review. Yes. But I sat down and decided, before I posted, how I needed to approach it. Be honest in your reviews or they will not ring true, but also remember there isn't a reason that I can think of other than the reviewer is miserable, to shred an authors story on a public blog. Why?

Publishing is a small world. You can be respectful, and give an honest review without being a (pardon this) Bitch. Too many nasty comments, too many enemies and you might find yourself wishing you'd used a little tact.

Everyone likes different stories, and writing is all subjective. Instead of trying to write to please everyone, writers should simply write their best. If you do that, you may not please them all, but you'll feel good knowing you turned out something you put your heart into. In the end, that will show and you might be surpised at how many fans you acquire.

Laurie said...

Absolutely agree on your last point, Dawn. Don't write for a particular market, don't tailor your story to a certain fan base; write a great story you'd love to read and the readers will find you.

I think we all share that philosophy.

Flick said...

Well, I finally finished ' the book that will not be named ' - I had hoped by the end, all would be well and I would love the author again. Sadly not. There was no emotion, no spark of real affection between the MCs. I didn't care if they lived or died or never saw one another again. Now, I'm afraid, I'd never buy another by her.

Just_Me said...

The jumping POV is one thing I hate about romance. You can't get away with it anywhere but a sex scene (or something simialar) and it's a device I despise.

As for telling authors off.... I'm okay with it. I know I write GENRE fiction. It's a genre. Some people love it, some people hate it. I don't care about the ones that hate it, that's their malfunction. I'm writing for the people like me who like action with a bit of a laugh and maybe a stolen kiss or two. I know there's no way I can write what I like and appeal to everyone, my tastes are too different. I've made peace with that.

Not that I'd try to be nasty to another author mind you, but if someone wants to tell me they hate what I write I ignore them.

Greg said...

Perhaps what you saw was the author being put in a position where they have to cater to the whim of the target audience (or rather that which the publisher determines to be the will of the target audience), to include certain content in the book. If the mood and aspect to the story changes suddenly I would imagine that could be an explaination for such an occurance.

As for giving opinions on somebody's work. I think that its a shame that people's creative output can be subverted by commercialism, but that's the world we live in. If somebody uses a medium such as the internet to put their work to the masses, they must be willing to accept the criticism that may come with that.