Your honest opinion please


Today I am stepping onto the other side of the review process.  Oooh, things are not so hot over here either!

I am feeling a case of the guilts over a book review that I committed to write.  As you may have guessed one of my regular haunts is GoodReads which I love for staying up to date with new offerings and reconnecting with my old favourites.  As part of my contribution to the platform as a resource for readers and writers I am trying to write reviews as often as I can.  It is good for the growth of the site and the bank of knowledge it offers to the world but it is good for me as a writer and reader to deconstruct what I read and really begin to think about what it is that I like or don’t like about a book.

politicalhumor.about.com

The downside is that you can’t like everything.  In a recent review on this site I promoted a book that I actually think is really well written but felt I could only give it three stars.  For my money it was missing the genre in which it was being promoted and that is difficult because it was one of those great reads that falls between genres. I tried to be honest about my own reaction to it as a reader and not as a literary work and to be constructive about this beyond ‘it wasn’t for me’ or ‘I just didn’t like it’ (rolls eyes, twirls hair, pouts lips).

I just don’t like it

This latest book has a lot less going for it than the work cited above.  There are some real issues with it and I couldn’t with all good faith give it more than two stars.  But this author is a newly minted one.  She is learning the ropes and quite honestly has potential because the idea is great.  In fact, it is dangerously close to where I have been heading in one of my stories so this is going to seem disturbing when I finally get to that point but I will honestly say up front here, on this date, with my hand on my heart, that I thought of my storyline over a month ago and I read her book this morning!

That aside, as a recently and often rejected writer, I get frustrated at the review process when I either get a rejection without any critique at all or a rejection where the critique is so obscure that it gives me nothing to work on.  The ones that give me hope tell me the good aspects of my work and then make sensible and actionable suggestions as to what I can either do to improve the work or improve my skills.  Couched in the language of ‘don’t give up’, these are the ones that give me some hope that I am not completely wasting my time.  Of course, since the passion is an obsession it would be pointless for them to tell me not to continue, I am not sure I could stop even if they wanted me to, but you get what I mean.

In the end, this is the best advice for any writer.  Of course, it doesn’t mention reading and I would add in the mantra that to be a better writer you should be applying the 3:1 rule.  For every hour you spend writing, you should be spending three hours reading, and reading a range of genres.

So I posted this review for this particular author this morning.  I want to contact her personally if I can to give her some encouragement. Please tell me, am I being too harsh? Am I supporting her enough to be the type of writer that I think she could be in the future?

You'll Be Safe Here (Promises, Prayers & Secrets Series, Book 1)You’ll Be Safe Here by Kristine Pierce

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic idea that has been poorly executed. The plot is really good and I can see that what is essentially a novella, could become a great novel but this version of the story is underdone. There is very little in the way of character development and for me this is a key element that is missing. The author sets up the dynamic but fails to really explore the motivations through either the first person narrative or the back stories. The action leaps around too much. I felt like I was being dumped in the middle of each scene without any of the requisite build up to get there. The book needs some heavy editing. Tenses are all over the place and there are a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. More attention could be paid to crafting of sentences to eliminate word repetition and to really shape some of the linking elements that are absent between scenes. Having said all of that, the central idea is really good and the characters could be fabulous. I would love to see someone work with the author to reshape this into the really great story that it has the potential to be.

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17 thoughts on “Your honest opinion please

  1. ankoku1331 says:

    If your review was what you saw missing, needed work, and were honest about it, which is how your review reads, then do not worry about it being viewed harsh. I think you did a good job of pointing out areas that need improvement. The only thing better that you could’ve done was put edits into the manuscript.

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    • It has been an interesting experience watching the trolls in action through the fan fic community. They go in and slam anonymously, usually with no substance. Review processes can be both damaging and supportive. Reviewers need to take some responsibility for how their words might be perceived not only by readers but by authors who have, like it or not, tied up their identity in their work. Thanks for the vote of confidence.🙂

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  2. anevillfeast says:

    Your friend sounds like they’ve done what I did with my first book: finished it, read it through, proofread it, made minor changes then declared it done. After hearing the world say, sorry, we don’t want you kid, I put it up on a shelf and forgot about it for months. Then I took it down and realised the world was right. The bit that everyone told me didn’t work but I stubbornly clung to? That went pretty quickly. A couple of months of hard slog and the rewrite was done. The story’s essentially the same, the characters much as I first drew them, but the layers of complexity, the tension, the heartaches and the triumphs are so much richer. Hardly anyone’s read it, but those who do tell me it’s pretty good. So that’s become part of my process. Write it, set it aside and do a massive marathon rewrite. Seems to be working so far. That’s the advice I’d give any new writer. Set it aside, forget about it for a bit then revisit with a vengeance and no fear of the delete key.

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    • Your advice is so wise. Although I take issue with the delete key, I keep everything for later, maybe, someday. I really enjoyed your article on review flamewars. I think there is a comparison to be made between criticism of your book and your children. I always knew when my kids were being ratbags, I was mortified at their terrible behavior from time to time and I wondered how it was I could produce ‘that’ but God help the person who criticized my babies. Many authors/artists have the same problem. The work feels like an extension of ourselves and any criticism is devastating. I feel for this author who has come up with a great idea but is having trouble executing it. I hope that she takes your advice, pulls it and reworks it because she deserves that chance to make it great.

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  3. lalaloopsie11 says:

    Okay, I could totally be wrong here, but isn’t a review like this really for potential readers and not for the author? Your review tells me it’s not a total waste of time, but also not to get my hopes up. It’s got some redeeming qualities, and it really almost seems like it’s a good book that just hasn’t been given a good working over yet. The fact that you’ve crafted such a caring review is telling about who you are, and that’s a nice thing to see. The author now has specifics to work with, knowing exactly what you found lacking in the book. It reads like it’s a favorite Auntie giving advice.

    From where I sit, you are my hero for being able to post that review, to be honest with yourself, with readers, and ultimately in this case, the author. You’ve got balls of steel, woman! But, it’s what makes your reviews credible. If I did reviews, I guarantee all the books would be getting 4.5 and 5 stars. If there was a truly atrocious book, I might be able to knock it down to a 4, but I’ve gotta say, it’s anxiety-inducing to even think about it. But, with Sasha Cameron, now we know (if we didn’t before) that a 5 really is a 5.

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    • And this is why you are one of my favorite people in the whole world. Thank you so much for seeing and articulating so clearly what I am trying to do. For me it is more than my credibility on the line. I want to grow as a person through my writing and reviewing. The eternal educator in me wants that for others too. Which is why I try to read a range of reviews as well as books. These also teach me how to write a better review and in turn a better story of my own. The nice part of the review process is that you don’t have to listen. If you are totally convinced that the reviewer has missed the mark on your work you can ignore what they say and that takes balls of steel. I am learning that too.🙂

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  4. jasonwrites says:

    I don’t think it’s too harsh. It’s constructive criticism. So long as it’s constructive, it’s worthwhile. I’d love for you to be my first reviewer; hopefully arthritis or dementia won’t have set in by that time😉 I can’t believe what gets published with such glaring need of editing these days with… well, the book this blog is tribute to being Exhibit A– don’t shoot me.

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    • In fairness to the author, I think she is self-publishing so perhaps has not had much input from others in the editing process. As to reviewing your work, bring it on baby. You know I am there.

      BTW – you just became my 200th ‘like’. To reward your efforts you have won tonight’s star prize. A trip for two around Mike Myer’s Fat Bastard. This trip can be taken at any time in the next five years but once started is best executed with haste because he ‘will eat youuuuuu, get in my belly!’ Enjoy!

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      • jasonwrites says:

        Yay me! I will treasure that reward like no other. Seriously, congratulations on reaching the 200 plateau. I can’t wait for you to read my book– guess I better start writing it.😉

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  5. kittymobile says:

    It’s not too harsh. It’s to the point. If the writer can take criticism, they can improve. If they can’t, then they’re not cut out for the world of publishing. Every writer can improve their art. Those that ignore or deny that fact are generally not good writers (or at least not the best they can be).

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  6. 1klkelly says:

    I’ve always heard (when giving honest opinions, constructive critisism, advice…) one should “tell them the truth, not what they want to hear”. I think your review was exactly that.

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  7. Thanks for the vote of confidence K. I guess the eternal question will be ‘whose truth?’ – damn, I wasn’t going to let my post structuralist theory sneak into this blog.

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  8. ATTERBURY (lIZ) says:

    Sasha, I could be way off base here, not being a writer or a literary critic, but a good book is like a good design in my world. There are basic fundementals in design that need to be met to even qualify as accepatble, but once all the criteria has been met it is still subject to diverse opinion. Qualified and justified critisim is how we grow! There is always a better line to write as well as a better fabric that brings it all together. I think you just have to trust you! You did a spendid job on the review.

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    • Love the very apt analogy Liz. Perhaps what I am seeking is a consensus on the duty of care in the review relationship. In a period of sociocultural evolution where there is a disconnect between readers and reviewers on one level (that ability to post anonymously) and an unfathomable ability to interconnect via the internet, at which point do we create safe spaces for people to develop and grow and who takes the moral and ethical responsibility in nurturing talent while also offering a healthy dose of reality about what is achievable. In other words, do we always stop and think before we hit the button?

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