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.
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).
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?
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.
- Why A Critique Group (5writers5novels5months.com)
- So, you’ve written a book… (nevillfeast.wordpress.com)
- For Now . . . Just Write. (ptbertram.wordpress.com)
- Thursdays with Amanda: Rejections Don’t Determine Your Worth as a Writer (chipmacgregor.com)
- How bad reviews can help make you a better writer AND a stronger person (alliebbooks.wordpress.com)