Sunday, May 8, 2016

There'd Be Days Like This, My Momma Said...

Happy Mother's Day to mothers of children, both the two- and four-footed kind. On Mother's Day I'm reminded of the kind of things mothers always said. Such wisdom for the ages as: "Wear clean underwear, what if you're in an accident?"  "Why? Because I told you so!" And one of my favorites, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Well, that's all well and good for polite company, but it doesn't do much good for book reviews...which brings me to the point of all this. Recently I received the dreaded horrible review. Yes, all authors know it is coming some day, but when you actually sit down and read the venemous words another human being is saying about your creation, your story, it stings. A lot. Every book is not every reader's cup of tea. I think we all realize this, but when you sit down to write a review, even an unfavorable one, say something helpful. Like when your mother criticized your clothes, your hair, your eating habits, she did it out of love and in an effort to IMPROVE you, not tear you down. That's my beef. This review did not say anything I could act on to improve my story and writing. The reviewer told me she cheered at the end of the novel not because of the events that unfolded but because she would not have to engage with my main character any longer. Ouch. But she did not say why she disliked the main character. Was she two-dimensional? Did she fail to grow with the story? Was she boring? That type of criticism doesn't help a bit. She also wrote that my writing was difficult to read. Huh? Okay, enough licking old wounds, you get the point. When I write a review, I first take into account the experience of the author. Is the author a big name with all the support a large publisher can bring to the table, such as a first rate developmental editing staff, copy editor, and glitzy graphic designers? Or is the author putting out a debut novel, maybe even self-published? I adjust my expectations accordingly. Also, if I have something unfavorable to say, I back it up with why I feel that way and often gives examples from the writing. Writers need reviews for marketing and for improving their craft. We don't need trolls sitting out there in cyber land waiting to take pot shots at us. If the bad reviewer scares us into a hole where we become afraid to publish our work, they've won. They've become akin to literary terrorists. So, dear writer friends, stay brave and put your stories out there. Make your mothers proud!

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