Autism, blogging, books, community, reading, writing

No More Negative Reviews?

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So, over the last few days, as I prepare to complete the editing process on my own novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about this:

It is inevitable that someone will one day read my book and not like it. For a variety of reasons. Now, as someone who has some very strong opinions on certain things myself, I honestly feel that they are allowed to decide that, and I won’t hold it against them (or sit outside their house, brandishing a fountain pen, demanding that they change their mind). However, as a sensitive soul, I also ask that I never have to hear about it.

And it got me thinking about some of the scathing commentary we as book bloggers post about our less-than-favorite reads. I’m guilty of some of this, too. When we read a book that just appeared in our local library/bookstore, and it just seems like an object (on some level), and the story seems to just exist within its own world, between those two covers… somehow we can become quite objective, and forget that an actual living, breathing person put a lot of work and heart into it. When we decide to slam a novel that we didn’t like because we felt the writing style was dull, or that the characters weren’t well developed, or that the plot dragged… All valid reasons to determine we weren’t into that book. But I really feel that some of us may just go overboard on explaining “why I thought this sucked.”

After all, as a writer myself, would I really want to read a review of my work where someone declared my plot “stupid,” or my characters “ridiculous”, or my premise “idiotic”? As compared to, “a bit thin,” “could use more adjectives,” “maybe needed more dragons”?

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Of course, I’m being a little light-hearted in putting forth this perspective. I do strongly agree that literary criticism is important — especially when you’re discussing things like world-building, increasing the strength of a writing style, less purple prose if you thought it detracted from connecting with the characters. Stuff that writers could really use to build their technique and increase their readership.

But I also feel there’s a big difference between constructive feedback, intended for improvement — and just slamming someone’s work into the ground and then jumping around on it.

And I’m seriously considering not writing any negative reviews myself from now on.

Does this mean I am a wimp, and because I hate conflict, I’ve decided to stay away from controversial discussions on books? Or does it simply mean I’m looking at it from another viewpoint?

It’s the second.

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A few nights ago, I saw part of a TV program where they were talking about taking one of those surveys that shows you your core strengths. I did that, in college, and I remembered that my top strengths were Empathy, Input, and Connectedness. Despite being autistic, I do have empathy — and often I experience it in a unique way. Even if I don’t understand the exact circumstances a person is in, I do try to put myself in their shoes, and think about how they feel — not how someone else is telling us that person should feel.

I am not yet a published author (apart from this blog). I have never seen a review on a website tearing my work to shreds. But if I was — would that seriously make me want to hide under the covers and live off microwave curry for the next year? Would it make me think of giving up writing? Of burning all of my own books?

And as a human being, how would that feel?

I’ve been in that position before: “You’re weird.” “Freak.” “Stop being so dumb.”

I’m autistic — and a lot of people translate that to I’m worthless as a person, useless as a friend, not worth hiring as an employee.

The people who tell me different are, unfortunately, not as many. But they have done a million percent more in building my confidence and self-esteem.

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And as reviewers, think about this — how much more would we build up our community, and the community we support, if we simply changed the lens through which we construct non-glowing posts?

Some of us are awesome about doing this very thing. I love you guys.

Let’s share the love.

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21 thoughts on “No More Negative Reviews?”

  1. Such a thoughtful post…I’ve never been published/written a novel (writing is within the parameters of my blog), but, to my mind, it doesn’t take much thought to understand how hurtful gratuitous-criticism is…so unhelpful….like someone throwing open their arms, only to be punched squarely in the gut. I really enjoy reading what you share, and how you share it….keep up the awesome/thoughtful work…you are appreciated 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such a wonderful post, thank you so, so much for writing this ❤ I agree that, if I wrote and published a book – maybe someday, if I ever finish something right ahah, I would feel hurt, obviously, by negative reviews, but not everyone can love all the books. It's important to be constructive in our reviews, whether we loved or hated the book, and not just say "I hate it and it was stupid". This is useless, in my opinion. I agree that it's important to look at the book through a postive lens, and I always try to do so in my reviews, even if the book wasn't for me 🙂

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    1. Lately I’ve read a lot of intensely-bashing reviews of certain books…and although some of the points I sort of agree with (for example, if I felt the material was tedious, long-winded, or really hard to follow), I’m becoming more and more uncomfortable with the outright slamming of the work, and the author him or herself. I think it really started a couple years ago, when fans became so divided on the endings to particular series (especially Divergent and The Hunger Games). Some readers became so vocally (or online) irate, and they seemed to completely forget that the author has control of what they’re writing, and how she/he decides to end a series/book is totally their choice. If we as readers don’t like their choices, it’s unfortunate, but certainly not the end of the world. And it’s not up to us to tell them how they “should” have written their book.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, I know I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Stephenie Meyer’s house or Veronica Roth’s the day after those endings came out… Some of the critics I read of, for example, Breaking Dawn or Allegiant, were very objective, saying they were very disappointed in the ending, that they thought the author could’ve chosen a path that was more fitting to the characters, and that was it. Very calm and polite. Especially since we’re dealing with such intense nastiness in all types of social groups lately, I think it’s becoming more important to really focus on that.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m kind of cringing after reading this because I just gave an absolutely scathing review for a book on my blog. While I generally adhere to “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” philosophy, I run into a problem with this on my blog. The majority of books I review are from NetGalley or directly from a publisher, so I have to post a review whether I like the book or not. I absolutely hate giving negative reviews. It’s always in the back of my mind that this is something that an author has put a lot of time and energy into. But, I also feel a responsibility and the need to be honest with my followers. When I do write a bad review, unless there is just something so offensive about the book (as was the case in my latest review), I usually encourage people to check out other reviews before making up their minds about whether or not to try something.

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    1. I do appreciate what you’re saying, too! Sometimes an author’s commentary or views about something really rubs me the wrong way. For example, my son is autistic, and I have a lot of traits on the spectrum, too, and if I read a book “about autism” that clearly doesn’t have the supporting research, it really irritates me. And I would find it necessary to speak up.

      When it comes to ARC reviews, I really like your point that you were asked for your honest opinion, and therefore it can sometimes be hard to come up with something that’s accurate of how you feel but not perceived as nasty without cause. A lot of what changed my mind lately has been the constant stream of truly nasty chatter on social media, between all types of people; book bloggers are certainly (sadly) not immune from it.

      If I read a book that simply wasn’t to my taste, I think sticking to saying that is fine. And I really like your comment about encouraging readers to take in a number of reviews before making up their mind on a reading choice. A lot of it just comes down to personal opinion!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely see what your saying Daley. I just reblogged someone’s post about online bullying. Im lucky in that I’ve only had a nasty commenter once and that was on a post I did about Trump. I thanked them for commenting and said we’d just have to agree to disagree and thankfully never heard from them again. I also just did a 1 review on Keira Drake’s The Continent, but in my defense there’s already a huge controversy surrounding the book because of its blatant racism. This was an extremely rare case where I encouraged my readers to stay as far away from it as they could. I think in the 2 1/2 years that I’ve been blogging I’ve only done this a couple of other times.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, sometimes people just can’t seem to accept that someone disagrees with them. In some instances, I think trying to get others to accept, and even more, respect, your view on an issue – racism is a very good example – is important. But other times, yeah, just let it go and move on. Some people just refuse to let others have their say. I think that’s a lot different than “we’ll agree to disagree.”

        Online bullying is a BIG problem. After the firestorm of hate poured into social media on some of these issues, I know a lot of bloggers are feeling very hurt, and it’s just not necessary. It’s far more destructive than “enlightening” people.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! And I agree. I’ve posted some negative reviews early in my book blogging days (ie, June) because I thought I needed to submit a review for everything I got from Netgalley. I’ve thought about it a lot, and at the end of the day my ‘job’ is to help people find books they want to read. I would rather not give a review of a book that I didn’t like – writing a book is hard work and people seem to forget that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me it’s come to that as well. It kind of goes back to that old saying, “If you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” There are certainly constructive and healthy ways of stating, “I didn’t like this book.” Instead of just ripping apart something someone spent a long, hard time working on. Totally agreed! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post- I can completely understand your perspective- and I do have some rules for myself about giving negative reviews (though that might surprise some people). Firstly I never tweet at/message anyone (famous or not) whenever I do a review because I just don’t see why they would want to read it. I can’t help it if, say E L James, trawls through the internet and stumbles on my blog… but that is a statistical improbability that she would ever find it even if she had heard of “the orangutan librarian”. Secondly I don’t do arcs or reviews of indie works unless I gave it 4-5* (I know how critical I can come across even in 3* reviews) so I’d rather not slate someone who might have a lot riding on it- people work on the assumption that “all publicity is good publicity”- but as someone that worked in PR briefly, I know that’s not the case.
    However, with all that said, I have to keep in line with the fundamental reason I started the blog: to tell the truth. For me, being honest about the books I review is the most important thing for me. And for there to be 5* reviews, there will naturally be 3* and 1* reviews at the other end- it’s just a statistical inevitability. I do try to be fair- if I think it’s a well written book like 100 years of solitude and that other people will like it, I will say so- but there have been times when there was just nothing good to say or something about the book irritated me to the point where I had to get it out. One of the reasons is for my own sanity, but the other side is to advise readers what to pick up- if I wasn’t being honest about it with myself, or sharing mixed reviews, then people would rightly lose faith in what I was writing- worse I would lose faith in what I was doing myself.
    Anyway, I know a lot of bloggers feel the same way you do.(Personally, I would do what most writers do- which is not read the reviews (although a fair number read self-pub authors read ARC reviews)- it’s just healthier that way- because everyone has different tastes and even the best books in the world are hated by some people somewhere.) I certainly can empathise with the authors and see why people might choose not to write negative reviews- that’s totally fair enough. That was just my perspective on it 🙂

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    1. No, I totally get it… When there’s a book that I want to like, or can see why it would appeal to other readers, and it just falls flat for me, I don’t want to discourage others from trying it… Unless it’s for a very valid reason, like it’s just not well-researched and therefore offensive or downright poor quality. And there’s a huge difference between “just letting people have it” and politely saying “Unfortunately, this book wasn’t well planned out, didn’t get its facts right, and really could’ve done more in a lot less words.” I’ve said things like that in reviews or comments, and not felt bad about it.

      And being honest is a big deal. If I came across a novel that really struck me as poorly written or very offensive, I’d state that. Honesty is important (more important than sucking up to some “big name”, which I think a fair amount of people do, too).

      Truly, I find your reviews to be open but not cruel; stating your feelings but not harshly. I think having a solid perspective on an issue like this is really good, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes very true! Haha unfortunately my way of politely saying I didn’t like a book may veer off into just letting people have it- but I do try- mostly that be aiming all that ire at the book and never the person! Yeah exactly- I’ve also seen people (more on book tube than on blogs) smiling while they lost all the problems they had with a book and then giving it a good rating anyway, because they got it from the publisher and don’t want to say it sucked in case they never get another book… Which is not good at all.
        Ahh that’s very good to hear- as I said I do try to be fair as much as possible. Thanks! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Honestly, I’ve never read a review of yours that I felt “crossed the line.” Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case on other sites. I think you keep it civil and to the point of the literary analysis, without making it ridiculously personal or even slandering the author (as we all know sadly happens).

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      3. I still feel that there are lines that we shouldn’t cross (for example, determining we know the author is the devil incarnate based purely on our dislike of a book). I’ve never seen you become that nasty – and don’t think I ever would.

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