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”?
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.
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.
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.