By Lonnie Cruse
I've been following a debate on a discussion list or two about reviewing books. I'm going to try to boil the discussion down.
Some writers think only other writers should review books because they know the ins and outs, the difficulties of writing an entire manuscript and getting it published.
But, unfortunately, some writers confess to having a tough time giving negative reviews to other writers, even other writers they don't know, keeping in mind the advice nearly every mother gives her child: "If you can't say something nice . . . " Makes it a bit tough to get a balance in reviews if all of them are "nice."
Some readers think only readers should review a writer's work because they know good writing when they see it, have the ability to step back and see the trees apart from the forest, and whether they love or hate a book, they want to share their views either privately with friends or with a large unknown Internet audience. In other words, they're impartial.
Some readers and writers don't care WHO does the reviews or how nice/nasty the review is as long as the reviewer doesn't give away key plot points. Let's face it, anyone who gives away key plot points in a review should have to eat the entire book. Without condiments.
I've been an avid reader since childhood thanks to my step-mother, a teacher and an avid reader. I can remember riding in a car with her and jumping in my seat when she turned a sharp corner just as I reached an exciting point in the story. NO idea what book that was, but the memory tells me why I love books. Getting THAT lost in a story.
Before I became a writer I had no problem sharing my reviews of books I'd read with friends, and had I been on an Internet discussion list then, I'd have done the same. But now that I'm a writer, I find it very difficult to discard the "If you can't say something nice" rule and say what I really think about a book. I recently stopped listening to an audio book because the character did something so out of character for a law enforcement officer that I found myself shouting at my MP3 player, "Dial 911, Dummy." The comment wasn't meant for the MP3 player, of course, but for the character. And I was on the elliptical cycle at the time, and I'm not at my charming best when I'm exercising. Twenty minutes on that thing is more like two hours. Where was I? Am I going to post that particular review on the Internet or name the writer? Nope.
Here are my thoughts from a writer's perspective:
Once you learn the, ahem, "Rules of Writing" it is VERY difficult to read a book by another author and not find things that most readers would simply overlook in the enjoyment of the story. Repeat words, weed words (as Darlene posted about recently) shifting POV's, LY words, ING words, you name it and there is most likely a rule against it. So, if the story is compelling and the characters engaging, most readers who don't write will love it, and their eyes will slide right over such errors. Writers who have had the rules pounded into our heads will be stopped short. Reading for pleasure isn't as easy as it once was. But neither is reviewing.
Writers know how very important reviews are to a book's sales. And while we all reassure each other that even negative reviews sell books, we don't really buy that phrase when it comes to our own books. Not for a minute. So it's harder for a writer to post negative reviews of other writers.
It's nigh unto impossible for me to post a negative review of a book. However, I do read other people's (writers or readers) reviews because they keep me from wasting time and money on books I won't enjoy. I'd love to do that for the rest of you, but I just can't. Unless I love the book. Maybe. Could I possibly waffle a bit more on this subject? Let me get back to you on that.
The more you love to read, the more you want to share your opinions about the books you read. Nice or nasty. I think that's a good thing. The number of people reading for pleasure appears to be down in today's world, and I'm for anything we can do to encourage others to read. And word of mouth sells more books than just about any kind of advertising you can think of. Writers love that. I hope the rest of you will continue to read and to discuss with others the books you read. Me? I'll be waffling in the corner. And reading.
By the way, I'll be away from my computer most of today, selling and signing at the annual Superman Celebration in downtown Metropolis, IL. The celebration is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. TONS of vendors selling lots of interesting stuff. I'll be with the other writers and artists in the building next to Thor's Gym. Please drop by and say hi. Next week I hope to have pictures of the Celebration for you.