Would You Rather….

image from open clipart.org by oksmith


Fellow writers: would you rather a reviewer tell you that the book’s story and characters were amazing but the writing quality didn’t meet expectations or that your book’s writing was mind blowing but the characters and story were cliche retreaded territory?  Follow up bonus question: are your feelings hurt by either or these critiques?


I’m asking because I write a lot of book reviews (check me out on Goodreads/shameless plug) and they are critical, even on books I like. I wonder like many aspiring writers might, what effects if any of my reviews have on the authors and on my ability to reach out/break into their world of publication.  Am I speaking to other readers or do authors also follow discussions on their books?  Am I closing doors by breaking a book down or am I showcasing a thoughtful and attentive mind by considering so many facets?  For me these answers break down to whether my comments are offensive and insults are often in the eye of the beholder.


Assuming for the moment that critical discussion on aspects of a book don’t automatically equal injury, I want to know what specific kinds of critical discussion would be fair to discuss with an author.


Personally, I’d rather have characters and plot that a reader falls in love with than pitch perfect writing.  Things I want to hear include: “The characters felt very real,”, “I felt like I knew everything about these characters,”, “I needed to know more,”, “I’ve never seen this kind of story explored this way.”


That said, I have a distinctive sing song almost poetic style in all my writing.  I have an unique “tone.”  If someone compared my writing to another person’s style, I’d be curious to read more of that person’s work and excited to meet a kindred spirit.  If someone doesn’t like my style, I get that too.  It’s heavy in description, relies on alliteration, and is simile/metaphor heavy.  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.


Grammatically, I know I need serious help.  Critiques to that effect can dishearten me after I’ve gone through editing that relates to correcting grammar, but it doesn’t cut me.  Either I can go back in and correct the grammatical errors (a bonus to electronic publishing), or I’ve made the error in favor of how a phrase flows or draws out a feeling fragmented instead of a full detailed thought.


Does it all boil down to where we as writers are insecure?  My confidence in writing style makes me believe problems in my book must be character/plot related, and therefor I’m more concerned with feedback from those quarters.  I still want the feedback.  For me there is never enough feedback or feedback that’s too harsh as long as it comes with specific examples so I can follow another’s thoughts.


Please give me your thoughts.  Do you fear another kind of feedback?  If someone published you would negative or mixed reviews hurt your feelings?  And how do you rate books/media?

11 thoughts on “Would You Rather….”

  1. I’m not a fan of specific negative feedback. I like broad feedback that pushes me to be more descriptive or more detailed. For example, I like this character but I think you need to add more depth and description. I’ve never had my feelings hurt by negative feedback. I like constructive criticism. I write a lot of reviews and 99 percent are positive. The books I read or movies I watch that I didn’t like, I just don’t post a review about them. I don’t feel like being critical of someone’s hard work, and a bad book will receive plenty of negative reviews without me piling on. But even with the bad books and movies, people often put a lot of hard work into those creative endeavors.

    1. Ok, I’ve tried three times to respond to you and this is my fourth and hopefully successful post.

      I think for creativity to thrive, critical feedback is necessary. Can that feedback go from helpful to hurtful personal or artistic attacks, of course. We should strive for open honest conversation that never borders into cruel.

      Just as it takes time to craft a story, it takes time to create and express an opinion on the work. In any actual conversation, there needs to be respect on both sides. After all, if someone took the time to actually think about and verbalize something that bothered them, it probably really struck a nerve and it may be something that can help in future endeavors.

      Another element to consider is one person’s “critical” review is another person’s ringing endorsement. I’ve picked up a bunch of books reviewed badly for “sing song” or “overly poetic” voice because I like prose. I’ve picked up stories reviewed badly because they “resembled fairy tales” because I like stories that resemble fairy tales. There have been times where what I rated a book highly on is the exact same thing someone else hated of vice a versa. Really as a potential reader of a work, the bad reviews pointing something out feel more “legit” to me than the good reviews point the same thing out. Maybe I’ve been tricked on too many times by a glowing review?

      I do think when phrased respectfully critical feedback has value to both writers and potential readers and not just to ward someone away from a work.

  2. I agree with your take. I just answered your questions from my perspective. Negative reviews would not bother me because if they’re reviewing it, they’re reading it and that’s good enough for me. The only bad press is no press, right?

    1. ^_^ Here’s hoping one day I have enough of a portfolio to have the privilege of a bunch of reviews.

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