- Whether a writer needs a critique partner or a beta reader, they are a trusted person within a writer’s circle.
- They speak directly to a writer where a review speaks to other readers.
- They should treat a writer’s work with respect. Acknowledge wins and suggest correction when pointing out areas to improve.
- If one can’t provide constructive criticism, it’s appropriate to thank a writer but explain the manuscript isn’t for you. No further explanation is required.
While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Susan Ee is another example of an author publishing through one of Amazon’s publishers and working with the Kindle Unlimited system to create a maximum audience.
Susan Ee’s work is marketed to young adults but the horror elements combined with griping story beats entertain all ages. The story told in the Angelfall series isn’t unique. I’ve read variations. The beats didn’t surprise me as they may have surprised the younger audience. But Ee creates full fledged characters readers can invest in. Even if we know the story, we don’t know how these characters will handle it, and that’s what will keep adult readers engaged.
Take Aways from Susan Ee’s Success:
1. Dark horror and the grotesque is for young adults too. Ee’s books do not hold back in exploring the darkness in humanity. She pushes body horror and explores all the ways people can be used. Neither the “good guys” nor the “bad guys” flinch from acting in inhuman ways. If “Angelfall” was a show or a movie series, I don’t know how it could get around an R rating.
2. Creating relatable personalities and rounded characters is more than good writing, it will broadens a novel’s appeal. Don’t shy away from differently abled characters either. Much of the story’s conflicts come from the characters’ physical and mental disabilities and how that impacts them.
3. This a great example of a book series with a strong first book but better follow-ups. Ee never faltered in her vision for “Angelfall” (or is she did, it doesn’t show in the final products). Writer’s fatigue or a series decline in quality is not a constant fact of life! The direction, pacing, and sense of stakes remains strong in each of Ee’s books.
Wondering why Kindle Unlimited? Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited
“I think it would be therapeutic for me to write a post for our blog where I tear the shit out of movie x.” Zach said.
I smiled and nodded, happy he planned to contribute to our NAWG blog.
“But would a negative post benefit our blog in the long run?” I wondered.
Another group member and I resolved we would keep our blog a positive constructive place. Then again, Zach is our resident curmudgeon, if anyone can get away with a grouchy post, it’s him.
As I‘ve been viewing more content, I keep coming back to wondering if critical content is part of a healthy blogging habit. And if “negative” or “rant” content has a place, what’s the correct ratio to add it into a blog? Should ever blog or blogger share all opinions whether negative or positive? Am I as positive as. I portray, or is that a persona shown for approval? Even in some of my perky posts, on the edges lingers this acknowledgement of themes I don’t like.
Today there will be no dodging the question. Should we blog critical, negative, snarky, or tea spilling posts?
-Being seen as petty/mean/opinionated/loud/aggressive/bossy
-Being seen as a person who views writing as a competition and your review as a way to tear down the competition
-Risk of hurting the feelings of another human being
-Burning through the community’s goodwill for you
-Bringing you own work forward for scrutiny as you’ve scrutinized others
-Making an error or oversight in your analysis could cause you being on the end of critical content. Or you may see your own oversight, go to adjust your post and learn you’ve created an audience not open to evolving opinions.
-Negative attention is still attention and if a book/technique is damaging, you may choose not to mention them at all so you don’t accidentally drive sales to something you don’t support
-Closing venues for conversation and becoming a place to come bash an idea
-Crossing the line and getting personal in an attack (and this is NEVER) good.
-Depending on what you don’t like, risking the chance you’ll stand in the company of other opinions you find offensive or wrong
-People love drama/controversy. There is a reason videos and posts labeled “spilling the tea” or “throwing shade” rank so high and it’s because everyone loves to watch a fight.
-As Zach said, rants are therapeutic
-Sometimes critical or negative reviews are a person’s truth and I believe authenticity is more important than being nice.
-Others can misinterpret silence as approval and I don’t want to support something I didn’t like.
-Bringing critical opinions forward presents a whole and balanced person. Not someone full of eternal praise
-A negative element of an otherwise good work should be called out. A person can love something that isn’t perfect and acknowledging flaws is part of a full discussion
-The things I didn’t like may help a crowd of people who like those elements find a new favorite. What I didn’t like might be something you love about a book
This conversation is more personal than the other #bebold articles because I present as a positive person. Get to know me better and I’ll spin out into a rant on X or Y and I like to think it’s funny. People laugh, whether from the shock of me going from sunshine to dark in a blink of an eye or because I have a strong delivery, is hard to tell. The thing is, I like to read a room before sharing, and you can’t read a room in the internet.
Unlike the “silence is approval school” I’m from the “if you have nothingnice to say, then say nothing” school. I’m sensitive to even small gestures of disapproval in others and worry over their reactions if they find out I don’t enjoy their favorite show. In the past, I’ve compromised under the guise of kindness. I post all reviews to Goodreads but don’t make blogs from bad books. Recently I’d considered writing a bottom 5 books of 2018 and dismissed the idea. Three of the books were from a single author and it struck me as excessively mean spirited to single out an author this way.
I’m dipping my toes into critical reviews while blogging. First, I wrote a post on why I stopped reading Daily Science Fiction. It’s not mean, but it expresses that I didn’t like the site or most of the stories on offer. My 2018 book year in review shares both positive and negative thoughts on books. Even then, most of my critical feedback revolves around non-fiction books that present bad/dangerous science. I feel like giving them lower scores is a public service. Do your research world!
I wrote a critical review on a writing class I took. There I spoke out because I’d paid money for the class. If it had been free, there would be no post. The posts gathered the low end of average views.
Currently I’m brainstorming a series of posts called “Writing Cliches” where I discuss overused techniques in genres and why they bother me/what else you can do. I think it will be snarky fun with a goal of helping writers avoid played out scenarios and offering other ways to move the story.
Should you write a critical post? I don’t really know.
I love reading critical posts where the writer explores what worked, where they suggest how idea x could come across better, or where they pitch a “better” story. Occasionally, I even enjoy a certain level of mean snark. That said, I’m not comfortable with the format. Even as I enjoy consuming some of this style of content, I prefer to create the helpful, glass half full kinds of posts. More than the other posts discussed in this #BeBold series, I suggest moderation. A few critical posts go a long way after all.
2018 was a wonderful reading year. I beat my goal of 36 books by about 10. 17 of these books were nonfiction and not eligible to make this list. Out of 30 books, these are the top five fiction reads. Starting from least favorite to most treasured read. For an in-depth look at my 2018 reading check out Books Read in 2018.
5. Traitorborn– Has everything I like about “Hunger Games” in it but tells the story in a fresh, compelling way. My favorite aspect of this series is that there are not “good” characters (at least from my perspective). Most of the characters, our hero included, have a piece of the solution for their dystopian society and they are also holding on to part of the problem. It’s refreshing to have a complex group of characters I can empathize with some times and despise other times. Where so much conversations happening around me are polarizing, it’s nice to read a book that reaches for full open conversation and understanding, without surrendering one’s agency. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.
4. Dragon Ridden– Don’t let the cover fool you, this was just fun and well written. There isn’t any messaging in it, it’s just an immersive fantasy read and sometimes that’s enough. Pure escapism, a well-developed fantasy world distinct from earth, and a cast of well-rounded characters. It’s enough. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.
3. End of Days– Dark, thoughtful work with a great balance of action and tense “waiting”. Left me wondering about the conclusion all the way to the end and it leaves just the right amount open ambiguity to make me think about it for days afterward but still find satisfaction with the close given to us. I’m sorry “Traitorborn” is on its second book while “End of Days” is a complete series because I think if I could compare the conclusions of both books, it may flip their positions on this list. Still both books are wonderful. Sold to young adults but they hold positives for all age groups.
2. Card of Chaos– Complex, excellent execution, everything I look for in the retelling of classic fairytale/folklore. It begins with humor and ends in affection. I like how the author draws the reader in and connects us with this strange if familiar world. Loved the beautiful scenes, the deep philosophy and the language. It may be my second favorite book of the year, but it’s my first recommendation to others.
1. The Book of Etta– Enjoyed every second. I know this is a polarizing book because it explores gender roles, what gender is, and whether sex and gender can be two separate things. The beauty of this book: it can explore the internal struggle being genderqueer/trans/gay/bi ect often brings and ignore all the political bullshit that’s happening in our own world. Here we can enjoy a human vs self moment. We can see all the factors in the book which exacerbate the struggle and rail against them without hating our own culture. Sometimes the call to action in a book can cut short a person’s thoughtful introspection, but The Book of Etta lacks this baggage and I’m beyond grateful. Where the first book took a premise, I didn’t feel was true but expounded on it in a way that pushed me to read on, Etta felt right from the first words. I knew Etta, I’d been Etta, and I sometimes still am Etta. I knew Flora and have been her too. Heck, there was a part of me that felt like I’d been Alma before and that I knew her. The beauty of this book is that it allowed me to feel and it allowed me to celebrate so many aspects of who I am as a person. Everyone will have a different time reading it. But, it’s the jewel of my 2018 reading list.
Happy New Year! What were your five favorite reads of 2018? Was your reading list similar? Do you have any recommendations for me? What are your reading goals for 2019?
image from Goodreads.com
It has been a while since starting one of these recommend blogs. In reviewing the others, it seems I always pick up a book with hesitation. Tree of Ages is no different. While I was fascinated with the idea a tree becomes human (I have a love for plant stories and non-traditional sentience), I was worried it would be one of those “chosen one with amnesia stories.” We’d find out it wasn’t a tree becoming human but a human who became a tree and then returned human for— reasons. It’s a fantasy trope.
And Tree of Ages is about a human-ish character who became a tree returning to her original form with amnesia. So, if what I feared is true, why did I enjoy the series? First, because tree girl insists for the first third of the story arc she IS a tree and if she is not a tree, she prefers being a tree. It explores all the tree sentience vs human sentience desired, plus readers get to hear about tree superiority. I enjoy stories where human forms are not the default “best” choice. Through fantasy speculation of this variety, I think we invite conversations about different levels of humanity, and observing what may be just different instead of better or worse. It also creates compassion and likeness to the rest of nature.
Tree of Ages has a HUGE ensemble cast and all of them are developed with story arcs. There are fifteen characters I can think of just off the top of my head who connect with readers. Granted Sara C. Roethle has five books to make these connections, but she starts strong in book one with eight characters and she keeps adding.
I appreciated that the story in these pages was about characters. Yes, a bunch of action happens around the characters, but the action never drives the story, the characters decisions/desires/weaknesses move the plot forward. It’s refreshing to have a solid sense of place, history, and change while also allowing the characters to use personality to move forward.
Is the series perfect? No. I have conflicted feelings on how gay and bi characters were represented. Kudos to Roethle for including diversity of gender and sexuality. I loved how women were portrayed, but there are flaws in her portrayals of gay and bi characters. All of her gay/bi characters start off or remain villains. The one bi character is first portrayed as a lesbian and she falls in love with a male character as she “lightens” and becomes more of a good guy. I don‘t know this was intentional, but I recoiled from that effect.
A gay sailor dies in pain from poison in the swamps and he dies cursing the protagonist. This is sad because his death did not reflect his life. While we, the readers, had minimal interaction, it was clear he had longstanding relationships with two of the cast and he was developing a friendship with Finn, our lead. The bitterness he displayed in death didn‘t match his tone in life.
Aed’s daughter (whose name I can’t recall) appears to be a lesbian (she uses sexuality on both genders but her attraction seems to be fore women), and she is the antagonist for most the series. Even when she‘s not the antagonist, we have sympathy for her without ever liking her. She has a superiority complex and manipulates family and lovers in ways I find abusive.
Belinda, is the lesbian lover of Aed’s daughter and part of her guard. Her arc feels glossed over and rushed in the book, like Roethle couldn‘t figure out her motivations or place within the story. She becomes Finn‘s friend with ease, but she never connects with the crew on any side of the skirmish. She has the opportunity to form lasting relationships with five of the characters and never does, which leaves her an odd and floating in space character.
I’d overlook some of these messed up relationships but the straight counter parts are more healthy. There‘s the ever present annoying love triangle and there is a lot of unhealthy baggage with it. So much, I thought the characters would end up in a threesome (and note to writers, just add the threesome if that‘s what you want, don’t dance around it with a love triangle where everyone respects each other and is friends afterward). Having deep relationships with both people at the same time feels a little like exploiting each person since it lacks an open conversation, but each relationship makes sense and appears to have the right give and take. There‘s a marriage where the development seemed abrupt but over all healthy. The bi character‘s straight relationship is healing for her (which portrays straight relationships as a positive WHILE implying that gay relationships result from trauma so double bad). Even the villainous pair end up in what appears to be a loving straight relationship.
Overall, I recommend the series. It’s a series where the goals change as characters learn more and evolve, but where readers are always rooting for their favorites. I like that no one person’s destiny seems carved in stone and the cast changes rolls as the novels progress. I wish the inclusion of gay/bisexual characters was handled more mindfully, but there‘s so much unique going on in the series, I can still recommend it as a whole work.
Take Aways from Sara C. Roethle’s Success:
1. Women have a place in high fantasy and you do not have to make them special or otherwise justify their presence. Let male and female characters exist as they are without an exposition dump. (this applies to any “minority” character in any genre)
2. While a strong sense of place and world building is necessary to creating memorable and lasting fantasy environments, it does not have to drive the plot. Set the story, let it present options, but don‘t fight if your characters pick a third path the setting doesn‘t seem to offer.
3. Make your story about the character relationships. It’s not “wishy washy” for characters to change their minds, become heroes/villains in their own right, or to decide something they never would consider 100 pages back. So long as the change develops during those 100 pages it becomes a compelling full study of the decision along with the results that come from making certain choices. Write a complete story with a beginning, middle, and an ending. Be confident in your characters and larger world building. People will read more because they like what you wrote not because you left them on a cliffhanger.
4. Relationships can develop without a lot of angst or sexual tension. While there are problems with how Roethle portrays relationships like some of the people who end up together show what I consider friendship without the push to romance (this is bad because it perpetuates the idea that close relationships=sexual elements and that’s NOT true in real life or in fiction), she does a wonderful job creating loyalty and tenderness in her characters. As someone who skips sex scenes and rolls my eyes when there’s too much “attraction” build up in a story, I appreciated that she chose to skip it.
Wondering why Kindle Unlimited? Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited
What do I want in a book? Here’s 9 elements I enjoy.
For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews. Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer? Or consider “9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me), or “7 Steps I take Before Writing a Bad Review.”
1. Wait a few days. Sometimes the initial rage a book gives me fades. Cooler heads prevail and some stuff that made me angry was subjective and not a reason to slam a book.
2. Reread the summary. Did the summary match what I read? Sometimes I expect things from a book it didn’t deliver. Was that me or was it the summary that made my perceptions not line up with reality?
3. Check the genre. I am looking for fantasy reads, preferably Urban Fantasy for an adult audience. I spend a lot of time settling for Young Adult, Paranormal Romance and so on. Sometimes what I hated is a genre standard, and I try not to hate on a book because it’s a romance with fantasy elements and I wanted the reverse.
4. Look at what else the author published. A book catalog sometimes puts a book in perspective and allows me to be kinder.
5. Read another book by that author. Sometimes I need to live in that writer’s style for over one book before I relate to what he or she is doing.
6. Read other people’s reviews. Did someone else enjoy something I missed? Was this book just not meant for me? Others perspectives can help.
7. I focus on what I liked about the book. What kept me reading? If I finished the work there must be some redeemable qualities, what drove me forward and is that more powerful than what annoyed me?
Tell me about your process. Do you refrain from commenting on bad work? Do you dive into a bad review without pause? Do you try to be balanced or lean in to your personal views? Tell me anything related book reviews or what you love/hate in books.
Looking for more posts about the reviews process? Check out my personal blog where I wonder: “Does writing a bad review hurt me as a writer?” Or read more with the North Alabama Writers’ Group with “Would You Rather?” a question on which kind of negative feedback you’d prefer to see.
If you’re looking for positive reviews try my Kindle Unlimited series. So far I recommend the Secondborn Series and the Dragon Ridden Series. Let me know if you have other thoughts or suggestions. And as always, feel free to check out my Goodreads profile to see all the good and bad reviews.
Cover from goodreads.com
I am always skeptical when I pick up a book. There are too many deceiving summaries and too many bad books with high reviews. To make matters worse, I’m someone who has to finish a book once it’s started. Because there are so many unpleasant tropes in high fantasy, the books are often long and lack resolution. I HAVE to see things to the end, so I avoid reading them, even though I like fantasy.
Despite all my hesitation, Dragon Ridden drew me in and left me charmed. The first book is a perfect story. Tate is loud, sassy, and smart. I love following her around. Her best traits: intelligence and suspicion are also the traits that get her most in trouble. She’s inquisitive, loyal, and never gives up.
The world T. A. White depicts is familiar but different. In many aspects, it reminds me of a scifi/fantasy crossover like Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonriders of Pern. Humans exist, but it divorces them from the history and geography of our world. Also, there are other species we associate as “magical” that these works frame as science born. Ancient lost technology and knowledge pepper the Dragon Ridden series and speaks to the inner seeker in all readers.
Can I gush “girl power” for a moment and just say how amazing it feels to read a strong female lead who doesn’t ooze femininity? Tate is what I’d consider a “brawler” type character. She lets her mouth run away with her and finds herself in fights. Tate can’t take two steps without finding herself in some kind of trouble. I love there is no moment where we have to hear about how Tate is “not ladylike” or where she’s “not like other women”. The others tease her for what a trouble magnet she is, but that’s who she is not what her gender prescribes.
I love she never uses her “feminine wiles” to get information, sneak into places, or gain allies. I love she never looks at a dive bar and thinks “I have to be careful cause I’m a girl and men are drunk and rape-y in there”. I love she expects equal treatment from captains, kings, negotiating delegations, and barkeeps and they treat her the same as her male compatriots. And all this happens without us ever enduring a scene about Tate being “unusual” for a woman “more level headed” or whatever that sets her apart and lets her be one of the guys. T. A. White just writes her in as an equal and lets us enjoy that without feeling compelled to justify it.
To be fair, there are few other female characters surrounding Tate. Their lack implies something “special” about Tate (at least in the human side other races have powerful female players). But it’s so refreshing that no male character addresses how “improper” Tate is that I don’t care if other human women are more “traditional”. The closest anyone comes to telling Tate to “fem it up” is when she’s going to formal events, they shove her in a dress. Truthfully, I could do without the “women clothes are uncomfortable and restrictive” bit but when that’s the most bullshit your character gets for being a woman in what seems like a male dominated world, I’m in. Aspiring writers, do you want to know what you do when you’re writing a female character in a man’s world? Do this, don’t address it, act like her presence is normal and accepted. Don’t make her some special snowflake we have to keep addressing in the narrative, just make everyone accept her without blinking.
Beyond world building and character building, the plot pacing in these stories is perfect. There are not parts in any of these books I skimmed, looking to pull through to something interesting. Everything T. A. White includes feels important to the narrative and engaging to the reader. She often has multiple mysteries and sub plots going on in a single story and she adds red herrings along with peppering character development in across the books. I read during my breaks at work, and this series became difficult to read during those times because I wanted to sit in the break room and keep reading. It was one of those books I’d take home and read instead of coming home and writing as I’d planned.
Even better than perfect pacing, each book comes to a conclusive ending. While I tore through the series, it is because I wanted more delightful writing. I couldn’t get enough of what T. A. White was doing, not because I NEEDED to know the ending. For the record, the third book in the Dragon Ridden Chronicles has such a conclusive ending, I had to go online to see if there are plans for a fourth book. Amazing news: T. A. White plans to write a 4th book!
Take Aways from T. A. White’s Success:
1. Women have a place in “high fantasy” and you do not have to make them special or otherwise justify their presence. Let male and female characters exist as they are without an exposition dump. (this applies to any “minority” character in any genre)
2. Sprinkle in world and character building across the series. I need not know everything all at once.
3. Give characters nicknames if they are catchy and encapsulate an element of the character. This is the one series where giving the same character multiple names didn’t confuse me, and it worked because we all call the character one name and that nickname is based on their attributes.
4. Mix fantasy and scifi elements together. Tech and magic are not exclusive.
5. Write a complete story with a beginning, middle, and an ending. Be confident in your characters and larger world building. People will read more because they like what you wrote not because you left them on a cliffhanger.
Wondering why Kindle Unlimited? Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited
Cover Art from Goodreads
Along my reading, I picked up Amy A. Bartol’s Secondborn. Even as someone who thrives on the drama of a YA post apocalypse world, I didn’t expect to like this book. I’d just been burned by the likes of Death Thieves and The Hundredth Queen. All three YA books trying to take advantage of my love of The Hunger Games and all three of books have 4 star reviews in Amazon and Goodreads. When will these writers get that what made Hunger Games amazing wasn’t just the kids fighting in the arena? So, curious despite myself, I picked up Secondborn expecting it to either disappoint or be a guilty pleasure.
Instead Secondborn and it’s sequel Traitor Born were a joy read and touch on larger conversations we need to have in today’s world. Bartol focuses on the heart of what’s great in post apocalypse YA: the transformation of the main character and their perception of the world around them. First, I appreciated Roselle as a savvy character who avoids the “ignorant for the sake of exposition” trope. From the beginning, Roselle shows she is a smart character aware of differing undercurrents even if she’s not sure of how deep those waters flow. Her thoughts and feelings change as she has new experiences and uncovers more schemes in the world around her.
Through Roselle the reader learns to empathize with many perspectives. By the time I finished the second book, Traitor Born, I was no longer sure there was a “good side” or “bad side”. It’s a rare risk for a writer to twist the bad characters into ones we might understand and to muddy the water so we despite the good characters. I read plenty ambiguous characters or where one “side” transforms into not the villain/not the hero, but leaving a reader with no character to trust or side with is bold and exciting. Even as I can’t “support” or “root” for any one outcome, I empathize with them. I want relief for these characters, but it’s not to accomplish their goals.
Amid this shifting terrain, Roselle sinks, struggling with PTSD, and a series of complicated interpersonal relationships. Her flashbacks, the way she falls to pieces in key moments and rises in others, and how she struggles with drugs feels authentic and relevant. I thought I’d decided about who I wanted with Roselle as allies or friends, who Roselle should work with and who she should keep at arm’s length, but Traitorborn makes me question the decisions I made. There’re dangerous edges on everyone and redeeming qualities. I resented my favorite ally from the last book, forgot how evil/distasteful another character was because he has these moments of genuine connection, and I thought someone who was once a snake in the grass might become a true ally.
And I haven’t even gotten to the science fiction. Unlike The Giver or The Hunger Games, that keep technology vague and only available to isolated pockets of society, Secondborn distributes the technology to everyone. The gadgets themselves aren’t innovative, chips in webbing or right hands to track and grant access, hover vehicles and airships, robots who are servants/guards/trackers/medics, and a weapon that seems a cross between a light sabre and a plasma gun. All ideas I’ve seen before right? Bartol re-images these ideas to give a fresh unique society. The world and the devices of it feel lived in and true. Beyond the existing tech, Bartol continues to introduce upgrades and improvements to her tech. It starts in one spot with these flaws and then a patch comes out. The upgrades make her world feel more real and provide new challenges for her characters to overcome.
I’m glad I read the first two books (even if both endings are cliffhangers) and am looking forward to the third installment. If you like a future society where teens and young adults have to fight for their lives, you will enjoy this series. While a simple premise, the layers of nuance make it enjoyable and thought provoking to many age groups.
Take Aways From Bartol’s Success:
1. Don’t be afraid to market an idea another book/work made famous just BRING VALUE, don’t expect other’s success to sell a sub par work
2. Have complicated dynamic characters and don’t limit quantity. Readers can keep up with you as long at each character has a personality-and embrace the baggage being in traumatic situations leaves these characters. Let them have flashbacks, PTSD, aggressive or tearful reactions to simple daily events.
3. Don’t shy away from near future tech in your science fiction. Embrace the evolution of these systems to make them feel real and dynamic within your world.
4. Female leads can be emotional and strong/combat oriented. Roselle is a great balance of action/battle training and intelligent emotional thinking.
5. Have a kick-ass looking personal website. Just look at Bartol’s website, the graphics and layout make me want to read her work more than her covers! She’s inviting her readers’ imagination to tackle fan fiction for her characters, and through their fannish excitement, spread her work to new audiences.
Wondering why Kindle Unlimited? Here’s 7 reasons I read this way.
Looking for more conversation on reviews? Try “Would you Rather…” or “Does Being Critical in Reviews Hurt me as a Writer?” or consider “9 Things That Make a Book Good (For Me)” or “7 Steps I take Before Writing a Bad Review.”
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?
1. “Motherland” by Jasmine Ang started Feb strong. Emotionally charged, the work explores the theme of separation. The “science fiction” angle comes in, I believe, by providing an example of how technology both lessens the sense of separation and intensifies it. Feb is the coldest month of the year here in Alabama so feelings of isolation and sorrow seem to dovetail my weather perfectly.
2. “Lingua Flanka” by David M. Armstrong was heavy handed. The opening and the middle felt intellectually insulting. I’m including it because it covers themes that I think are important to discuss but even then, the work feels muddied. Like Armstrong wanted to be controversial but didn’t understand how to do even that basic part well. I appreciate the attempt for artists by interspersing different narrative elements, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Great theming and ambition.
3. “Dispell” by Preston E Dennett was cute. The fantasy theme was notable, and given my preferences, made me more likely to enjoy it. There were elements that I found distasteful. The female voice, in particular, felt stilted, as if the author had never spoken for very long with a woman or as if the author has only known and women in very shallow ways. But I thought the punch line at the end was worth the read. And I want to give the author some props for trying to explore an element of society it seems clear he doesn’t get. There’s both a thoughtful and boorish execution to it.
4. I really love Mary E. Lowd’s work. “Heart of the Gas Giant” is a continuations of her other stories. I’m beginning to see a larger picture where her characters go to the same places in space to achieve different goals, or where we will focus on a different main character but still get an update on the last main character. Her ability to summarize the last stories in a line or two, are pretty inspiring. I’d like a collection of all her little works in a larger work. She brings a childlike joy and wonder to the vast array and variation of space. But her stories are written in a way I think all ages could appreciate them.
5. “Resolve, in Four Heartbeats” by Kell Rajasalu is great. The work is confusing in several angles, but by the end, I understood the basics of what had happened and felt like I’d read a longer arch than she’d offered. She had deeper characters in her short than make authors achieve in novel length works.
6. I really enjoyed “Kicking the Football” by Margaret Sessa-Hawkins. It’s sweet and very tightly written. While it has a huge advantage because it’s about characters we are all largely familiar with, it still successfully captivates it’s own unique concept. This to me, is the spirit of excellent fan fiction and what elevates something from copyright infringement to it’s own concept.
7. “The Ones Who Chose the Rain” by George Edwards Murray was a sad story. I don’t know exactly what I liked, possibly the genre, but the work struck me. It’s filled with ennui and pain. Don’t read if you’re depressed.
8. “Introducing Your Parents to the Spoils of Adventure” by Bryan McNab was funny, told in second person, and fantasy genre. What more do you need?
9. “The Sword” by Mari Ness was a fun update on a “classic” medieval scenario. I didn’t love it, but it was a cute short story with a reasonable close. There was a story earlier this month that I waffled on whether in include and ultimately dismissed it because there wasn’t enough going on and this one made it in because there was a “diverse voice” and I am swayed by scenes I see less if even when I think they lacked some indefinable element.
10. “Fight for the Stars” by Shannon Fay was a well constructed complete world. She took a story that I’d have hated to see play out in the three hour movie and boiled it down to an enjoyable 1000 words. The story kept me engaged in each word. Instead of liking it “in spite of it’s length” as I do many short stories, I actually think the format os part of what allowed me to be taken in and really become enchanted by it.
Overall, February was an interesting month for Daily Science Fiction. The works I chose were by authors who had a lot less on their resumes than last month’s authors. I wonder if there is a trend to how Daily Science Fiction groups it’s works. It has felt random as a reader, but collecting through collecting all the works I found value in, I hope to find patterns. Impatience is a major fault of mine though, so I’ll have to see what next month brings!
Want to check out January’s Science Fiction picks? Check it out here