Is it FAIR for Authors to Review Other Authors? Do We Ruin the Magic?
Wednesday I wrote about the Three Nevers of Social Media, one of which was “don’t flame other writers in reviews.” This then led to yesterday’s post, Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews? And, I have to say, you were all BRILLIANT. I was traveling all day, nearly going blind reading your debate over this issue on my iPhone. Yet, this got me to thinking….
Uh, oh. Right? *smells something burning*
For the moment, hold your digital tomatoes. Bear with me and just noodle this.
Is is fair for authors to write book reviews?
I am not taking a side because I am still pondering the idea, myself.
Writers SEE The Man Behind the Curtain
Most regular people don’t know all that goes into creating the overall “reading experience.” Novelists are like magicians, conjuring another world and imaginary people, places, events with the use of various combinations of 26 letters and punctuation. Black words on a white page. That’s all the material we have to spin worlds from the void.
Granted, some authors are David Copperfield and others more like Creepy Uncle Burney who is “stealing our nose” but we are illusionists all the same.
Regular readers don’t know about POV, three-act structure, pinch-points, turning points, character arc, themes, and all the tricks of the trade that create the
show book. Writers are the jaded adults and regular readers are more like *shrugs* kids. Readers look for the magic, not the overuse of metaphors or the improperly developed symbolism.
I went looking for the comment, but I’ve been awake since three in the morning and traveling all day, so I am bleary-eyed. But one commenter made a particularly insightful remark. In a nutshell, she said:
The book review is NOT critique. Goodreads or Amazon is not the place to dissect the work.
That really stuck with me.
So when we writers do give that review, are we reviewing or critiquing? Is there a difference?
Often a lot of authors don’t find reviews helpful because they are from readers. But a professional reviewer or a fellow author might not necessarily be offering a review, rather a critique and, depending on how many blunders, this can tip over into The Land of We Should Really Talk About This in Private.
Before I Became an Editor…
I LOVED reading. I could just get lost in books and I had an insatiable appetite and read all genres (maybe that’s why my first book was ALL genres, LOL). But I didn’t see the strings and wires. I didn’t notice the trap door because I was focused on the MAGIC, the STORY.
In ways, becoming an editor/writer ruined a lot of my love for fiction (and most movies). There are books I once adored, but now (with new eyes) all I can spot are the problems.
So I do feel the need to throw this out….
Are We Writers Ruining the Magic?
Is it an honest/fair assessment of a work of fiction when WE look at it? It would be like a group of illusionists going to Criss Angel’s show and then ripping apart his show, pointing out the doubles or the hidden key or the trick blades. People just want to be awed.
We know an illusionist isn’t really making that woman float, but we want to be “tricked.” If other illusionists posted scathing reviews, we’d never go to another magic show. We’d become disenchanted because we’d know there was a man behind the curtain and to look for him.
***Note: This is why illusionists never give up their secrets ;). Hmmm, food for thought.
This is Why I Don’t Listen to Film Critics (Or Read Book Reviews)
It’s hard enough enough to enjoy a film as a former editor now author. But I don’t like listening to film critics before I see the movie because they know about movies, screenwriting and even production. They point out a lot of stuff I would have never noticed because I was too busy watching the Enterprise burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
If I watch a movie review (or read a book review) I suddenly am scope-locked looking for all the problems. Often I read reviews AFTER to see if others picked up on the same stuff.
When we look at a piece of fiction, it’s a set of eyes better for critique than review. I think this is why reviewing really IS a skill. Book reviewers and book bloggers have a unique skill set. I think (aside from I never want to hurt anyone and I want a positive brand) this is why I don’t review. It’s too easy for my Editor’s Hat to come on and then I could ruin the magic for readers who would have never seen the false floor had I not pointed it out.
This is Why Beta Readers Are Worth Their Weight in DIAMONDS
Writers make some of the worst beta readers. Sorry, but it’s true. We can nit-pick a good story into a Book-by-Committee faster than the coffee disappears. This is why a lot of novelists have two groups look at a book—the critique group then beta readers.
Piper Bayard just finished a new thriller and I loved it, but I told her to send it to my husband. HE is her readership for this series. Shawn might not spot a POV problem, but he will know if he was entertained. He’ll also be able to articulate as a reader what went wrong or what went RIGHT.
Thus, in a sense, reviews can end up a mixed bag. We have people who are trained and wired to look for every last problem (because we don’t want the typos and such in our own work) giving an opinion.
As I said, I’m not taking a position on this, just opening up the floor to hear what you guys think. Aside from the Golden Rule stuff, do you think it’s possible we could sabotage what regular readers might enjoy had we not written a commentary of the problems?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!