Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Blather

In a recent bout of silliness a freshly hatched author decided to lecture readers about how to review books. KJ Charles' post pretty much sums up how I feel about this, so I won't keep kicking the dead horse. However, I have a few stray thoughts on the subject.

1. Reviews are for the readers not for the authors. This seems obvious, but even some of the reviewers themselves seem to be confused about this point. No, sorry, you're not providing constructive feedback to the author. That ship has sailed with critique partners, beta readers, and editors on board. There's no guarantee the author will ever see your analysis of their work. They are under no obligation to read it. If you're writing your reviews for them, you're on the wrong path.

2. There's no wrong way to read a book. The creative process doesn't end with the author. Every single reader brings themselves to the story and bring it to completion. Consequently, no two people experience the same piece of art the exact same way. Without an audience, any artwork is the proverbial tree falling in the forest. Of course, every once in a while you get an interpretation way out of left field. C'est la vie; best to find the humor in it.

The book either stands on its own legs or it doesn't. Once upon a time I went to graduate school, studying art. It might have been a mistake. We spent a lot of time standing around, discussing each others' work using post- and post-post-modern lingo. Or at least the others did, because I sucked at it. My opinion is the same now as was then: if the artwork doesn't draw me in on a visceral level, no amount of smart talk will help.

3. Authors don't need to read the reviews of their books. I'm too curious not to, but I don't blame anyone who doesn't. When I was an undergrad art student, we spent a fair amount of time discussing each others' work without using big words and art theory. And it was good, but it took time to get used to. You go there, proud, showing your creation to your peers and they start picking it apart. It fucking hurts. But if you listen you learn from it and get better.

I have grown a much thicker skin thanks to this experience, but when I receive that constructive feedback from my beta readers, my first instinct is still to kick against it. However, when I begin to consider their points, 99% times I have to admit they're right. The story will improve, but it's a painful process. No wonder authors who are too young and/or inexperienced can't deal with criticism. However, criticism will happen whether you like it or not, so you better buckle up.

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