Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Negative Reviews - Yay or Nay?

As of today, I read a "review" on goodreads (I laughed while reading it, and it made me smile) that got me thinking; since when are we as reviewers meant to do anything other than express our complete and honest thoughts on a book while writing a review?

I look at it like this;

My friend had just finished writing her 120,000 word debut (adult, not YA) and is in the process of contacting publishing companies about it. In order to do that, she wrote a resume letter thing – I don’t know the proper terminology, but I’m also not sending in a finished manuscript – and she wanted constructive criticism on it so that it didn’t sound, for lack of better word, stupid. So I did and I made some changes in a separate document, stated why, and gave some other comments – all while being perfectly polite but honest. Needless to say, when I asked her about it later, a look came over her face and she thanked me for being brutally honest. But I could tell that she was a little put off simply because I tore into something that she had been working on for a while.

In my defence, I did what she asked me to do and wasn’t all “too kind” like she didn’t want.

This is how I look upon writing reviews. I’m not about to give up my standards just to not make waves by writing a slightly less than favourable review. If I don’t particularly like a book that I read – whether I was given it to review or I bought it myself – I’m going to say that I didn’t and try to explain why. Sure, I’ll try to be nice about it and try to find something positive to comment on (even if it’s just that the cover was pretty) but there are some books out there that are just piles of steaming BS and nothing short of a miracle and half a brain could redeem them.

Personally, if I were an author, I would want to know exactly what people thought of my work and I wouldn’t want the fan-girl (or guy) gushings. A negative review that’s concise is always worth more than a positive one. At least a negative review gives you something to work from. And if that negative review came from an established author, don’t you think that they would know better than a debut one?

Hell, even while I was in high school and posting things on fictionpress, there was this one person who commented a lengthy comment on ever since chapter of one of my stories and their comments weren’t exactly positive though they were professionally critical and made me see where I went wrong with characters and plot lines. I greatly appreciated those comments because it made me a better writer and it drew my attention to where I should make changes.

But there are some people who go way too far and start bringing in personal attacks on anyone who was involved with the book – and that’s not cool. But sometimes you really do have to wonder what the hell an author was smoking while writing their novel.

Basically, negative reviews are what make authors better if you ask me, so long as they’re honest. I really believe that without them we would be stuck reading about mediocre to horrible characters with bad plot lines and absolutely terrible grammar and vocabulary. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to read something that’s like this:

Female Character 1 – “like omg lol ‘female character 2’ did you see that totally hot stoner kid over there. He was so hot I just want to sleep with him”

Female Character 2 – “omg I totally did and I so want to sleep with him too. Omg I bet he’s totally a vampire so I just want to sleep with him even more. I want him to bit me and make me a vampire like him”

FC1 – “you bitch I totally saw him first”

Male Character – “bitch please why would a vampire want to sleep with you. You’re such a ho”

FC2 – “omg MC1 shut up you’re such an ass”

FC1 and FC2 run away from MC1 and start to totally stalk the stoner dude vampire

That was just painful to write, and without someone to tell me that it was horrible and give criticism (constructive or not) god only knows what would happen if I tried to get it published. Sure, it probably wouldn’t be bought by any publishing house, but who’s to say considering some of the crap that’s out there already.

But this is just my opinion. Let me know what your take on the matter is.

1 comment:

The Slowest Bookworm said...

I'm not a writer, but I think I'd want people to tell me the truth. That's how I write my reviews. I wont slate an author or pull them to pieces, but I will say if I've not enjoyed the book.

I see it like this ... if I cooked a meal for my family and it was bloody awful, I'd expect them to tell me it was horrendous, but maybe in a nice way. If they didn't tell me I wouldn't learn and they'd get it cooked the same way every week and hate it just as much he he he. I know it's not the same as slaving over a book for months or years, but it's a similar analogy.