Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Want Me To Write What?

This post is my late edition of Manuscript In Motion Monday (MIMM). I know, I know, it isn't Monday anymore (nor has it been for several days) but I really struggled coming up with a post for this topic "You Want Me To Write What?", and in truth, almost gave up. Kasey shared an experience of having a friend ask for help with a written legal request, and though feeling inadequate, was able to rise to the task, using her talents and skills with the written word.

I've never done anything like that. I've never been asked to write something out of my comfort zone, and until recently, at least a few of my friends didn't even realize I do write. Why is that? I guess I just don't talk about it much, except on my blog, or with other writer friends.

So as I was formulating a written apology to Kasey for coming up empty with this weeks MIMM post, I had a thought.

It's something I've been wanting to talk about for a few weeks.

Critiques. And I'm not talking about the writer's group kind. I'm talking about the kind we usually label 'reviews' and slap up on Amazon and goodreads, etc.

I've read my share of amazing books. The kind you talk about and blog about and tell your friends about. I have no problem gushing about these books.

I've read my share of so-so books. The kind that were enjoyable to read, but you don't think much about after you turn the last page, and never really mention to others.

And I've read my share of terrible books. The kind that when you get to the end, you think, "Why did I bother to finish?". Those books are the easiest to criticize. And sometimes they are so horrible, I feel compelled to write up a critical review outlining all of their faults.

And then I realize, Why? Who am I to criticize this author? Is my opinion so important, that others should listen and heed?

There's been a few times I've looked a book I hate up on Goodreads to find it has a rather high rating and an equally large fan base. I'm just not one of them. And you know what? That's okay. Not everybody loves every book. But I certainly don't have to verbally attack the author because of it.

Which reminds me of the following Disney villain and one of the things he said:

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."
~ Anton Ego, Disney's Ratatouille

Shannon Hale also weighed in on this topic here.

What do you think, o ye book reviewers and published authors? Is there a place for positive and negative review? Is there a line that reviewers shouldn't cross, or does even the vicious and cruel have a place? If I read a really bad book, should I write an equal review?

Tell me what you think...


  1. Mandi,
    I've never left a bad review (if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all- and silence speaks volumes), but I think there is a way to share honest opinions respectfully and I think it has its place in the literary world. If I had to share a less-than-stellar opinion I would approach it from my viewpoint. Example: "I've never enjoyed romance, so that might be why this book didn't capture me" or "I've never been a fan of science ficiton so the technical language was a turn-off for me." (those are random examples- not my personal truths) That way another reader can say "she doesn't like this type of book, but I do. Maybe I'll give it a shot." Always leave room for others to have credible differences. The internet makes us forget that people are real and vulnerable. If we are civil in our honesty, there is room for honesty. But if in doubt, maybe say nothing at all!

    1. I feel the same way about the golden rule, which is another reason I usually just opt out of leaving negative ones.

      The question that remains is, what is the point of negative reviews if no one ever leaves one? Without the negative, we can't have the positive, right? Would there be a point in a rating system if everybody only handed out five stars? Or do we even need a rating system?

      I like your approach to the idea though...

  2. Hi Mandi,
    I agree with Tapper. I wrote a bad review once about a book that frustrated me, but I pulled it off goodreads after a few days because it just felt mean. I don't want to be mean and I saw that there were plenty of reviews from people who loved it.
    I did find writing my bad review cathartic, and it educated me as a reader identifying specifically why the book didn't appeal to me. But in the end, I felt like sharing my peeves was unnecessary. People are different and opinions can change. I've come back to books a second time and wondered what was it I used to love about it, or been unable to understand how I had put it down before.

    1. I agree. Even talking to a friend about a bad book is cathartic, especially if they felt the same way. But to put it out in the world as though it is the final word? That's where I struggle with finding my opinion on this issue. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks, Mandi! I really appreciate your comments on this topic and for participating in MIMM! This is a touchy topic, and I'm not even sure where I stand on it.

    As an author, I appreciate constructive criticism, but does that have a place when a book is already published? I agree with Tapper that there are ways to tastefully give your opinion without bashing and at the same time leaving your words open to interpretation. I laugh at how much people criticize Twilight books, because yes, they're a little cheesy, but they were written for teenagers, not to be literary masterpieces. They contain a good, entertaining story that's just a fun read (granted, some people's die-hard fandom have overblown them a bit, which might be part of the distaste factor) and to expect them to be anything more will lead to disappointment. I get irritated with the people who put down Stephenie Meyer and her books because they're popular or because she's not James Joyce.

    Simply put, I think both positive and less-than-positive reviews are necessary, but don't knock something based solely on personal taste. Hmm...I think that's all I have to say. :-)


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