Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Constructive vs. Nonconstructive Reviews

There has always been the debate whether to look at reviews or not to. I’ve had my share of depression over book reviews, and have been delighted as well. It’s very much a rollercoaster of emotions. Unfortunately, most of the reviews on my books are on Goodreads, not the best place to have them.

However, I found a perfect example of a constructive negative review versus a just plain mean review. It makes me question if the latter was even based on actually reading the manuscript.

Here is what I consider a constructive review and am indebted to the person who wrote this because it gave me some very informative insights to my writing, and even though snarky, it had humor.

“God, if I never hear of another character "let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding" it will be too soon.

It appears in almost every book that I read these days, twice in this one, and it NEVER fails to make me roll my eyes so hard it borders on ridiculous. It's like reading an Anne Rice book and having a mental count going on the word "preternatural". Enough, give it a rest already.

It. Has. Been. Done. (to freaking death, so find another trendy phrase to 'dead horse' already)

Sorry, consider my 'pet peeve' nerve officially struck.

Anyway, this book really left me with a lot of questions:

Who? -- Who in their right mind would date, much less agree to a full-on commitment ceremony with someone who told them right up front that "if the love of my life ever shows back up again, you're out on your ass, sorry." ??? Jonathan blew me away with that one.

What? -- What was up with the whole hip injury / intense pain deal with Thad. "We need more character detail, let's add that." Didn't add anything to the book and they never explained exactly how getting stabbed 14 times would mess up your hip of all things that badly. It was weird.

When? -- When were either Shea and Clarissa going to bitch slap their dumbass brothers? I kept waiting (hoping, actually) for it, but it never came. *Sigh*.

Where? -- Where is at least ONE story about one thing, no matter how small that made Thad fall in love with Haydin? It's more like "you're hot, I'm hot, let's be hot together." Reasons, people. Reasons. It makes a story line so much more complete. We got none of that here.

Why? -- If Haydin was so in love with Thad, even 13 years after Thad's departure, could the CEO of a company not be smart or curioius enough to at least GOOGLE "Thad Carmichael"? Zero sense on that one.

I really wanted to like Thad and Haydin more than I ended up actually doing, but with just a bit of tweaking it could have definitely rated higher.

I really loved the Shea and Clarissa characters and would almost have rather been reading their story instead.”

Nothing this reviewer said made me feel as if I needed to defend myself, or made me feel degraded or worthless as a writer. It was precise and to the point and made me “think”, which I feel is what constructive criticism and negative reviews are all about. Much better than the following.

“This story was is singular in it's ridiculousness.
There are sooo many things that are just silly. Silly, the word doesn't even encompass the sheer WTF this story is...
I kept reading and I don't know why! I think I wanted to see if the WTFness would just 'keep on, keeping on.'
And it did!!!
Beyond the silliness/ridiculous was the 'telling' of what had been said or what was done or what happened. Paragraphs of telling and telling and full conversations back and force sentences of telling. No actual dialogue, just paragraphs of 'here's what happened'.
Consider the 'telling' a new pet peeve.”

The differences are so blatantly obvious! There are no examples, just a bunch of words strung together that mean nothing. The intent, in my opinion, is to degrade the story, and therefore the author. There is nothing constructive about this review. The only part I understand (and I’m not sure it actually relates to my story) is the pet peeve at the end. Even I will agree that if a story is full of nothing by “telling” versus “showing”, it can be annoying. But that was all I got out of it.

Most authors would be ecstatic to receive nothing but great reviews, but honestly, how can you grow as a writer with only kudos under your belt? No one author is perfect (even large mainstream authors make mistakes), so I will keep the first reviewers “questions” in mind as I write and hope that his comments help make me a better author.