writing tips

On Staying Silent: Review Etiquette

So…I had a little hissy fit last week. It was not my finest moment. Normally, I get a bad review and I react in one of the following ways:

  • ‘Damn, that’s a good point. Why didn’t I realise that before I submitted?!’
  • ‘Damn! THAT’S SO TRUE! WHY AM I AN IDIOT? CRAP!’
  • ‘Huh, that’s funny. I never noticed that. Better not do that in the next book.’
  • ‘Oh well, I wasn’t sure if that would work. That’s a shame.’
  • ‘Dude, I didn’t choose the title! That’s not my fault!’
  • ‘Dude, I didn’t choose the cover! That’s not my fault!’
  • ‘Dude, I didn’t tell you to read this book when you read one with a similar storyline last week!’
  • ‘Oh well, ya win some, you lose some.’
  • ‘Well…you really didn’t get what I was going for there…I’m not gonna question who’s fault that is, because a bunch of other people got it.’
  • ‘Oh…I wonder if you’re a writer who’s trolling…’
  • ‘Wow, I really feel like you know me and have purposefully tried to carve out my heart with a spoon- how can you possibly hate me this much?’

Last week, however, I was overwhelmed with the fact that I could answer a lot of the points this reviewer had made. That I could tell them I’d done the research, that in fact, yes this could happen. I wanted to tell them not to judge me on the title. I wanted to tell them that patting me on the head because 2 stars is actually pretty good due to their terribly high standards made me want to chow down on the living flesh of fools wandering in the woods at a full moon.

But I couldn’t. Because professionals don’t do that shit.

So what did I do?

I shouted at Twitter. In a series of 150 characters snippets, I shouted into the void. Not necessarily because I wanted to be heard, but because I wanted to justify myself. Reviewers have the power to determine sales of a book. They can create a buzz, share excitement and help authors become better writers. They can offer critcism because they read so much, but they can also be responsible for boosting a career when they’re a fan.

They also have the power and safety to destroy someone from behind a screen. To ensure a book never sells and never gets heard of again. To be snarky and sarcastic and even vindictive (and that is their right) because they have people who trust their opinions.

Do I think I wrote a perfect book? Hell no. Do I feel the really harsh reviews that tear things apart like scratchings against my soul? Not always, but yeah…sometimes. Especially if the reviewer forgets that writers are human. It’s harder to put something out there than it is to tear it down. There’s a lot more vulnerability in creation than there is in destruction.

Now I know what’s coming here- ‘Man the fuck up! You’re an author! It’s just part of the job!’ I’d like you to name another job where the people who pay your wages tell you on a regular basis that what you’re doing is perfect but is also shit and worthless and they hate you. In an ordinary job, you work to please your boss. In my job, if you do that, you’ll end up writing song-lyric-influenced-epic-wartime-love-story-between-a-werewolf- and-a-dinosaur-that-goes-back-in-time-to-save-earth-from-cowboys. Because every reader is my boss.

We have to write for ourselves. It is only in being marginally pleased with the result that we can put it out into the world less afraid, and with less excuses when the critics come to call.

Is the moral of this story to man the hell up and not care about reviews? No, I’ve met some lovely people through Twitter and the reviewing process. And their views do help make me a better writer. They also help me feel better when things feel a bit crap. So I didn’t shout out into the void when I justified myself to Twitter. I shouted out, and readers responded. And THAT is the moral of the story. Be upset by your reviews if you want, trust your own process, try to write for yourself. But know that somewhere out there is someone who loves what you do, and wants you to keep going.

Uncategorized

Why I Love my Kindle…And Why I Hate Myself For It.

 

I was a steadfast, never-changing, can’t-see-the-point, technology-goes-too-far defender of printed books. The ‘Original Book’ if you will. I spent a year on my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship listening to people defending the uses of e-readers, imploring me to consider changing markets and adapting writing to new ways of reading. I refused. The printed book will never be replaced, and I just wasn’t interested. However, when I needed to start editing other people’s books and stories, and my back was starting to break from dragging my laptop everywhere (which I still do, I’ve just added a kindle to the Big Bag of Doom), I decided to give them a chance.

Reasons I love it:

1. Instantaneous gratification

Ooh, I really want that book. Ooh, it’s coming out today! I can’t get to the shop today. My local bookshop doesn’t stock it. Oh, I don’t want to order it and wait for weeks, I want it NOW. Oh, BLAM, look at that! I have it. Shopping for books is one of the greatest pleasures, I may even prefer it to reading books. Seeing a book that grabs me, and instantly getting to read and enjoy it really feels good.

2. Holidays

I have always been a bookworm. When we went away on holiday, as a kid I had to think very carefully about my packing allowance. I always had three books for the plane (just in case) and five more in my case (for a two week holiday). No more using up all my packing space, weighing down my luggage, or having to make awful torn decisions about which book had to be left behind (poor little thing).

3. People can’t see what you’re reading

I think this was voted the number one favourite thing about e-readers. If I’m reading my typical maudlin YA fiction that I’ve read a hundred times before and probably has nothing to offer me, no one can judge. If I did want to read such absolute shite as Fifty Shades of Grey, or Twilight, I could do so without judgement. Which perhaps should be counted as a negative, as shaming people out of buying such things might be a good idea.

4. Supporting indie authors

It’s pretty easy to publish on Amazon for kindle, or even publish an e-book. For a minimal price, you can instantly support an author trying to make it, you can spend fifty pence and show solidarity without even really having to read the thing. It’s one click to make someone really happy. I’ve found some great stuff on twitter, downloaded it straight to my kindle, and it’s a bit like finding some hidden gems, it wasn’t what you were looking for, but you’re glad you took a chance.

 

images

And some things I just can’t get over:

 

– People can’t see what you’re reading

As a Londoner, I’m quite averse to unnecessary communications on public transport, BUT sometimes it’s nice to have a chat with another book nerd on a bus. When I worked as a barista, it was really easy to start up a conversation with someone about their book. Reading is an internal thing, but the externalising is the talking about it.

You can’t lend books!

This absolutely drives me mad. I recently read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and it was one of the best books I’d read in ages. And whilst I was recommending it to everyone, could I force it on them by physically handing them a copy? No. So e-books are cheaper, but you have to buy them. Again, internalising reading.

On the beach

There’s something very anti-holiday reading about screens and glare and doohickeys and technology. I like the way my pages get crinkled in the sun, and sand gets between the pages. Getting sand on a kindle-fear.

I worry about getting mugged

No-one’s ever going to stop me for my copy of Harry Potter, but for an e-reader worth a hundred quid? My reading on the tube makes me feel like I’ve got to stow everything away going to the ‘dodgier’ parts of London. And that’s not nice.

The Smell

You know what I mean, don’t you?

 

As always, you can buy my book in physical print and on kindle. Because having the best of both is important, right?