My Take On . . . Reader Reviews (with some feistiness)
I’m going to make this short and to the point. Reader reviews are what they are. Writing is art and reading is subjective. That whole beauty in the eye of the beholder thing. That’s what is wonderful about it. There’s something for everyone.
Yes, there are certain rules writers should follow that make for “good” writing but even those rules can be broken and broken with success.
But as for the reviews themselves, I put reviews into four categories: Positive about the story; Positive about the craft; Negative about the craft; Negative about nonsense.
I’m not going to dwell on the positive reviews because everyone enjoys positive reviews. For some readers the story captures their imagination or heart and they just love it. For others, the skill of the author impresses them. Positive reviews are awesome. Simple.
Negative reviews are another kind of bird. There are the negative reviews that actually mean something. They touch on the craft of storytelling or the skill of word weaving. Pacing, character development, plotting, etc. This is called constructive criticism. I take these reviews to heart and seek to learn something from them.
Then there are the moronic reviews. Like this one for my family drama, A Thousand Sleepless Nights (written under a pen name, Michael King): The reviewer gave it 2 stars because “I ordered this book because my brother was recently diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I thought this would be a resource book.” Really? It clearly says “A Novel” right on the cover. My heart goes out to the brother and . . . he could still use it as a resource book.
And then there are comments like this attached to 1-star reviews: “Gives you the impression it’s going to be a horror novel, and ends up pounding religion into the reader.” And this: “This book is all about finding God, how your problems will all be solved and all will be right with the world. What a crock. If I want to find religion, I can do it without being tricked into reading a religious book. Shame.” Uh, did they read the book? Yes, it’s about finding God but all is definitely not right with the world. And these are the folks who accuse Christians of being closed-minded. Shame.
These moronic reviews really don’t bother me. They’re part of being a writer and you take ’em as part of the journey.
But sometimes negative reviews hurt. This one for Frantic still puts an ache in my heart. It’s honest and respectful and I appreciate that. I wrote a post on it before that discusses why it hurt so badly.
Other times I’m just baffled by positive vs. negative reviews. The two following reviews exemplify perfectly how subjective reading is. Both are for my short story The Last Hunt.
The positive one: From the first line of the story, Dellosso’s craftsmanship shows through. The story begins with boyhood memories of hunting trips with his dad, his uncle, and his grandfather. The tale includes anecdotes of how the narrator grew up on these hunting trips and approached manhood. Then the story delves into the fateful night and the hunting trip that was the final one. The story is narrated at just the right pace. It is a masterpiece.
And the negative one: I really enjoy Mr. Dellosso’s books, so I thought I would try this short story. It was very disappointing and definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it. The story was rushed and the conclusion just left me confused. Questions were not answered and storylines weren’t finished. I think this would make a good full-length book so that more things could be fleshed out. As a short story, however, it fell way short of the mark.
Did they read the same story? Obviously they did. But you see how the same story can affect people in two totally different ways. For a writer, this is frustrating.
Now, the negative one here would fall into the “Negative about the craft” category and is worth learning from. Except one thing that, I’m sorry, just irks me: “definitely not worth the dollar I spent on it.” I wish this reviewer would have used his real name because I’d gladly track him down and refund his dollar. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Okay, that was a little more than short and sweet. Sorry.
Hey, if you haven’t read my newest thriller, Fearless, yet I’d suggest getting a copy and leaving a review when you’re done. And I’ll thank you ahead of time for any positive or thoughtful negative reviews. But please, if your review is going to be moronic, save your time and skip it. Or don’t use your real name.