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.
I’m often asked about the villains I write. When writing villains I try to keep in mind that they are real people too. There is a reason they turned to evil; at some moment in their life there was a decision made, a turning point happened. That’s what I try to explore. I want to dive deeper into the psyche of the villain, show the reader that under the exterior there is a hurting person there. And if the reader feels some sympathy for the villain, then I’ve done my job.
In FEARLESS, Mitch Albright is one such villain. Wounded, he has chosen the path of destruction and is desperate to get what he craves the most.
Enough of that, now on to the winners from yesterday’s drawing:
MIRROR IMAGE: Jason Sessions
THE LAST HUNT: Nancy (@ciclodiva)
DARKNESS FOLLOWS: Annie VZ
FEARLESS: esdluquillo (Betsy)
FEARLESS: Brian Stansell
FEARLESS: Cathy Groover
Now, for today’s giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment stating your favorite villain of all time. I don’t care who it is or where he’s from. Favorite villain of all time. Let’s have it. Mine? Max Cady, Robert De Niro’s character in Cape Fear. That guy seriously creeped me out.
FEARLESS, my newest thriller officially releases tomorrow and in my book (pun inteneded) that calls for a celebration. And to celebrate I want to give away some books.
Today, leave a comment to this blog post and get in on the drawing to win a copy of THE LAST HUNT (an e-short story), MIRROR IMAGE (an e-short story), or FRANTIC (my 5th thriller). Contest ends at midnight.
Come back tomorrow. I’ll be giving away copies of the short stories and FEARLESS as well as another book!
First of all, thank you so much for your birthday and anniversary wishes both on this blog and Facebook and Twitter. We had a wonderful week on Maryland’s eastern shore just relaxing and spending time together as a family. It was one of those vacations you don’t want to end but reality knocks on the door and won’t be turned away. Life, with all its responsbilities and bills and schedules and duties will not be ignored.
Enougt of that, though, and on to the winners of the books.
The winner of a copy of Frantic is Whitney!
The winners of Rearview are Kyle W. and Ryan K.!
Congratulations to each of you. I’ll be contacting you shortly for you information. Thank you everyone for the kind comments you left. You uplifted me . . . again!
Last week I opened a new contest where the winner would receive a signed copy of my latest thriller, FRANTIC, and a Skype or phone conversation with me. To enter all one had to do was purchase my new novella, REARVIEW, for $1.99, then leave a comment on my blog.
The results are in and the winner of the book and chat is . . .
Congratulations, Tim. I’ll be in touch with you shortly so we can arrange a time to hook up.
Thank you to all who entered. I hope to do this again as I want to make an effort to talk more with readers, hopefully face to face.
This is for a couple reasons. One, honestly, it’s just a bad idea. Why would I shine the spotlight on someone’s disappointment with my work? And two, I don’t like to dwell on bad reviews. Sure they sting temporarily, but I’ve grown pretty thick skin and can easily brush the negative away.
But sometimes it just hurts.
I share this review with you for no other reason than to give you a glimpse into the heart of a writer. Most negative reviews I read, I frown, and I move on. Oh well. Not life-altering stuff. But every now and then I’ll get one that stabs at my heart and sticks with me. I can’t seem to shake it.
This was one of them. It showed up on Amazon and it has been haunting me since I read it.
I don’t know what kind of copyright laws Amazon has so you can go to the site and read the review here. (It’ll open in a new window).
It pains me that I was the one chance this guy gave Christian fiction and he was so disheartened and disappointed he vowed to read no more. Ugh.
I applaud this reader for giving it a try. I’m sorry he spent his hard-earned money and in the end was not satisfied with the product. Please, don’t post any negative comments on his review. He was honest and respectful and I appreciate that. I’m just sorry the story never really reached him.
One of the worst things about these kind of reviews is that the author never gets a chance to talk to the reader. I wish I could sit down with this gentleman and discuss the issues he had with the story. I’d like to ask him not to let me be the sole representative for Christian fiction. Try it again; there’s some really good stuff out there that doesn’t have supernatural elements, stuff I know he would enjoy.
Life happens at the speed of now. Know the feeling?
So much has been going on lately at times it feels like my head is spinning and my eyes can’t focus on any one thing. I’m in the midst of a writing perfect storm.
Editing A Thousand Sleepless Nights. Writing The Prodigy. Promoting Frantic and Rearview (my 7 Hours novella that releases in May).
Here are some important updates:
Editing for A Thousand Sleepless Nights is almost finished. It releases in October. To see the cover and keep up with my alter ego, Michael King, visit his blog where he posts regularly.
My next suspense novel, The Prodigy, is underway. I have a June 1 deadline and A LOT to write. Am I panicked? Not yet, but in a couple weeks I will be.
**IMPORTANT** I know I announced a little while ago that my next novel would be a sequel to Frantic. But as things usually go in the publishing world, plans changed. The sequel will have to put on the back burner. The Prodigy is another stand alone but I promise you’ll love this story. It’s full of intrigue and mystery, action, and of course, suspense.
Rearview releases in just a few weeks along with the other six 7 Hours novellas. Initially, they will only be available as e-books through all the major outlets. Priced at $2.99, I hope they all sell well and fast. Be on the lookout for them. When they release I think they’ll be offered at a special price.
**MAJOR IMPORTANT** Starting in May, I will no longer be blogging on this site. The site will be devoted to information about my books, speaking, teaching, and other writing. All my interactions and articles and whatever else will take place on my Facebook author page. If you haven’t “liked” it yet, please do so and check in often. I’d love to hear from you.
That’s it for now. I’ll give one more heads-up about this site at the end of April.
Sometimes, life takes turns you just have to make a big deal about.
Come back here tomorrow for a major announcement that might be one of the most important changes in my writing career to date.
And to celebrate I’ll be giving away three copies of Frantic. Details tomorrow!
What you have to do:
(1) Go to THIS POST and leave a comment with the name of the person who should receive the book.
(2) Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name and address of the recipient.
That’s it. Give someone the gift of a FREE book and help introduce new readers to some great thrillers 🙂