Tuesday 29 March 2011

Writing and online reviews

Good (late) night all!

I was on my way to bed, and decided at the last minute to post this, in response to the minor kerfuffle going on at a reviews blog nearby.
There are a couple of reasons why I made that decision, chief amongst them the realisation that I don't want this blog to become a place where I just type out stuff that I wrote 14 years ago that probably isn't very good anyway.
Instead, it's supposed to be about writing, and my opinions on it - whether they're right or wrong.

So here it is.

To give the background to this post, a certain writer has independently (I assume) written and published a novel which was reviewed by an online blog at this link. She decided it wasn't a very flattering review, although it featured a combination of major/minor criticisms as well as some reasonable praise.
As a result, she entered into a very public correspondence with him that may or may not have been terribly wise.

I'm not going to any more about the detail here, nor will I spend any time criticising the author or the blogger specifically, as plenty of other commenters on the blog have already done that. That's not the point here.
Instead, I just want to put forward my own thoughts on the general situation.

As someone who is in the middle of writing a novel, it is a long and time-consuming process. I am depriving myself of (some) sleep, operating at less-than-optimal effectiveness in the rest of my life and generally sacrificing many things - as are my wife and family - to get these crazy obsessive thoughts out of my head and onto a page somewhere, purely and simply so that random strangers I've never met and never will meet will one day read those words and imagine the pictures and events they describe.

{Reading it back, how nuts is that? Why??}

I'm not doing it for self-validation (although the warm feeling of writing a well-constructed sentence is nice).
I'm not doing it for praise (although any and all praise is welcome).
I'm not doing it for money or sales or fame (although those yachts in the Caribbean don't buy themselves).
I'm doing it because I have this story and it wants to get out and be read.

Because of this, I dream of the day that someone reads my book out of a desire to read it, not out of a sense of obligation or duty (even if they end up enjoying it).

The reviewer in question is an amateur (in the sense of not doing it for a living - I'm sure he's very good at it, though I've only read this one review yet), and wasn't forced to read the book because it was his job.
He started the book because he wanted to review it and kept reading it because there was something in it that made the reading worthwhile. He finished the book, and that in itself is praise.

To be honest, that's the only praise I can imagine having at this stage in my writing "career".

Someone turning around and saying to me - I started your book, I read it... and then I finished it.


My book - my writing- was worth reading all the way through?

The thing is that writers are blessed - and cursed, but that's another post - with the ability to take thoughts - stories - and put them down onto a page. Some are better at it than others, some are successful because they pick the right stories and some are not even though they do too.

But we shouldn't lose sight of the primacy of the central part of the whole thing - the reader / story interface. The act of reading and the process by which a reader picks up that book and lets the words seep into their brain.
Everything else is decoration and an irrelevance.

That's why we do it.

And every time a person puts down a book after finishing the final page is a victory.

That's what we're dreaming about, isn't it? If you want to be a writer for any other reason than that, then you're doing it wrong.

So even a bad review is a victory, because at least they read it.
Unless they didn't, of course, but then that's a whole other type of bad review.

Take care!

Mad Iguana.......


  1. Great post! Once I get published (fingers crossed), I'll welcome any all all reviews. You're right. Even if the review is bad, someone took the time to read it. And someone that wasn't an immediate family member or close friend. We should all be so lucky.

  2. Thanks Donna; with any luck we can all get to experience that (although hopefully with better reviews!) sometime soon.