A Writer's Journey

February 20, 2012

Wading Through the Reviews

Filed under: Book Country,journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

This must seem strange, considering one of my previous posts. But this time is slightly different.

I have two books up on Book Country. They are currently first drafts, which I’ve posted for critiques. And I’ve gotten a few reviews there already. For both stories. And I value them all. They’re the reason why I posted such rough drafts on the site. If I need to course correct now, I’d rather do that than when I have the entire draft complete.

I like to respond to reviews. I have since I started writing fanfiction. I feel that if someone takes the time to write a review, I should take the time to respond. Especially if they ask questions. They should get answers, right? Unless it’s a spoiler in nature. I don’t like the give away spoilers.

But now comes an internal debate. What to do with the suggestions? In some ways, I feel like I should use them all. But then how do I reconcile differing opinions? Do I need to?

Maybe those aren’t the questions I need to answer. The real question is: How do I politely dismiss the ideas I do not think will work? How do I decide which suggestions to dismiss in order to stay in touch with my vision?

I don’t have the answers right now. I’ll probably have the answers soon. At least I hope so. Especially before I send my manuscript (both of which are still far from finished) to a professional proofreader. If I can’t find the balance in a community of supportive fellow writers, how will I find it with a professional? With an agent? An editor? A publisher?

So many questions. Fortunately, there’s still time to find the answers.

Advertisements

6 Comments »

  1. You don’t seem to have this problem with my suggestions. Is it because I don’t count as a fellow writer? 😛
    If you don’t think it will work, there has to be a reason. I suspect that in the most cases, the reason is something that is not yet revealed – or reader hasn’t understood what you are going for. If so, just say that you have something planned that doesn’t agree with it, or that it’s not what you are going for.
    If you are not sure about using the suggestion, just thank the reviewer and say you’ll take it into consideration.
    This worked for me.
    Bottom line is, a suggestion is not necessarily right. Each person has a different vision. That’s why they are all writing different books. For example, someone might want to read about a war in a book. But the writer is more interested in writing about life of commoners during it than battles. The reader suggests to include battles. Should the writer obey, just to please him? It depends on the writer’s ethic, I guess. Some write to sell, and they’ll put in stuff public will like to appeal to it. Some don’t care – and this is the case with many of older writers. Pushkin published “Eugene Onegin” in parts, and he got heaps of fanmail insisting that this character should be paired with that one and like. He just ignored it. And he had a good reason – the story was already planned. Pairings were only fan preference – and romance was not exactly the point of the novel. Rowling did the same with Harry Potter.
    Of course, putting up your book on the ‘net means you are asking for suggestions, so you can’t blatantly ignore. Just thank the reviewer, and maybe say you’ll consider it. If the reviewer reacts badly to his suggestion not being implemented, that it’s the reviewer who is immature, not you.

    Comment by Amarth — March 6, 2012 @ 6:38 am | Reply

    • Of course you count as a writer!

      Rereading this post, which was difficult to write, I realized that my fears about were proven correct–I didn’t really get my point across. It’s less about how to reply to them, but more about how I decide which suggestions have merit to me and which ones I should disgard.

      Comment by mackenziew — March 6, 2012 @ 6:32 pm | Reply

      • Ah. The answer to that, I fear, is not easy. So far, the most of suggestions I got either had a point, or I felt there is a good reason they didn’t work. It’s a personal preference, I fear. Technical suggestions are mostly easy to agree to, as well as a good chunk of stylistic (sentence style, transitions, etc.), but did you get suggestions about storyline? Frankly, they might be asking for too much – unless it’s related to characterisation and some things being unclear.
        But I think I see where you are coming from – I checked out GoodReads you mentioned in another post and frankly, I was horrified. While I understand there will never be a book with 100% rating, the fact that, say, literal masterpieces like “Crime and Punishment” have the same rating as your average bestseller was sickening. Reasons? First is “too long and too difficult”. In comparison, second had “shaky plot, characters are appaling…but it’s a fun read”! *headdesk* Okay, I guess there are people who like cheap trills and predictable plots to “relax”, and the site will help them. Me? I don’t think so. I’ll listen to a rec every now and while, but…I’d rather look up the plot and spoil than trust “OMGTHISISTHEBESTBOOKEVA!!11” review. Frankly, reviews like that are what almost put me off from reading Gabaldon. For all of the positiveness, all the gushing about Jamie told me well enough about the nature of the novel. Likewise, when all reviews have only to offer words like “fun” and “thrilling”, I usually, as you say, “hit the back button”. Of course, reading books like that is fun. But I don’t have the money to spend on something I’ll only go through once – nor do I want to waste time I could use for reading something better.
        Point is: reviewers can’t always be trusted. Which doesn’t simplify things at all, does it? I can’t tell you what to do – I always felt that writing is a very personal matter and there are limits to how much one will get involved. I myself just go with my gut instinct. It sounds horrible, but…otherwise, it just wouldn’t be my work anymore, right?
        I think the misunderstanding was caused by the fact that you dedicated more lines to replying than decisions. Actually, I remembered the part about decision when I already posted – so I decided to wait for your reply and not double-post.

        Comment by Amarth — March 6, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

      • Technical suggestions are mostly easy to agree to, as well as a good chunk of stylistic (sentence style, transitions, etc.), but did you get suggestions about storyline? Frankly, they might be asking for too much – unless it’s related to characterisation and some things being unclear.

        Technical things are easy to reconcile. And yes, I did get some suggestions about storyline. There have been two points repeated by a few people, so I know those have to be corrected. I had made the style decision not to reveal my heroine’s name until a few paragraphs in. Nearly everyone has commented that it confused them and didn’t endear them to my heroine right away. So that’s something I realize I have to change. Another is that they also questioned why Christian suddenly remembers Gerard if he’s such a dear friend to her. When I found myself explaining for the fourth time that they’ve been separated for 6 years and I have dear friends from 6 years ago I barely think about anymore just because we’ve moved on, I decided may I should mention Gerard earlier.

        But I think I see where you are coming from – I checked out GoodReads you mentioned in another post and frankly, I was horrified.

        Funny enough, I joined GoodReads. More for the possibility of exploring new options I may have never thought of to read. Hopefully, I’ll avoid the drama.

        I think the misunderstanding was caused by the fact that you dedicated more lines to replying than decisions. Actually, I remembered the part about decision when I already posted – so I decided to wait for your reply and not double-post.

        No, no. As I said, upon rereading it, I didn’t get my point across. It’s my fault. And I don’t care about double posts.

        Comment by mackenziew — March 7, 2012 @ 5:23 am

  2. “I had made the style decision not to reveal my heroine’s name until a few paragraphs in. Nearly everyone has commented that it confused them and didn’t endear them to my heroine right away.”
    Hm. I really don’t think the name is that important. Remember, in old “Elaborate Lives”, you named your OCs from the beginning, yet they hardly endeared themselves to me. You said it’s relatively old. Did you leap into action instantly, or did you take the time describing like you did in the rewrite? I know that in “Through the Mists”, prince’s and king’s names barely registered to me – they are a little bit generic after all. And it’s not unusual to have a character’s name’s revelation delayed. Most common for lonesome strangers. But he has to be introduced in a powerful scene, and described well otherwise.

    “When I found myself explaining for the fourth time that they’ve been separated for 6 years and I have dear friends from 6 years ago I barely think about anymore just because we’ve moved on, I decided may I should mention Gerard earlier.”
    Hm. Did you mention in the text something along the lines of “She barely thought of him lately, eventhough they were good friends, for their separation was long, and she thought she might never see him again. Yet she recognised him as soom as she laid her eyes on him”? Or did you just jump straight to joy at their reunion? You said you realised “show, don’t tell” has its pitfalls…

    But hey, it’s your story.

    “Funny enough, I joined GoodReads. More for the possibility of exploring new options I may have never thought of to read. Hopefully, I’ll avoid the drama. ”
    *shrugs* I guess it’s good, if you’re looking for recs. I’m not sure I would have the self-restraint not to write a harsh comment to bouts of shameless ignorance like people criticising book they didn’t have the patience to read until the end, or some idiot failing to do the basic reasearch, like the one claiming Tolkien wrote The SIlmarrilion on purpose, pandering to the rise of Bible-inspired novels in the 60s, and published it to get easy money. And sadly, they are not in the minority – for every decent review, there is at least one that’s more or less “this sux and I didn’t even bother to finish or learn more about it”. It’s not really critical enough for my tastes. For example, though I didn’t like “Anna Karenina” or “Madame Bovary”, I admit that it’s purely personal bias, and give the credit where it’s due. Most of the reviewers don’t bother. There are some that write more detailedly, but just as many saying just “this is great!” or “this sucks”.
    But I think you have good enough judgement to decide which review is credible, and which lazy. Just ignore the star rating.

    Comment by Amarth — March 7, 2012 @ 8:14 am | Reply

    • Did you leap into action instantly, or did you take the time describing like you did in the rewrite? I know that in “Through the Mists”, prince’s and king’s names barely registered to me – they are a little bit generic after all. And it’s not unusual to have a character’s name’s revelation delayed. Most common for lonesome strangers. But he has to be introduced in a powerful scene, and described well otherwise.

      The first chapter opens with a funeral. And nearly everyone has commented that they like the funeral scene and find it powerful–but that they don’t like that I don’t reveal the main character’s name until about a page in. A couple have commented it made it difficult to get into the character, a couple said it was a bit confusing because of all the “she’s” as the funeral is for a woman.

      Hm. Did you mention in the text something along the lines of “She barely thought of him lately, eventhough they were good friends, for their separation was long, and she thought she might never see him again. Yet she recognised him as soom as she laid her eyes on him”? Or did you just jump straight to joy at their reunion? You said you realised “show, don’t tell” has its pitfalls…

      What happened was that Christian found a piece of jewelry she hadn’t worn in a while. They think it was a gift from her uncle, though they aren’t sure. After finding that piece of jewelry, some memories start to rise to the surface but are only snippets. Eventually, Christian remembers a time with Gerard. After this memory, she then retrieves letters she had written to him and reads the last one–clearly stated to be six years old–which explains he was being sent off for military training. So he is introduced before he physically appears in the story. And Christian recognizes him first by his eyes.

      Then again, I was told I should describe my heroine in the first chapter (I do) and reveal her age in the first chapter (I do). So I’m now questioning how carefully they are reading the chapters.

      Comment by mackenziew — March 7, 2012 @ 9:37 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: