Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Criticism

Here's my dark secret: I like reading book reviews. The snarkier the better. In fact, I prefer it when the reviewer just rips the book a new one, decimating every single plot point and tearing the characters apart in an inky massacre.

But...uh...I don't like reading those sorts of reviews if they're about my book.

When I'm feeling really bad about my writing, or I've lost confidence in myself, or if the word-well has just run dry, I log onto GoodReads. I shield my eyes of any reviews of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (good or bad), and I look up my absolute favorite books, and read the negative reviews of them. It reminds me that all writing is subjective, and that not everyone will like every book.

But if I'm feeling really bad, I'll look up the books I don't like, and I will read the snarkiest, meanest reviews of them, and in my head, I get my snark on, too. It still reminds me that writing is subjective--but it also reminds me that I care about quality. I think of the things I value in writing, and I take comfort in the fact that others value that, too, and call other writers on those issues.

And also? It reminds me that people do pick apart books for entirely valid reasons. It reminds me that when someone reads my books, they may be doing it with an eye to poke holes in the plot, dig into the characters with a sharp knife, rip apart my words.

There's a problem with the idea that just because you wrote a book, it's good enough to publish. There's also a problem with the idea that just because a book is published, it's good. Last night, I was up until 3:30 am writing out notes for my last-chance changes to A MILLION SUNS. I'll be honest: there came a point where I was just staring at the page, debating whether or not I really needed the comma to set off the prepositional phrase, or if it was fine without.

So I read a review of a book--a truly vicious, nasty, snarky review, and it tore apart the text word by word. And it reminded me: I'm not a special snowflake. People can--and will--do that to my book, too. So I better make it the best I possibly can.

I kept the comma in.
Post a Comment