Saturday, July 4, 2009

Being a Good Critic

I recently finished a debut novel by an author who is receiving rave reviews from her readers. For the most part, I enjoyed the story and felt she did a pretty good job telling it. I even liked the characters and the unique ideas that formed the story. However, there were a few parts in the story where I wanted to smack her upside the head, or at least put the book down and stop reading. What on earth was she thinking? I won't say the title of the book because I certainly don't want to offend the author or her fans, and after all, I am only one person and my opinion really doesn't matter, right?

Anyway, I've been posting book reviews on my blog for quite some time and have enjoyed doing so. Some I've loved, others have been great writing, but just not something I would normally pick to read so didn't connect with and then a few were not well written at all. I think the biggest problem with me as a reader is that I'm a writer. I never used to pick books apart like I do now, but I've been reading for other authors and helping them edit and critique their works and find myself doing it when I read an already published novel. It's down right irritating when I can't highlight a section and make a comment in the sidebar, then send it back to the author with my suggestions and ideas. LOL

Am I becoming too critical of others' work or am I just learning so much about my craft that it's all starting to make sense to me now. I'd like to think all this nitpickiness will make me a better writer, but what if it's just making me brash and insensitive? When it comes to posting a critique, do I be honest and voice my opinion or do I be kind and uplifting, possibly recommending a book I found unsatisfying?

Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear how you handle doing book reviews or even recommending books to friends and such.


  1. I just want to say the suspense is killing me. ;)

  2. The suspense? Did I just leave a cliff hanger or something?

  3. ok, so was just talking to a friend about this the other day to another writer. It's been awhile since I've allowed my self to read something for fun. A couple books I've read lately didn't give me a choice. I loved the story so much I just couldn't put it down and I didn't want to critique it. I just didn't want to ruin the story for myself.

    As far as editing, I read somewhere that a good critique partner will not offer specific suggestions. That they will just point out the trouble spots or ask thought provoking questions that will allow the writer to explore their story more. I've been trying to approach it this way but sometimes I slip up and go back to my old ways.

    PS. I'm glad I'm not the only one that wants to send back notes and critiques to the authors of some books I read!! LOL!

  4. lol!! Can we say Twilight anyone? LOL! And don't get me wrong I own the series and love it, the writing just isn't the best and often times while reading I was ready to throw the book, but I was too dang hooked on the story to bring myself to do it! LOL! But I do have to say the more I've read of Stephenie Meyer, the more impressed with her writing I'm becoming.

    That said, I don't think I'll ever, ever read a book the same again. EVER. I'm much too critical now, it's awful. The worst is I'll never critique publicly honestly again. LOL! I'm so afraid of Karma. And now with my own books I hope whoever reviews mine that they remember the old rule 'if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all'. I"m awful I know.

    So um, now I'm scared. Would you like to read one of mine? I would much rather be hit over the head now, then later by a review. LOL! Jenni

  5. Jenni,
    I'm always up for a good read and I'm sure your book is wonderful.

    I think your reaction is one of the reasons I hesitate giving a bad review. I don't want people to be leery to send me their work. I'm really NOT that critical with unpublished manuscripts, just try to be honest so the writer can have the best chance at publication. The thing that bothers me is when I see GREAT work (that should be published in a heart beat) rejected and then read something that is raved about in published form that maybe should have been edited a little better.

    This is me stamping my foot like a child and saying, "I want to be published." LOL

  6. Christine!

    I know exactly how you feel! I have a difficult time separating my writer self from my reader self. I am so aware of the rules of writing from critiquing and analyzing and rewriting from so many years past. Just how do I do it?


    There are books out there that are New York best sellers and some make my cringe. I often think that the author didn't do too good a job at pacing the story, or failed to flesh out a character or could have given it a better ending.

    To be really honest with you, when others critique my work, I want them to be brutally honest because--how else will I grow? I mean, really??? I also love the uplifting things.

    DO BOTH! Do the uplifting things first then the brutal things last, that's how a friend of mine analyzes my writing!
    What do you think?

    OH, by the way, I have a big dilemma going on myself. I was wondering if anyone can help me out? Visit my blot and read July 4th's post and please let me know what you'd do in that situation!
    Thank you so much!

  7. LOL! Christine! No worries! I would much rather have an honest friend review my work before publication than an honest reviewer after. LOL! So are ya serious? Jenni

  8. Ah, yes, the whole thing where we can't shut off the writer in us while we read. I hate it. I love to read and I just want to do it for fun. But, I think it is one of the bad things that comes with this gift, our brain, when in gear just thinks everything to death. It's good for our own stories, not so good when we're reading already published works. :) I think that to be honest when reviewing is helpful. I think we can give a good review but still point out the problems we found.

  9. Thanks for all your wonderful comments. I've enjoyed reading how you deal with similar situations.

    Jenni, of course I would read for you. It may take me a few days/weeks, depending on my current project or LIFE happenings, and I'm certainly no professional, but I'd love to help. Just remember I'm still learning this whole writing thing along with the rest of you.

  10. Your irritation about not being able to comment on published works had be laughing, because I think like that sometimes... (I think your comments would be more helpful than mine.)

    I had a similar situation with learning music theory. I planned on being a vocal music teacher. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to sing. I did VERY well in the classes, but I stopped appreciating the beauty of music as much. I quickly ran away from the goal of teaching vocal music. I couldn't stand not enjoying something that brought me such joy.

    As a reader I would want to read the honest review of a book, as the author I would only want to hear the good (if it was already published, otherwise I would like a chance to fix the problem areas). However, in that same vain there are stories out there that I LOVE much like Jenni was saying. The story keeps me reading even if the writing is subpar.

  11. I went through a stage where I had a hard time reading anything. I would hear my husband read out loud to my children and I would moan at the bad sentences even in well published, well liked, well written, award winning books.

    No book is perfect. Every author could do better.

    At one point I realized that I had to stop letting my pride get in the way of the experience. I had to stop saying, "Three passive verbs in this paragraph! What an amateur. I don't have to listen to this person." I want to listen anyways. I want to find out what the author has to say, whether it's said perfectly or not.

  12. Good point, Rebecca--I guess we all need to realize that behind every book is a cast of imperfect people (from the writer down to the editor, so on and so forth, right?)



Related Posts with Thumbnails