Criticism versus Reviews

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What any writer dreads the most are attacks by members of the public, often with an axe to grind…

In days gone by every writer knew that the only individuals who offered opinions about their work were journalists working for leading newspapers, in the guise of literary critics. Back then they encapsulated the essence of a new work of fiction in one line of carefully chosen words taken from the text in question. Never once did their newspaper’s editor allow them to speak harshly against a given work. Instead, they chose to beguile future readers with the use of a single sentence from the book in question as an enticement like the following:

“A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

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Sadly those days are no more. Today, every reader has the freedom to criticise by writing whatever they believe is a review, knowing that they can get away with blue murder, then posting it on book sites such as Amazon. Most are not true reviews at all. Instead what you will see are endless examples of critiques, or far worse! The vast majority believe it is their god given right to tear apart any and every book, in particular ebooks by both traditional and indie authors.

It isn’t! All you are doing is showing your ignorance to the world at large. Some, not all, make it their business to harangue the author of the work they have just written about. A small number will insist that they could have made a far better job of writing the story!

To all of them I ask this – how many of them have ever written anything longer than their own signature I wonder? Have any of them ever had a book published? How would they feel if the boot was on the other foot? Would they feel outraged about the product of all their hard work being considered rubbish by hateful individuals? These people who go on the offensive are too cowardly to use their own name, preferring instead to remain anonymous by hiding behind a pseudonym.

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Will you be remembered?

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For every writer, the one thing they want whether they admit it or not is for their work to be constantly in the public eye. How will they achieve that? By writing numerous works of literature? No!

For you to become noticed globally, your books have to fulfil the following criteria of being highly original, influential, and important.

Each and every one of us secretly hopes that just one of our books will fit the bill. In the meantime with every one we pen, we want it to become a best seller. But that is a completely different kettle of fish compared to a book being regarded as a seminal work of literature by the literati, particularly here in the UK.

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Here is a partial list of works of literature currently deemed to be seminal by them:

The Iliad and The Odyssey

The Barchester Chronicles

Pride and Prejudice

Gulliver’s Travels

Jayne Eyre

War and Peace

Does anything strike you as unusual? No? Well It should! For starters every book’s author is deceased. Still don’t believe me?  Then take a look for yourselves.

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A work by a living writer is yet to be included. Maybe its high time the literary snobs consider modern day work don’t you think?

Just because the names of the odd one or two indentured writers in the stables of the big five publishing houses are bandied about from time to time, is no guarantee that they’re work is any better than the thousands of Indie authors, who choose not to be slaves to big business! Or that any book they write, now or in the future, will be considered as a seminal work.

I would add that for a work of fiction to be considered as truly worthy is all down to how well it is written in the first place as well as the above criteria, not as some believe by how much hype and advertising by its publisher equates to copies sold. Or for that matter how much the toffy-nosed literary critic in the publisher’s pay actually likes it.

PS – will one of mine ever fit the bill? A chance would be a fine thing…

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All Writers Crave Feedback

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When it comes to meaningful dialogue with our readers it rarely if ever happens, more’s the pity. We writers need the connection. All a review ever tells us is that the individual responsible for it either loved or hated the book in question.

Most writers like myself have a blog like this one where you can leave comments below a post, and a Facebook page where you can voice your thoughts in person on any book written by us, should you choose to do so. Or if you want, we can just chat about something else entirely. The point is that by chatting, we get to know each other, hopefully forging a lasting friendship.

Like you, every writer is plagued with the typical faults, passions and emotions that all human beings share. Some are known to hold strong views on varying subjects. Don’t let that necessarily put you off talking to any of us. We’re not ogres.

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Now a word to the wise, so please pay attention!

With book sites like Amazon, we are well aware of the inevitable one star reviews, often written by other writers hiding behind pseudonyms. And so, unless you have just landed on planet Earth within the last half hour, by now you will have noticed that my latest offering is now in its second free Kindle download giveaway day.

Here’s the rub. I fully expect it to gain endless one star reviews as a consequence. That always happens when a book is given away in any promotion. To that end I would remind anyone who has taken advantage of the offer, that you did get it for nothing. Therefore if you feel the uncontrollable urge to write a cutting review of your free copy, don’t! No one likes an ungratful smart-arse. Peversity on your part will hardly endear you to others, now will it. For the majority, please feel free to write your reviews and post them on whichever Amazon site you downloaded it from.

Lastly, I’m well aware that there will be errors. All books have them. Once the promotional period is over I will take it down temporarily to search them out before uploading the corrected version.

As they say in America – have a nice day.

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Of Words And Other Things

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How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.

If you are of a certain age, chances are that you learnt that tongue twister in primary school, just as I did back in the nineteen-fifties. It is a perfect example of the overuse of specific words, even though in this case it’s just a fun thing for kids to learn and to attempt to recite.

Many emerging writers tend to rely on a limited vocabulary, even though most words have perfectly acceptable alternatives. How many times have you seen specific words endlessly repeated in the first book written by a new writer? Either that, or their incorrect versions.

Chances are you will come across examples of words when writing, which while sounding similar when used in actual conversation between two people, are completely wrong in a given instance within any piece of writing.

Note to self – hmm, a lot of words beginning with ‘w’ in that last sentence. Must watch that. Damn, there’s another one!

If you want an example of similar sounding words think about there, they’re and their. They all sound exactly alike. But in each instance they have a totally different meaning. Even simple words we all use such as and, can and do become seriously overused by most writers. I’m no different in that regard. I’ve even been known to start a sentence with it on occasion, for example the one word question – “And?” But only during a conversation between some of my characters.

What I’m about to say, I’ve said in previous posts here on my blog. But just for you, here it is again – once you have written that first draft, go back over it many times during its edit phase. Make sure that one of your editing sessions is solely dedicated to deliberately finding alternatives of those words you are so fond of using.

How? Use the synonym function incorporated into your writing software in conjunction with a dictionary and thesaurus. Even better, why not rewrite certain sentences using completely different words, that convey the same meaning as the original one?

Before some of you feel an attack of righteous indignation coming on, and are thinking of going on the offensive, I am fully aware that I have used several words in this post more than once. In this instance I am completely justified as I’m merely pointing out that every one of us needs to pay heed to the way we write.

In short folks, do your darndest to avoid using certain words too often. Damn, there are two more – your and you’re, to and too. Allowed is yet another example of a word that sounds the same when spoken even when spelt differently. Its cousin aloud has a completely different meaning. The list is endless. Is it any wonder that so many people find the English language hard to come to grips with?

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Next, I would just like to point out something to all of the various types of literary cowards who insist upon hiding behind pseudonyms, such as a number of the armchair critics, pedants, grammar nazis, literary snobs etc, who inhabit the darker recesses of the Internet, each of them purporting to know far more about the written word than most writers. None of us likes a smart arse who deliberately sets him or herself up as a critic.

To all of the above – I can only surmise that what you appear to be suffering from is the literary equivalent of penis envy. Remember this, apart from being counterproductive, jealousy tends to feed on itself. Never forget that. It’s the only reason I can think of for why you deem it absolutely necessary to be so vicious towards not only the newcomers, but also seasoned writers, whether Indie or traditionally published?

First of all, may I suggest that you get over yourselves. Secondly, instead of endlessly criticising new and seasoned writers, by issuing those interminably boring, often repetitious one and two star reviews you are so fond of placing in the public arena, in your pathetic attempts to destroy a writer’s reputation, as some of you still tend to do on Goodreads and Amazon (you know who you are), why not actually try to write a book yourself. Maybe you already have, which probably accounts for the way you behave. But go on, give it another try. Far better to occupy your time by writing a book. Once you do, prepare yourselves for when it is torn to shreds by your fellow trolls. In other words, I’d think long and hard if I were you before you feel the overwhelming desire coming on, to rubbish someone else’s work.

Like most writers, I always refrain from reviewing some books, especially those written by new writers, if they did not succeed in gaining my full attention by drawing me into the story. Believe me when I say that it’s always better to do that, rather than to publically condemn, and by definition, earn yourself a reputation as yet another vicious troll. If I ever feel the need to offer criticism, its usually in the form of advice done privately, well away from the gaze of the general public, either by email or when chatting to writers on Facebook.

You should try doing the same…

Well that’s enough for today. It’s back to my current W.I.P.

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Pseudo experts, the cross we all have to bear

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Have you ever noticed that no matter what the subject, there will always be certain individuals who assume that they know more about it than anyone else? Take writing for instance. In this case the only ones who can be labelled true experts are writers with books selling in their tens of thousands, despite what any editor or gate keeper may say! If like myself you are fortunate to fall within this category as a successful published Indie writer, it’s bad enough that you instantly come to the attention of non writers in the form of trolls without armchair critics, grammar nazis, pedants, and worst of all, self appointed editors adding to the mix.

I’m sorry to disillusion you all, but just because you may have a degree in English in one form or another, it does not give you the right to poke your often ill informed oar in.

When any of the aforementioned offer their opinion in the form of a review for one of your books, or as a comment to a post on your blog, they automatically assume that even though you are successful, that somehow or other they know far more about the subject of writing than you do. There is very little any writer can do about the former. But when it comes to commenting on our blogs, please remember we hold the power of veto!

I have lost count of how many times I have felt tempted to simply ask them – Ok, tell me, how many books have you written and had published which have become best sellers?

These people really should take a moment to get over their envy or jealousy of our success before they start preaching to any writer. The day I take notice of anyone remotely on the periphery of the writing world, is the day when they can back up what they say with the numbers to prove their expertise. In this particular instance I’m talking numbers of books sold!

If you want to criticise, it’s simple, have one or more books written by you become best sellers. We writers tend to talk among ourselves, critique each other, and above all we make each other aware of total plonkers.

You have been warned!

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Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge

I totally agree with what Horace says. How about you?

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge.

A Writer’s Secret Desire

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As writers we all write for the love of words and telling tales. We all say that we don’t really care if no one else likes what we write.

Really?

Yes I love writing with a passion. Yes, writing is everything to me. Yes, I enjoy the feedback I get from those of you who have read any of my books, whether it is good, bad or indifferent. At least the vast majority of you took the time to see what makes me tick as a writer.

Like most writers I know, I do not include any of the following in that last statement – Trolls, Pedants and Armchair Critics. Each of those groups are nothing more than self-important fools who believe that they know more about words than the average writer does. A lot of what they say when they attack any writer, in particular Indies, is down to professional jealousy, and envy of your modest measure of success, when you consider that in some cases, they are writers themselves.

As writers, be honest. Wouldn’t you just love to have at least one book that made people sit up and take notice of your endeavours? I know I would. With each book I write (at the time of writing this, I’m busy with my seventh), I like to kid myself that this one will become a best seller. I thought that when I wrote my fantasy anthology back in 2012.

Despite critical acclaim it wasn’t.

So with this latest one well and truly on the way (the word count now stands at nine thousand and I’ve almost finished outlining Chapter Five – almost), here’s hoping that it finally breaks through the invisible barrier that all books struggle to navigate their way through. I’m not asking for much. Just to be able to say that one book of mine was a best seller.

Is that asking too much? I honestly don’t know.

One thing I do know, the book I’m currently writing will create controversy, maybe even anger towards me among certain elements within society. Do I care? Do I hell as like. If I make you think when you read it, then I have done my job.

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