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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A rewrite is underway

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When I wrote and published The Seventh Age back in 2012, my thinking at the time was to get it out as quickly as possible before the winter solstice in that year, mistakes and all. Why? To appeal to those who firmly believed the Mayan calendar predictions that the world would end on December 21st of that year. Obviously it didn’t happen, but the book enjoyed a lot of success, selling in excess of a quarter of a million copies.

Now, having finally got round to re-reading it four years on, its time to produce a second edition, correcting the spelling errors as well as adding the few words missing throughout the story, principally to get the damned grammar nazis and assorted idiots of my back! Let’s face it, by not editing I gave them what they wanted. Unless they can tear a book apart, they’re not happy. And yet what really galls them to this day is that a book written by an Indie author became an overnight best seller despite the editing errors and their worst efforts.

So, this morning I’ve already begun while the rest of the world was still asleep. I’ll keep you updated with its progress. Meantime here is a direct quote from the original regarding the love affair between the two main characters Ithis, a crypto terrestrial and the archaeologist, Dr Nick Palmer at a critical juncture in the story:

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My heroine Ithis

From now on at night while he slept, Ithis entered his mind tenderly making gentle love to his soul, taking him beyond the normal wonderful sensations of lovemaking, ever mindful that she must not make actual physical contact – at least not just yet…’

PS – will it have a new cover? I have no plans to replace the original as it shows what the book is all about – time.

More later

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It’s Research Time Once Again

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)

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I’ve just finished editing my old mate Derek Haines’ dystopian WIP, at the moment entitled God’s Gone Fishing, yesterday (Friday 18th March). Now at last I can turn all of my attention to beginning my research into the man pictured above, starting today with Desmond Seward’s book, Caravaggio – A Passionate Life.

For a long time now, (decades in fact) I’ve wanted to write a fiction loosely based on his relatively short, often violent, life. For anyone who has absolutely no clue whatsoever about him, let me just say that as far as I’m concerned Caravaggio was one of the most brilliant artists of his age, when he wasn’t being accused of murdering someone, thanks to his fiery temperament. Or spending time under lock and key, as he did when he got into trouble on the fortress island of Malta.

Extensive research on my part is absolutely necessary to do justice to the story. I need to glean all the known facts and fallacies about Caravaggio for the crib sheets I will need for background detail.

Here are just two of the fifty original works (not including versions he painted) that quiet clearly demonstrate his talent to anyone with an appreciation for fine art at its zenith:

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The Calling of Saint Matthew

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Judith Beheading Holofernes

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it! Why? To keep the anal retentives and other asssorted tosspots out there from attacking the end product if I get anything factually incorrect.

To this day, they never let me forget for one moment that in my best seller back in 2012, The Seventh Age, I misspelt the name of Gobekli Tepe, a neolithic site still being excavated by archaeologists to this day in South Eastern Anatolia (Turkey). To hear them complain, anyone would think that the world had ended because of one honest spelling mistake on my part. Did I ever go back to correct it? Hell no. Never acknowledge any mistake you make on Amazon, unless you have a death wish!!!

See what all you aspiring writers out there have to look forward to… 😉

With all the months of reading/research ahead of me, I can’t see myself writing word one this year, let alone whether or not the end product will prove good enough to offer to one of the big five publishing houses. If it doesn’t come up to their exacting standards, I’ll simply publish it in Kindle form along with the ten other’s I’ve written so far…

PS – back in 2002 while on the one and only proper holiday I’ve ever had in my entire life, I actually climbed down a rickety ladder into the freezing cold underground cell Caravaggio was briefly incarcerated in on Malta.

PPS – for the less computer savvy among you, if you click on any highlighted (coloured) word on this or any other blog post of mine, you immediately gain access to pertinent information for each post. Just thought I’d mention it. One less than intelligent individual a long time ago asked me why some of the words in my posts are different colours. Needless to say they went away red faced. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand idiots…

It Helps If You Are Completely Bonkers

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Vain, selfish and lazy? Speak for yourself Eric Blair aka George Orwell. Most writers I know are none of those things. These days the only people you will come across like that are certain editors and literary agents as well as some professional critics. The latter category, especially the odd one or two who write for newspapers and literary magazines here in the UK, can definitely be said to be vain and selfish. To those two unsavoury qualities I would add a few others – condescending, snobbish, scathing and vicious, particularly when it comes to one leading newspaper’s literary critic and his deep loathing of Indies. Compared to him, internet trolls are rank amateurs.

As for the rest of what Eric is quoted as saying – writing is a long exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness, he’s perfectly correct. It is. With a few exceptions, I seriously doubt that anyone who reads books has the faintest notion of what we go through when writing one. Blair was also right when he said that – one would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist, nor understand.

In my own case, what drives me to write is not so much a demon as the burning desire to share a story with you the reader. So the next time you read any book, whether you liked it or not, ask yourself what kind of hell did the author of this book put themselves through when he or she wrote this? How many sleepless nights did they suffer to bring the story to me? How many times were they afflicted with the one problem all writers suffer from on a fairly frequent basis – writer’s block?

As if all of that wasn’t enough for the writer to contend with, there are the endless attacks by internet trolls. In some cases they are actually disgruntled fellow writers who are seriously annoyed that people buy, like, and praise your work while shunning theirs. Some trolls are nothing more than malicious individuals hiding behind pseudonyms, thriving on hate while hoping that you will react, judging by their often incomprehensible one star reviews.

Do I still want to write for a living? Hell yes, even though it often drives me to distraction. Once you have been bitten by the writing bug, everything else in your life apart from writing posts like this, and chatting to readers and friends on Facebook, rapidly vanishes into the distance.

You heard it here first folks. It helps if you are completely bonkers with a masochistic streak when it comes to writing.

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