Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Pain and the Ecstasy of Book Reviews

I keep a close track of my book reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I check the numbers every day and if they change, I go read the new review. That would mean I have the numbers memorized for each book, wouldn't it?  *Looks around nervously*  Well, doesn't everyone? Please tell me I'm not the only author obsessed by what people have to say about his or her literary children.

I try to use my reviews as learning tools. Not easy to do when some make me cry or mad as hell--and some do. Like the reader who said my heroine cried 65 times in the book. What did she do? Keep a tally? Wouldn't my editors at Random House have noticed such active waterworks? Even I, an emotional ninny, have to admit 65 crying spells is excessive. The reviewer also said "the author ruined the book." Well, yes, I wrote it, so if it stunk...stank...smelled, then I am to blame. For that I'm sorry. But as I read over the rest of the reviews for this book, I noticed a few other readers noted the heroine was too weepy. So, there was a problem. Maybe not 65 problems, but enough for others to notice, too.

Note to self: Watch how many times my heroine cries.

So I tried writing stronger heroines. Less tears, more sass. A few reviewers said my heroine was bitchy. *Beats head on keyboard*

Note to self: Work on female characterization and work doubly hard at it!

Many readers love a tortured hero. I do, too. So, I took a giant leap and tried writing one, revealing bit by bit why he was the way he was. My critique partners said their hearts went out to him, that I'd captured his pain well. Some reviewers said the book was a mish-mash of emotions with the hero flip-flopping about what he wanted.

Note to self: Explain up front why the hero is tortured which goes against the "no backstory for the first chapter" rule. Work hard on doing both.

I enjoy a quick, crisp beginning and ending as a reader. Obviously I'm the exception. Several have said my endings are too abrupt. And--gasp--there is NO Epilogue.

Note to self: Develop a longer, stronger, more emotional ending.

Boy, do I have a lot to work on!!!

Now, I know I can't please everyone. If I could, I'd be a best seller. Heavens, I'm barely a blip on the romance writers' list.

I do take offense when the reviewer says I write on the third grade level. I wore myself down working nights in a factory and going to college fulltime during the day, while my sons were in college. It was the best time of my life. I slept when I could. I made the Dean's List. I loved the learning process. So, yeah, I took great offense to that remark. Sometimes a very small number of reviewers are just plain cruel. And I don't get that. We can all say we didn't enjoy a book because of X and Y, without a personal attack on the author.

Thank goodness for those who review with kindness, whether negatively or positively. I've had some lovely reviews. Many, in fact. My smile lasts all day on those. Odd how we seem to focus on the one or two bad ones and gloss over the good ones. That is so totally unfair, for they carry more value.

It takes time to take an idea and characters, develop both, write a rough draft, edit it, smooth out the rough edges, pound the story into shape, and rewrite chapters. Then read over it again. Delete portions. Add more. Fill in holes. Add a deeper layer of emotion and validation. Edit. Polish with a final edit and send it off, knowing you'll be editing that puppy at least two more times with your editor. Respect a writer's time with kindness. Point out something you liked about the story before you mention the book's shortcomings.

Have I ever read books I hated? Yes. Have I ever deleted a book from my Kindle before finishing it? Indeed I have. Have I reviewed them? No. I refuse to trash another writer's literary baby. I simply add the author's name to a list of writers not to buy.

To all of you who have reviewed my books with kindness and appreciation. Hugs!
 

7 comments:

Maeve Greyson said...

Nailed it! :-)

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Sometimes we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. I enjoy pleasing my writers, but there's no realistic way I can please them all.

Janice Hougland said...

I appreciate your post and agree with it. You can't please everybody...so don't try. Write your stories from your heart, put them out there for people to buy and go on. I don't post negative reviews either...I think they are in poor taste and show a lack of class. It shows a meanness of spirit. And those kinds of people are everywhere and unavoidable at times, so ignore them if you can.

Janice Hougland said...

I appreciate your post and agree with it. You can't please everybody...so don't try. Write your stories from your heart, put them out there for people to buy and go on. I don't post negative reviews either...I think they are in poor taste and show a lack of class. It shows a meanness of spirit. And those kinds of people are everywhere and unavoidable at times, so ignore them if you can.

Angela Adams said...

You can't see me, but I giving you a standing ovation!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Thank you, Janice. I think the secret veil of the internet has brought out some people's mean side. They feel they can say whatever they want and no one will know who they are. We're losing the kind side of our humanity.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

LOL Well, thank you, Angela. Hugs!!!