Posted in Advice & Information, Ramblings

If you can’t find anything nice to say…

For any author, a review of their precious book is something they desperately want.  It’s the bread and butter for an author – giving an indication of how well their written work has been received and also providing the impetus for others to purchase their work.  A well-written and positive book review is an excellent way for readers to discover new authors and choose to purchase their work.
As an author who seeks Book Reviews, I also write them, for books I’ve read myself.  I think its only fair that if I’m seeking people’s opinion of my work, I should take the time to give other writer’s some feedback on their efforts.
My involvement in a local Writer’s Group has given me plenty of practice in the art of ‘constructive criticism’.  Telling an author ‘they suck’ is not constructive. Finding the positives in their work and providing feedback as to where a story failed, or where it could benefit from further editing is an important part in learning to be a writer.  I myself suffer from an overuse of adverbs, which my writing group regularly points out in my pieces.  I’ve also been known to be an over-achiever in the use of specific words – ‘but’, ‘that’ and ‘just’ – to name only a few.
Which leads to my point.  I’ve just finished a book which I downloaded from an independent author and I have to say, honestly, it was one of the hardest books I’ve ever attempted to review. 
Why?  I hear you asking.
Because while it was an interesting book, with a new idea I hadn’t seen used before and the premise was excellent…
…it suffered from a lack of editing and spelling checks.  Not only that, but the author chose to have her characters from the north east of America, speak with a fairly specific ‘twang’ to their voices, but failed in the continuity department.
And that just frustrated the heck out of me. 
I wanted to like this book.  It was an exciting and interesting concept, but it was a failure to launch from my viewpoint because of the abysmal spelling mistakes, the lack of continuity and the failure by the author to give her characters a consistent voice.
The strongest story line in the world will not draw readers in, if they are continually taken out of world being created by ridiculous spelling errors, or have to stop and read back, over and over again because of continuity problems, or a lack of cohesiveness in the characters.  (Another book comes to mind, which I read recently, in which a character started with one name, it switched halfway through the book, then reverted to the original name.  I kid you not.  That author deserved a smack on the hand!)  But I digress.
My point to fellow authors is this – check your work.
Check it, double check it and triple check it.  Join your local writer’s group and allow them to read your work.  You’ll be amazed by what they pick up, things you just don’t see yourself because you’re at the coal face, so to speak.  You know what your words mean – but it doesn’t mean other people will ‘see’ the same vision. Ask someone (a friend, a fellow writer; heck, PAY someone if you have to) to read through your work for spelling errors.  Use spell-check, over and over again.  Buy a dictionary.  Whatever you do, make sure you’re pride and joy is the absolute best it can be, before you publish.  You’ve spent months, maybe years writing your book – don’t throw all that hard work away by rushing through the publishing process and letting those mistakes get out to those you want to impress most – THE READERS!
You may wonder what sort of rating I gave this particular book – and I’ll tell you.  I gave it three stars and constructive criticism, pointing out the positives in her story-telling process and explaining what things didn’t work for me.  I’m not one of those people who throws out a one star review and just says the story stinks.  I think the actual effort which goes into writing a book, a WHOLE book, is worth a minimum of two stars and I take my hat off to everyone who can manage it.  
But be warned – if you write a book and don’t edit, and edit carefully and put it out there effectively half-done – be prepared for a three star maximum review from me.  Be proud of what you’ve done and make sure it is absolutely the best you can make it before you launch it into the world.


One thought on “If you can’t find anything nice to say…

  1. I usually cut independent writers some slack because many of them have limited budgets and can't afford professional editing.
    I am however with you when it comes to poorly written accents and other 'ambitious' undertakings.
    My personal pet hates are factual errors that could have been checked and lazy shortcuts in the story.


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