Criticism Is Not a Four-Letter Word
NOTE: The “Author shooting herself in the foot” tag applies to me.
NOTE 2: Please excuse the slightly disjointed post as I’m already late for an appointment and didn’t have time to edit. This post is pretty much a stream of thought.
Janet from Dear Author penned a thought-provoking post yesterday. Essentially, she’s asking why is there such a them (bloggers/reviewers/readers) vs. us (authors) mentality in the romance community. (Frankly, I think there’s been such a backlash against Dear Author and Smart Bitches for reporting the Cassie Edwards plagiarism kerfuffle because many in the romance community are using it as an excuse to strike back at these women for past negative reviews and differing opinions.)
Why is there such a circle-the-wagons mentality in romance? I’ve seen opinions where romance authors must stand up for one another, no matter what. WTF? Just because you write and have ovaries doesn’t mean I have to defend you when you behave badly. Authors do not have an obligation to defend another author if she does something stupid and possibly criminal. Oh, but it’s all in the name of sisterhood some say. Again, WTF? I have sisters; when one of us does something stupid, the others call out the wrong-doer. It’s called helping each other become better people.
In what other industry are members required to defend one another regardless of the offense? Let’s look at the financial sector and its most recent snafu–and no, I’m not talking about the greediness and deliberate obliviousness that lead to the US housing meltdown. Jérôme Kerviel , a trader who “hacked computers and combined several fraudulent methods” to bet USD$73.5 billion, is labeled a rogue. Other members of the financial sector did not come out and defend him. Instead, they condemned him and his actions because those actions (1) reflect poorly on the industry, (2) are unethical and illegal, and (3) might’ve put Société Générale on the same road as the Barings Bank. Anyway, no one made excuses for his actions and no one said let’s all hug and forgive him. And the people who reported and are still reporting the story were not villified.
All About Romance, Dear Author, Smart Bitches, and Mrs. Giggles provide honest–sometimes brutally honest–reviews of books. If they don’t like a book they’ll let you know, but they state their reasons for their opinions. They do not do drive-by reviews. So, why are they labeled as “mean girls”? Why do so many authors feel poor reviews are personal attacks? So some readers don’t like your book. Get over it. Is coming out and villifying these people going to change their opinion of your book? Probably not. It’s a waste of your writing time and their reading time.
There are a lot of review sites that will praise you no matter what you write. Those sites are great if you need a review quote for an ad. Heck, I use some of them for that express service. (And don’t start wagging your fingers at me because those review sites want the authors to use their quotes to give them publicity. It’s a symbiotic relationship.) However, if I want a review that will take the effort to dissect the plot, characters, themes, etc. and why some devices worked or didn’t work (i.e. critical reviews), which can possibly help a writer improve her craft, then I hit AAR, DA, SB, and Mrs. G.
Authors put out a product for public consumption. And once it’s out there, anyone can buy it, read it, and review it. If you don’t think you can take negative criticism, then don’t put it out there. This is a subjective business, so some readers may enjoy your work and some may not. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t even try. Writers should be writing what they love, not what they think others will love. Otherwise writing becomes another 9-to-5 job where some days it feels like the cubicle walls are closing in on you.
And, for the record, one of my pet peeves is when people say reviewers shouldn’t bash a book because the author worked really hard on it. Once again, WTF? After grade school, where in life do you get points for effort? At the day job, I can put in all the effort I want into a project, but if it fails, my boss is not going to care about the amount of hours I put in. He’s only going to care about the end result and how the failure affects the bottom line.
Also, I’m sure a lot of effort was put into the movie Gigli, but it still sucked.