As some of you may know, I don’t do negative book reviews any more. I don’t have the time to invest in something that ultimately does no one any good, nor do I have the mental energy.
However, as any storyteller knows, negative reviews have one big, fat benefit. They show you what doesn’t work, and you can then in turn look for x, y, or z in your own stories. Since everyone’s trying to improve their craft, it doesn’t make sense to at least not take what we can from an otherwise less-than-positive-reading experience.
Without further ado, here’s what I gleaned from my not-so-great (read: terrible) reads of 2015!
How to Murder a Murder Mystery
- Don’t leave any clues. ANY.
- Don’t explore the mind of the killer until the last 5 pages, and, even then, skim.
How to Let You’re Reader Know You’re Smarter than Everyone Else (aka How To Be Generally Annoying)
- Abuse and exploit the thesaurus.
- The more confusing the sentence structure, the better. If your reader doesn’t follow what you’re trying to say, good. It’s their fault for not being as smart as you.
- Name drop important people and places every other sentence.
How to Write High-Brow Fantasy that Only You are Worldly Enough to Understand
- Use a plethora of made-up deity and object names without ever explaining or contextualizing them.
- Never explain or explore the characters’ motives. It’s fantasy; who needs motive when you have magic and monsters?
How to Write a White-Noise Dystopian Novel
- Combine elements from Hunger Games, Stung, etc. to form a generic world.
- Your protagonist MUST BE “the special/chosen one” or unique in some discernible way.
- If there isn’t a love triangle, you might as well quit already.
How to (Not) Write an Action Novel
- Only ever write action scenes. Leave no room to breathe, no exploration of the character’s psyche, etc. Only fighting, all the time.
Stand-Out Character Guidelines
- Do not give your characters distinguishable personalities; readers should ONLY be able to tell who’s talking/thinking when you say their name.
- Making literally every character in the book a straight white old male. (LITERALLY. EVERY. CHARACTER.)
- Only give teh womens lines like “Oh, goodness Papa!” or “I’m a delicate flower incapable of deep thought!” (Bonus points if they’re breathy exclamations or shy exchanges.)
The very least a bad read can give you is a writing lesson, so run with it! What lessons did less-than-enjoyable books teach you in 2015?
Lately I’ve been considering my professional image as an author. In doing this, it’s brought me to decide to delete the poor reviews I’ve left of books (2.5/5 and lower) in the past. I will also avoiding writing poor reviews in the future.
Thing is, I don’t want to be seen as an author that “trashes” other peoples’ work. And yet, I also don’t want to be seen as someone who sugarcoats sucky books because I want favorable treatment in return, (which is not at all what I’m trying to do).
However, one of the huge values of negative book reviews is that people read them and see what does and doesn’t work in stories. Many times, I’ve read a book only to be overwhelmingly disappointed, and had to really think on what it was that didn’t work for me. Nothing seemed wrong, but it just didn’t feel right.
You figure out that crucial part that ruined what would’ve been a great story, or what was wrong from the outset, or x, y & z. Negative reviews can be valuable for writers to educate themselves with.
However, that doesn’t mean I have to leave bad reviews. At the end of the year, I may just write up a summary post of things I’ve found over the year that worked or didn’t work, leaving the names of the specific books out.
I’m a reader, and I like to have my opinions heard. But on the other hand, I’m a writer. A virtually unknown writer who’s trying to break into the business. Reviewing fellow authors’ works poorly could come back to bite me in bad ways, and as long as I’m reviewing books under my pen name, those reviews will forever be attached to me.
How do you feel about these changes?