Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reviews by Stephanie Julian

A good review can make your day.

A bad review can ruin your week.

But what about the mediocre review? The reader liked it but had problems. The characters were superficial or the plot had holes.The story just didn't do it for them.

Those are the ones that make you doubt.

Are they right? Could I have done something differently? Did I make the right choices?

A good review validates your ability. A bad review you can write off. But those mediocre reviews... They gnaw at your brain and make you question.

I do read all my reviews, good and bad. I like to know what readers are saying. Of course, I love the great ones and most of the bad ones I can brush off as the reader having a bad day. But when a reader takes the time to write 20 inches about why she just couldn't get into my story, you have to stop and think. And when a few readers say the same thing, well then maybe, just maybe, I should have given that story more thought.

Then again, maybe not. Because for me, for as many mediocre reviews I get, there are an equal number of good reviews. And occasionally, a few really great ones.

I take a great deal of pride in writing the best story I can and to create characters who the reader can identify and fall in love with.Not everyone's going to be on the same page with me all the time.

And that's okay.

There are days I'm just happy someone is taking the time to read my stories.


Tina Donahue said...

People who don't write for a living seldom realize how difficult reviews are for novelists. You can get 10 great reviews, but it doesn't matter when that one bad (or mediocre) one comes in. You focus on that. You doubt your talent. But you keep writing. Not to please others - though you certainly hope to do that in the end. You write because you can't stop. It's in your heart, your blood, your soul.

Stephanie Julian said...

Amen Tina.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I think writers know when they haven't put their best foot forward and sometimes they may not know why it just didn't work. A conscientious reviewer may be able to help identify where you floundered. Good information to have and I'm grateful for it. Then there is the amateur reviewer who doesn't really know beans about the art and craft of writing a solid story. They will either give everyone a great review or try to be cute and snarky with their reviews. I believe you can dicount their opinion entirely.
I must agree, stephanie, we all love the wonderful reviews but it's the not quite great ones that help us improve.
A very thought-provoking blog, Stephanie.

Stephanie Julian said...

Thanks Sarah. I've been giving a lot of thought to reviews recently. I really do believe they help sell books and that's always a good thing.

Redameter said...

yeah, we all get those too at one time or another. To me, if it remarked on several times by several very different people, then I begin to wonder. But if it is just a random, I'm not into this book, then I blow it off because you can't refraggle all the reviews.

I had one of those when I first began and I went over it several times, but in the end, it was better the orignal way than changing it to please just one reviewer.

I think in the end, we waste far too much time trying to please others and not being true to our own stories.

The true test of the book is the sales. If a book continually doesn't sell, then I think there is something wrong. Then you have to go back and read those reviews and read the story until you unlock the problem and can repair it.

Now a writer does not have the time to always go back and rewrite a book that has been out there a while. Especially if they are writing more books. So you have to weigh it against the problems. If there is real problems with the book, you could pull it, and work on it in spare time. If there are minor flaws, you could note those flaws and go back and correct them. Be sure and note them or otherwise you will spend needless time on trying to remember what it was.

But to place too much value on a reviewers opinion can be time destroying and stymie you.
If you haven't read it in a long while, you can usually go back and read it and see what it is.
But if it's fresh, you might not see it. So either way, it could sit on the to do shelf a while and then be tackled.

A writer has to decide whether the book needs to be gutted and start a fresh or just patch up some places that don't have enogh or strengthen the plot. But those kinds of things can wait for a rainy day when there is nothing to do. To be productive we must always keep writing, which is hard to do and promote. I get distracted. However I can sit down and write faithfuly for weeks on end too.

Good thoughts though on this problem.

Great blog.

Love and blessings

Rawiya said...

What a great blog.

I agree with Rita, we need to write for ourselves first. Yes, its great to have good reviews but you're not going to write something that everybody loves all the time.


Fiona McGier said...

Do reviews really sell books? Word-of-mouth certainly does...one friend telling another to read something. I guess it depends on how much reliability the reviewer has and how many readers agree. I know that if Roger Ebert pans a movie, I still may like it. I read why he didn't like it, then decide if it's worth my money. Many times I really enjoy it, and write it off to the fact that as a professional movie critic, he's looking for different things than I am, as a once-or-twice a year movie-goer. Same thing with book reviewers.

Stephanie Julian said...

Rita, you're so right. You can't dwell on the bad ones. But you can dwell on the good ones!

Stephanie Julian said...

Rawiya, you're so right. I always right for myself first. I know if I can't fall in love with my hero, no one else will either.

Stephanie Julian said...

Fiona, I think enough good reviews will get a few people to read you who may not have otherwise. so that's good.

Ari Thatcher said...

Mediocrity can be caused by the reader having a bad day or just not connecting with your voice. If you often have reviews mentioning holes or weaknesses then you can put that toward improving your writing. And often, when a negative or so-so review mentions something they hated, it's something I love and leads to a sale.