How many times has this happened to you: someone finds out you’re a published writer, they read your book, tell you how much they loved it, then hit you with “I’ve written something, too, and if you wouldn’t mind…”
A dark cloud forms over me whenever I hear those dreaded words. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a writer like someone asking for your professional help or your honest opinion. It can take many forms.
Recently an author friend asked me to review one of his books. He has long been a supporter of my literary output and has given me some nice write-ups. The problem? I’m not into the genre he writes and I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. I tried to explain this but before I knew it, a package arrived in the mail containing his book. Autographed, of course.
I read it, found it to be better than I expected and wrote a four-star review. Actually that was generous because he had self-published and there were numerous problems, which I didn’t mention. Apparently he expected raves because he hasn’t communicated with me since I posted it. I looked up some of the other reviews he’s gotten on Goodreads and Amazon and discovered that many were less flattering than what I wrote. In fact, a couple of them were downright nasty. Beats me why he wasn’t happy with four stars.
I’ve gotten caught in this trap before and still haven’t figured out a way to avoid it. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, especially someone I know. Another writer friend put me in this spot several years ago. The write-up I posted for his book was favorable but I made the mistake of offering some constructive criticisms in a separate e-mail. He, too, had self-published without the services of an editor, and it showed. Since he’s still actively writing, I thought he’d appreciate knowing what I had found for his future work.
I should have kept my comments to myself, because I don’t think he’s ever really forgiven me.
One of my Lodge brothers liked my books and asked me if I would critique the draft of his first novel. Had we not been friends I would’ve told him I was too busy. As it turns out, I should have. My comments were constructive and designed to help him produce a better manuscript, but he didn’t see it that way. His story focused on firefighters and first responders, which I know very little about. When I suggested that he might want to “dumb down” the technical jargon because some readers might not understand it, he took an attitude with me, claiming “Everyone knows what that means!”
Apparently not everyone, because I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Ever since then I’ve been “too busy.”
Last year I began working as a freelance writer for a local newspaper, writing features about cultural and entertainment happenings. I write under my own name and my caricature appears with each story, so there’s no place for me to hide. I’m really enjoying the work, but you can guess what’s already hit me between the eyes.
“Hey, Tim, I have this great idea for a story! Could you give me a nice write-up in the paper? Come on, we’re old friends! You’ll do this for me, right?”
Fortunately, I have the excuse of “Send it to my editor because she makes those decisions.” If that doesn’t work, I’ll try getting an unlisted life.
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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author whose books range from mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.