Writer’s Craft #123 – Reviews and Drawing the Line
Barbara Galler-Smith lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She’s an award winning author, a long-time member of Edmonton’s largest speculative fiction writers group, The Cult of Pain, and co-founder of a group designed for emerging speculative fiction writers called The Scruffies. She’s also a Fiction Editor for On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic. Along with US writer Josh Langston, she’s the author of The Druids Saga— an historical fantasy epic trilogy: Druids (2009), Captives (2011), Warriors (release date August 2013).
Reviews and Drawing the Line by Barbara Galler-Smith
I never review books I don’t like–mostly because I haven’t time nor patience to finish them and because I haven’t that bent necessary to let me say with utter impunity in public, negative things about writers that could effect their sales. If I were a carefree columnist book reviewer, I would say exactly what I thought, and damn the torpedoes, but that’s not me.
However, that doesn’t stop me from privately amusing myself and my writer friends with scathing comments about some of the best sellers in the world. Do you think it’s okay to vent privately about some “average writer’s success with a poorly written book”?
There is, however, a firm line separating private thoughts and public ones.
I hate anonymous reviews mainly because I think it’s cowardly to anonymously slam a piece publically, even it’s awful. Own up to your opinions, then have the courtesy and courage to put your professional name to it. The best reviewers address the best and the worst of a piece (those stand-bys of plot, character, theme), and forego clever or pithy slams suggesting the work is mediocre in spite of its financial success.
So, I review books I like. That way, it’s easy. For professional reviewers who don’t choose the titles they must review, I imagine the task is harder.
So, how do you remain respectful while criticising something? Do you try to balance positive and negative? Do you slam books you would never choose for yourself such as historical when you love zombie adventure, or paranormal romance when you read only military SF for pleasure, just because you don’t like that kind of book? Where do you draw the line?