Bad News for Everyone: A Guest Post by Charles Barouch
When my daughter, Lore, and I did our writing workshop at Otakon, we divided writers into four broad categories: Private, Protected, Public, Published. The categories are actually stolen from the Delphi programming template but they fit so well. Here are the quick definitions:
Private writing is the sort you do in a journal or diary. It is not meant for anyone but yourself.
Protected writing is written for your own circle. These are the people who hear you say “Aunt Jean” and they know that you are referring to that
incident with the pantsuit. These people know and like your jokes; they *get* you. You won’t be getting a lot of negative feedback with this audience.
Public writing is very different. Just like the Private and Protected levels, your work is available for free. This blog post is an example of Public writing. What makes public so different from the previous two is the risk of bad reviews. You are out there — completely out there.
Published writing is one step bigger. This is when you expect people to pay for the chance to read your writing. With the first three, you can treat writing as a pure art. Once you put a price on it, you are obligated to treat writing as a craft. Craftsmen build to meet a need. Artists don’t. The best authors are able to be both things at the same time.
What does all this do with the title: Bad News Everyone? I’m a published author. That means that I get negative reviews — bad news. Who gives these people the right to have an opinion on something which took me weeks, or months, or even years to write? I did. When I put my work in the public or published levels, I gave everyone the right to have an opinion.
I got panned this one time — by the owner of this blog, as it happens — and this is what was said:
This could be a long review, but I will limit it to a list of things that annoyed the crap out of me:
1. The author’s almost fanatical avoidance of ending a sentence with a preposition. Yes, I understand it’s proper grammar, but when using proper grammar makes the language so stilted and odd that the reader loses focus on the story, it’s a bad thing.
2. There are way too many characters. New characters were still being introduced near the end of the book. It was impossible (and unnecessary) to keep up with them all.
3. There are too many plots, most of which don’t matter.
I was aggravated the whole time I was reading, and can’t really recommend this book to anyone. The worst part? I paid for it. It wasn’t even a freebie. Grrrrr….
Here’s what most people would see:
She doesn’t like me.
Here’s what I saw:
She wrote about how I handled the later parts of the book. That means she *read* the whole book. I did a good enough job that even a reader who felt frustrated still felt compelled to read it all. That’s huge.
Secondly, she had specific issues with the writing. Unless you are done writing, you are not done growing as a writer. Specific feedback, positive and negative, helps you grow. Does that mean we blindly accept every negative feedback? No. It should make us think but it has to be evaluated. How about positive feedback? You can’t just take that as gospel either.
What do I do with this review?
I decided that I mostly agree with her assessment of the dialogue. I was over precise. Do I think it broke the story? It seems to have for at least this one reader. Something I need to think about.
Too many characters? Too many subplots? I disagree. The scope of the topic is global. I feel that this sort of story needs a large cast with a lot of stories to tell. Having said that, she is not the only person to call me to task over cast size. Something I need to think about.
Here’s what I didn’t do: I didn’t debate this review with the reviewer. If the book doesn’t make my case, it doesn’t matter if I can make it separately. I did contact her to apologize for the fact that she didn’t like it. Why apologize? While she spent less time reading than I took writing, she did take time out of her life to read what I had to say. She invested in me by reading my book.
If you don’t care about what the readers think, stay in the Private or Protected levels. If you are going to go Public or Protected, then you asked for this. Embrace it.
Charles Barouch is a Publisher, Writer, Editor, and Journalist. His works in print can be found here: http://hdwp.com/r/cdb/.