Story Excerpts

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Should A Novelist Write Critical Book Reviews?

I had a book review scheduled to post Friday morning -- but I deleted it.  I chickened out at the last minute, because it was a little critical.

I'm thinking, should I be writing critical book reviews?  Yes, I'm a reader, but I'm also a writer, and I can't help but see the criticism from the author's perspective.  That book is their baby.  It took years of blood, sweat and tears to create.  I know!  I'm thinking that if I were in the author's position, I would rather a blogger not write a review at all, if they must be negative about my baby.

On the other hand, I appreciate and follow blogs that aren't afraid to write critical reviews.  The benefits are two-fold -- I learn what they didn't like about a book and can choose to read the book anyway or avoid purchasing it, and I learn what not to do when writing my own novels.

Am I wrong to refrain from posting critical book reviews?  Am I chipping away at my credibility with other readers by posting only good book reviews?  Authors deal with so much harsh criticism, and I hesitate to contribute to it.

I'm also considering the possibility that the author of the book I've just read might become a writer buddy and supporter of my own work someday...  So after weighing the pros and cons, I've decided to stay clear of critical book reviews.  I will write honest reviews, but if I must be critical, I'll won't write a review of the book at all.

Have I made the right decision?  What are your thoughts on this subject?


Loree Huebner said...

I don't know, Gwen. You've got to go with your own gut on this one. Something in your spirit stopped you from posting it, so trust and let it be.

Not too long ago - it was all over the writing blogosphere - a post by a reviewer and the author argued with him ON the blog about the review and book. It got real ugly - and very public - and it became more like watching a train wreck in slow motion due to the bickering between them. The review and comments became the subject of many blogs.

Let the stars rate it - 1 through 5 - you don't need to say anything else.

Now if you really loved the book, that's a different story. Promote away!

The Purple Lady said...

I am an aspiring writer and I believe that peer review is essential to good writing. The important factor when doing a critical review is to temper all negative comments with kindness and positive solutions/ideas. I would love for you to check out my blog and let me know your honest opinion. All Things Purple

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Loree, how awful that the author and reviewer of a book argued back and forth like that on a blog! I can see why that would have been a sensation in the blogging world.

I agree with you -- let the stars rate it, and if I really loved the book, promote away! Thanks for your advice!

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Thanks for stopping by, Purple Lady! I agree that peer review is essential to good writing -- I guess I'm leaning toward keeping those more critical reviews in my private notes. :-) I did try to balance the negativity with positive feedback when writing my review, but it still sounded too harsh for my liking.

Thanks for following me and inviting me to check out your blog! I'm on my way over!

Laura Frantz said...

Gwen, Bless your caring heart! This is something I've struggled with for a long time myself. I must admit that I don't care for many of the books I read and sometimes even struggle with writing endorsements for other authors. I rarely write book reviews because of this and then only if I really love a book. A book really is someone's baby and no one wants anyone else telling them their baby has colic...

I've also learned that many of the books I don't warm to make other readers rabid with delight:) Some of my least favorite books appear on bestseller lists! Likewise, some of my favorite books are panned by others. It's such a subjective thing.

Even if I don't like a book I can usually find something positive to say or pick out some things the writer did well. I like to emphasize that and feel that's more in keeping with dwelling on what is true and pure and good like Scripture says. In the words of an author friend of mine, "A review is simply one person's opinion."

Thanks for such an insightful post. You're a gem:)

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Thanks for stopping by, Laura! I really appreciate your honesty. You're right, the popularity and success of novels is subjective, and a review is only an opinion.

I do try to highlight what I liked about a book when writing a review, but this particular review that I didn't post yesterday, lol -- well, I deleted it because the good points were getting lost in the criticism.

Thanks for your encouragement! God bless you!

Renee said...

I struggle with this, also. As Laura said, I find that some of my least favorite books become bestsellers. And I can't help but think about the day (hopefully) when I'll have a book out. I would want those who don't like it to just quietly not like it! My trouble comes in when I sign up to read a book for a book tour and a review is mandatory. That's no fun. I try to say whatever positive things I can and keep my review short :)

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Renee, I haven't been brave enough to take on blog tours for that very reason. I've always liked your book reviews, so if I've stumbled across a book you didn't care for, you did a good job of being positive about it!

After winning that ACFW award, I'm sure your printed book is coming soon! I'll be one of the first to buy it, and I'm confident that it will be worthy of a great review!

Shannon Milholland said...

I love your compassionate heart for not wanting to write a critical review. I could see myself doing the same thing but there is room for speaking the truth in love I think. I know I for one appreciate an honest review that is tempered with kindness and encouragement. Otherwise, I can't figure out how to improve as an author.

The Purple Lady said...

That is the key! If your criticism is with an eye to help the author improve for next time-- definitely give the advice. If it's just to say how boring, blah, blah, blah it was, then save it. It will only hurt their feelings.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Shannon, I'm relieved to hear that you would see a honest review tempered with kindness as constructive and encouraging! I did try to be constructive in my review, but it came out more damaging than encouraging.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Purple Lady, if I can write a review that is uplifting and helpful for an author's growth, I will post it.