Yesterday, I got a bad review. No, it wasn’t my first one, and it sure won’t be my last. But this particular one questioned my whole being an author, which affected me deep in my core. I knew there would be criticism, and I knew there would be those who wouldn’t like the type of genre I write, but never did I think I would want to put my pen down and say “That’s it.”
The review I’m referring to is regarding my second novel, Aluria. I paid for this review, which I certainly won’t do again. The site is http://www.onlinebookclub.org, and I’ve seen good reviews come out of it, like Eva McCall’s Murder on Haint Branch. But little did I realize that anyone is offered to take on the review, and there is no level of expertise when they give their opinion. The person who volunteered to take on my book was 16 years old, and had I known someone that young would be reviewing it for the whole world to see, I would have asked for my money back.
Anyways, some of the things he/she said shocked me, some I downright disagreed with. I have included some of the things they said, and I’ll provide my thoughts on it.
One of the first things that I noticed about this book were the descriptions. Or rather, the lack of. Setting the scene and creating an atmosphere is crucial to a good novel, but I felt that the majority of the text was dialogue or Jason’s internal thoughts…I was not able to visualise the world that the author had created and as a result, my interest levels slowly decreased as I progressed.
First off, let me point out the misspelled word in that batch of the review. Next, I had an issue with what they said as a lack of description. Yes, throughout the entire production of the book, I questioned whether I put too many, or not enough description. So, I did what I expect all the books I read to include: Enough description for me to get an idea, but leave the rest to my imagination. Everyone I’ve spoken to has said I provided more than enough description in Aluria. Maybe this reviewer likes to read Moby Dick in their spare time.
The language, unfortunately, was also a disappointment. There were some uses of terribly basic vocabulary such as describing Tessa as having “white skin” and “white teeth”. This example is perhaps the worst but nevertheless fairly representative of other instances in the book.
Let’s be clear, they’re not referring to any cursing or anything like that. They’re saying I dumbed it down to the most basic words. And maybe I did. However, I did include more different words such as “pearly teeth”, and I was told doing that made my characters more inanimate than making my writing sounding more creative. I guessing that’s also the PR person in me, trying to make things as simple and concise as possible.
Another main aspect of the book that did not meet my expectations were the characters. They came across to me as very one-dimensional: they did not have distinct personalities and voices and almost seemed robotic as a result.
This was the biggest issue I had with the whole review. I just don’t see how that is possible, or how it could be corrected. Each individual character in the book seem to be different, in my opinion, and they each go through the overall story-line differently. If you have any insight on this one, please let me know, especially those who have read the book thus far.
I believe that the length of this book has resulted in issues that could have been solved had the author written a longer book. Aluria is simple – too simple, in fact – and it is this lack of complexity that meant that the novel did not have important detail, well-shaped characters or realism…250 pages meant that the book should have been a quick read but, for me, it was not. I found it difficult to continue because it was not gripping and I often put it down to do other things.
By the time I got to this part, I was looking for something to fight with the reviewer about. First, they got the page number wrong. It’s well over 250 pages, and even though it doesn’t exceed 300, the reviewer made it sound like they had better things to do to begin with. But at 16, I wouldn’t expect them to sit down an review a book for someone, either.
So why did I post this? A couple of reasons. One, I needed to vent. I had this on my mind for too long. And two, I want to ask those who have read Aluria to give their honest opinion about the book, good or bad. If the thoughts are negative, I want to know so I can fix the errors. My characters mean everything to me, and I want to do right by them.
Will this stop my writing? No, but it certainly has killed my motivation for awhile. But what gets me through is knowing that so many talented authors, musicians, and directors get plagued with negative reviews every day, and that doesn’t stop them. They continue to press on through and overcome the challenges thrown their way. I may not be the most talented writer in the world, but as long as it makes me happy, then it’s worth it.
So, for those who have written or performed something, and gotten bad reviews about it, how did it affect you? Post your comments below, along with those who leave an honest review of Aluria.