Cruel and Unusual
The appreciation of any art form is highly subjective. Whether it’s novel writing, film making, music, sculpting, painting, or singing, everyone has a different opinion. To borrow a cliché, “One person’s junk is another’s treasure.” As a writer, I painfully understand that not all of my readers will be big fans. In fact, some will absolutely hate everything about my novels. There has never been a writer who escaped the harsh words of critics. Not one.
I truly appreciate constructive criticism. In fact, I gain more from negative feedback than I do from kudos. I can’t really grow as a writer by reading 5-Star reviews. But when a reader points out a flaw in the plot, a technical fault, or a continuity issue, I can learn from that criticism and improve my writing.
The one thing that puzzles me more than anything is why a critic chooses to be downright malicious. Some of the reader reviews I’ve read for all five of my novels just tear my heart out. When an author spends thousands of hours writing a novel, designing a plot, crafting sub-plots, creating interesting characters, and going through a comprehensive editorial process, why would anyone derive pleasure from slamming the author in a brutal way?
If my writing sucks to a particular reader, it sucks. But there are hundreds of ways to convey the same criticism without resorting to personal attacks or mean-spirited comments. Referring to They Never Die Quietly, one reader said, “This has to be one of the worst books I have ever read. It is filled with clichés. The writing is sophomoric at best. The dialogue between the killer and his mother is unoriginal and predictable. The plot is extremely predictable. Overall, the writing is terrible. It is what one would expect from a freshman who is taking his first creative writing class.” Hey Mr. Reviewer, don’t walk on eggshells. Tell me what you really think!
If there is any truth to the adage, “Misery loves company,” then I’m proud to be part of a really elite group because William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, and even J.K. Rowling have gotten their share of crappy reviews. Guess I’ll spend less time licking my wounds and more time writing.