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Joanna Alonzo
04-24-2014, 09:52 AM
After reading reviews of books I ghostwrote on Amazon, I messaged my client...

Me: I'm scarred for life.
Client: Why? Most of the reviews are positive. And you'd be surprised how many of the negative reviews are actually from aspiring writers.

I wasn't actually referring to the negative reviews when I said I was scarred for life, because I learned A LOT from the negative reviews, but my client's comment made me wonder...

Do writers make mean reviewers/critics? Are we really such an envious bunch?

Helix
04-24-2014, 10:12 AM
I'm wondering how your client knew which of the negative reviews were from aspiring writers.

Kerosene
04-24-2014, 10:15 AM
What do you mean by "mean" critic?

Anyone who builds at a skill becomes a good critic for that skill. They can be an honest critic if they wish to be--some, don't, though they can have the capacity for it.

If anyone is being "mean", they're probably just that way all the time. Unless the book murdered their entire family, I don't see the point in getting riled up over not liking it or thinking it's not that great. And if they're bashing the book because their envious... maybe they should grow up.


I review quite a lot of books on Goodreads and Amazon--under a pseudonym--and I have been approached by authors for reviews. Some I have liked and given favorable reviews for, others I have burned at the stake. Though, I have never insulted the author, nor their work; if I am to make a negative comment, it's something that I found didn't work for me as a reader and I provide evidence of why it didn't.
Then, by the end of it all, I answer these questions: "Is it worth your time? Is it worth your money?" I do this because a review on Amazon/Goodreads/whatever, is for a product. I review for the reader, I critique--as, like in the SYW section here--for the writer. I don't care about what the author thinks in a review, just of what I felt and what other readers might.

Joanna Alonzo
04-24-2014, 10:24 AM
Ha! Good point, Helix!

WillSauger: You make a good point about reviewing for readers and critiquing for writers. There's a proper place for both.

There were some reviews that targeted the writing more than the story - pointing out specific sentences that they thought was repetitive. One pointed out the misuse of the word, "horrified" suggesting that "terrified" was a better fit (I'm still not quite sure what the difference is). They came out more as a nitpicking critique, rather than a review.

I personally find myself valuing a writer's opinions about my writing more than a non-writer, specifically because of this point that you made: "Anyone who builds at a skill becomes a good critic for that skill."

I think it's why we as writers would prefer a line-by-line critique tearing our work apart from a fellow writer instead of a "I love it! It's great!" line of praise from a non-writer.

Samsonet
04-24-2014, 12:27 PM
Writers don't tend to leave "mean" reviews out of envy. Blunt reviews out of really disliking the book, sure, but not envy.

Of course a writer would probably be able to give specific details about why they didn't like it, compared to the casual reader. We know the terminology. We can pinpoint mistakes -- chances are we've made the same ones ourselves. If we dislike a book, we're very capable of shredding it in the review. Or not.

But the thing is, a devoted reader could also point out those problems. That's why the "bad reviews come from jealous writers" view annoys me: it's implying that only people competing with the author could have a problem with the book. That and I've never seen it applied where the reviews actually were from jealous writers.

buirechain
04-24-2014, 04:52 PM
Another issue is that an aspiring writer is more likely to read more and a larger variety of books, since it's a good idea to know what's out their and where our work fits in. Before I started working towards being a writer I read less and what I read was a lot more exclusive to writers I already liked, or were strongly recommended to me by someone I knew. Now, while I read those, I also read any book on a topic related to something I might write, whether or not I think I'll enjoy it. (And in some cases where a book is 'seminal' and yet I'm pretty sure I will dislike the author's writing style).

bearilou
04-24-2014, 05:19 PM
I personally find myself valuing a writer's opinions about my writing more than a non-writer, specifically because of this point that you made: "Anyone who builds at a skill becomes a good critic for that skill."

I think it's why we as writers would prefer a line-by-line critique tearing our work apart from a fellow writer instead of a "I love it! It's great!" line of praise from a non-writer.

And yet a lot of writers hate Twilight and The Davinci Code.

I feel that sometimes writers can't see the forest for the trees and spend too much time nitpicking at a cellular level and not appreciating the living thing as a whole so I can't be convinced that's a 'better' way to look at things.

If I spent my time nitpicking every book I read, I'd probably never write. If I held another writer's opinion on what I wrote over what my advanced non-writing readers think, I'd probably never publish.


“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman

There are times when I do seek out another writer's opinion on something. I acknowledge they may have some insight into a particular technical part of where I'm wanting to go/fix.

There are times when I seek out a nonwriting reader's opinion on the gut level punch of what I'm writing because I don't need the technical advice just then. I need visceral reaction and don't want their 'expertise' getting in the way.


But the thing is, a devoted reader could also point out those problems. That's why the "bad reviews come from jealous writers" view annoys me: it's implying that only people competing with the author could have a problem with the book. That and I've never seen it applied where the reviews actually were from jealous writers.

Same here. :/ I don't like the implication that bad reviews means someone's JUS JELOUS OMG.

jari_k
04-24-2014, 05:47 PM
After reading reviews of books I ghostwrote on Amazon, I messaged my client...

Me: I'm scarred for life.
Client: Why? Most of the reviews are positive. And you'd be surprised how many of the negative reviews are actually from aspiring writers.

I wasn't actually referring to the negative reviews when I said I was scarred for life, because I learned A LOT from the negative reviews, but my client's comment made me wonder...

Do writers make mean reviewers/critics? Are we really such an envious bunch?

As someone else asked, how does your client know the "negative" reviewers are aspiring writers? Does he or she know these people?

I find it hard to believe most writers would leave a negative review out of envy. I know there are always a few weirdos in any group, but most authors I've known, as most here, display a wish to help others succeed. Sure, they'd probably give a more thorough critique for the writer's own eyes, but...it doesn't seem likely they'd write harsher Amazon/Goodreads reviews to me.

Many readers are particular about what they like, and we shouldn't assume ignorance for them. Let's take music as one example. How many of us can state what we like or dislike about a certain song without being musicians ourselves?

Sedjet
04-24-2014, 08:50 PM
I agree with Bearilou to a certain point. I think writers will tend to look more closely and base their reviews more on form and grammar etc. Not that those things aren't important, but it can get in the way of enjoying an otherwise good story.

I used to read a fiction site where people could comment and whenever there was a story written in present tense it was automatically given a bad review by most people just because "no one can write present tense very well". I think most average readers wouldn't even notice this, or maybe even know what it means. Not saying that all those commenters must have been writers, it just makes me think that we writers seem to have to pick things apart like that instead of just enjoying the story for what it is.

Having said that, I don't necessarily think critiques from writers are mean, or meaner than average readers'. Just different and maybe more technical.

Phaeal
04-24-2014, 09:17 PM
I think the "meanest" critics are those who've realized that snarky one star reviews with funny GIFs will get them the most likes and gain them a following of their own. ;)

I look on these kind of reviews as entertainment rather than criticism, though many of them make cogent points as well. And the best of them are an art form in themselves.

Cat GIFs are perennially popular. Sherlock GIFs may be giving Supernatural GIFs a run for their money at the moment. A GIF featuring both the boys and Sherlock and John and several adorable cats would go mega-viral!

Actually, the meanest (no softening quotes) reviews are probably the comments left by outraged fans on low-star reviews -- and for some outraged fans, anything but five stars is too low. When the author "self-fans" in this manner, we have the spectacle of the Big Mistake, and now we're back into the realm of schadenfreudish entertainment!

Oh, the humanity.

:D

Jamesaritchie
04-24-2014, 09:33 PM
I tend to believe that writers are far and away the best critics of prose, and general readers are far and away the best critics of story and character.

I gave up reading reviews of any kind long, long ago, but I still receive feedback of one kind or another regularly. I give writers their due, and I give regular readers their due. Telling which is which is usually easy. If they mainly talk about the writing, they're writers. If they don't mention the writing, but love or hate story and character, they're readers.

shelleyo
04-24-2014, 10:28 PM
I tend to believe that writers are far and away the best critics of prose, and general readers are far and away the best critics of story and character.


I think most writers care more about the prose than most readers ever will. There are books that have made their writers hundreds of thousands of dollars--self-published books, where I think it's even more obvious than trade-published books--that any writing workshop anywhere would have ripped apart for grammar, bloated writing, telling instead of showing, redundancy and every other problem that often mars beginner work. The books were published with these problems, full of amateurish, weak prose. I won't name them, because I don't want to disrespect any writers. There are many success stories like this over the last few years (and I'm not implying all self-published successes fall into this category, just some of them).

Yet enough readers overlooked those problems because of the fascinating characters and compelling stories to make the writers bestsellers in their genres and give them a mid-to-high six-figure income for that year (and beyond).

The readers weren't bothered by the things that would drain any editor's red pen and cause chaos at a writing workshop. And I'd wager that a surprisingly large percentage of the readers didn't even notice many of the grammar problems, because they don't recognize them as problems, because they might make the same grammar errors themselves. It's a phenomenon that's no more evident anywhere than in fan fiction. The most horrible writing often gets the most readers and the most praise because some of what makes it horrible isn't recognized as horrible by younger readers, and many don't care because the story features the characters they love evoking the emotions they wanted to feel as they read. They could care less about passive voice and dangling participles .

Story trumps so much, that some of the readers who recognize some or all of the errors will plow through because they need to know what happens. I didn't understand that for many, many years.

Ken
04-24-2014, 10:37 PM
Do writers make mean reviewers/critics? Are we really such an envious bunch?

Envious? Not in my experience, here at Absolute Write.
Almost everyone here is supportive and nice and quick to help out.
Just check out the Goals and Accomplishments forum.
Members are quick to congratulate other writers who have achieved success.
So if anything, I would say that writers are not an envious bunch at all !

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=31

Jamesaritchie
04-25-2014, 02:39 AM
Story trumps so much, that some of the readers who recognize some or all of the errors will plow through because they need to know what happens. I didn't understand that for many, many years.

Even as a long time writer, I still pick up novels that grab me and hold me from first page to last, and don't even see the glaringly poor writing in spots until after I finish the book, or even on a second read. Story and character really do cover a multitude of errors.

Putputt
04-25-2014, 02:49 AM
The writers I've met here on AW aren't an envious bunch, I don't think. They haven't done anything to make me feel that, anyway. :D Many of them critique with brutal honesty, but I can see that the crits are coming from a good place instead of an intention to tear fellow writers down.

Reviews that attack the writer instead of the book are just bad reviews.

Wilde_at_heart
04-25-2014, 03:31 AM
Without seeing the review itself it's hard to say. Some people have trouble toning down the snarkasm - it's just the way they write - but that doesn't necessarily mean they're mean. Often they're trying to elucidate a perfectly valid point via exaggeration or something.

For some people, anything less than OMG I LOVE IT!!! is a personal attack.

jari_k
04-25-2014, 03:40 AM
My non-writer grandmother was a fierce grammarian. I wish I had her knowledge now.

Readers can be lovers of language. Readers can be interested in the words used, as well as in the story. Some readers can understand the nuts and bolts of literature without being authors.

jaksen
04-25-2014, 03:56 AM
Negative criticism doesn't mean a writer is 'envious.'

But many people do think any sort of criticism indicates envy. I once made a critical judgement about a popular author while at lunch. (I am a retired teacher.) And immediately two of the English teachers at my table said I was obviously 'jealous.' They thought it was very amusing and I quickly learned not to talk writing or books when they were around.

I have a sister who is the same way. She gets a new car, shows it off, and will laugh and tell me I must be 'envious.' (Seriously I envy nothing about her or her life.) That's just how some people view the world. I think most of us just get on with life and are happy when others do well.

I also review a lot of books online and try to be honest and fair when I do. No matter how poorly a book is written (imo) I try to point out a good point or two. I've recently reviewed some books which were very poorly written, but the writer had some interesting characters and in one case was an expert on Boston history. I pointed this out in the review as a strength, (though I was also hoping the writer could learn to avoid head-hopping in their next book.)

chompers
04-25-2014, 04:09 AM
Envious? Not in my experience, here at Absolute Write.

I get envious when I see some really good writing and know that I can't write like that.

BUT that's not why I am a nit picky critic. Why am I so critical? I want them to do the best they can. And as writers I think our standards are higher than the average non-writer.

Joanna Alonzo
04-25-2014, 05:30 AM
And yet a lot of writers hate Twilight and The Davinci Code.

I feel that sometimes writers can't see the forest for the trees and spend too much time nitpicking at a cellular level and not appreciating the living thing as a whole so I can't be convinced that's a 'better' way to look at things.

If I spent my time nitpicking every book I read, I'd probably never write. If I held another writer's opinion on what I wrote over what my advanced non-writing readers think, I'd probably never publish.
Good point you make here. Great reminder for me not to underestimate how a reader/non-writer reacts to my writing.

To some extent, it seems writers are unable to experience a book the same way a non-writer would. A recent book I picked up had really glowing reviews. I had high expectations going in and I was really curious about the premise. However, no matter how intrigued I was by the story, I couldn't get past how the writing changed from first person to third person every other chapter. I'm still trying to finish reading the book (just because I try to finish every book I read).


As someone else asked, how does your client know the "negative" reviewers are aspiring writers? Does he or she know these people?
:Shrug: No clue. I was thinking the same thing. Probably just an assumption.


Many readers are particular about what they like, and we shouldn't assume ignorance for them. Let's take music as one example. How many of us can state what we like or dislike about a certain song without being musicians ourselves?
True. I have friends who are voracious readers and I find myself thinking twice before letting them read my work as opposed to those who aren't too well-read.


I used to read a fiction site where people could comment and whenever there was a story written in present tense it was automatically given a bad review by most people just because "no one can write present tense very well". I think most average readers wouldn't even notice this, or maybe even know what it means. Not saying that all those commenters must have been writers, it just makes me think that we writers seem to have to pick things apart like that instead of just enjoying the story for what it is.
I had a friend (a reader, not a writer) who told me he thought Rowling was better author than Meyer because HP was written in third person and Twilight was written in first person. O_o


I think most writers care more about the prose than most readers ever will. There are books that have made their writers hundreds of thousands of dollars--self-published books, where I think it's even more obvious than trade-published books--that any writing workshop anywhere would have ripped apart for grammar, bloated writing, telling instead of showing, redundancy and every other problem that often mars beginner work. The books were published with these problems, full of amateurish, weak prose. I won't name them, because I don't want to disrespect any writers. There are many success stories like this over the last few years (and I'm not implying all self-published successes fall into this category, just some of them).
As a ghostwriter for an indie publisher, I can attest to this. A lot of the work published barely went through the kind of editing books by traditional publishers went through, but the books still sold pretty well. I've also read self-published work that are very successful, but could use more than a little editing.


Without seeing the review itself it's hard to say. Some people have trouble toning down the snarkasm - it's just the way they write - but that doesn't necessarily mean they're mean. Often they're trying to elucidate a perfectly valid point via exaggeration or something.

For some people, anything less than OMG I LOVE IT!!! is a personal attack.
"snarkasm" - lol. :D As for writers who expect only praise from their readers... hmm... good luck with that.


I have a sister who is the same way. She gets a new car, shows it off, and will laugh and tell me I must be 'envious.' (Seriously I envy nothing about her or her life.) That's just how some people view the world. I think most of us just get on with life and are happy when others do well.
Gah! I hate that! I had a "friend" who got an iPad and told me to my face that I was jealous because she had one. I'm like, "What are you? Five?" (At least your sister got a car. Car, imo, trumps iPad.)


I get envious when I see some really good writing and know that I can't write like that.
Ditto!

JustSarah
04-25-2014, 06:34 AM
My thing is, as someone who sometimes reads Amazon reviews (mostly because I see a lot of one star reviews of books I just love), everyone now and then I might see a review like "This is a good book, but it would be nice if the pages of the book weren't torn." Then don't buy a used book. Certainly not the authors fault.

It seems far fetched those reviews would be from writers.

As a writer, I might notice present tense and not like a work. I might give the work a two star review. Now to be fair, its not usually present tense. Rather its choppy turbulent sentence structure. But a non writer might not notice this.

But I tend to analyse writing myself as well as everything else.

And yes I'm very familiar with the "attack the author" reviews. That's the reason I apply a 5-10% margin of error whenever I look at a star rating on Goodreads. I don't even believe in star systems.

RhodaD'Ettore
04-25-2014, 10:55 AM
What I hate more than the reviews, is when an author argues with a reviewer! I have never left less than a four star review on a book, as I understand the difficulties in getting published, writing around work/family, and promoting. However, if I am asked to write a review, I message the author explaining why I think the book is less than four stars. I would never post a bad review.

I have even written the author back and told them "page 6 should be 'people are' not 'people is'" that type of thing, not out of cruelty, but to help them improve their book. It is hard to edit/proofread your own work. And sometimes even having four or five people look at a book still allows typos to get through!

However, there is one woman who asked me 10 years ago to beta/proof her work. When I did, it was horrifying and terrible. Supposedly this woman is a member of MENSA and graduated from Princeton, and I marked her book up more than a fourth grade teacher would. Ten years later, most of her reviews are written by friends that she named in her book---all raving! The bad reviews will be, "Did we read the same book? She cannot write!" She even changed her genre from adult fiction to YA because people called her writing juvenile. Long story short (too late, i know) ... when people write her negative reviews, she comments back that it is their fault that they did not properly read the book description!

Everyone enjoys different things. I am not a sci-fi type of person, so I can understand if someone does not like my work simply because of subject. But to argue with a reader? that just does not make sense, and makes the writer look horrible

buirechain
04-25-2014, 05:13 PM
Maybe I'm an outlier, maybe I just talk books with too many people who have multiple and/or prestigious degrees, maybe my brain is just built oddly, but I tend to be more able and ready to overlook infelicitous language if there's a good story than my non-writer friends (and vice-versa, when people I know are gripped by beautiful prose and I'm like--but the story and/or characters are crap).

Whether or not I'm odd, there are definitely non-writers out there who do have serious problems with what we're talking about as nit-picky.

Hapax Legomenon
04-25-2014, 06:42 PM
I mean writers are great at a lot of stuff but I still don't think that if writers aren't your main audience that writers will be the best critics. (I said critics, here, not critiquers. Critics are different than critiquers).

I noticed this when I first started looking at short story magazines. I think these days at least a lot of non-writers pick up short stories for pleasure -- I think a lot of them are made by writers for writers. Because of this short stories have a much more literary bend to them and prose conquers all. As a result they read extremely differently than your typical novel which is written for a general audience.

JustSarah
04-25-2014, 10:39 PM
I have issues with critics anyway. Particularly video reviews. I've seen to many where they emphasize how loud their voice is, and how loud they puff over the actual analyses of story and character.

Its not like all critics are bad even, but those who use special effects? Yea pure entertainment.