Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tough Reviews

In the past few months, I've ran across a couple of books which I had agreed to read for possible review and which I didn't enjoy as much as the others I've read. The idea is to write as positive a review as possible in order to support the work. And my purpose here is to promote Christian fiction. But what to do when a book I've received is something I can't promote...? or didn't enjoy?

In one instance (review not posted on this site), I wrote my honest review and then contacted the author, letting her know my thoughts. In the review and email, I was respectful and honest, praising what I could about the work and honestly disclosing what I didn't appreciate. I asked her if she thought my review would be helpful or harmful. Then, I waited to hear back.

Some publicists will tell you: any publicity is good publicity. Just get people talking. Some will hope you don't post the tough reviews because though they're honest, they may do more harm than good. That specific author agreed with the former position--post it. It's publicity. She even stated, "I asked for your honest review, and that's what you gave me."

Since then, I've asked other authors and publicists and heard different responses. I sometimes pre-submit the review before posting. That way, we can work out the best strategy. Again, my purpose is to promote Christian fiction. And as a Christian, I believe in honesty. But what I never want to do is burn bridges, write disrespectfully, or hurt someone.

My critique group met this week. Oh, what a great group of fellow writers! We laugh together, share our lives and help each other with our work. There is mutual respect among us, as well as skill in regards to knowing the elements of a good story. We're all students of the craft. That's important, no matter what level fits any particular writer.

Sometimes my crit buddies tell me what I don't want to hear. Their words are helpful, but difficult to absorb. But here's the thing, sometimes as a writer, you have to hear the hard words in order to write the better story. In the end, the novel is better for it. Either way, honesty pays off and so does humility (taking the suggestions and working with them as they fit). But when a book is already published, what the feedback will do is hopefully lead to better writing in the future.

So, my time line for posting reviews to this blog may get interrupted if I run across a novel in the stack which I cannot review positively, or which the author/publicist would prefer I not review, given my opinion about the work. I can only offer my own opinion, as a writer and as a reader. I've been reading Christian fiction for nearly two decades. I've been studying the craft for nearly one decade. And my opinion is only one of multitudes, but it's what I'll offer here at this site. For the sake of inspiring writers and readers, for the sake of encouraging better craft (which I'll continue to strive for myself--because I certainly haven't arrived!) and for the sake of better fiction, I'll review honestly. And for the sake of promoting Christian fiction, I'll keep reviewing. Because I love it!

Happy reading.

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