I am lucky today to have C.S. Splitter again visiting the blog. In case you missed him, he recently did a post back in December, on the Creative Review Anthology, Christmas Lites. You can check out his post here.
Yesterday, I reviewed his first novel, The Reluctant (Crayder Chronicles #1). Here to write a response to my review is none other than Splitter. Take it away!
Do these jeans make my butt look fat?
That question is something every attached man will face at some point in his life if you substitute dress, pants, or skirt, for jeans. It sends chills down our spines because we know we are in trouble (we have a similar reaction when we hear, “We need to talk…”).
There is no good answer to that question.
“It’s not the jeans…” will have you sleeping on the couch. Ignoring the question will lead to an observation that we never listen. Even saying that the jeans make her butt look fabulous could lead to accusations of insincerity and cowardice because she KNOWS we are only saying that to avoid trouble.
You see…she already made up her mind about the jeans, one way or the other, before she asked for an opinion. It is pure luck when our answer matches her opinion because we are clueless.
When an author puts his or her book out there for public scrutiny, they are asking a similar question: does this book make my story look good?
We already have our opinions on our book. We had those opinions before we ever let anyone else read it, especially a reviewer. And while we love our readers (especially reviewers), what we would really like is affirmation of our opinions. Of course, books are more complicated than jeans and there are opinions to be had on many different aspects so it is literally impossible for us to get the affirmation we seek.
So…every review is suspect to us. We can’t say anything, either. It goes against the unwritten etiquette between reviewers and writers to opine, one way or the other, on a review. We WANT to thank you for a positive review, but we cannot do that while we ignore the negative review. It would just be dishonest. And we certainly cannot send a WTF? e-mail to the person who panned our book. Therefore, we cannot say much to a reviewer who loved our book.
It’s not fair. Well, maybe it is actually fair, but it does not feel that way. That is probably because we put so much time and effort into our writing that it is personal to us. Yeah, it is better for everyone concerned if we do not saying anything. So saying, I am going to break that rule into a million little pieces! Do not worry, Heidi said it was ok. She did NOT know I was going to do this before she wrote her review, though.
Let us take Heidi’s very thoughtful review as an example. It’s a really positive review! I wanted to send her an email thanking her for such a nice review, but I could not. All I could say was my standard, “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book.”
I know she does not expect more, but I feel like an ungrateful ass….umm…shmuck…for being so lukewarm in my response. When someone does something nice, even if it is their job, you are supposed to thank them, right?
It really was a thoughtful and, for the most part, positive review and, yet, my focus is on the negative. It always is and I KNOW I am not alone among authors. No matter what someone says, we try to read more into it. You could tell us ten great things about our book and one thing that did not go over so well and, in our minds, we would want to grill you on that one thing until we felt we thoroughly understood why it detracted from your enjoyment of our story.
Seriously, we are masochists and not in that really fun “whips and chains excite me” way.
Knowing that Heidi typically writes her reviews with what she liked and did not like, I admit that I skimmed the “what I liked” and went straight for the “not so much.” Seriously, I need therapy.
What would an author say about this review starting with the negatives? What goes through our minds?
This is a man’s book: Doh! Don’t say that, Heidi! AFTER I wrote The Reluctant, I did some market research because I like being bass ackwards about things. I found that 80% of the fiction audience is female. Doh again! The good news is that women tend to have a VERY wide range of tolerance for their reading and, probably, 90% of my readers are female. They can accept a flawed, male protagonist because….well, probably because they have to deal with men in their real lives and realize just how flawed we are. Still, it scares me when people say it is a guy’s book because I am afraid that some women will not then give it a chance.
It took about half way into the book to see where the story was going to go: Ahhhhh! Slow story is the kiss of death! Here I was wondering if the first chapter thrust the reader into too much action too early. Damnit! Conundrums. But I get it. While the story is a stand alone book, it is part of a series and I wanted to plant the rest of the series on the strong foundation of the first few chapters in book one. Since the series really is character driven, I wanted the reader to know the characters and like them. So, while I do not like hearing it said out loud because might take it the wrong way, I MEANT to do it that way lol.
I can even find negatives in the positives!
Tom is not a hunky guy: That’s true. I would not call him “middle aged” though. Middle age is like 50 and he is younger than that…although how many people do you know who live to be 100? Ok, he is probably middle aged. With some of Tom’s habits, he has the life expectancy of a carnival goldfish. But, aren’t you all tired of Adonis and his bodice ripping tendencies? I promise; we are surrounded by heroes in everyday life and most look very ordinary. That single mom holding down two part-time jobs is a hero and probably looks older than her years. I thought it was time to give the common person their props.
It was fun to hear about piloting a small plane: You know, someone else just wrote a review saying that there was too much talk about airplanes. Heck, that was after I cut almost 2000 words about flying. Where is the elusive balance I sought? Half the people who write to me want more “plane talk” and the other half want less. Gah!
Threats to our nether regions: Yeah, that one is true. Why do women always use that as a threat? Lorena Bobbit even went through with it…and now you know where Lorena in the book got her name. Doh! I should not have revealed that. Dang those tricky reviewers, now look what she made me do.
Guys think about sex all the time: Well, duh. I mean, come on. I saw a study once that said men think about sex more than once a minute. I do not know if that is true or not because I have been writing this guest blog piece for almost an hour now and I haven’t thought about sex more than half a dozen times (I do not count my earlier vague reference to BDSM in that, however.) Isn’t that one of our endearing qualities? You know what to expect from us. It’s not like we are going to ask you whether or not those gym shorts make our butts look fat.
This book is self published: Even after all of the writing I have done on the subject, all of the reading, and knowing of so many self-pubbed success stories, I still cringe when I hear this. That stigma dies hard. People still think self-published means that the book was not good enough to be published “for real.” Yes, there are a lot of bad self-published books out there, but there is also a bunch of trash coming out of traditional publishers, too. Again, it’s not fair, but even I am subject to that prejudice as evidenced by my continuing cringe habit.
Like I said earlier, you cannot make us happy as authors. No matter what you say, we will find the fault. We would not even believe if you said, “Your book was awesome!” We know that book is not awe inspiring. Like the person who finishes their own basement, we know where all dubious wiring is within the walls. We know the flaws and we are sensitive to them even when you, the reader and reviewer, are not.
Only an idiot writes a novel. A masochistic, soon-to-be humbled idiot. The only good news that goes along with that knowledge is that we are accompanied on our journey by reviewers and readers who actually DO get it. Like Heidi.
It is true that we should not say anything to reviewers even when they put effort and energy into writing thoughtful reviews. We seek those reviews. We need those reviews to let readers know about our books. But that does not mean that we should trust ourselves to be objective about those reviews. Our books are too close to us and it’s too personal.
Plus, we are bound to always, always, always find the negative and only an idiot would put themselves through that.
I guess, after all of that, I will just say: "thank you" to Heidi for taking the time to read and review my book. It is safer that way and I shall go back to my corner now and contemplate how to make my writing suck less...'cause it will never be good enough. (I told you we were idiots)
I am starting a support group for writers and we will meet every Tuesday at 8pm. It’s BYOB.
Umm, thanks Splitter, I think!? Okay, ladies do you want more? Then head over to Splitter's blog, for a funny new feature every Tuesday called ask Tom Crayder, where you can email Tom Crayder your questions and get a manly answer.
Do you think you would like to have the illustrious Splitter do a post for your blog? Click the tour button on the top right of my blog and check the tour schdule for availability. I promise, he is always fun to have on the blog.
Finally, Splitter is offering up a free copy of The Willing,to one lucky winner. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good Luck!