Book Reviews, Doubt, Feedback, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Reader, Writing

Reading between the lines of reviews

Sometimes I read a bit of writing advice and get myself all a dither. This week has been one of those times. I read something the other day about the importance of understanding what readers like most about your writing, so you can play to that. Since I’m writing another novel, and I’d like it to be better than the last one, that sounded like good advice to me. Then came the questions.

Do I know what readers liked best about The Brevity of Roses? And isn’t there a related question—what did readers like least? What if the novel I’m working on right now, includes too much of what they didn’t like and too little of what they did?

So far, the reviews of that novel have been positive. That’s nice, but it’s also unfortunate. I’m happy about good reviews, of course, but I know many more people have read Brevity than have reviewed it. Some have let me know privately that they enjoyed it, but many many others have said nothing, publically or privately, since reading it.

I’m left to wonder. Did they hate it? Did they throw it across the room in frustration? Were they bored? Did they not even finish reading it? Did they laugh—when I didn’t intended them to? Do they regret wasting their time and money? Or maybe they loved it, but it didn’t occur to them to let me know in some way. Silence is maddening. It’s also unhelpful.

At this point, the bulk of Brevity’s reviews were written by fellow writers. I suspect the reviews from most of my writer friends are just as biased as those from my non-writer friends. Maybe more so because writers sympathize. They know the value of good reviews, not only to boost sales, but to boost a fragile writer’s confidence. But they also know how to write, so when I read my fellow authors’ reviews, I try to read between the lines. What didn’t they say, and does that point to what they didn’t like?

I know. I know. I’m supposed to be writing for readers, not other writers. But is there a writer out there who doesn’t want the respect of her peers? OH … wait … aren’t I supposed to be writing for ME? If I write what I love, won’t my readers love it too?

But wait … what if all those silent readers did hate my novel? And what if all my good reviews really were written out of sympathy? Maybe NO ONE really liked it. Maybe I’m a terrible writer. Maybe NO ONE will buy my next book. OH … wait … if that’s the case, I can write anything I want. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore. Maybe I should turn off the computer and take up knitting instead.

Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks so far. But tomorrow (Thursday) I get to celebrate my anniversary with teppanyaki, so things are looking up.

How’s your week going?

Author, Book Reviews, Books, My Books, Reading, Writing

Do you know the LibraryThing?

I’d read reference to LibraryThing several times before I finally checked it out. I had imagined it as a hangout for professional librarians, but it’s actually a place to catalogue your library and connect with other readers and authors, similar to Goodreads. Though not quite as intuitive, in my opinion.

Accounts are free, but have a limit of adding 200 books to your shelf. A paid account is $10 a year or $25 lifetime, with no book limit. I set up a free account and imported my book list from Goodreads, but I’m still learning my way around. I’ve considering doing a giveaway there.

If you have a published book, it’s probably listed at LibraryThing, so you might want to check out your book and author pages. I haven’t added much to mine other than a photo, but evidently, any member can fill in information on your author page, so I check occasionally to make sure someone hasn’t entered wrong information about me. 🙂

The Brevity of Roses page is rather sparse with only two reviews, so I’m asking for your help. If you’ve reviewed my novel somewhere else, I’d be grateful if you’d copy and paste it to my book’s page at LibraryThing.

And while you’re at LibraryThing, please add me as a friend!

Books, Fiction, Novel, Read, Reader, Reading, Writing

What’s wrong with my reading?

Recently, I’ve read several novel reviews that gushed about how the book had a powerful impact on the reader’s life. In a couple of cases, the reader said the reading experience actually changed their life. I can’t remember when that last happened to me. I want to know why.

Pierre Auguste Renoir -- The Reader

I don’t think it’s necessarily my reading choices. I’ve read some of those same books said to be so powerful. They just didn’t have an overwhelming effect on me. Am I too cynical? Am I too dense? I know it’s not that I’m so perfect I couldn’t use a good life-changing experience.

Might it be that I’ve forgotten how to read in such a focused way that I’m open to receive that experience?

I have a pile of books to read and a backlog on my Kindle. Those dwindled a bit when I went back to reading as I ate lunch. Reading in little chunks that way is probably not the best way to experience a novel, though it might work for short stories, essays, or poetry. Then I started writing again. Now I eat lunch while I try to catch up on email or check in on Twitter. That means little or no reading.

What would happen if I took a few days off and did nothing but read? The first thing I’d have to do is fight the urge to put down the book and write. I know that every perfect word choice or gorgeous metaphor I read would have me chomping at the writing bit.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about filling up on reading before I can write. This time, I’m writing well, the words are flowing, yet I feel I’m missing something by not reading. Strange.

Maybe I need to disappear for a while and completely, absolutely, totally, deeply immerse myself in a life-changing book—if I can find one.

What was the last book that had an impact on you? Why?

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Author, Book Reviews, Contest, Feedback, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Reader, Writing

Reviews and Roses

If you are a writer, you will relate to what I have to say today. As you may know, the initial premise for my novel, The Brevity of Roses, came to me in a dream. At first, it seemed a simple story, but the more I wrote, the more I disturbed the placid surface and uncovered treasures in the depths. I fell in love with my characters’ story, and tried my best to do it justice.

Like you, I’m sure, I wondered how well the wonderful story in my head had come through the keyboard. Would readers see only a shadow of the story I had intended to tell them? My critique partners and beta readers reassured me it was all there, but I figured they were too close to the story, too close to me. Then last night, I read this review by Christa Polkinhorn and finally quit holding my breath.

This is a turning point for me. Yes, I know, my reviews won’t all be good ones. No one writes a book that everyone loves. But it’s enough to know that some readers will “get” the story I meant to tell. I can live with that.

Contest news! Congratulations to Dorte H who won the e-book from Cathryn Grant’s contest. I hope you enjoy the read, Dorte.

For the rest of you, I hope you enjoy your weekend, a holy time for many. I’ll take some time to revel in my roses, the spring bloom smells the sweetest.

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Books, Feedback, Opinion

The sticky business of rating books

I blogged about rating books last month, but I’d like to revisit that topic today. In the last week, I’ve read at least three blog posts about rating books, which have caused me to wonder if my criteria is too strict. Since I started an account at Goodreads, I’ve been giving most books a 3-stars rating, but now I know many people see that as a thumbs down.

Currently, this is what my ratings mean:
•    5 stars = I loved the book and will read it again … possibly more than once.

•    4 stars = I really liked the book and most likely will read it again.

•    3 stars = I liked the book and enjoyed the read, but might not read it again. You never know. Sometimes a 3 star turns into a 4 star for me.

•    2 stars = Reading it wasn’t a waste of time, but I had problems with it. I doubt I’d read it again.

•    1 star = For me, reading it was a waste of time, and I might not have finished it.

Often, I just rate the book, not write a review, so it’s likely my 3-stars has been seen as a negative. I’m probably bringing down the average rating, when that was not my intent. I’m wondering if I should spend time re-evaluating my posted ratings.

Your turn, a lot of questions today: What does a 3-stars rating mean to you? Do you have a personal rating system? In a five-star system, what percentage of books do you rate 5-stars? Do you consider the average rating on a book before you rate it, or stick to your standards no matter what?

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