Friday, 8 June 2012

A reflection on two weeks of social netsquabbling

I don't usually complain. Well, maybe I do but I try not to complain too much on here. I want my blog to be light, interesting, informative and sometimes it is ...sometimes it isn't. Above all I am determined it won't be nasty. I never use it to demean other writers or blast other people's opinions because, quite frankly, it isn't in me to do so.

I hope that the people who visit this page are, or will soon become, my friends and that they feel that way too. Those people who don't like it here, don't have to come back. That is the beauty of a free world.

The same applies to my books. You don't have to like them, you can just take them to a charity shop, pass them on to someone you don't like much or, if you really hate them, put them in the bin. That is your choice. I read lots of books that aren't to my taste but you won't see me shouting to the world that they are 'crap' and the author has no idea what she is talking about. Courtesy, it seems, is a dying art.

It isn't just my books and opinions that have received some harsh criticism lately, the social networking sites that I visit have  been awash with snide, sometimes vicious comments about self publishing, historical accuracy, the correct positioning of a comma and it all leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Everybody seems to think they know it all and leave no room for other opinions or other agendas. A very good friend and fellow writer of mine was in tears the other day over some spiteful comment from a so-called reviewer and, whereas she might not be the best writer in the world, you tell me who is.

There seems to be a new way of reading these days. It isn't enough to open a book and appreciate the story for what it is. No, we must all look for reasons to call it 'shit.' We ignore the prose, the engaging characters, the rich, heady atmosphere and squeal in disgust, 'Oh my, look that comma shouldn't be there and the stupid author hasn't justified the margins!'  If you walk through a lovely park or garden looking for dog pooh, dog pooh is all you will see.'

We all write for different reasons, some of us want to educate our readers, some of us want to make them feel all warm inside and some of us want to provide escapism, some of us want to make them laugh. For every type of writer there is a group of readers who will love their work and look forward to each new publication. Even I have a trusty little band of followers who constantly ask me 'when my next one will be out.' You see, it takes all sorts. Equally there will be those that don't enjoy it. and that is fine. So if your thing is fantasy or high brow history don't label steamy romance as 'crap' just because it isn't to your taste. And that works both ways. Everyone is different. It might be a good idea if some of the people who spend their days nitpicking other people's work, sat down and attempted to write their own perfectly formatted, historically accurate, realistic, expensively bound, grammatically perfect novel. I, for one, will buy it like a shot.

The one thing that all writers do share (even crappy little self-published no-naughts) is that they all want to improve their writing. That is what good writers do everyday. They sit at their computer and strive to get better. Writing is a learning curve, a pretty harsh one sometimes and ALL writers need help and support to be the best they can.
When my children were small, if they made something or wrote a story, I told them how marvelous the good bits were and then pointed out how the not so good bits could be improved. I didn't slap their hands and tell them they were useless. That is what I think the writing world needs. Self-publishing and e-books aren't going to get away and,  yes, the standard needs improving but there are ways and means of achieving that. Ok, some of us have a long way to go but it is a road we all travel together and, it seems to me, that driving past in fancy juggernauts and splashing the little people with mud isn't the best way to go. Why not pull over and offer them a lift instead?

Please excuse the typos :)


  1. Judith I know you work really hard at your writing and what you say is so correct. People wont always like another author's books but as you say, nit-picking and trashing is neither nice, polite or helpful. I for one wouldn never openly trash anyone's work, its neither professional or kind. I will perhaps question accuracy if it is displayed as factual and historically correct, but there I will draw the line. Keep doing what you are doing girl!!!Damn the moaners

  2. Judith, I would not agree with you. I agree that spite is out of the question when reviewing and a novelist must be given some latitude. But consider this.

    Readers spend whatever amount (and mind you, the author is making a living out of it) to buy a book, and spend much time reading it. The author is not doing the reader a favour by writing well, it is what is expected of them. A dissatisfied customer must have the right to say what is dissatisfying about the product. More to the point, your points apply only when (a) the author distributes their books for free and (b) if it is for a flight or travel reading to be discarded if readers don't like it. In these cases, the readers has not invested in the book in any way, so they will not even bother to give criticism. That's my way of looking at it.

    It is sometimes hard to take criticism, but personally I feel that improvement can only come of these criticisms are taken in good spirit.

  3. Thank you for posting bluffkinghal.
    I didn't say criticism wasn't welcome or valuable, I said that rudeness and damnation isn't useful. Most authors I know take the criticism in good spirit and usually act on it, even when it is full of vitriol, no matter how hurtful it is.

  4. I do agree with Bluff. Criticism should help improve a writer's standards. If someone is being plain nasty then they're not a professional reviewer. Feedback should be constructive and suggest ideas for improvement and editing is soooo important. I resisted this for a long time, to get my book pro-edited. I am so glad i did because what i got to start with was a tutorial which was invaluable to improving my skills.

  5. You both seem to have misunderstood what I said. of course, criticism is valuable and welcomed by writers, I was merely stating that words like 'crap' and other abuses do not constitute constructive criticism and, in most cases, do not come from legitimate sources.