Reviewing too close to home

I wrote on this topic two months ago.

I still don’t know what to do, but I’m losing my patience because I discovered that writers of some of the stuff that’s really bad are giving writing advice. Oy. Stop it. You’re not qualified to give writing advice. Really*.

In light of this post and this comment,

in light of a recent romancelandia kerfuffle about writers/unpublished authors reviewing,

in light of Mormons’ cultural tendency to say nice or nothing at all,

in light of the fact that I’m a reader first and I’ve spent money on these books and I have a reader’s perspective and want to express it,

in light of the fact that writers reviewing is generally fraught with dangers, not the least of which is shitting in your own nest,

in light of the fact that my work is in no way intended for a Mormon market**…

I’m still conflicted.

Mostly I don’t relish the idea of people like OutAndAbout (and I think I know who wrote that comment) coming to bash me for MY writing. It hurts my feelings. Yes, there. I said it. It hurts my feelings. Dirty little secret: It hurts every writer’s feelings.

On the other hand, there’s a very small minority of Mormons who’d brave my stuff anyway, so the worst criticism I’m bound to get—probably anonymously—is that I’m too graphic and my characters swear and they DNF’d it after the first two pages. Okay. And?

I’ve got several Mormon novels on my TBR list (albeit heavily weighted for stuff that’s been pre-vetted by readers with whose taste I get along). One I’m reading, The Road Show by Braden Bell, is pretty good. It’s not a page-turner and it’s episodic (natch, written by a playwright/screenwriter), but that’s never bothered me unless badly done. It gets a little churchy-heavy-handed in spots, but I like it.

I read Angela Hallstrom’s book Bound on Earth and I loved it. I’m dying to write a review of that, but I have nothing to say other than “I loved it” and respond to some reviews I read on Goodreads. Oh, and that it’s a novel a short-story-writer-who’s-not-a-novelist would’ve written (which is both its weakness and its strength). I’m interested to see if she can write a long work that’s not a series of interconnecting/interdependent vignettes strung together.

So what to do. What to do.

As a compromise, I created a new alter-ego to review, but I don’t like doing that. I’m not cut out to sustain such an act.

The unnamed book I previously linked has been haunting me (not in a good way) for months, because this is what the market base for Mormon fiction, the one that wants clean and good (e.g., my mother), associate with Mormon fiction. They are the people who need to be brought back into the Mormon fiction fold, and they aren’t going to be unless Mormon fiction improves. It can’t improve unless someone just says, “This sucks. It should never have been published. Next!”

Yeah, it’s clean.

But it still sucks.

*But am I? No. It’s why I don’t give writing advice. At least not publicly. It’s hard to give writing advice to someone who feels free to harshly critique your stuff with great (if dubious) authority, but wants you to comment on theirs and the only thing you can say is, “It’s dead boring.” But instead you give advice on how to improve it, and they insist they’ve written a flawless masterpiece. And really, there’s nothing technically wrong with it except it’s dead boring. Boring sucks. First rule of writing: Don’t suck.

**Because I refuse to be held accountable for your salvation.

10 thoughts on “Reviewing too close to home

  • May 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm
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    Yep. Even being an former English prof, I resist both the temptation to publicly give writing advice beyond the “read a lot and write a lot” level, and always avoid giving harsh or thorough critique in a public forum. But boring sux, and is definitely a writing sin.

    Reply
  • May 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm
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    Yes. Dan Brown might suck, but at least he’s entertaining.

    Besides, I decided I don’t care anymore.

    Reply
  • May 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm
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    >>>Dirty little secret: It hurts every writer’s feelings.

    Bugger that. Some little prick without a name, with no record, slithers out from under the woodwork and it ruins your day? Why do you LET it?

    Reply
  • May 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm
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    I am fragile. You know this. *blinks innocently*

    Reply
  • May 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm
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    Hokay – not sure where to point this out else: Moriah, my review of Magdalene is up on GoodReads and Amazon.com. I hope you can live with it – I liked it quite a bit ^^

    Reply
  • May 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm
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    That’s a relief that you can live with my review ^^ – may you enjoy lots of sales!

    Reply
  • May 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm
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    Estara, THANK YOU!!! You pick up on things in ways I find fascinating, so I wanted to email you. BUT I’m sick today and won’t be in the office, so I’m a little limited digitally at the moment.

    THANK YOU so much again. It’s a privilege to have you as a reader.

    Reply
  • May 17, 2011 at 6:25 am
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    You’re welcome ^^ – you gave me lots of pleasure, too, this weekend.

    When I enjoy an independent author like you I really want to write big reviews so that people can pick up on what I liked and didn’t work for me – and hopefully buy more of your books if they have similar tastes.

    And I find your point-of-view so fascinating because it is so different but you don’t push it in my face – even when you explain about it in the books. I wouldn’t have thought I’d enjoy some one on the right side of the political spectrum, because when I think of the messages I would probably vote Democrat if I lived in the US – and it’s not as if you hide your beliefs there. But for some reason I havent’t felt preached to or talked down to (in your novels) because I have a different political persuasion, so I can agree to disagree with you there and enjoy your people and the storyline and a look at a very different life.

    Reply
  • July 1, 2011 at 4:59 pm
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    Moriah,

    I just wanted to thank you for the nice mention of my book. That was very kind and I’m glad you liked what you had read. I’m sorry your feelings got hurt–I’m the same way no matter how much I try to say I don’t care.

    I once heard Elder Marlin Jenson give a talk during a training for something or other. He was talking about Sunday School teachers but said something I thought applied to authors and is another way of articulating your point. He said that faithfulness was wonderful, but we should also strive to be competent.

    I don’t pretend to be there yet–there are a lot of things I’d do differently if I were to start my book again, things I’ve learned since. But, I think/hope am *more* competent than I used to be and I hope to be even moreso in the future. I agree–being clean is not enough. We should try to be good.

    At any rate, your post gave me good things to think about.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • July 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm
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    Hey Braden, thanks for stopping by!

    I’m still working on it, but know that it is NOT the writing. Alas, you are in dead-tree format and I’m reading almost ALL digital nowadays.

    And just so you know, your depictions of the young mother and old woman are kinda heartbreaking (but I’m a sucker for angst).

    Reply

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