Wanting to learn how to ride horses at an older age, I realized the ground was harder than my head, so I hired a trainer. Within a few months, she made a discovery. There would be times, as she said, I would have a ‘genius’ moment. A great idea to some problem we were encountering. Then she would cringe as she knew an ‘idiot’ moment would not be far behind.
When she brought it to my attention, we both had a good laugh. I had to agree with her assessment. It’s been like this all of my life. So it should not have been a big surprise to me when I decided to write a book, which seemed a genius idea at the time, that it would turn out to be more involved than I realized.
The idiot side of it was revealed when I found I would have to promote it. Unlike any other product, it wasn’t just about the book, I was part of the product. Suddenly my tightly guarded personal life would become a fish bowl if the book actually made it in the publishing world. In the business world I was always able to do the work, disconnect and go home to my life. Promoting the book would now become my life, totally.
If you are a beginning writer, you will hear this alot. Writing the book is easy. Editing is torture. Promoting it is life consuming. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for that next genius moment to get me out of this mess!
I once worked in a psych and chemical dependency treatment center. The first thing I learned was the definition of addiction and how we can be addicted to anything. There was checklist to measure the depth of the addiction
For instance – has it interfered with personal relationships? Has it affected your finances such as lost jobs, or impulse buying, or missing payments? Have you had problems with the law? Is your health affected by it? Your spirituality? Has it affected your lifestyle? Or have you been displaced such as a loss of residency? Do you have problems concentrating or are you obsessing about attaining your next encounter with it?
The other day I went looking for a box of my high school writings. I had read a blog by Ionia Martin where she asked if we thought our first writing was any good. I was curious about mine. I found several boxes filled with notes written on every conceivable form of paper. Post-it notes, napkins, scraps of wallpaper, receipts, postcards, envelopes, kid’s school projects, even toilet paper. I promise it was clean!
Suddenly I thought about that checklist. Had my writing interfered with personal relationships? Well, my husband had complained on more than one occasion about my vacant stares and his repeated questions that fell on my deaf ears. The kids got to know that look and knew not bother me when I was scribbling frantically. Impulse buying of notebooks, notepads and bushels of pens and pencils did affect the finances I guess. I can’t look at an empty piece of paper without the urgent desire to write something on that white expanse.
I suppose the electric company may have wondered about me when I asked for the bill back that I had sent in with the check because I had written a line of poetry on it. Then there were those occasional speeding tickets on trips. This is when I get most of my books written in my head. I love a long drive so I can busily construct. Unfortunately I’m not always paying attention to speed limit signs when I’m doing this.
Of course there is the eye-strain from copious amounts of reading and bright computer screens. I stay up late into the night researching and writing so there has been many a Sunday I’ve been to tired to get up and go to church. Concentration on daily chores is interrupted by my mad dashes to the nearest piece of paper to capture an idea. Let’s not forget about obsessing over getting that opening chapter just right or the editing rewrite done.
So, I don’t know. Do you think I may have a writing addiction?
So we all know, as authors, the euphoric feeling you get the first time you hold the actual printed copy of the first book you have ever written. It’s a high like no other. That awesome, overwhelming feeling that you did it and you hold in your hands proof of that.
It is a precious memory, but it wears off. Then the test of whether you truly are a writer occurs. You must write again because more stories beg for your attention.
Having children is a similar experience. You are ecstatic when you hold your first born child. You know you are going to be the best parent ever. As the daily care sets in with diaper changes and the first sleepless night, the excitement departs leaving behind exhaustion. But for some reason a few years later nostalgia sets in and you want another one. In the meantime you continue with the business of raising your darling.
How does one raise a book? After its birth what is the process to build and grow it into something that people want to read? Well first, like a pregnancy, it should have had good prenatal care. Without the building blocks of a fine editor, research and solid story, it will not go far. So let’s just say you’ve already done your prenatal care.
After the long labor of editing, you hold in your hands your precious child. How do you introduce it to the world? Just like you prepared for a new baby, you must think ahead and get ready. You will need to spend time on social networking, promoting and advertising. You work at developing a good author website. Create and keep a current blog. Through the exhaustion you will have to find the time to Tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Author Guest Blog, do book signings and find any other outlet you can push your darling to the fulfillment of its potential.
Of course in the meantime you need to be working on bringing its sibling into the world. You must learn to multi-task and find time to write while graciously answering blog comments and promote its older brother or sister.
Yes, raising a book, in my humble opinion, is like raising children. You may have to wait for years to see its full potential. Some will look back on the process with tenderness and longing, while others may be glad it’s over. Either way, in the end, you have something you will be proud of and forever love.
So I wonder where your book raising is taking you?
So how do you review? I’ve always thought a critique was giving an opinion on both the good and bad of a book, where as a review concentrated more on how the story made you feel. After reading many reviews I’ve seen it can be all of the above.
That brings up the question, what if you don’t like it? How do you handle that? What if the Point of View is all over the place, the story is disjointed and doesn’t flow, or the grammar is so poor you struggle to read it? What do you say then? Do you publicly humiliate the author?
I can understand the frustration of readers of Indie Authors. Being an avid reader I’ve tried to be supportive of Indie’s, but I’ve been irritated a few times. So Amazon won’t kick out my reviews, I purchase all my reads. I’ve found that the book cover will look awesome as well as having an interesting synopsis, but after the purchase, I find myself struggling with a hard-to-read product.
What I’m finding most of the time is there is a good story in there, but it’s hidden by lack of Point of View, or sentence structure that makes no sense. Then there is poor formatting, miss-spelled words or wandering story line. I always wonder, ‘how did the editor let that slide?’ So I will ask the author if they had it edited. I’ve received some interesting replies that I won’t repeat, but 99.9 percent of the time, there was no editor. Why am I not surprised? My favorite reply was “It’s my story and you either like it or you don’t.” Sigh…..
As an Author, I really get frustrated. If readers can’t trust they are getting a good product, this tarnishes all of our reputations as writers and drives them away from Indie’s. There is a reason publishers have editors. It’s because all authors need them. Just as we need beta readers, and re-writes. What makes sense to us, what we love about our little creations, may look totally different to others. We need unbiased opinions to help us create the best story we can.
But back to my original question. What do you do? Do you go ahead and do a review?
If it is that poor, I will do two things. I will contact the author and ask a few questions. Their tone of response will then temper what I do next. If they are interested in my inquires, if they ask questions back and I can politely share my opinion, I will then go on and give a nice, but honest review. I have the author read it first and they can either approve or disapprove my posting of it. This is important. As an author I have to remember how it would feel if someone reviewed me harshly. But if they state it is what it is, I do not review.
I have a responsibility as a reader and author to create an honest review for the next interested reader. If I inflate it and don’t represent it honestly, the next reader is no longer going to trust my review or my own writing. It is a double-edged sword. I want to support my fellow Indie, but they have to want to produce the best product they can.
So what do you do? To review or not to review? What are your guidelines?
I don’t know about you, but I am a visual learner. Show me once, I got it. For me traditional learning, reading and comprehending, are a challenge. So I decided to read a popular Indie book to see what it had that mine did not. Trust me, this was not my usual reading material. In fact, first speed-read through, I found I could still blush — frequently.
In that first read I also noted some of the mistakes I had been so solemnly warned about in all my writing classes. Adjectives galore, long drawn out ending, telling instead of showing and big words that I had to look up. So what made this a best seller, outside of the obvious titillating factor of sex?
There was just something that caught my interest, and held it because I had to go on to the sequels to find out just how it was going to end, blushing the entire time of course. I spent a few days working it over in my mind. Finally I saw it. Plot of course. It had those elements we all strive for. It had two people with a huge problem to work through that seemed insurmountable. You wanted them to be together, but could they overcome the huge chasm of differences between them.
It was a plot woven artfully. Forget the vehicle of big words, adjectives or long drawn out ending. It was a good story. Plain and simple. An unusual problem with a dark character who had hidden goodness. A flawed heroine with an innocent heart who worked to pull her hero from the dark. That is what attracted me and prompted a second read through.
I’ve always liked character driven plots. This was character plus. Just as there have been other popular books that have been criticized for poor writing but have been so popular they became movies. I have found the same formula again and again. No matter how “poorly” written by my instructors standards, they had the most important element, PLOT.
I’m not advocating pushing aside good grammar and sentence structure, or all the other trappings of a finely written piece. I still fiercely believe in editing to the max. But in my journey to understand what makes a good book, this was an eye opener. A given. Without plot, no matter how finely written, you have nothing. A fancy cart without the horse isn’t going anywhere.