authors · On Writing · Random Musings · Reviews · Writing Advice

Tagging Authors In Reviews

Thanks to Angie Thomas, a much-needed and celebrated voice in contemporary YA fiction, the subject of tagging authors in readers’ reviews has exploded over the last few days.

Why is it such a big deal? Well, there’s a lot of back and forth between those for and those against tagging authors in reviews, especially when it comes to sharing negative ones.

Those for argue that they want to help an author they enjoyed, and expect the author to show gratitude that they’re spreading the word about their work. Consensus also seems to be that even negative reviews have a place in being brought to the author’s attention.

Those against argue that as soon as the book’s published, it’s no longer the author’s, really – it’s the reader’s. And any review the reader wants to share should stay amongst those it’s actually meant for.

As for my side of the fence, I am AGAINST tagging authors in negative reviews. With positive reviews I can see both sides, I understand why someone might want to show the author how much they squealed over that person’s work and how much it meant to them.

But in my eyes, nobody needs to be going about their day, only to get the “ding!” notification and see that they’ve been dragged about something in a novel they spent years working on.

I’ll try and explain why tagging an author in a bad review is not only in bad taste on the reviewer’s half but also unproductive.

Number one is that there’s only so many people’s feedback an author can listen to and implement in their work. For example, here I took “Planet of the Apes”:

Reviewer #1: Loved the romance but wish there were less monkeys.

Author: Right…. romance but less monkeys… got it.

Reviewer #2: LOVED THE MONKEYS. All the monkeys. Maybe include lemurs next time? Less of the romance, though.

Author: Oh….. so more… monkeys?

Reviewer #3: EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT AND I ADORED IT. WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING!

Author: …….. so don’t change the monkeys?

Reviewer #4: This was a garbage fire, DNF’d at 20%.

Author: *grabs bottle of wine*

Authors cannot possibly please every single reader. While one reader might have an issue with the writing, another won’t even notice it and simply enjoy the story.  While one might love the protagonist, another might hate them with a passion.

It’s understandable, then, that authors primarily write for themselves (or they should, because it’s damn hard to write for people whose reaction you can’t predict), and hope it resonates with their audience. Since the book is published, there’s a good chance it already resonated with an agent, an editor, their aquisitions team, and more editors who then worked to get it to the best possible version of itself before it hits shelves.

Authors write with the understanding nobody reads the same book. That’s why readers have different favourite characters, or favourite scenes in novels, it’s why some didn’t gel with the plot, or writing, or concept, where others might not be able to get enough of it all. It’s totally fine to have a different opinion, and to discuss it or post it on platforms other readers can see and make judgement calls for themselves.

With all this in mind — why would a singular reader believe tagging an author in their 1* or 2* negatively aspected review, think it is justifed? That the author must read it, and understand that their opinion should be included amongst the editors, agents, and publishers who helped get the book out?

I’ve seen it reasoned that the tagging-reviewer wants to help the author – that in some way their review might assist the author in understanding where they could do better in future. That they only want to help, and so they want the author to read the criticisms they had personally with the novel.

In some cases criticism is justified – harmful represenation, problematic plot, glorification of things which shouldn’t be glorified – this is 100%  necessary to voice because it could have a bigger impact than the readership. Books influence society, because they’re a form of art. Society consumes art. And I believe all art forms should not only be accessible and enjoyed, but critiqued so that we can learn from it.

Though… let’s say there’s nothing serious to point out about a book, such as a harmful racial stereotype or glorifying an abusive relationship, and that the tagging-reviewer simply disagrees with a plot point or character arc. Again, it’s not really clear why the reviewer would find it necessary to inform the author of their opinion where there is **nothing the author can do about it**. The book is out. In the world. In people’s hands. And if the author enjoys writing dystopias about primates taking over the planet, as long as there’s an audience who wants it, they will continue to write it.

It’s likely the publishers, agents, editors, will pick up on anything consistently pointed out in reviews and feed it back to the author to improve on in future. We all make mistakes, it’s how we learn. Authors want to get better at their craft.

But believing a singular opinion needs to be given directly to the author – who at the point of seeing the tag might be having a bad day, may be struggling, wondering if this is the career for them, even if they’ve had 15 books already published because **anxiety and imposter syndrome is a thing** – is not considerate. It’s entitled.

Do you want the author to notice your (negative) opinion? Ask yourself why.  If it isn’t to engage in a discussion about something harmful, why do you want to tell the author you didn’t like their book? Chances are if you didn’t like it, you’re simply not the audience for it. I’m personally not a fan of Justin Bieber’s back catalogue but I wouldn’t tag him in my 1* review of how “Baby” got stuck in my head too many times.

Plus, the whole thing is just plain tacky, I mean… come on. You wouldn’t like it if you posted some artwork online, or simply did your day job, and someone came along with a huge red ‘F’ and stuck it on your forehead, declaring to the world that they, a person, did not like The Thing You Created.

So before there’s any more debate about why it’s justified, I would like people to think why they feel the author should be grateful they took the time to include them in their distribution of a bad review.

They should be grateful the author wrote the book at all. Art is necessary, now more than ever. And we should be showing our support and kindness for creating in a world of destruction.


Editing services:Cover to Cover Edits

Twitter: @jadewritesbooks

 

 

Book Things · positive posts · Random Musings · Writing Advice · Writing Method

Top 3: Tips For Making Your Writing Life Easier.

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Now, a lot of these things will just be general common sense, but I understand as a writer, we can sometimes lose sight of what is reasonable. We put so much pressure on ourselves, even the slightest slip can seem like we’re doomed to failure. So here is my top 3 list of things which has worked so much for me, and which you can use to hopefully feel better about your writing journey.

 

1. Find a routine that works for YOU.

There’s a lot of hoo-haa about having to write every day. It’s true, if I write a little each day it keeps the mental demons at bay, for if I go a few days or longer without putting fingertips to keyboard or pen to paper, I feel like there’s a backlog of words trying to get through. This does not make for a happy Jade, but the second I write again, it’s like someone removed the grey clouds and everything goes back to being normal.

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But writing every day sometimes isn’t plausible, and writers shouldn’t feel guilty if they’re unable to do 500 words or so each afternoon. There’s so much additional stuff to worry about in today’s society, more responsibility which divides our attention, it can be really difficult to maintain a groove which allows for savoured writing time.

While you shouldn’t ignore the hard work which goes in to writing, it’s probably going to work a lot better if you put in that effort at a dedicated time where you know you can manage an uninterrupted hour to focus on your MS. For instance, if you know you generally have a quiet morning on a Wednesday, or that most of your errands take up your Saturday morning, work around it.

Short version: Don’t worry if you can’t make it every day. Do what you can. A stressed writer is not always a good one, so give yourself a break, as long as you keep going afterwards!

2. Create a System for Recording your Ideas.

Now – this can take many forms and it depends on how you get your ideas. Some get them by asking “what if?” scenarios and writing a concept, other writers may just have flashes of inspiration and have to write it on a napkin. Personally, mine can strike any time, without warning, like lightning, and often I’ve had recent ideas in my sleep. But whatever your method, try to figure out how you can record these ideas without losing those inspired tid-bits of story.

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My main advice is, don’t be like me and have 500 separate word documents (okay, maybe an exaggeration, it’s like 100) per project with single paragraphs, sentences, speeches, ideas for scenes, linking passages of time – and then name them something which doesn’t make sense, and worse – don’t put them in a folder all together, meaning you lose hours trying to find that one bit you remember writing months ago.

Ideally, if you write an idea on your phone, put it with the rest of the stuff later. Or create a ideas pile where you can easily flick through to see what your brain told you yesterday. If you have an idea while napping, keep a dream diary.

3. Create REASONABLE Goals.

Unless you are some form of far superior being who turns coffee into words at a rate of 100 per minute, you will not be able to write a cohesive novel of 70,000 words in 5 days.

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That’s why NaNoWriMo gives people a month to do 50k, and even then not everyone makes it.

As mentioned before it’s easy to feel pressure to perform well, and to the best of your ability, or else feel like you’ve failed. So, the only way to keep the demon of self-doubt at bay is to make sure you’re not stretching yourself, and within the routine you’ve already procured, see what you can achieve.

Start small, maybe? A chapter completed in 2 weeks. 100 words before you shut down the computer and go to bed. Then you can see how far increasing it gets you, like 1000 words a week, or something similar.

It’s better if you sort of leave timing out of agenting, editing, etc while you’re writing because there is no guarantee at all how long any of the process afterwards takes place. Focus on what you can control, and that is definitely how much you want to write by such and such a day.

I had the unfortunate thing of moving a deadline for myself, not because I didn’t put the work in when I could, but because Real Life had decided to throw everything at me in one lump sum. So prepare for life’s little surprises by reducing the amount of stress you’re creating for yourself. If you miss a day, you won’t feel like you’re missing “finalize 5 chapters” and have to rush to catch up.

Be kind to yourself!

OH! AND A CHEEKY 3.5

Talk to people. Other writers, ideally. Build up a tribe of like minded individuals who get you, acknowledge your struggles, support you, and support them in return. This is invaluable. What you’ve experienced, you can share your wisdom. Vice versa. Writing careers are solitary only when you’re *actually* writing. The rest of it requires a heck of a lot of patience, and understanding friends to make it bearable.

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The writing community is amazing, supportive, and there for you. Reach out if you need to! ❤

 

 

Book Things · Friends · PitchWars · Random Musings · Writing Advice

On Community & Writer Friends

Let me begin by saying we should all have friends outside of our writing group. It’s healthy to have people from different walks of life and people who know nothing about the struggle you went through when deciding what to call your main character.

But it helps – dear Lord it helps – to have someone on your side who knows precisely what it takes to sit your butt in that chair for hours on end, screaming with joy or rage (sometimes both) at the computer screen, loving and despairing of your work in progress. That the times you are not writing, you’re still working. You’re still thinking about what scene goes where, the progression of your characters, and whether you should put a comma there after all.

Continue reading “On Community & Writer Friends”