As a writer, I’ve wrestled with my reviewer’s heart, and have finally come to a conclusion that has brought me peace.
Instead of coming up with my own standard for book reviews, I’ve adopted a set instead. I’m only keeping one set, and I’m going to apply them to every book I read. Below, you’ll find the outline of it. It’s built on the advice of fellows who created works impervious to time and to critic.
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~Anton Chekhov
“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” ~Mark Twain
“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something truly infinite.” ~C.S. Lewis
I’m also going to approach every tome I read with the expectation of giving it a five-star review. I’m going to assume that since it survived critique groups, agents, editors, publishers, beta readers, and colleague reviews it’s worth five stars. That’s how I’m going to approach every book from now on.
However, each time a story violate one of the pillars of my standard, it will lose half a star. It won’t stop with five stars either, a book can garner from me, negative stars. At TCM I can only give a book zero stars, and at that point I don’t have to mention any of the good qualities that might be in the story. I can only write 500-700 words for a review at TCM. Here, however, I am under no such constraints. Here I can go into exquisite detail on the failings of a book, and explain why it has garnered the number of negative stars I gave it.
I have a category of posts called “Books That Have Met the Wall” ie were hurled across the room in disgust (and rarely, in anger at the author) and I’m going to start sharing the horrible wastes of paper I’ve read so readers are warned not to waste their time or money on them.
You see there’s a contract between a reader and an author.
It’s an unspoken one but it runs something like this.
“I the reader, pledge to you, the author, my undivided attention, full use of my imagination, several hours of my life, and between $.99 and $24.99 out of my pocket. I give you my trust and my mind. Now, tell me a story.”
To which the author should reply
“I the storyteller, pledge to you the reader, hundreds of hours of my life, the very best of my words, only the finest of my stories, and on my sacred honor do now promise not to waste your time nor abuse your trust. I certify that the money you have given me is a justified expense and fair trade for the tale told. “
The problem is some authors are breaking that contract. Repeatedly.
It’s time that those who have done so, that those who are taking advantage of their readers, were stopped.
Stopping bad story tellers starts with holding an uncompromising standard for all books, and telling the truth about books that make it, and books that don’t.
Those of you who are working on honing your craft and continuing to tell amazing tales, have nothing to fear from me at all.
Those of you who have become sloppy, lazy, complacent believers in your own press and think gold drips out of your pen onto the page; you have been warned.
one reader who has drawn a line in the print.