Welcome to The Newb Files, Issue VI, and Happy New Years to all.
Reviews and Reviewing. ...
Recently, I became involved in a discussion on a facebook post about reviewing books. As usual, I proved once again why I shouldn't communicate without 30 editorial passes first.
It's an important topic, so let's try again. ...
To start, an opinion about something personal is exactly that. I like carrots, my sister does not. Period. Neither of us is correct, neither, wrong. And, like any personal opinion about any personal preference, there is an enormous range of opinions on writing. I think one of the most popular writers in the world, Stephen King, is highly overrated. I just don't like his writing, his style, etc.
But I digress. What started that exchange on facebook was a post about a blog explaining why this person doesn't give less than three star reviews and doesn't give books bad reviews period.
This surprised me. It led to yet another incident of foot-in-mouth-disease, as previously mentioned. Which I apologize for, yet, worded a little nicer, I still believe it to be true. I repeat it later in this opinion piece.
It was said that indy publishers lose their "livelihood" to one degree or another if given a bad review. It was said that no one will read a book rated say, three stars or less. I have no idea if these are true, but I don't agree they should be considered even if they are true.
If indy publishers never get feedback on what they are publishing, they will never grow, never improve, never increase their income.
While I will go to great pains to purchase a vacuum cleaner with a rating of four or five stars, that is an easily quantifiable entity. It sucks, or it doesn't. For something like a book, a matter of opinion, someone might give it a lower rating and, obviously, as stated in the facebook discussion, someone else might love it. So why do I think it is so important to give reviews at all, even if they are deservedly bad, with only the rare exception?
First, it smacks of giving a child a trophy for just showing up. It is childish. It does not raise us as writers, or the craft of writing itself.
Second, I as an author (unpublished newb or not) want to aim higher than that. I want to be better than that; I also want to bring my fellow authors up, to be better writers.
Last is respect. Ignoring my foot-in-mouth-disease, it shows a lack of respect to an author or anyone in a creative pursuit to not give an honest review, even a bad one. Either properly review books, or don't review them.
I have not reviewed books in my past. Now as a writer I think I should just on principal, if only the books/authors directly related to my writing. You-Tubers I watch, writers I learn from, and books I read because of my becoming an author.
I have two trilogies, and three other books (Meg LaTorre's The Cyborg Tinkerer , Jenna Moreci's The Savior's Champion , and Harry Bingham's Talking To The Dead ) to review. I will review them in the near future. Soon. Really.
One book I recently chose not to put on my list of to be reviewed was so bad I did not finish it. This is a special case, and as suggested could be handled by an email to the author.
One other suggestion that has some merit, is three stars for liked, four stars for loved it, and five stars for blown away. No written review. Simple. But I don't think it goes far enough. It ignores the works that need the most help, the less than three stars. Again, how will an indy author improve if no one gives them feedback on their published works?
More than one person mentioned that beta readers, critique partners, etc. before publication is the time for critical reviews. I don't agree. The entire process needs feedback and critique, right up to and including what gets published.
The book I DNF was a very rough draft, yet had been self-published. Almost every page had spelling errors, double words, and all too often sentences that made little sense. An email to this author could be as simple as stating that. Adding perhaps: don't trust friends and family to be editors.
In fact, I speculated (hah!) in my facebook post (to paraphrase) if being a well known You-Tuber with a large fan base hindered Meg LaTorre and Jenna Moreci from getting the editorial input they needed. Is going with traditional publishing and their brutal editors the only way to get the required tough-love all of our writing requires?
Maybe. I have no first-hand experience with that part of the process. All the more reason to be honest, and yes, supportive, and to be a little mean if required when reviewing our fellow authors' work.
I would hope that people have enough respect for me, for my writing, to be honest with me and give reviews as they see fit. That is why I included my website on the facebook post. It would be hypocritical of me to not encourage reviews of my work.
Yes, this is the short version.
Monthly Newb Moment
A momentous thing happened when I was seventeen years old. ... I joined a Science Fiction book club and read my first Larry Niven book, A World Out of Time.
As I was to discover, not his best work. Yet, something about it grabbed me and has never let go. I still re-read it occasionally, although I stopped counting how many times I have read it at around forty-something.
In any case, I was a Hardcore Science Fiction fan from the first time I read it.
That is the reason that this newsletter has the tag-line The Newb Files, Science Fiction and Fantasy . It is what I read and what, I imagined, I would most often be writing.
I read other genres, and it turns out I write them as well. Out of the six short stories I have written since I started, the tally is:
Science Fiction/Fantasy [Scream and Leapt] In progress.
Western [The Rope] Available on my web-site.
Science Fiction [Space and War] To be re-written.
Fantasy [Mouse Attack] Available on my web-site.
Science Fiction [Weborbit] Ditto.
Fantasy [An Itreyan Feast] Ditto.
Meanwhile, I see the term Speculative Fiction everywhere. Peter J. Foote (sign-up for his newsletter here) calls himself a Speculative Fiction Author. ... what the $%#& is that, I kept asking myself?
Well, apparently it is what this old fart author is as well. In the--ahem--decades since reading that first Larry Niven book, things have changed.
And, while the term Speculative Fiction had been around for decades before I became a Hardcore Science Fiction fan, it has, like anything else that cannot be strictly defined, been a matter of much debate regarding the exact definition.
On the Writing of Speculative Fiction is an essay by Robert Heinlein. It was first published in 1947. There are many other well-known public debates and opinion pieces about the subject. All recent news to me. What can I say, I don't get out much.
Currently, bookstores, used or not, still have Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror sections, but overall, in the publishing (writing?) industry, it all seems to be covered by Speculative Fiction now.
My first novel will be a horror story, with my usual (I hope) touch of realism and logic. Zombies, a Novel is not what I thought my first book would be, but such is life. It's a good idea, and will make a good story.
That's the thing about Monthly Newb Moments, they are often surprising.
So, this Speculative Fiction author is keeping the tag line "The Newb Files, Science Fiction and Fantasy" on their newsletter, and writing. ... whatever.
Below are links to a few short stories I wrote. The first three are the results from an exercise in 'voice' for the diymfa.com writing course I took in the spring of 2020. The fourth is the second short story I ever wrote, which I wrote as an entry for the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize.
Clicking a button will take you to my author website.