10 January 2012

Put 'em up, put 'em up

You go away for the weekend and a whole internet kerfuffle happens. Round who-can-really-keep-count of the battle between (some) authors and reviewers popped up a few days ago.

Really the most exciting part when this happens is tracing the backstory of who said what and in response to whom. It's like following a less dramatic, literary version of Contagion. "Who was Offender Zero?! What was the basic reproduction number? How many days do we have till annihilation? How do we contain it? Lock down, lock down, aaaah!"

Sometimes if you catch it early enough, you can follow it spreading, or if you catch on too late, someone will have summarized everything nicely for you. It's interesting either way.

I think the reason negative reviews hurt more when you're an author is that most of the time, you're 80-100% responsible for the things that happen in your book. With a movie that you hated, maybe it was the cast, maybe it was the sound designer, maybe the people next to you in the theater were just annoying. With a book though, it's usually just one person's ideas and words, and if you blast the book, the writer can feel the full weight of the jab.

Yes, if someone is gonna put their work out for people to enjoy and say nice things about, chances are it won't resonate with at least a few of them. What authors get legitimately upset about though, is when the attacks turn personal. I've heard of some really crappy things that get said in reviews or messages. Who are the people who write this kind of stuff? Would you say what you just said to the author's face?

I, for one, have no problem with people reviewing things in a negative manner because I'd like the leeway to do that too. I mean, really, Hugo was the worst wasn't it? Scorsese's a hack!
I don't know if you read Dean Wesley Smith's blog, but if you're interested in a writing as a vocation, you probably should. He's got this series called "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" and they're all pretty great. For example, this one debunks the myth that you've made it when *blank* happens. That blank can be getting an agent, a first sale, making the best sellers list, winning prestigious awards, what have you. Basically the gist of the piece is that you never have it made. Even when you're super huge, you have to keep pushing, expanding, looking for opportunities and refining your skills.

Sure it all sounds sort of depressing but it's actually kind of inspirational. I mean, maybe you don't have it made but the good news is nobody else does either! There's always more rungs of the ladder to climb but that also means there's people trying to get to where you are too. Wait, that's not inspiring... that's just scary.