Monday, August 26, 2013

Fanning the Flames and When to Douse Them

Actors have fans.
Movies have fans.
Games of sport have fans.
Sometimes, fans of sports are rather rabid in their enthusiasm. Same goes for bands and other music groups. Fans at concerts can be so wild as to rival sports buffs.

Authors and books have fans too, although I'm not aware of riots being caused by a favorite author speaking at a Barnes and Noble.
That would be something to see.

Then again, I guess fans of movies made from books do tend to exhibit things a bit ... different than most.

Fans of a book or book series have taken it a step further and it's more in an intellectual vein.

Fan Fiction

Fan Fiction has its place. It is one of the highest of praises for an author. It means that the world the author has built has made such an impact on its readers that they want to stay immersed in that world. And they go so far as to write stories within that imaginary place with all its rules and wonders, and share it with others. That can be a very good thing.

It does not, however, have a place in writing a review.

What do I mean?

It means that a reviewer should not ever ever do any of these things:

Rewrite parts of the book by offering examples of how it "should" have been done.
Rate the book down because the author didn't write it the way you felt she/he should have.

That is not, has not nor ever should be part of writing a review. Period.
A review is an opinion of what is written. Anything else falls into the realm of Fan Fiction.

I realize that it may be hard to resist.

I also realize that a reviewer who does so on their own personal blog, Facebook journal, Live Journal or Word Press account has the right to do anything they want.

This blog is dedicated to the reviewer that contributes to professional review sites. Those sites usually have a reputation, style and format that does not accept shades of Fan Fiction. Remember what I wrote in my past post, Be Good To Me,
"My advice? Before you review for a site, check with the site owners or, if they have it, the list of criteria or FAQs that might provide information about the tone or style of their reviews and what they look for.
Read some of their published reviews and get a feel for what they typically accept."

If the review site lends itself to adventures in mixed reviewing - mashing opinion with fan fiction- then you've found a home for your review. However, most sites I'm aware of do not accept that style.

I realize it's human nature to want to correct a percieved wrong, and that includes the wording or direction in a story. But the only person that can re-write a story is the person who wrote it in the first place - the author.

Please keep that in mind the next time you are tempted to think, "I can do it better."
You can't in your review.
But you can if you wrote your own fan fiction.
Or, better yet, your OWN book, complete with your own rules, wonders and characters.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Be Good To Me

I loved that song by Tina Turner back in the day. Better Be Good To Me

It reminded me about something.
It reminded me about professionalism.
It reinforced that respect has its place and is a necessary component in every aspect of our lives.
It made me remember that T.V. has a strong influence on our opinions and it's not always a positive outcome.

I see it in sitcoms, Reality T.V. and children's cartoons. It's rubbing off on society as a whole. Sure, it has its place and some instances, it's needed and to the point. But if we aren't careful, it could become a habit, a way of interacting that spills over into aspects of our lives we don't intend it to. And that absolutely includes writing a review.

What am I referring to? It goes by many names because it's considered a gray area. Snark. I.E.: Sarcasm. Causticity. Derision. Disparagement. Scorn. Contempt. Disrespect. Sneering.

Let me put it like this, and it's a quote from a respected author regarding a scathing review that appeared on Amazon.

"...have this Simon Cowell mentality that you have to be cruel in order to get your point across as to how much you hate the book or the performance or in this case, the romance genre in general."

In a nut shell - it comes across as a lack of respect.

Some review sites channel their inner Simon Cowell. They don't call him Judge Dread for nothing. He might be entertaining on television, but his style does not translate well to writing reviews for romance books. Some people need to be reminded of that. Despite and in spite of the review blogs that are out there that cater to that mind set, it's not what everyone looks for.

My advice? Before you review for a site, check with the site owners or, if they have it, the list of criteria or FAQs that might provide information about the tone or style of their reviews and what they look for.

Read some of their published reviews and get a feel for what they typically accept. And that includes whether they care to edit their reviews or leave them as they are. If they leave them as submitted, that means the onus is on the reviewer to edit and present a coherent review. If the review site cares, that is.

If your writing is cutting edge with clever quips and snark and they love that type of writing, then you've found a home.

By the same token, if they are more about information, fairness, respect and articulate coverage of what works and objective comments on what doesn't without resorting to flaming prose, and that's what you prefer to share, then that's the review site to join.

Long and Short Reviews' readers don't get snark at all. They don't get the flamboyant and/or the exaggerated. Nor the mean, the cutting or the brutal type of opinions that can turn off reader and author alike.

Usually readers look for solid, well written, professional and trustworthy reviews. They want someone who can articulate without resorting to flashy verbiage or the current fad lexicon of the moment, certainly they don't want a review that makes them cringe from the harshness of the comments.

And that's where the title, Be Good To Me, comes in.
Respect yourself as a reviewer.
Respect the author's work.

Please don't make any criticism personal by making disparaging comments that allude to a negative reflection of the author. The author is not being reviewed, the book is. The story is. The technique is. The dialogue is. The plot is.

Please don't confuse enthusiasm with outlandish vocabulary: gonna, wanna, yo', bitchin', any profanity, slang spelling and slang vernacular.

Please treat the literary work, short or long, with respect.
Especially short stories.

Don't get angry because you felt it wasn't long enough. If it's a short story, it's a short story. It focuses on ONE aspect, ONE development thread and if that is not enough? Don't read short stories.

Know your personal expectations and choose books accordingly.
It's not a fault if the book is short.
It's wrong to use that reason to lower a book's rating.
Do you know what that is like?
It's like ordering one scoop of ice cream and getting upset because it didn't fill you up like two scoops.
One scoop of ice cream is like a short story. Remember that.

I tried to find an example of snark that insults not only the author but the book. I tried to find something that incorporated the don'ts - like swearing, while also providing what those other review blogs have, entertaining snark. I stumbled upon this video regarding a series that I actually enjoy. I overlook a lot of stuff that drives many readers wonky. I don't know what it is, but I have enjoyed every book in the series for what it gives me in that book alone.

Obviously, this particular Vlog has made video snarking an artform.
If a reviewer was to put in writing for LASR what is in this clip: synopsis, a bit of spoiler, profanity and yes, snark, it would never see the light of day. SNARK THEATER for one of the Anita Blake books.

I think it makes the point.