You Destroyed My Life - A Piece Of My Mind
I write in a very laborious kind of a way. I write and rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. Well, the thing of course is if you're doing it well, when you finish your 30th rewrite, or something, it should sound like you've just written it completely, freshly once. Because sometimes what happens when you write and rewrite and rewrite, is you suck the life out of something. It's difficult. But I find that I do that because it's amazing -- the rhythm of the book, or what I call the music of the book -- how you read it. How you're carried along by the words and the subject -- is as important as the meaning. In fact, you can't have one without the other. --Norman Juster (Author of the Phantom Tollbooth)
I received two emails a few weeks back. Now before I reveal the contents of these emails. I think most of you know this isn't the only writing gig I have. The title I have and treasure is the term media critic. That means I cover and review everything from films, sound recordings, comic books and even novels in other columns. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to enjoy my job for the last 31 years. I take it very seriously.
Sorry to digress. The first email was written by a writer who sent me his first time novel. He wanted a review and I gave the book three stars out of five.
His email read…
YOU DESTROYED MY LIFE by your three star review you gave me in your Piece of the Page column.
Most people who reviewed my work said it was amazing, excellent and fresh. I sent you a copy requesting you give me an HONEST review
Your review was a total slap in the face. It was negative and mean spirited. You harped on the points that did not work in the plotting and character development. You showcased that my characters were one dimensional in scope, rather than how I should fix this.
If you did not like it, you should have told me PRIVATELY. I assumed that your job was, as a critic, was to help new writers and teach them what to do...develop them, built them up and make them better writers.
You should not tear writers down in your column. My parents read that paper and think you are right. Now what do I do?
Author's name withheld
Point one, this was NOT a personal attack, I did not tear the man down! Nor was I mean spirited to him on what I wrote! It was a book review of his novel. A review of a book that he sent me and asked my opinion on. The author sent me his novel asking for an HONEST review.
Point two, I am a critic and reviewer. My teaching skill, to the general public in a review column, is to suggest what to read and not to read…not to help the author write the book. By the time the book is in my hands it ready to be sold and up on Amazon. I take my time to read and review the book for free. There isn’t anything to tell privately as the book is for sell and open for opinion reviews.
Point three, I am not responsible for what an author’s family thinks. The author asks for an HONEST review and I do just that. I don’t give out sugar coated reviews to make sure an author’s family feels good about their work. That is not what reviewing is all about. A review is for the public and is one reader’s opinion. In this case it is my opinion and I stand by it!
If that wasn't bad enough, the author's wife sent me an email a day later. Her email was not as kind as her husband's.
You gave my husband a THREE STAR review of his novel, instead of a FIVE STAR which it deserved.
Do you know you that he wrote this project for over a year? Did you know how hard it was for him to hold down a full time job and to write his novel?
You should be ashamed for stiffing his creative juices. His father told him that he should give up on his dream. You may have killed his writing career. Thanks for NOTHING!
Well, dear author and his wife, readers and whoever is listening, my job is to the public. My job is not always sunshine, lollypops and roses for new writers, audio productions, films, etc. I am an opinion, one lone opinion that is all I am! I said a few times on radio shows as a critic there is a target painted on my back. I know people take shots at it, it is the nature of the business. And I know it is true!
As writer/critic Harlan Ellison once said, “A critic's job is to be the burr under the writer's saddle”. This is NOT my first rodeo in regards to upset writers. This is NOT the first time I have heard that someone does not like what I said. My job is to tell it like it is to the public and you. I’m to share my OPINION and to make a judgment. I get to share if I think other readers will want to have the book/audio/media production in their home. I answer their question of should they put down their hard earned money towards that piece of entertainment?
Know this, I am judging the piece of media I receive and NOT the person nor how long it took them to write it. I do not care if it took three days or nine years. I do not always agree with the masses. I am NOT a yes man. I’m my own man. My reviews reflect that.
I will say this. His novel was well written in spots. I thought it was good for a first novel. Note I will not reveal the book's title in this column. The work needed to have better focus and pacing. The author needed to plot his first time work better. I gave it three stars, which is average. Others may have thought it was fresh. I thought the plot was recycled as I had seen it before.
That does not mean I am right or wrong. It’s how I felt as someone who read it and a review is one person’s opinion.
Note, my reviews are opinions. They aren't cast in stone. As a reviewer, I am a cog in the publishing wheel...a voice in the wind. I try to strike a chord with readers, it is what I do.
This does not mean attack the reviewer! Some authors when they do not get their way in a review, think it is easier to blame the reviewer and not themselves. If it lacks sales, it is the review's fault and not the authors.
Do I like this trend? NO! However if you do not like what a reviewer has to say or see a dissenting opinion, DON’T READ THEM!
Years ago, I remember this person came up to me at a book show with a yellowing copy of a review I wrote. He looked at me, “I don't like what you said!” He held out the newspaper clipping. It was a review of Stephen King reading Needful Things. All 24 hours of it himself. I make no bones about King's reading of his own work. He should not do it. (Again this is my opinion)
Understand I write reviews 2-3 months ahead of time. I waved the security away from the table as I scanned my review.
“You don't seem to like King's work?” he said
I smiled. “I disagree. I love Stephen King's books especially Carrie and Salem's Lot. I just do not like him as a narrator of his own work or his wife’s book. He is a weak verbalizer when he is reading Needful Things. His pacing was off and misspoke many many times. It made the work seem slow and tiring. If you see, I said that!”
He nodded after understanding my persuasion. He shook for my hand and left.
He may not have agreed with what I said, but I think this reader understood.
So next time you read a review, you may have a better idea of reviews and reviewers.
Reach for the Stars
Columnist: Bennet Pomerantz has covered the Audio medium for the last 20 years. He has syndicated newspaper columns, AUDIOWORLD and "Movies of Your Mind", in Affaire De Coeur Magazine. In which he showcase his vast and diverse knowledge of the spoken word medium.
He is also known as a media review critic (books, music, graphic novels, DVDs, CDs) in his weekly syndicated newspaper column "A Piece of the Page". He also is a ranked media reviewer for Amazon.com. http://www.facebook.com/bennet.pomerantz1 / E-mail: email@example.com