Nice is good, but what is it hiding? Image from WikiMedia by MR926

Nice is good, but what is it hiding?
Image from WikiMedia by MR926

I read–partially–a book recently. It was a free eBook, the concept sold me in an instant, the reviews were good, so I got it and read it.

But there was something off with the writing. I put it down, picked it up again, and struggled through to 21%. Instead of pulling me into the story, the words lay flat on the page. They needed fine tuning to become invisible, truly a story and not only strings of words.

As a writer, I feel hurt when people criticize my writing. Even if it’s polite and constructive, the phrase “I didn’t like it” is painful.

So I instead of reviewing my “did not finish” books, I delete them from Goodreads.

(This is also because my options are Read, To-Read, and Currently Reading, and a DNF book isn’t really read, is it?)

But then again, I read people’s reviews and ratings to decide what to buy/read. And other people do the same. So when I am silent, trapped behind a wall of niceness, I’m not helping those readers. This problem is only for books I didn’t like–ones that were good, I can review by pointing out what I liked and disliked.

If we’re all too nice to say “I didn’t like it,” then how will anyone know what to invest their time and money in, which are both valuable and limited resources?

What do you think? Do you write negative reviews or not?

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

5 responses »

  1. I find it easier to write a bad review about a book whose author I don’t know — i.e., a big-name author. When I’m reviewing fellow self-pubbed authors’ books, it’s just incredibly awkward to write a negative review, because this is someone you’re frequently interacting with! So I try not to write bad reviews if I can at all help it. Although if I don’t like a book, you can be sure I’ll rant about it to my friends 🙂

    • caitlinstern says:

      Bad reviews about long-dead writers of classics are pretty easy, too. 🙂

      I can also manage a review where I have a non-writing related reason for my dislike. For example, I can’t handle books that have graphic, detailed descriptions violence/rape. And I’m sure other people feel the same.

      That would be awkward indeed, dealing with someone after a bad review–or their friends.

      • That’s exactly it — first, I can’t know the person whose book I’m reviewing. And second, if it’s just that I wasn’t particularly fond of the book … that doesn’t make for a great review. Everyone has different opinions, and I don’t want to turn potential readers off a book because the topic of the book didn’t happen to be in my wheelhouse. But if there’s something that really ticks me off about the book, I’ll write a review. For example, I recently left a really harsh review of Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. Tons of people adore that book, but I was just so furious with the main character for … well, pretty much the way she reacted to everything. She acted like an emotionally-challenged idiot, except she was obviously supposed to be the heroine of the book. The kind of people young girls reading the novel would look up to as a role model. It drove me crazy … and thus, I wrote a bad review 🙂

  2. Marcia says:

    Amazingly, once I started writing myself, my comfort level with bad reviews tanked. I found out how hard it is, and I found out how much of your heart and soul goes into what you hope will be a good story. I will review books I rate 5, 4, and even 3 stars. I try to point out what I liked, and what didn’t work quite so well, and to remind readers that this is only my opinion, and that other loved the book, and they might, too. If it is so bad that I can’t give it at least a 3, I will try my best not to review it at all. But truthfully, if it is that bad, I usually don’t finish the book, anyway.

    I agree that we need to be honest (BUT KIND) if we have trouble with certain parts of a book, but drawing that line is hard, and I know how the author is going to feel. It is easier for me to give a 3 on a book that is wildly popular, though, because I don’t think it will likely make or break the sales. For a new writer, struggling to find an audience, it’s harder to do. But when the book suffers from a lack of editing & is filled with grammar issues, etc, I think even new writers need to be told. Even if their plot or idea is sound, those particular issues need to be addressed if they ever want their books to sell in great numbers.

    Just my thoughts, for what they’re worth. (Thank goodness I had a great editor! 😉 )

    • caitlinstern says:

      Oh, there is no excuse to be mean to a writer. When I read some personal attacks in reviews, I feel very sad for the writing community.

      But how do you tell that in-need-of-an-editor writer that they had some problems?

      Sounds like you don’t rate/review DNFs, either. Do you think Goodreads needs to add that as a category?

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s