I'm a novelist and I love getting reviews for my books. I like them because they say things like, 'I loved this book. I read it all night. I couldn't put it down.' Or, 'I don't usually read books like this, but I gave this one a shot and it surprised me over and over. It was a really great read.' Or, my absolute favorite, 'This is the best book I've read on this site.'
So since I've been writing online for decades, occasionally I get approached by newer writers who are not getting many reviews and so they are inviting established writers to look at their work. More than just inviting me to look at their work, they are asking me for an honest review and offering to give me an honest review in exchange.
The little author doesn't know it, but this is a terrible exchange.
Here's what I want to tell them.
"Hello, little writer. I see that you have posted 17k words of a story. Are you aware that that isn't very much writing? Did you know your word count makes a short story and not a novel?"
That horrifies them.
The thing is that they don't know what they're asking for when they ask an experienced writer to look at their work. They're summoning a demon. They've written 17,000 words, but they're asking for help from someone who has written 1,500,000+ words.
What I want to tell them is that they need to do everything they can think of to finish their 17k story. When they're finished, they should put it aside and write something that is at least 60k long. Then they need to do everything they can to finish that story. Once complete, they should set that aside. Finally, they can go back and read their 17k story. They are now a more experienced writer. What do they think of their own work now? They are a better judge of what they have written because they know what they were trying to make in the first place, and they want themselves to succeed. I'm not invested in the piece they're writing or in their journey as an author. I'm a stranger, not their mum.
The last time someone asked me to look at their work, they had to beg me for weeks. I repeatedly told them that they didn't know what they were asking for and that they needed to work on it themselves without asking for my input. I'm a monster when I edit. Against my better judgment, I gave in. I found five mistakes in the first sentence and 20 mistakes in the first paragraph. They backed off like a wounded dog.
Now, as far as receiving an honest review of my story, I'm not that interested. Firstly, if you open the door to criticism, someone will be able to find something to criticize. That is not a superpower. With that logic, anyone can find something wrong with anything. If someone handed me one of my all-time favorite novels before it was published with a glossy cover and asked me to find ways to improve it, I would be able to find ways to improve it. But would I really be improving it? It's just one person's opinion. Writing is subjective.
So if someone were to write me a detailed explanation about how I didn't write one of my books as well as it could be written, I could read their ideas... but I wouldn't bother to go change that book. At best, I'd write the little critic back and say, "You know what? You're right. Congratulations! I'm not changing it. I worked on that book for eight years and when I published it, I put the story to bed. I wasn't really expecting my book to achieve perfection. I was merely hoping to grow as a writer and I feel this book was a stepping stone on that journey. I'm not waking it up and giving it a rewrite. You're clever. Off you go. Try to write something better than what I wrote. Good luck."
But I don't think I could rewrite a book to make someone who didn't like it, like it. That's not possible. The book just is what it is at a certain point. This is who I am. This is the kind of novel I can produce. Either you like it, and if you do, that's great. If you don't, I can't be bothered with you. Just go off and find what you do like.
For this reason, I no longer leave negative reviews for books. If I don't like it, I just move on. That's how I want someone to treat me.
As a final note, it is just so hilarious that someone would think that I don't know there are mistakes in my books. Of course, there are! I do six rounds of editing before I release a book and there are mistakes down to the last minute. I just have to let the book go at some point. Also, I sometimes make mistakes when I'm trying to fix mistakes like overmixing muffin batter. Just let it go.
It's also hilarious that any author could think there's the tiniest chance that there aren't mistakes in their book. There is not a book on this planet that doesn't have mistakes in it. We're people. Just people.
About the Creator
I write novels like I am part-printer, part book factory, and a little girl running away with a balloon. I'm here as an experiment and I'm unsure if this is a place where I can fit in. We'll see.