Sunday, February 04, 2007

Virginity is overrated anyway...

Okay--my weekend probably has better stories and better pictures than what's sticking in my craw right now, and I'm going to skip right over them because, hey, we've already agreed that I have a hard kernel of narcissism embedded in my emotional make-up that it is impossible to pluck out.

I've recieved my first bad review.

I knew it had to happen. NO writer with anything worthwhile--or even entertaining--to say is universally loved. Nobody. Take that guy who wrote The Bridges of Madison County--Robert James Waller--I'm not a big fan--if you look at amazon, a lot of people aren't, but he's selling books and making movies and SOMEBODY loves him and his critics are sort of spitting in the wind, aren't they? What about William Faulkner? Now HIM I adore--but he had critics who would would walk on the other side of the street if they saw him coming--they thought he was obscene (well, he did have one character who was totally in love with a cow...I mean, MOOOOOOOOOOO....) and they thought he was long winded, and they really didn't appreciate the 17 pregnant printed pages that were missing one lousy period. So I get it--I threw my hard work into the world, and you know it, I know it, THE WORLD IS A MEAN MOTHER FUCKER THAT WILL CHEW US UP AND SPIT US OUT IF WE DON'T HAVE OUR TENDER BITS PROTECTED BY IRON GRANNY PANTIES.

I guess I just forgot to put them on, that's all.

She was baffled. The critic was baffled by all the good press--she couldn't understand how anybody could love a book that misused commas so badly. Honestly, I didn't realize that commas had a lobby...I sort of thought they were like rocks in the shoe--yeah, it's irritating if one leaves the driveway to make it's way into your loafer, but really--it's not personal. And the review felt really personal. I mean, I know it's not--not that someone who's lobbying for the comma wouldn't take issue with my frequently typod blog or my completely disorganized life, and then that really WOULD be personal, but to say she was 'baffled'? I mean, I've read lots of books that hadn't lived up to their press--James Patterson, for one. I mean, I get why my friend loves him, but he doesn't do it for me. No style, no pizzazz, no fire... but I can at least respect that she loves him. It doesn't 'baffle' me. But my book, with it's shifting viewpoints 'baffled' her.

I was looking forward to my first bad review--I told my husband that I was looking forward to it. It meant all the good reviews were legit. It meant that my book had moved people--either to love it or to hate it. I didn't expect my first review to focus on stylistics--and frankly, I'm 'baffled' as to how to handle it.

I wrote the reviewer a very gracious comment (if I say so myself) and immediately logged on to my one place of unconditional literary love to lick my wounds--and here I am on the blog, trying to remember that I was still right. My first bad review makes my good reviews legit. No writer, good or bad, not even Orwell, could please everybody. Shakespeare made up his own spelling, grammar, punctuation, and, hello, etymology at will. My writing is still worthwhile, even if it's just for me, and my books are still loved.

I know this.

But Goddess, do I wish someone would log onto amazon quick and cover that bad review with a good one, because right now that one star bafflement is just staring at me like an open wound, letting in the infection of every doubt I've ever had that I was good enough to be read.

18 comments:

Rae said...

Has the reviewer read Saramago? She should thank you for commas. And capitalization. And punctuation to begin with.

If she's picking apart your punctuation (I haven't read the review) and avoiding the content, then she doesn't have much to say of substance, does she. It's not about the punctuation, it's about the story. the message. The syntax and structure. The energy or calm. Etc. It's about how a book grips you.

But commas?

And besides, everyone does have an opinion, and critics especially want to be heard. I bet half the critics out there arbitrarily pick a controversial side and stick to it, challenging themselves to come up with stinging reasons to back their position. Not because they necessarily believe it but because they want to get published themselves. Good writing is read writing, even if it's poppycock.

Hang in there!

Rae said...

OK. I just read her review. Here's my response, which I didn't leave because I didn't have my credit card to create a "Real Name" identity to leave the comment.


But what about the substance and story of the book? I don't read books to judge the author's use of punctuation; I read books to become wrapped in a good story. Besides, grammar and punctuation are a convention to follow but lend style and personality to a story (have you read Faulkner? e.e. cummings? Pynchon?). If you can't follow this story, certainly don't pick up anything remotely more challenging.

OK, the last comment was a jab at the reviewer, but sheesh -- she deserves it. And your response is way too kind to her. Ack!

NeedleTart said...

I will confess to being bothered by grammer and punctuation errors, but only until the story grabs me. I would never base a review on those petty quibbles and anyone who would is pretty darn petty. Sorry, but you will have to keep waiting for a bad review. A review of your spelling et al had *nothinig* to do with your writing. Hang in there.

Roxie said...

As we say in our writing group, "Everyone is entitled to her own silly-ass opinion." Some people feel it is their duty in life to find SOMETHING to criticize. If all she could find was your comma use (which you already knew is non-standard) then this is clearly a case of praising with faint damns.

Or she may have been someone who just wanted to say something differeent so her comment would stand out, and she could find her own name on the list that much easier.

Kiddo, a stranger BOUGHT your book! You're ahead of me in the business!

Roxie said...

And just in case you need to hear it again, you are a brilliant, gripping, creative, engaging writer!

KnitTech said...

Congrats on the bad review! Does this mean you're a real writer now? (Editor's note: asking this question does not mean to imply nor suggest you're not a real writer!)

Some people ain't happy unless they're bitchin' about somethin'. Keep up the good work, because you are inspiring to a bunch of would-be writers. (Or at least me...)

Sora said...

Look at it this way, if the worse someone has to say about your book was that the punctuation was bad, I think that's pretty good. Bah! Don't let these nonsensical comments get you down, you are an unique, fun, wonderful writer! Keep at it!

debsnm said...

Amy - haven't read your books, but read the excerpt on squidoo.com - I thought it was good - it whoever that person is can't let go of some made-up rules about writing, they should give up reading. Commas are there to be used, and you can write dialog however you damn well please.

Catie said...

I will post a good review once I read it (I want it to be legit) but for now my cat (Zoie) and I are purring and trying to comfort you.

Amy Lane said...

Awww...thanks everybody--you all rock! And catie--thanks for the cat purrs, and I will accept any criticism you have--because you gave me cat purrs first!!!!

Louiz said...

Even though I haven't read it, I'm sure (given your blogging) that it is engaging, well thought out and enjoyable.

So which one should I start with?

Amy Lane said...

Oh wow...now I'm blushing... (seriously--you all have no idea how much I needed strokes right now--it's a whole other post...) Uhm...Vulnerable... (it's a little, uhm, risque... just to warn you:-)

The lady in red said...

Everything Rae said. I can't say it better. And really, if the only complaint is the comma usage, this chick is a tool. She probably didn't 'get' the story to begin with. Poo on her. You are awesome, and your writing is too. Your books are everything a novel is supposed to be, original, inspiring, engaging, and authentic. They only got that way because you wrote them.

Coach Susan said...

Remember, the root of the word "critic" is, well, critic. I actually find the bad comments more useful on Amazon's site than the good ones. If the Criticizing Critic sounds Completely Clueless, I know I've found the book for me!

Listen, I took a writing workshop once with a fellow who was a public defender turning his work experiences into some incredibly realistic and creatively wrought fiction. The group couldn't deal with his use of different fonts to enunciate different voices -- characters, narrator, etc. It was brilliant and unique and they wanted no part of it. It was quite an object lesson for me. Later, I realized that I was editing my own work to please them and in the process removing all the inference and nuance. They wanted it all spelled out for them. I personally enjoy doing a bit of mental arithmetic while I'm reading or viewing a film.

Anyway, as you say, this critique makes you an author in a way nothing else can.

Karen said...

I saw the less than stellar review and dismissed it because it had nothing to do with the story. I concentrated on the other ones that did. I immediately bought the first and second book of the series. I enjoyed “Vulnerable” so much, I went ahead and bought the third book of the Goddess series, so I would have it by the time I finished “Wounded.” You have another review: Five Stars, baby! I was so swept away by the story that I never thought to look if there were commas or not.

Take Care

Amy Lane said...

Wow--thanks so much for the review--it totally made my week! (Don't forget to check me out at my new site...writerslane.blogspot.com:-)

Lady Kylara said...

Hi Amy
just reading Bound having galloped through Vulnerable and Wounded. Whatever you do don't stop writing- they are brilliant, breath taking and totally absorbing. Just remember
those who can Do, those who can't become critics :)

Amy Lane said...

Thanks, Lady K! Hey--do come check me out at the new location--www.writerslane.blogspot.com--it's much more current than this one!