Monday, 12 April 2010

Should thou point the finger? Should thou kiss some ass?

On Twitter I stumbled upon this blog post:

You can choose to read the post in its entirety, but I'll go ahead and give you a snippet anyway. This is what attracted my attention and led to my latest inadvertent blog post:

"As a related aside, I do find it amusing when some reviewers say 'the book could have done with more editing'. An editor (not mine) commented on this at Eastercon recently – it's ridiculous for people to say that, because have they any idea just what work went into that manuscript in the first place? That an editor could have reduced a novel by half to have some clown still say it needs a good edit (when they might also mean, for example, that they didn't agree with the pacing)."

Some clown? Really?

I have to say, I am guilty of this (which makes me a clown). I've reviewed a bunch of books and I think at one instance I did point my finger at an editor. But only once. On the whole, I focus on a book's plot, characters and so on.

The question I have is should we refrain from accusing editors when their clients' books are guilty of plot holes or disjointed plots (baddie walks into a room which has one entrance and no windows. The room blows up. Many pages later, baddie reappears, claiming he escaped through the room's backdoor ... which doesn't exist), lengthy and unnecessary exposition (book is 900 pages. It could have been 250), spelling and grammatical errors, major silliness (character has green eyes in page 1. In page 5 he has blue eyes) (character is black but talks like an idiot, because writer assumed all black people sound like Lil Wayne), et cetera.

(Bear in mind that while editors make suggestions and request changes, some authors do ignore them – though I'm sure there's a limit to this).

Should editors be cocooned from reader/reviewer fulmination because they've worked too damn hard on their clients' books? Are they above criticism because we – readers and reviewers alike – do not understand the intricate process of book editing?

In essence, should thou point the finger?

As this is my blog, it's only fair I let you all know my stance on the matter.

Here goes: I don't know how to animate creatures or characters on screen. I can't act. If Osama Bin Laden strapped me in a chair, wrapped an explosive vest around my torso and told me the only way I was walking out alive was if I wrote a movie script, you had better believe I'd be blown to a million pieces. I don't know how to direct a movie or edit one. Cinematography? What the bloody hell does that mean? I don't know! (Actually, I do now, cos I looked it up :D)

But I do know this: Clash of the Titans remake and Terminator Salvation sucked. Banana. Balls. And we all know who's to blame for that.

Moving on.

This issue of pointing the finger at editors also got me pondering another matter. Should aspiring and published writers review books at all? If you're a writer and you read a book, the book sucked – like sucked really bad – and you knew coming out and stating your opinion about the book would draw unfavourable attention to you, would you alter your estimation of the book from, "You know what, this book should have been edited down to 250 pages. It was horrible," to, "OMG! I loved it! It was better than sex with my boyfriend"?

Panning a book on your blog or twitter is almost like spitting in the faces of the author, his or her agent, and editor of that book. And if you're an aspiring writer, one day, after years of toiling on your baby, chances are your manuscript will land on the desk of the agent or editor whose client's work you pissed all over. Or, even worse, the author whose book you ripped on would be asked to blurb your book. If they've read your blog, you know what they're going to say: "Hell no! Fuck her."

So, should thou kiss some ass?

Again – my blog, so I must state my view: I wake up in the morning, watch some episodes of CSI NY, and at 1:30 I shower. Then I head out to Waterstones. There I pick up a copy of your book. Pay for it with my Barclaycard – £9.80. I go home, sit down and delve into your book.

Three days later, I'm done. And I'm depressed. Why am I depressed? Your book sucked. Not that it had a small character development problem or the ending didn't work well for me – I mean, everything about it sucked. Really bad. I start thinking about what I could have done with £9.80. I start wondering what would have happened had I gone to that party with that girl in one of those three days I used to read your book. Maybe I would have got laid. I start regretting buying your book. I get pissed.

Will I kiss your ass and sugar coat my review?

Here's a hint:

"But Glen – dude, you're digging yourself into a hole!"

Look, let's be honest – I'm black. While my fellow aspiring white writers have to run to get published and recognised, I have to fly ... and probably shit gold along the way. And before you go there, no I'm not playing the race card and I'm not complaining either. Lol I'm stating a simple fact. By association, I'm already in a hole. Editors and agents are going to tell me my urban fantasy manuscript is great but, "Won't it be better if you wrote about Africa? Your name fits the description of an ethnic writer." Hahaha! I always relish a challenge. I can't wait to finish my book, start querying and finally stomp on the status quo.

So I'm going to keep writing my reviews. Even though I don't regret buying any book I've reviewed so far (not even The Forest of Hands and Teeth A.K.A Run Mary, Run to the Ocean, irrespective of what you may think), I know the day is coming when I'm going to purchase that one book that'll make me really, really mad.


  1. You should know I have my tongue firmly in my cheeky when I use words like that. :)

    My main point, as I mentioned in the comments, is that you can't possibly comment on the quality of the editor without knowing what was there before hand. A book could have been reduced by half, have totally different plot changes, character developments, all against a deadline. Also, an author continually has the right to refuse suggested changes. All of this is invisible. You don't know what was changed, what was refused.

    No one can possibly know this process, so how can they possibly comment on it with authority?

    Interesting post. I think in the internet age, there are too many people for editors and publishers to possibly keep up with what is said. As long as you're honest, that's no bad thing, surely? Everyone's entitled to an opinion. Editors know that someone can hate a book, that many others love. They'll probably respect honesty more than ass-kissing anyway.

  2. Hey, Glen!

    I popped over from your comment on my cliffhanger rant...the book I loved was Soulless and the sequel is Changeless. I only name specific titles on my blog if I have really positive things to say.

    Both books are good but cliffhangers make me outright hostile!

  3. Yeah Mark, I see what you mean. Quite honestly, I wouldn't be fair to diss an editor if the editor tried his or her possible best to take out things that would be bad for a book and the author refused. Like cutting the book in half - that could seriously affect the plot of a book. I mean, cutting a book in half is pretty much reducing character development, removing certain characters or scenes the author considers pivotal. Can't really blame an editor on that count unless you know for sure they didn't even bother to advice the author on the matter.

    But stuff like, you know, spelling errors, or grammar errors, or weird, shaky plots, I think an editor should be able to point out these things and say, "Listen, man, you've got to work on this. If you don't want to change it, at least, alter it to make it better."

  4. By association, I'm already in a hole. Editors and agents are going to tell me my urban fantasy manuscript is great but, "Won't it be better if you wrote about Africa? Your name fits the description of an ethnic writer."

    This is horrifically, terribly, and sadly true. I wouldn't have believed it before all the Bloombury crap this past year because everyone in publishing talks a good game about increasing diversity among authors and MCs. Talk, talk, talk.

    When even the easiest opportunity for action presents itself what happens? They put white chicks on the covers of books about black MCs and Urban Fantasy written by a black author gets shelved in "African Studies."

    Stupid. Books should be the most colorblind form of entertainment out there. The easiest place to be who you are, not "the asian guy" or "that little hispanic girl."

  5. Yep, Laurel. That's just how it is. Thankfully, people today are recognising this idiotic behaviour and are pointing them ;)

  6. Dude, you know what? You'll fly and shit gold, so it's cool. Really. YOU CAN DO IT :D (Also, I totally went through this phase of biting my nails and thinking I'd have to write about India because of my name when I don't know the first thing about India...So I get where you're coming from. But I don't think you HAVE to, now).

    Also, I think it's fine for unpublished authors to say when they don't like books. So long as they're not really disrespectful about it, like, "THIS AUTHOR IS SHIT!" you know? The moment it gets to personal insults about an author, it needs to stop. Reviewers should always, always, always focus on the textual stuff.

  7. Cheers Ink. Much appreciated, especially coming from you. I mean, you're an writer. Your skill is beyond this world, honestly.

    And true. Reviews should focus on the contents of the books, not the writers. Still doesn't stop some writers from getting pissed lol


Keep it clean and constructive. Thanks.