Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Writing Groups

No, not the kind where you sit face to face, read your material and gain insight through critiques on how to improve it. I mean those groups that spring up out of nowhere on Facebook and LinkedIn. Almost every day I receive invitations to join one or another. I've had great experiences and less than great experiences.

What I like about these groups is the variety of people who contribute. Usually, a question leads to a response arc where many different people contribute feedback. Some comments are helpful, others less so, as you would expect when six people try to create a horse and end up with a camel.

I've previewed short tidbits of one or more of my works with great feedback for improvement. I've announced the availability of my first published novel, Mad Max Unintended Consequences. I've received wonderful reviews as a result of those postings, both in public and through private messages. I've been contacted by people from my past, some of whom I'd lost touch with. This is the good kind of group. Not that it let me promote my book, because I received feedback for my efforts and encouraged me to promote other people's books.

I joined one group where the group leader informed everyone in the very first post that promoting your personal works was not allowed. The second post was from a writer who was promoting her works. Comments ranged all over the place and included several from the group organizer. What is a new member to think? If the group organizer likes you, you can promote to your heart's content? Or that you have to be a member long enough to be worthy of self-promotion? Do you have to comment daily to be considered worthy? I am so confused.

Some groups are lead by a veritable tsar. You will do everything my way. You will follow the rules or we won't let you stay. You will like and share all our posts even when you would never do so on your own. I mean, come on. I don't read heaving-bosom romances, yet fully 50% of the FB posts are to such works. I have my standards, after all. I can't promote something I don't read. Maybe I'm too snobbish for that group. I'm so confused.

Some members of groups cannot post a coherent message. Poor English. Lousy grammar. Worse spelling. I don't mind if I'm reading text- or tweet-speak, but when a post pretends to be written by a literate person, I expect not to have to decipher what it means. Again, I'm probably too snobbish for that group. I'm so confused.

I love to learn from different writers and readers. I posted a question in a new group on Facebook. I got back no fewer than 75 responses, all but three of which had nothing to do with my original question. I was serious, but I was attacked by those who were ever so much cleverer than I was. I was even more confused.

You might see yourself in this blog post. If you don't, count yourself among those who want to help writers without stifling their creativity and hopes. And who don't confuse me.

Can't we all just get along and stop playing one upsmanship?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Reviews

I planned a quiet Sunday editing one of my manuscripts and reading a friend's latest. No sooner had I logged in than I started getting a stream of instant messages (IM)  from a fellow writer who loves IMing. I really find it annoying. This time, however, he was walking on the ceiling. Thought I'd better talk him down before he hurt himself.

So, here's the situation. Male friend has just published his first book. He's a thriller writer in the vein (pun intended) of J.A. Konrath. Lots of blood, brain matter, f-bombs. His prose is fast-paced and necessarily rough, as befits his subject matter. He's not for everyone. He's also fixated on every review that comes out.

Fast-backward a few months. Male friend is a professional writing colleague of a female author. I don't know her, haven't read her material and probably won't. It's not that I don't like her:  I don't read historical romances. Never have. Don't know anything about the genre. So, I stay away.

Male friend has promoted female author for weeks, blogging about her book, posting good reviews on all the appropriate social media sites, introducing her to many of his colleagues to secure speaking engagements, even though his genre is light-years different from hers.

When female author asked to help with his promotion, he was delighted. He sent her a free advance reader copy (btw, he bought her book), answered her questions and waited.

Her long-delayed review hit yesterday. And that sent him to the ceiling. She gave it one star. I tried to tell male friend that he should ignore her, since his other reviews have been mostly four- and five-stars, with one three-star from me. Hers would eventually get lost in the noise of better reviews. He was having none of this.

"How could she stab me in the back?" Him wailing.

"Do you know if she has any experience with your genre? Maybe it's just not what she understand and likes." Me being reasonable.

"I want to confront her." Him being unreasonable.

"NO!" Me raising my e-voice.

"But how could she do this to me?" Him wailing again.

"Well, your book isn't for everyone. Historical romance readers will never find it, so you don't have to worry about her fan base. It's not yours." Me getting a little annoyed but trying to be supportive.

"How do I remove her review?" Him getting on my nerves.

"You don't. The first amendment gives her the right to voice her opinion. Your other reviews will cancel hers out." Me grinding my teeth.

"I guess, but we are on a panel together next month. What do I do?" Him calming down.

"Greet her as if you never saw her one-star rating. Pretend it never happened. DO NOT bring it up." Me hearing my manuscript whimper that it was being ignored.

"I'll try, but I just want to rip her face off." Him approaching panic again.

"Don't read any more reviews. Don't check for rankings. The book is out. Nothing you can do will change the fact that you're a published author." Me turning away from the terminal.

"But she hurt me so bad." Wail raised to ceiling once more.

"Oh, get real." Me losing patience and turning off the IM feature.

And that, my friends, is why I never look at my book's reviews or ratings. Now, if male author would just get that message...