Thursday, January 12, 2006

Insecure Writers

I didn't plan to pull off a late-night writing marathon last night, but that's kind of what happened. I was in the middle of a scene that I was writing by the seat of my pants. I had no idea where it was going, and I kept getting to the end of what I knew would happen, so I'd think, "It's late, I'll call it a night and dream on it to see if I can figure out what will happen next." Then just before I shut the laptop, the next line or paragraph would pop into my head, and I'd figure I'd better write it before I forgot it. From there a little more of the story would flow. And then I'd reach a point where I didn't know what would happen next, so I'd get ready to shut down for the night, and again, the next line or paragraph would come to me, so I'd write it. That went on for nearly two hours until I really couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Plus, I'd reached the kind of turning point you'd find in one of those "choose your own adventure" books, where I could see the rest of the scene playing out in two different ways, and I wasn't sure which one I wanted, so I knew I needed to try them out mentally first.

And, of course, soon after I went to bed I realized that the revised ending of the previous chapter wasn't how I should have ended the chapter, after all. I think this one will just take moving the chapter break, but then that affects the flow of the next chapter.

On another note, this seems to be "writers are insecure people" week. First, apparently it really is (or so someone has declared it) Delurking Week, in which people who read blogs regularly are supposed to delurk and comment so that the bloggers will know you care. Meanwhile, there's a bit of a kerfluffle (hm, spellcheck doesn't seem to like that word, and it's one I've only heard out loud, so I'm not really sure how it's spelled, but it's the perfect word for the situation so I'll go with it) in certain circles about Amazon reviews. Apparently, some author saw an Amazon review that she thought misrepresented her book, so she asked Amazon to remove it. And that started this whole discussion about whether or not authors should be allowed to censor even the cruel or clueless reviews, and that led to a discussion on the validity of reviews.

I am aware that there are some not-very-nice people who get their jollies or work out their jealousies by posting mean reviews at Amazon. I'm equally aware that there are authors who post glowing reviews of their own books under fake names (sometimes multiple fake names) and who encourage their friends and family to rush in and post glowing reviews the moment a bad one appears so they can dilute the effect of the lowball rating and shove the bad review off the first page.

But I was a little surprised to see comments from a number of people who automatically assume that a book with lots of five-star ratings at Amazon must really suck, based on the logic that if there are that many five-star ratings, then the author must have felt insecure about the book and had everyone she knew flood Amazon with glowing reviews. Um, okay. I'm sure there may be some like that out there, but I know Enchanted, Inc. got a lot of very high ratings and good reviews at Amazon (there may also be some really bad ones in there, but I quit looking a while ago for the sake of my own sanity), and as far as I know, there's only one person with a review on there who I know for sure is an existing friend. And he's one of the top-ranked Amazon reviewers who reviews a lot of stuff (and he just happens to be a friend of mine). I never actively solicited Amazon reviews from readers, beyond a mention on the "how can you help" section of my web site that if you like a book, it's nice to post a good review at Amazon or B&N. So I find it kind of scary that there would be people out there who assume that all those five star reviews mean the book sucks.

I think the skewing of ratings to either really positive or really negative is mostly a reflection of human behavior. I don't bother talking about an average book or one that I thought was okay. If I really, really loathed and detested a book, I might dish about it privately with friends or with Mom. We can spend hours analyzing what went wrong with it and what could be done to fix it (which sometimes gives me story ideas). I probably wouldn't bother to post a review anywhere unless I felt it was so horribly evil that people needed to be warned against it. For the most part, though, it's the books I really, really like that I want to talk about everywhere I go, that I want to make sure everyone knows about. I haven't ever posted an Amazon review (you seem to have to register to do so, and I resist web site registration if at all possible), but if I were going to do so, it would be because I wanted to talk about a book I really loved. I doubt I'd be posting too many three or four-star reviews. If I bother to post a review, it would probably be only for books worthy of five stars.

It's also the time of year when a lot of web sites are taking nominations for favorite/best books of the year and best blogs of the year in various categories.

And you know what? I'm not offering links to make it easy for people to vote for me or campaigning or any of that. I won't ask people to delurk so I'll know you're reading this. I'm not asking for Amazon reviews or B&N reviews or any of that. If the spirit moves you, go for it. But if I'm going to get any kind of positive feedback like that, I'd like it to come honestly because people are thinking of me, not because I begged, whined and pleaded. I'd hate to never be sure if something like that was because people really did like me or if it was only because I threw a big virtual hissy fit.

Of course, that may be about as effective as my decision not to wear makeup through much of high school because if guys were going to like me, they should like me for who I was naturally (and surprise! They didn't! In my defense, though, this came from a conversation with a guy where he insisted that guys really preferred it when girls looked more natural, and I pointed out that all of the girls with boyfriends wore about an inch of spackle on their faces, so to show him I stopped wearing makeup and said if he was right, I should start getting tons of dates. Even he didn't ask me out.). Or the year I decided not to pass out candy when I was running for student council because candy had nothing to do with student government and I wanted people to vote for me based on issues, not based on the candy I gave them (I lost). I just don't have the energy to find links and campaign and all that. I have a book to write.

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