Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Marianna: A New Year's Resolution for Everyone

Seeing as it’s already January 5th, most of you have probably made all the resolutions you plan on making. (Unless the resolution you need to make is to not procrastinate, and you haven’t made it yet.) You’re also probably sick of blog posts about resolutions. But stay with me a minute. I need you, dear reader.

First, some important background info:
1. My debut YA novel, FROST, is coming out in 2011. To say that I’m kind of excited about this would be like saying Tim Riggins is kind of hot.
2. I’m a pleaser. My biggest fear (aside from rats, driving, and driving while being attacked by rats) is disappointing people. As wildly excited as I am for my book to be released, I am also dreading hearing what people have to say about it. I love constructive criticism during the writing process, but this is different. There will be no trips to bookstores to fix the scene on p33, or to cross out unnecessary adverbs. (Well, at least no trips to bookstores outside of my local area.)

So, when considering New Year’s resolutions, I thought that maybe I should resolve not to read any reviews of my book, or to have a trusted friend screen them first, making sure I only see the ones that say I’m a literary wunderkind the likes of whom hasn’t been seen since (insert revered author here).

But could I really trust myself to resist the temptation of a little Googling now and then? I think it might be impossibly hard! Frankly, writing the book was hard enough. So I decided that instead of making a resolution for myself, I’d make one for everyone else. A resolution that won’t just benefit me, but all writers out there whose work is available for discussion.

I ask you, dear reader, to add this resolution to any others you might have made.

Here it is:
Resolve to make 2011 the year of positivity in the literary world! Eliminate all negative critical discussion of books! Put down your scalpels and pick up your pom-poms!

In 2010, you might have said you didn’t believe a certain plot point in Book X; in 2011, you can celebrate the writer’s creativity in coming up with something so farfetched! If you would have once described the romance in Book Y as unconvincing, now you can praise the fact that the writer is portraying the inexplicability of love! Too many exclamation points in Book Z?!?!?!? Wow, that story sure was filled with energy and life! (See, this won’t be so hard!)

Give 5 stars to all books you rate on Goodreads! Reviewers for SLJ, Kirkus, Horn Book, etc. – give starred reviews to every single book that crosses your desk! Just think of how many smiles you’ll put on previously worried faces.

In 2012 we can reconsider. But maybe we won’t want to. Maybe this isn’t just a way to a happier Marianna, but to a happier community of readers and writers in general!

Wait, what’s that I hear you saying? You enjoy a good critical discussion about the books you read, about both the positive and negative aspects? You like to hear other people’s honest opinions? You find critical discourse to be a vital aspect of the literary world?

And, wait, what was that?? You think I am the one who needs to make a New Year’s resolution, and that it shouldn’t be avoidance of any less-than-glowing reviews for my book? That I should make a resolution to learn how to accept the fact that not everyone will like FROST, or to consider a new profession???

Well, I’m not going to consider a new profession. There has never been anything as satisfying to me as growing a spark of an idea into a story so real in my mind that I’m convinced it actually happened. And, despite my fears, I am thrilled that other people will get to read FROST. I consider myself to be insanely lucky to be a professional writer.

So… hmmm… I guess that means my New Year’s resolution needs to be to find a way to deal with the reality that not everyone will love my book. Right?

Hmmm….

Anyone have the name of a good therapist in Brooklyn?

19 comments:

  1. Marinanna - I'm SO excited for your release, and I think you've got the right idea about reviews. Art is SO subjective that it's imperative to remain one's own biggest cheerleader. You have SO MUCH to be proud of in this upcoming year that even the occasional (constructive) criticism shouldn't be a deterrent. xo, M

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  2. Marianna,
    I am still laughing at the driving while being attacked by rats. You are amazing, and anyone who disagrees is a stupid hater. I resolve to say positive things about writers, but I cannot promise to be nice to the bashers.
    2011 is your year. Revel in it.
    Kelly Barson

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  3. I must say that once I discovered you ALSO thought Tim Riggins was hot (!!!), I found it kind of hard to concentrate on the rest of the post. Then I did. And I must also say that it is probably going to be really hard to not read negative reviews so the best thing you can do is try to remain positive. Congrats on your debut!

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  4. I am perfectly okay with the fact that there are some books out there I didn't enjoy, and don't really feel positive about, but boy do I think it's a waste of time trying to "warn everyone on amazon" about some book being the devil, or a piece of trash, or a cliche sack of drivel. It is so true that "any publicity is good publicity" when it comes to getting the word out. If I truly don't like a book, I just won't mention it to anyone. I have resolved though, to only post positive reviews, aka recommendations, on my blog. Because really, those are the only ones worth posting, and with that, I agree whole-heartedly!

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  5. I think about this a lot too and was all but resolved not to read any reviews of my book! But of course once they started coming out I couldn't resist and I'd be amazed if any writer really could. Though I have a long, long way to go with this, my own aim is not to be too inflated by praise or too gutted by criticism. Some of the books that shaped my whole inner landscape as a child have been pulled apart by critics and others which I found completely uninspiring have been gushed over! I always try to keep that in mind when reading what people have said about my story.

    But as for your resolution idea, I'm definitely with you. I'd much rather spend my time telling people about the books I've loved and been excited by than the others!

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  6. I've read the beginning of FROST and I suspect I'll be able to give it 5 stars quite readily, no resolution needed. Can't wait to get a copy!
    The thing about reviews is, they can be all positive except for one tiny phrase, e.g. "Although the [minor writing element] is [insert negative adjective here], the story succeeds brilliantly . . ." and you'll focus on that one stupid adjective and wallow in self-loathing.

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  7. Marianna, while I would very much like to follow along with your suggestion, professionally I cannot. As a reviewer I am deliberately given books that already have been determined by editors to be less than five (or even four) stars and am asked to sort out their remaining value.

    From a critical standpoint, if a critic or reviewer loved everything they came in contact with, if every review was positive, how would the reader know whether or not to trust their judgment? Consequently, if critics are self-directed in only writing positive reviews (and I have seriously considered this as a policy for my blog recently) then any book that doesn't get reviewed, whether by design or omission, receives a de facto less-than-five-star notation.

    From my (future, as yet proven) position as a writer I have found the process of reviewing helps relieve me of the fears I have surrounding rejection, especially from agents. Naturally agents don't give starred reviews of the queries they receive, and they wouldn't survive if they said "yes!" to everything in a given year. I've had my share of "no" in 2010 and am looking forward to at least one "yes" in 2011 and when it comes I know it will have more meaning and honesty behind it because it withstood someone else's critical gaze.

    But I get it. Every book deserves a cheering section and far too often it seems as if negative reviews exist for the entertainment of the critic showing off what they know and using someone else's work for that purpose. The beauty of cosmos is that every book, every movie, every TV show, has its fans. As scary as it is to imagine some critic finding fault with a writer or artist's work, the truth is that there are and will always be more fans than critics.

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  8. Thanks so much for your comments, everyone. I really appreciate them, and I think knowing that there are people in your corner (no matter what they actually think of your book) is one of the things that makes it possible to put yourself out there as a writer.

    David, I was definitely agreeing with myself at the end when I spoke of critical discourse as being vital. Believe me, I love reading thoughtful reviews that point out issues and problems. (I just don't know how I'll handle it when the problems are with my own book!) And I have a strong feeling that 2011 will bring you a "yes"!

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  9. Marianna,
    I'm getting pom poms today!

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  10. Marianna,
    I'm so thrilled for your debut. Beyond thrilled. Spinning!
    Cyn

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  11. Great post Marianna. I've also been thinking about how I'll handle reviews when the time comes. I think deputizing someone else to read them and only let you know when they A)are unabashed raves or B)have helpful constructive criticism.

    As for a New Year's resolution, let's not forget the Clients of Sara Crowe get together we talked about!

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  12. Congratulations on FROST, Marianna. I agree, reviews are emotionally tricky things for authors. My favorites (and I mean that literally, not sarcastically) are the kid reviewers who get the plot garbled.

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  13. I am super excited for your debut release! Can't wait to check it out. I love YA. No need to tell me twice about picking up my poms-poms. I've seemed to be known as the "cheerleader" in my crit groups.

    To help make the literary world a positive world, if everyone could read your post and contribute what awesome writing world that would be.

    Wishing you many blessings and sales!

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  14. Marianna,
    I hear you! Loved this. Before I started writing, I posted all kinds of reviews. Now that I write, I only share reviews for books I absolutely love. I'm always honest, but now I'm silent unless I have something good to say.

    I know there's a place for critical reviews, and I know we need them, but I just can't do it anymore. Now that I know how much an author invests in his or her book, I don't have the heart to disparage. I only want to cheer!

    Three cheers to you for your debut--I look forward to reading it!

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  15. Here's a perfect example of why I totally agree with you that we should all stay positive. A couple of years ago I read a review by one of my favorite authors. He used his own years of well respected success to verbally and publically tear apart a new and very(I stress VERY)successful writer. Even though I love his books,after that I was ashamed to say I enjoyed the writings of someone who would purposely run down a fellow writer. Worst of all for him, because I don't like him as a person anymore, I DON't BUY OR READ HIS BOOKS. Is everyone on both sides of the publishing fence feeling me? I hope so and I wholeheartedly sign on to point out the positive points of ALL works I read this year. Writers have a hard enough time beating themselves up without my help. Best of luck with Frost! I'm rooting for you!!

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  16. Marianna,

    How exciting that FROST will be out in the world this year! I, for one, will dust off my high school pom poms (not the miniskirt, however) and cheer the whole way through. Congrats!

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  17. Congrats and I can't wait to read FROST. (Late commenting, I'm still in 2010.:)

    That said, I cannot wait to be where you are!

    Happy days.

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  18. This post got me thinking! So much so that I posted further thoughts on my blog: http://www.elizabethfama.com/2011/01/why-bad-reviews-are-good.html

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