Warden`s Words Of Wisdom: Part 4!

Hi again , Leelans! Happy Friday to you all!

Since today is Friday,Warden has posted another “Friday is for writers” post on her Facebook Page !

Friday Is For Writers

My View of Reviews

Okay, so I’m going to start this one out with a few clarifiers:

1) I speak only for myself, no one else.
2) There are no hidden messages here. 
3) Other people have had other experiences and have different viewpoints on this (see also my first statement above,) and everyone has a right to their opinion.
4) Just to be sure, see also my second statement one more time. I’m a hermit and don’t know many people in this business so not only am I not familiar with the conventional wisdom on reviews and reviewers, I couldn’t begin to even guess at it.

With those ground rules, allow me to be very, very frank. (Yes, because I am so good at being shy and retiring.) I’ve had every kind of review there is to be had. I’ve had people say they love my books, they hate my books, they love my characters, they hate my characters, they love me, they hate me. Back in the beginning, I read my reviews, in large measure because I was so frickin’ glad anyone was reading my books, I just wanted to reassure myself that yes, people were actually buying them, and yes, I actually did, maybe, possibly have a career.

But I quickly learned something. By letting the opinions of others into my head, it created a chaos that made concentration difficult. I’ve long held the conviction that no author can write to a committee. This is why I never was part of a critique group. Back in the beginning, I had one person I would check in with on scenes that I was worried about (Jessica Andersen) and my editor, and that was it. Now, all these years later, I have Nath, my research assistant, Liz Berry, and my editor. That’s it. The thing is, reading is highly subjective. What one person likes, another loathes. If you try to please too many viewpoints, you file down your highs and lows. And a corollary to this, at least in my case, is that my rice crispies don’t care about my opinion of the storylines and the people in them. They do their own thing and I record it. That’s my job. That’s it. So it’s not like I have a lot to work with when it comes to writing to please anybody.

So no, I do not read my reviews. But here’s the thing. They’re not meant for me. They’re not my business. Just as readers are not welcome in the sacred space of my writing, I am not welcome in the sacred space of their reviewing and commenting among themselves about my books. Reviews are for readers, not authors. If someone puts down their good money for a copy of something you wrote, or if they receive a copy of something you wrote as part of a PR package, they have every right in the world to think it’s a piece of sh*t and tell people that. They have every right in the world to find your heroine weak and your hero a bully and your series a waste of time. They do not owe you anything. It does not matter that you put your heart and soul into the book. It doesn’t matter that you went through and reedited it a hundred thousand times. It doesn’t matter that you birthed what was, in your mind, a masterpiece. It doesn’t matter.

Reviews are for readers. They are not for authors.

Here’s the thing. I feel very close to my readers. I love them all. But I go to my family and friends for acknowledgement of my efforts and focus. For relief from the back breaking hours of sitting in a chair seeing no one, talking to no one, doing nothing but typing on the keyboard. For an atta girl, and a pat on the back, or a poor baby when sh*t is not going well. I never expect that from my readers. To me, my relationship with my readers is a one way street. I do the giving. They are not required to do anything in return. It’s the nature of the job, and boy, am I grateful as hell for every single one of the people who buy my books. SO GRATEFUL. 

And here’s another truism. Not every book I write is good. Some are awesome. Some are meh, with awesome parts. Some are corkers with great beginnings, or cringers with great endings, or ones I wish I could have gone through one more time before release. I am under no illusion that I write masterpieces, and I know for a fact that I have made mistakes. And the thing is, readers are not dumb. They see all those faults. They keep reading because they see all the good parts, too. And they are allowed to explain, in big detail or none at all, what worked for them and what didn’t.

Do I get excited when people come up and tell me they love something I did? F*ck yeah! I love my J. R. Ward event in Cinci every April when we all get together and talk about the Brothers. And I love the support on social media. And I love the fact that people buy my books. And I am the luckiest person on the planet. 

But I stay in my lane. My lane is writing, and doing my best with what I have for each release. I also totally recognize and respect the reviewers’ right to like all or part or none of anything I put out. After all, even if I don’t read what people say about my books, other people do, and should. 

What about abuse though, you might ask. What about reviewers who stray way off topic and get personal? It’s a fair question. And listen, I’ve had death threats put in to reviews (my security detail tracks these things.) Back in the old days, I was called a hack, a misogynist, about every slur you can think of for a woman, for a writer, for a human being. I’m sure there are people out there still slinging that kind of mud. But I don’t seek it out, and I don’t read it, and I do my job. I can’t control the haters. I can, however, just keep doing my thing and stay positive and move along. 

Look, I am not in any position to tell any writer what to do or feel about anything. I would, however, like to urge authors to remember what our job is. Our job is to put the stories in our heads on the page, and if you offer them up on a commercial platform for consumption, they are then officially out of your hands and into the hands of others- who will, and should, have opinions about what they’ve read. As fro personal attacks, the world is not a kind place. People can be cruel, and sometimes deliberately so. People can also be horrendously, unforgivably nasty, especially on the internet, saying things they would never dare spit out to someone’s face. It’s a fact of where we are as a society, and it hurts. It absolutely does. It can ruin your day, your week. It can make you feel powerless and collapse your confidence. It can make you want to the throw in the towel and give up, especially if there are challenges elsewhere. But here’s the thing. Can you control that? No. Can you change their minds? No. Can you ever win the argument, even if you’re right? No. Therefore, don’t go there. Your work must come first. That’s what Sue (Grafton) always told me. The work must come first. And if you allow yourself to get thought up about stuff you can’t control and you can’t change, you’re no better than the trolls on the internet when it comes to working against yourself.

Anywho, that’s what I think about reviews. And as I said, others may have different opinions, and I don’t know everything (and in some cases, I don’t know anything at all!) I am, however, bedrock sure about the following: 

The work comes first. You have to believe, believe, believe in yourself. And magic happens in the real world. 

Sending love and hugs from the frontlines, J.R.

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