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Monday, September 7, 2009

A Review is a Review is a Review – Ginger Simpson

A review is SUPPOSED to summarize your story, point out the negatives and positives, and let other readers know whether or not you consider it worth money spent. What a review SHOULDN’T be is a summary written based on what a reviewer EXPECTED to find in the book, what the reviewer WISHED had been written, and why the reviewer HATED that it wasn’t at all what she ANTICPATED.

As in all careers, writing has its ups and downs. Ones “muse”, which I’m sure you’ve heard discussed before, is the driving force for most fiction writers. The Merriam Webster definition is: a state of deep thought or dreamy abstraction. Without my muse, I’m lost in the here and now, rather than digging into my imagination or trekking through places available only in my mind.

When I start to question why it is I love to write, I usually go back through my “warm fuzzy” binder, and find phrases in each review I’ve received that remind me of all the things I’ve learned. Today for instance, I found the following: (and yes….I copy them ALL off and file them for reference, good, bad, and indifferent.)

“Ginger Simpson is a new author to me. She has a marvelous way of telling the story and explaining her unusual plot.”

Good for me. I’ve mastered not losing my reader in a plot that’s convoluted and boring.

“…has a wonderful sense of humor that shines through in her stories, even the ones that aren’t comedies!”

I use humor in my daily life, to deal with stress, to improve my health, and as a reminder that it never hurts to laugh at yourself. I’m happy the facet of my true personality shines through.

“Written with a passion and real sense of ‘old world’ charm, this is an epic story of love, sacrifice and belief set against a stunning backdrop of both time and place.”

Wow, I managed to pull this reviewer into the story by SHOWING her what life was like in another time and place. That’s the aim of every good author.

“This is the most remarkable time travel novel I have ever read.” OR “Stunning is the only word I can come up with to describe…”

When total strangers read you books and summarize with words like these, you can only smile from ear-to-ear. This is what you want people to say, to feel, to share. It’s humbling, to say the least.

“While the plot is a familiar one, the author keeps the story fresh by providing many details about the Lakota way of life and by writing identifiable characters.”

With the hoards of authors already signed, and those waiting in the wings, similar plots are bound to become commonplace. Especially, when you write historical novels, someone didn’t come up with the phrase, “history repeats itself,” for no reason. I’m thrilled that I can add special touches to a plot already used and make it something unique and gratifying for a reader. Can’t ask for more than that.

“….pulled me in from the first paragraph. I was drawn to **** and felt immediate compassion for this insecure woman.”

I pulled two very positive points from this phrase: 1. Not every heroine has to be perfect. Readers can identify with characters that share their same insecurities and fear. It’s always nice to have a strong role model, but sometimes, I want to know I’m not the only person in the world with concerns… and 2. I achieved one of the most important aspects in writing, reeling the author in with the opening scene.

“Ginger Simpson creates an endearing love story with a twist that is sheer genius.”

Everyone appreciates an endearing love story, but sometimes you take a risk when you write outside the box. I did this with an ending to one of my latest releases. I knew some would GET it and some wouldn’t. How lucky that this reviewer considered it was a genius move. Actually, it was a logical move, given the era and situation, but I did so enjoy being compared to a genius.

“… grips the reader and throws them into a whirlwind of emotion from anger to joy and everything in between.”

When you write about emotions, you want to SHOW them to the reader so they can experience all the feelings of the character. Evidently, I did what I set out to do, and I’m so pleased that this reviewer walked a mile in my heroine’s shoes.

Of course, not every review is glowing. I just had one of the worst in history, but even in that summary, I was compared to Laura Ingalls Wilder. You can glean something good, even amidst painful words. I’m happy to say that until this recent review, I’ve only received one or two that contained negative comments. One found fault with my Indian hero making coffee. I understand her concern, but if she had considered that he spent weeks with a white heroine and observed her making the brew each morning, and appreciating the taste, that might have explained it. History buffs are always on the lookout for a faux pas, and I appreciated she pointed it out. It made me more alert in future endeavors to keep my historical facts, inventions, and language period appropriate.

Another didn’t find the story believable. Well, she’s certainly entitled to her opinion, although it’s never something you want to hear. Still, the kudos I received from others far outweighed her review but reminded me that no matter how hard an author tries, you are never going to please everyone.

It’s ending sentences like these that keep me writing:

“Be prepared for an awesome read.”
“Hats off to Ginger Simpson for writing another great read.”
“Simpson achieves victor with Sarah’s Journey.”
“A must read for every woman.”
…I’m also going to buy anything and everything Ginger Simpson writes. She’s won me over totally.”

We can all learn from our reviews. Have we mastered the rules needed to make our writing unique? Do we have a voice that readers hear and appreciate? Most of all, have we SHOWN the story to the reader so they become the characters, feel the emotions, smell the aromas, and shed the tears. I think I’m making great headway.

2 comments:

Isabel Roman said...

Great advice, Ginger. In each review there should be something constructive for readers and the author. And hey, congrats on the wonderful reviews!

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

Yep. Reviewers have their challenges and POVs, too.
The best thing an author can remember is that reviews are great vehicles to get traffic and interest readers--but in the end, the only thing that counts for an author is SALES. The way to get there is superb writing. Nothing else will do.