Should an author review books?

Should an author review books?

I’ve thought long and hard about this.

I’ll give my final thoughts at the end.

Pros to an author reviewing books:

1. Knowledge of grammar rules.

2. Knowledge of spelling rules.

3. Most likely to be up to date on the fads and trends in the publishing world.

4. Most likely to be aware of genre requirements.

5. Most likely to catch major word choice errors.
6. Most likely to edit every bit of writing they read.
7. Every story has specific expectations before it is read.

Cons to authors reviewing books:

1. Lack of flexibility in grammar acceptance – such as APA format, MLA format, or other formats, single or double spaced, and more.

2. Only accept one set of spelling rules, and mark all others wrong – British English versus American English, versus Canadian English versus Australian English, not to mention slang, or regional differences.

3. Insistence on other writers following the popular trends and fads.  Not accepting a return to former trends or fads.

4. Apply genre requirements to a totally different genre.  For instance marking down a science fiction novel for lack of romance.
5. Most likely to mark every passive voice (was, had), filter word (just, only), or current “don’t use word” (suddenly, adjective, adverb) as an error.
6. Edit so hard to make the story their own, they lose the author’s story.
7. A story that does not meet the reading author’s expectations will be marked down.

As an author, am I guilty of these?  Most definitely!

1. Grammar rules –  I follow the rules I know, and the rules that were taught three decades ago.  I’ve tried to adjust to some of the changes. Sorry, I can’t accept purposefully running multiple words together, just because web addresses made it acceptable.
2. Spelling rules – Again, I spell the way I was taught to spell.  Yes, some of my teachers may have been wrong.  Some word spellings have changed in three decades. Also, no need to use abbreviations.  Especially when the words aren’t much longer. I recognize some British spellings.  Yet, in a reading last night, I flagged a word to have the spelling verified by the author.  It could be the correct British spelling.  As a reader – I wouldn’t notice.  As an author reader, it might make me score it down.
3. Trends – Yes.  The current trends have so infiltrated my writing, and reading, that reading something out of trend annoys me.  I cannot enjoy my favorite author’s works, or even that of one author friend, because these trends have taken the enjoyment out of reading.  In fact, while reading as a last edit pass on another author’s work, I had to fight the feeling to mark all the trends that she wasn’t following.  Even though they fit the story. And her writing style.
4.  Genre requirements – I want everything to be an adventure – without romance!  If it has romance, I tend to give it a lower score. If the romance is more than a look, or a touch, I’m liable to put it down, and give it a really bad score and review.
5. Filter words and passive voice – They tend to jump out at me as I read.  Even though, they are often the correct word in that place.  Although currently out of style, these words have a place in our vocabulary.  They can be overused, and I do check for over use in my writing.  However, I have known some writer readers to give a piece a “1” star for having a single word or phrase that grabbed their attention as passive or filter.  And sometimes, they really weren’t passive. Often, when used correctly, these words add meaning, and closeness to the character.  They connect emotions, feelings, and actions.
6. Edit as I read – Yes.  In fact, I edited a sign on the sidewalk today.  Only in my head, of course.  However, they didn’t need three instances of “every” in that sentence.
7.  Expectations – Yes.  Even if nigh everything was correct, and I just didn’t like the way it ended, do I really need to give it a bad review?  No.  It is often difficult to determine what score to give a story I just didn’t like.

Do I feel I can give an unbiased opinion on a piece of writing?
No.  Not at all.  Not like when I was a reader, and not a writer.

Even if that writing is from someone I have never heard of?
No.  Doesn’t matter.  Male, female, modern, or ancient, I attempt to edit it, and lose the story, and the meaning.

I find it interesting that two reviews have said I need to learn grammar, or give up writing.  Now, admittedly, in the last twenty years, I have suffered from multiple brain injuries.

Once, I edited grammar in everything I read. I could diagram sentences, with every part and phrase included.  I could name and explain all the parts of speech.  I knew all the rules and purposes of commas, semicolons, and other assorted punctuation marks.

What I couldn’t do, was write a riveting story.  I was too hung up on the rules.

Now, I try not to edit everything I read.  I can’t diagram sentences anymore, no matter how hard I try.  Some of the names and purposes of the parts of speech have changed.  Not to mention being black listed as amateur only by so many writers.  The rules have changed for punctuation.  Many writers mark a comma, or a semicolon, as wrong no matter what.  And hyphens, brackets, and other helpful marks are almost outlawed.

Is reviewing helpful?
Not really.  If I am bringing my own bias to it.  For instance, one friend still writes in the style of: Person A watches Person B watching Person C perform an action.  My (author trained) bias would grimace.  To this friend (a few decades older than me) this is the correct way to write, and my style of: Person A speaks.  Person B completes action. Is wrong.

Therefore, I will no longer be reviewing other author’s books.  I do not feel as though it helps me, or them.  I fear we are all applying our own rules and understandings to items that may, or may not be the case.  And though I admit, it would help if everyone used the same grammar guide, and spelling guide, it isn’t going to happen.  I have been known in the past to mark in my review that British spellings were used, so that readers who think many words are misspelled, may think again.  Authors who are unaware of other style guide guidelines will mark down perfectly good writing.  I know I am no different.  I can’t possibly learn them all.  Now can any writer.  Nor, would it help, as they would be so confused, more people would be using one rule from one style, and a different rule from a conflicting style, until total confusion occurred.  Maybe, that is part of the problem today.

I will continue to help those whom I beta read for.  I am even willing to add a beta read or two.

And if I think a bit of writing bucks a current trend, I’ll say, against common trends, and leave it up to the author to decide to keep it, or change it.
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