Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reviews: to Hear or Not to Hear

Actually... that should be to listen or not to listen... but that doesn't have the right cadence, does it? (and I DO like cadence) I remember a conversation once with my friend and neighbor from Colombia who asked be the difference. She said, “You say listen, I say hear. What is the difference?”

Well, my friends. Hearing just happens. It is a sense, and you do it whether you are trying or not. Listening is ACTIVE and requires attention on the part of the listener. So while we might HEAR all reviews, whether we want to or not, our decision is whether to LISTEN.

Why am I on about this?

My reviews were posted yesterday afternoon for my excerpt.

Now is when I decide what to listen to.

First note: My reviews seem sparse. This is a reviewer by reviewer thing, I think. A couple people shared theirs and some are really long. But each person had several to do, so I don't really begrudge 'short'.

I am going to share them, and as I go, in purple ink will note my thoughts...

ABNA Expert Reviewer 1

Designed by Joris Ammerlaan
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
The plot is really interesting. I just want to see what that girl is going to do next. Athena seems like a capable and responsible girl, struggling against the world to survive.YAY!  Thank you!
What aspect needs the most work?
It needs some editing for misspellings and grammar mistakes - minor work. The very first scene might be rewritten to be a bit less explicit in case school libraries object to it. On typos: Erm... a little. I went through and found 3 actual typos--one in the pitch, two in the excerpt... As far as explicit?  I don't actually believe this. I have already toned it down a lot. I think it's necessary for setting up the desperation of the situation.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
It is very promising and I hope someday to read the whole book.Thank you!

ABNA Expert Reviewer 2
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The writing is very good--suspenseful and evocative. The pacing is good.Thank you!
What aspect needs the most work?
Athena's situation is pretty grim and not exactly an appealing read. I don't know if it can be toned down a bit without diluting her reason for taking to the streets, but from the first pages, I wasn't keen on reading about it. Others may feel differently.  See... I see this as entirely preference. And I see the PREFERENCE as contrary to what a lot of teens want to read. YES, it's grim. THAT is what makes OVERCOMING it so BIG.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
Well-written and promising. I'd keep reading unless things get really gruesome.

General thoughts:

I was a little surprised, with sort of luke-warm reviews, to pass. But I think (and respect the reviewers for recognizing) that their problems with it were sort of taste issues.  A person who read a lot of YA would know a lot of it is sort of explicit--and my explicitness is, I feel, necessary, to set up the situation so a girl has no choice but to leave home. If it wasn't horrible, she wouldn't need to GO, now, would she?

I DO though, really appreciate that both seemed to recognize that. I clearly must have had adequate scores to pass me through, so what they actually rated me on was fine.

On the other hand, I reread it last night and think it could actually be trimmed by about 20%. I have a tendency to write EVERYTHING that happens, when the story only needs the important points. It's been pared a little, but not as much as it could be.

You should be able to read it here (top entry, page 4) SOON. And looking over it... In spite of the overshare,  I think it moves along pretty well anyway.  The lists can be found here.

Whatever the case... How do YOU feel about reviews? When do you listen and when do you smile and say thank you, but ignore?


Jessica Bell said...

Wow, those are really short reviews. Seems like a trend in the reviewers not liking a bit of gruesome. That was their issue with mine ...

Cherie Reich said...

Those are short reviews. It seems like they made good points, though, even if the gruesome thing might bother them.

I would've been content with those reviews. If they have a good reason for what they say based on the actual work, then it's a good review.

Although I don't think you have to change the gruesome part. :)

Nessa said...

Congrats on making it through to the next round.

I will be listening to my reviews. They may be harsh but are valid points :)

Sarah Ahiers said...

well i've never had reviews, but with critiques i just try to compare them to my gut feeling as well as other crits to see where i might need to make changes.
And yeah, reading these reviews it definitely seems like any issues they had were taste things. Like "this isn't quite my cup of tea" which can't be helped in a contest like this. Good thing they could overlook that

LTM said...

I think those reviews are great! Gosh, it's been since Summer 2010 that I read it--! But now I'm trying to remember the opening scene. I thought it was someone being killed. Hmm... was it the other thing? I think it must've been the other thing.

Anywho, you're doing awesome. Rock on with your bad self~ ;o) <3

Kyra Lennon said...

I think these are really decent reviews, especially the one that said they can't wait to read the whole book!

Ella said...

Congrats Hart!
I think it will only make you better! Listening is hard sometimes, but it can pay off ;D

Old Kitty said...

Yay you got through in the most NAKED of ways!! Yay!! So so so so so soooooooooooooo happy for you!! Am Dancing NAKED just for you!! Yay! Down with pants!!:-) Take care

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

those sound like excellent feedback to me. typos can be fixed. tastes are subjective. they sound very happy with the actual writing!

good job, ms. hart!!!

Johanna Garth said...

Reviews are so arbitrary that it's hard to set too much stock in them unless they all seem to say the same thing.

My two ABNA reviews were glowing but no pass, so's hard to take them too seriously.

That being said I'm really, really excited that you are moving on to the next level!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Individual reviews I don't take to heart, but when something continues to come up, I know I need to address it. Two things were repeated with my first book - sparse world-building and needs women - so I made sure I did better in the second one.
Hey, you passed - they obviously saw something great Hart. Congratulations again!

Heather Savage said...

I try not to read reviews now. If one comes to my attention and the person has signed it, or is a blogger, I read it. If it's some anonymous review on Amazon or B&N I don't. If they don't sign, they don't count for me.
That said, I went straight over to Amazon to see if there was an editorial comment up yet, but I got bupkiss. So nice to hear you got yours, but I wonder if they're general for now until they find out if they got the winner. You know?

Christine Murray said...

Congrats on getting through! I think they're good reviews, they praised the writing but found the subject matter a bit tough going. Like you said, it's a taste issue.

Laura said...

Definitely a taste issue - bear in mind, adults tend to think young people can't deal with grit and 'real life' but in actual fact it's what the young people crave. There may be a bit of covering their backs, if your subject matter really is that gritty.

Congrats on the fab points about your writing though
Laura xxx

L. Diane Wolfe said...


Everyone has an opinion. As long as the reviewers are different for the next round, you should be all right.

M.J. Nicholls said...

Those reviews are worse than those I received on Urbis (amateur writing site) years ago! But well done on the positive ones . . . their negative comments were sort of non-comments I thought.

I'm open to all criticism as long as the critic isn't imposing his own aesthetic preferences onto mine. Apart from that I love having my lungs ripped from my throat and turned into bobble hats. Tear me apart!

Melissa Sugar said...

I don't have reviews yet, so I can't comment from a personal opinion as an author, but as a reader I was impressed. I can't believe I did not know about your book and it has been out for a while. I am off to buy it today. I love suspense and conspiracies. It is what I write and what I love to read. I think the reviews often come down to personal taste.

These reviews were all succinct. They praised your writing and anything else such as tough content was a matter of taste of preference. Good reviews and you gained a new buyer and fan.

Helena said...

Overall these two reviews sound very positive, which is wonderful for you! And taste and subjectivity will always be elements in any review. But I'm no one to talk -- when even kind friends review my books, my instinct is to curl up in a fetal position and plug my ears and close my eyes, and even then I'll be haunted by the slightest negative word more than the most enthusiastic paragraph.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I'm not surprised at "explicit". You are the naked tart after all.

Alison said...

How did I never read the excerpt? I just downloaded it from your link (thanks so much!) and I am really looking forward to it.

Rachel Morgan said...

I think when it's a matter of taste or personal opinion, you don't need to listen to a review. Because you'll never be able to please everyone! If it's something technical about the writing, then I'd probably pay attention...
But you passed, so YAY :-)

R. Brady Frost said...

Reviews for excerpts can be tough. The reader doesn't have access to everything you're building up to.

Reviews should be considered and weighed accordingly, but you also have to stay true to your writing style. Over time you may find that certain people will always prefer something else, but the people who like your writing like it for a reason. You may never be able to please those who prefer other types of writing, but you can always alienate your fans by trying to write like someone else.

For better or for worse...