Don’t ask me if I like it, if you don’t want an editor’s opinion

I have a problem: give me a book and I am going to critique it.  It is not an insult to you or to the author or even to the book itself. It is just the way I look at books…now.

My sister was thrilled that one of our favorite authors had a new book.  After she devoured the book (my sister is a speed reading demon!), she gave me the book to read. When she asked me what I thought of it, I immediately began to point out the flaws in the character development, how the style of the book was not nearly as appealing as it was in the last book by the author…etc.

You get the point.

My sister was not pleased.  She thought that I was being too critical that I couldn’t enjoy a good read. I tried to explain: “Being critical had nothing to do with the book being a good read.  I liked the book…it was a good book…it just had some minor problems that I was commenting on.” (I said backing away, trying to placate her)

So…it happened again.

A good friend hands me a book.  He knows the author.  I am reading.  The plot is interesting.  There is a missing comma.  No big deal.  I have seen worse in well known best sellers. A sentence is awkward. The characters are starting to come to life.  An other grammar mistake.The world is starting to make sense…

“How is it?”  My friend asks.  (Is that anticipation and excitement in his eyes?)

“I’m only on the tenth page.”  I remind him.

“But what do you think?”  He wants to know.

But being an author, I know that he really does not want to know.  He wants my good opinion. He is anxious for the author. He doesn’t want to know about the missing commas or the fact that some of the sentence are rather weak and awkward.

“Do you want me to answer as a friend or an English Major and Editor?”


3 thoughts on “Don’t ask me if I like it, if you don’t want an editor’s opinion

  1. Because of this level of analysis is so readily available from everyone I know, I am always careful never to expect anyone to like anything. And I always wsh that they wouldn’t expect me to like the things they force upon me in return. But they do.

  2. This makes me think of our writer’s group in particular, but probably is true of any situation in which a writer presents his/her works to a reader. Sometimes you have to gauge whether or not the person reading his precious and beloved story wants true, honest, possibly harsh critique or if he just wants positive affirmation that he is not failures at writing. People like that might not benefit from being critiqued simply because they did not come emotionally or mentally prepared for the experience of seeing their darling literary child told that it is not the most beautiful child in the world.

    On the other hand, if, say, the author begs, pleads, and all but demands that her child be fed to the proverbial wolves, that is another matter entirely. Such a person would find it truly annoying and possibly insulting if her listeners just nodded, smiled, and said ‘It was nice!’

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