What They Really Mean


The following is purely for entertainment purposes, and not intended to be taken seriously. Really, reviewers are wonderful, well-read people with purely selfless intentions, and excellent senses of humor. ๐Ÿ˜€

Yesterday David talked about believing in your art and trying not to stress about reviews that are less than pleasant. You can’t please everyone, we learn that early. But what if the reviewer has some ulterior motive? Maybe he’s an unsuccessful novelist himself. Maybe her first novel only sold twelve copies and she’s determined to improve her sales numbers by ruining yours. Hey, that’s it! It’s not your book at all, it’s them! Here are some common phrases in negative reviews that don’t mean what you think they mean.

This plot is completely derivative.
The reviewer is already 250 pages into his own novel about the gunslinging frog prince Reynaldo, and here you’ve already sold a book about a gunslinging frog prince named Roberto. How dare you!!??

It’s meandering and convoluted.
You managed to weave four separate story lines into one brilliant plot, and the reviewer can’t decide if she’s impressed or jealous.

There are so many problems with the books that I can’t list them all.
There’s not actually anything wrong with the book, but the reviewer was late for a phone date with an editor who might buy his book, and guess which subject was higher on his mind?

The purple and flowery language is distracting.
You clearly have a more extensive vocabulary than the reviewer, and he got tired of looking up words he should have learned before he took the SAT.

The plot lacks any real direction.
You killed the reviewer’s favorite character. No point in reading further.

I’ve read better fanfic written by a ten-year-old boy.
Because the reviewer is that boy.

There’s so much subtextual obscenity it could be a porn magazine.
Okay, no one in the story so much as holds hands, but the reviewer can still tell what you were up to. Everyone knows you perverted writers are trying to push your sick agendas on the world. Someone has to protect the children, damn it!

The characters are one-dimensional and dull.
The female lead reminded the reviewer too clearly of the girl who tormented her all through high school.

I wanted to love this book.
No, he didn’t, but it sounds nicer to say that before he shreds your work to confetti.

See, don’t you all feel better now?


13 comments to What They Really Mean

  • Yes. I feel better. Thank you Misty. It *is* all them! It’s not us! Whoopee! (grins)

    I especialy like the one about the plot being derivative. Aren’t they all?

  • That “I wanted to love this book” is so disingenuous, isn’t it? It says “I’m fair and reasonable and a friend to writers,” but in the end it’s just a set up for the sucker punch of “so imagine how terrible this book must be for someone so warm-hearted and benevolent to hate it so.” I wanted to like this book? Of course you bloody did. Who doesn’t start off wanting to like a book? Who picks up a book and says, “I will now invest days of my life into reading this. I really hope it sucks.”

  • AJ> You said: “Who doesnโ€™t start off wanting to like a book? Who picks up a book and says, โ€œI will now invest days of my life into reading this. I really hope it sucks.โ€” Um… reviewers? And academics. Academics read stuff all the time with the intention of tearing it apart for a very justifiably scholarly reasons… or for any of the reasons Misty listed above.

    Misty> Great post. I had a beta-reader tell me that a novel of mine read like “bad Harry Potter fan fiction.” Ouch. It was unnecessarily cruel and completely usless. Other faboo lines were “well, at least I got through this draft. The last one was so bad I couldn’t finish it…” The truth was that there were significant problems, but it was not nearly as bad as she made it out to be. And absolutely nothing she said was useful. Beta readers are supposed to *help* not crush. I can say that when I read her work, I wanted to like it so that I could say things about it that were useful, but I ended up hating it, and I didn’t finish it. It was a genre and style I don’t like, but it was a well done example of the genre and style. So that’s what I told her. But, I don’t read her criticizm of my work anymore because it is so mean as to be useless.

  • Thanks for the laughs, Misty. I do like being able to blame the reviewers for all the nasty things they say. Not that I read the reviews, of course….

  • Right, Pea, but that’s the problem, isn’t it?: that reviewers often don’t think like regular readers because (at least in some cases) their final goal is not so much about assessing the book as it is performing their own high standards and cleverness. Good reviewers (of book, theatre, music etc.) don’t do this.

  • “I wanted to love this book” is just like someone saying, “I don’t wanna be rude, but…” Err…then don’t? Take the high road? Obviously you do by the fact that you’re starting your rant with “I don’t wanna be rude.”

    So few internet reviewers understand tact or even what a quality review should do and they’re too caught up in their own perceived cleverness to get it. Some, I’d go so far as saying need a whack upside the head with a clue-by-four.

    IMO, a good review should touch on both the bad points and the good. I’ve never seen a book that was just completely atrocious with no redeeming quality. The characters may have been flat and undeveloped, but the world building could be good. The author could have used too many crutch words, but the dialogue could have been engaging. The story may have been not to your liking, but the prose itself could have been well written. I usually touch upon the good points first in a review and then the things that I didn’t like. And I make sure that I say that it wasn’t to my liking. Other people may like what I didn’t. I finish up with a “Your Mileage May Vary” type line like an, everyone’s tastes are different, but if you like blah and blah in your stories then you’ll like this.

    Course, I’m not a professional reviewer by any stretch, though I did once consider it.

  • Ryl

    Oohhh, subtext is far more insidious than I’d thought.
    Thanks for the wicked grins, Misty!

  • David….Loved the ‘wack upside the head with a clue-by-four’

  • Misty – I wanted to love this post, but it was convoluted and meandering. I’ve read better blogs written by a ten-year-old, and frankly I’m offended that you would use the phrase ‘purple and flowery’ in a public-access forum like this. We all know what ‘purple’ is a codeword for and ‘flowery’ doesn’t even pretend to be subtext, it just comes right out and… oh, dear heaven I can’t even bring myself to type it…

  • AJ said, Who picks up a book and says, โ€œI will now invest days of my life into reading this. I really hope it sucks.โ€

    Seriously! And yet sometimes I read reviews that sound as if the reviewer was hoping to be able to trash the book. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Pea_faerie said, I had a beta-reader tell me that a novel of mine read like โ€œbad Harry Potter fan fiction.โ€ Ouch. It was unnecessarily cruel and completely usless.

    That’s a very good point. A cruel critique is no critique at all.

    Ed, there were so many problems with your comment I just couldn’t list them all. Hey, was that the phone? *grin*

  • Alan Kellogg

    You get right down to it, 9 out of every 9.3 reviews comes down to, “That’s not how I would’ve written it.”

  • Sarah

    Wait, the purpose of reviews is to fairly assess the work and give the reader a sense of its content and readability? No!! I thought the point was to demonstrate what a terribly clever person I was with my mordant wit so that the editor will later accept my submissions without question. Right? Right? (Dang. Must go back and re-write that review then.)

  • Lynn Flewelling

    I got a virulent review on Amazon that started out, “This is the worst book I ever red.” It was so terrible and misspelled it was hilarious, even though it was a complete and lengthy hatchet job.