Thursday, November 10, 2005

Reviews & the craft of writing

The ongoing conversation about romances, the art & craft of writing, & critiques continues at Storytelling (see link on the sidebar) with Sara Donati, Robin & Candy among others. The discussion has been insightful & thought provoking, I highly recommend taking the time to read through it all including the comments.

Personally, I have never read romance for the art & craft of the writing or for the beauty of the prose or even the quality of the characterization. Pathetic, but true. IMO, there are very few examples of exemplary art & craft in the romance genre. I do not look to romance when thinking of masters of the writer's craft. Rightly or wrongly.That there is room for tremendous improvement is unquestionable.

For me, romances are like Ben & Jerry's or Pepperidge Farm Gingerbread cookies or Doritos your favorite indulgence. The restrictive 'requirements'- the well hung hero, the naive innocent virgin, the HEA, the streotypes, the 6-7 plots, etc. etc. etc. You know what you're getting. The stories, regardless of sungenre, arc similarly. It's comfortable. Dependable. Like your favorite pair of shoes or the sweater that plays up your best features no matter how awful you really feel.

This is not to say I am for stagnation, sterotyping & flat unimaginative prose. By any means. After all, growth in quality & diversity means more books for us all. Who wants fewer, but badly written books? Not I.

I enjoy content based discussion & thoughtful informed critiques. I may not agree. I may disagree very strongly or agree wholeheartedly. We all have the privilege of expressing our opinions. When I write my little reviews I focus mainly on characterization & plot. Narrative voice, authorial voice & technique I do not discuss since I do not have the background to make sense of it all. As far as I'm concerned, if you as an author have not been able to completely submerge me into your world, then you have failed miserably.

As to the viscious attacks on thoughtful critiques? The inability of readers & authors to accept critiques perplexes me. The belief that only glowing, positive fangirl reviews are valid is ridiculous. While I feel that personal attacks are unnecessary & unprofessional, critiques are part & parcel of everyday professional life. Children are critiqued daily by teachers & parents. Worker bees are critiqued as part of their 'annual performance review.' Why should books be different?

I for one hope this discussion continues. I have read romance for a long time & plan to continue to do so for as many more years as I am able to carry huge piles through the bookstore. I look forward to the evolution & growth of our genre- particularly the art & craft side.


Tara Marie said...

After reading your thoughts I'm left nodding my head.

Don't get me wrong, and I certainly don't want to offend anyone who writes, I think there are many romance writers that have honed their craft and write beautiful prose, and I would think all writers want to improve their craft, but for me romance is about comfort zones, knowing where the book will eventually end up and enjoying the ride to get there.

I'm always at a loss when we're told we shouldn't critique honestly, why would we lie to protect a genre that sells more than 50% of the MM paperbacks produced. Too many books, too little time to waste on something not readable, and how can an author improve without honest criticism.

Bookwormom said...

I agree with you, Tara, "too little time to waste on something not readable.."