As a new author I often feel like more is given to me than I give to others. Meaning, I now read more of everything; from novels, documentaries, biographies, and blogs. I appreciate the freedom of reading and writing much more than I did before I published my first book. As a self-publisher, I’ve been on many writers’ threads about their work, and there are a lot of great new authors out there, especially in fiction.
I’ve been given more good reviews than I ever imagined, and that’s not saying I’ve got hundreds. Just having a couple make my day, so to have more than that I feel blessed. The bad reviews come around as well, that doesn’t make my day; but I do read them carefully, trying to understand where the reviewer is coming from and containing my sudden rage into deep thought and analysis of what was written about my writing.
So I have a lot of sympathy for new authors. Since I’ve learned to appreciate them more from my own experience, I’ve begun reviewing novels of various genres. Just because I write dark fantasy doesn’t mean all I read is fantasy. Many great works are out there about the time of here and now with intriguing plots and fascinating characters. For example, I recently reviewed the novel “Bang” by William Butler. I just plucked it out of Twitter at random. There is nothing “fantasy” about the story, which is for adults only; the lamentable characters and the social chaos pull the reader in to one disaster after another. By the book’s end, the message and the characters felt burned into my mind (in a good way, please, I’m no psycho). His writing skills are excellent and I gave him 5 stars on Amazon.
Mr. Butler was very nice and thanked me on several social sites and offered to read my first book, “Act of Redemption.” I don’t mind the kind gesture, but I don’t expect him to read my book since I read his. My work may not be his genre; and that’s OK. I feel gratification knowing I helped a new author, and certainly welcomed the Twitter “follow” he gave me. (Many sites these days require hundreds of Twitter followers to join; now isn’t that special?).
Now I’m picking up more books from not only new authors, but some established multi-published authors as well. The more I read, the more I learn, and I hope the better I write. My most recent “classic” books were “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates and “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. I’ll have to say, Yates was an incredible writer that exposed inner desires we all carry, and “Heart of Darkness” makes my “dark fantasy” work more like “Alice in Wonderland.” Both writers were excellent and deserve their place in classic literature.
So how should a new author review books by new authors? This is the way I see it: Can I really compare “Fight Club” (a fave film) to “Gone With the Wind?” I don’t think so. I ask myself “In the context of what is written, did the author accomplish the task? Do I understand the message? Is the book a smooth read, or is it over-embellished and boring?”
As a final note, reviews are subjective, obviously. I like action and dialogue, and other readers like long descriptive narratives. So I try to be as fair as possible. I don’t want to ever discourage a new author, as we all have room for improvement. If I think something’s really awful, I prefer to send a private email to allow the author to learn and expand his/her talent. I hope the same would be done for me, but I know better than to count on it. Go forth and write, new authors!