I’m not sure about other writers, and apparently a lot don’t even do so, but when I read customer reviews, the one- and two-star ones hit me pretty hard. It doesn’t even matter if the review is actually a review rather than an irate spewing on some stance, usually about the ‘gratuitous’ inclusion of gay characters or the ‘promoting’ of homosexuality, as if just telling a story that includes people who aren’t straight, people who are presented as just people rather than freaks or monsters or who-knows-what, as if that constitutes promotion. It doesn’t, and the books actually reflecting just how different people are isn’t gratuitous. Anyway, yeah, seeing people who disliked a book I wrote so much that they go so far as to make the effort to post a review with that few stars…it puts me in a blue mood, no matter the actual reason for the post. I’ve taken to not reading any reviews of a book until just before I put out the next book. And I only do so to see what people liked about the book (an excerpt from one of the best so far which was for book 4: ‘Excellent read; I laughed, I cried, and I was happy at the end.’ I mean, as a writer, it’s freaking awesome to see someone felt that way because so did I as I was writing it.). I also read the reviews to see if anyone posted a constructive negative review that I might be able to use to make my writing better.
Back to the point, though. Reading those ‘bad’ reviews sucks the will to write out of me, which is why I took to only reading them right before putting out the next book, after I was pretty much done writing it. But I recently read a post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, titled Business Musings: Taste (or Blaming The Writer), that opened my eyes. I think in the back of my mind I always sort of realized it, but her putting it out there plainly like that really brought it home. Not everyone is going to like your book, regardless of how ‘good’ it is, how ‘correctly written.’ Everyone has their own taste. Some people like cake, some people like pie. (I, on the other hand, am a weirdo. I love both. Chocolate cake? Oh gods, yes, please. Cherry (or blueberry) pie? Mmm-hmm! Yes, yes, yes.) And because everyone has their own taste and those tastes vary, there will be people who do not like what you write, and there may even be some who despise it. Knowing that it is really people’s taste that makes them like or dislike a piece of writing (or their relying on arbitrary rules of what makes a piece ‘good’), well, it takes a load off my shoulders, so to speak. As writers, instead of trying to check off a made-up list of criteria for what is ‘good,’ we should instead just write what we love. I should write the best darned cherry pies (or chocolate cakes, or Mexican wedding cookies) I possibly can, and to hell with those capirotada freaks (Google it). Other writers can satisfy their cravings, while my writing will attract and satisfy those who like the way I write. Now, obviously, there are some technical rules to learn about, things that make reading and following a written piece possible, dialog tags, point-of-view, and such, but once you know those, you can bend them to your will as you see fit.
Anyway, those of you who write, who are thinking about writing, and even those of you who read written works should definitely read her post.