Tuesday, October 15, 2013

(Never) Again Bloghop

Today I'm participating in the bloghop for (NEVER) AGAIN by Theresa Paolo!

Click to see others' posts and sign up!

(Never) Again by Theresa Paolo has been released! Its tagline is "Just when she had finally moved on...he moved back." There's something really poignant about this deceptively simple line, because we can all probably think of something we finally let go and how much it would SQUEEZE our hearts if it came back into our lives. I'm not a romance fan, but I can still relate to this idea and I'm looking forward to reading about the longing, the heartbreak, and the healing. Here it is on Goodreads if you want to add it to your to-be-read list.

For the bloghop, Theresa is having us write about something we swore we'd never do again and then wound up doing. Well, I have a weird one for ya.

It involves a book. I will not name the book because I can't say anything nice about it and this is my nice little writer blog, but some of the people who have known me since I first began lurking about the Internet will know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyway, so a popular book came out when I was working at a bookstore, and it was getting a lot of hype, so as per usual I decided to read it--all the better to know what to recommend to my customers.

The book was seriously one of the worst pieces of literature I'd ever experienced.

I was aghast. I thought there must be some kind of sick joke going around. I even prayed that it would turn out to be satire, but this thing was 100% serious. And it was super popular.

So I complained about it. I complained about it to my friends and I complained about it at work.

Everyone was unsympathetic.

They said *I* was the one with the problem--clearly I'm too picky and my standards are too high--and in a couple cases they thought I must be exaggerating (until they read the book too and apologized to me). In order to blow off some steam, I reviewed the book publicly. I wasn't nasty or personal about it, but I did pick it apart and explain exactly why I thought it was so horrible.

To make a long story short, I got a lot of hate for it. Most of my hate mail was of the "ur just jelus" variety, but some of it was full of some very serious vitriol, deconstructing what I'd said into accusations that my problems with the book translated directly into personal failings and psychological disorders. But then--interestingly--I started getting positive mail, too. From people who were pleasantly surprised to find they weren't the only one who wasn't blown away by this over-hyped book.

The book came out with a sequel. I swore I wouldn't read it, because the first time through was terrible enough. But oddly enough, EVERYONE WANTED ME TO READ IT. Fans of the first book were snottily informing me that I ought to give the author a chance by reading the second book to see how much improvement it contained. And fans of my harsh edit wanted to see another one. I guess people like seeing me eviscerate a book. It is, after all, one of my talents as an editor.

So I read it. And I reacted publicly, to much fanfare. More hate mail. More "oh my god, THANK YOU" e-mail. And then the third book came out.

But I was done. I said so. No, NO, no more. I'd given the first one a chance and regretted it. And then I'd humored both the fans and the anti-fans by reading the sequel. The second one, while an improvement in one little way, was in most ways even worse, and it had physically given me a headache to read it (though that may have been all the literal headdesking I did).

So when dozens and dozens of people started asking when I was going to review the third one, I said I wasn't going to. Never. NEVER AGAIN.

A WAVE of protest rang across the Internet. (Well, my corner of it.) It got so bad that I was getting messages every day from strangers--I'm not kidding--and one of the auto-complete suggestions in Google when looking for the book online was "[book title] [my reviewer name] review." Everyone wanted to know what I thought of this ridiculous book. And I said no, no, no. Enough punishment. Enough!

Then a stranger sent me the book as a gift and begged for my review. I rolled my eyes, bit my lip, listened to my soul crying for a while, and agreed.

I made a public announcement that I was going to review it, and the number of bother-pokes for the review slowed to a trickle after that. I then put off reading it for over one thousand days. (Again, not an exaggeration.) But then I finally bit the bullet and read the damn thing, and as a reward for being so patient, my doting fans received an essay of massive proportions. My one-star review for the book was over 25,000 words long. (I wrote nearly all of it in a weekend. Well, Labor Day weekend.)

I told you. I can be kind of fierce.

I posted the link in my waiting review community and it quickly received nearly 150 comments. Most of them people squeeing that it was finally here. I also got a lot of support and thank-yous.

It was at this point that I started to get the really rewarding kind of fan mail. I'd gotten a few like this in the early days, but after a behemoth of an essay like that, most of my positive mail was people thanking me for teaching them how to write by illustrating what NOT to do.

Because that's pretty much what the book was. An exercise in everything authors shouldn't do. I picked it apart and patiently explained why these things don't work, which seems to have really pushed a lot of authors in the right direction. And I realized I'd learned a lot too through my literary criticism. I knew what I didn't like, but I'd never had occasion to explain in excruciating detail WHY these techniques were so ineffective. I felt driven to explain why the problems I identified were problems because there were so many fans of the books who tried to blame my poor impressions of the book on my imperfections, and I wanted it to be absolutely undeniable that the failing wasn't on my end. It took a 25,000-word essay to do this, but it worked.

(Have you ever written a 25,000-word essay? In a weekend? 0/10, do not recommend.)

By the time the fourth book came out I was resigned. Beating these books up was something that had positive consequences for me, and I was ready to own it despite the headaches they caused me. I wrote another massive essay--33,000 words, not kidding--and posted it less than a month after the book came out. Several hundred comments later, I had like half a dozen new critique partners signing on to beta read my next project, and a lot of high fives. The "ur just jelus" comments were still there, but they were tiny voices in the throngs. The same folks in the community were super excited for me--and very supportive--when I told them my book was going on submission to mainstream publishers soon through my new literary agent, and I'm sure I can count on them to check it out for an example of good fantasy, and hopefully they'll recommend my book to their friends (you know, whenever some lucky publisher makes the smart choice and signs me, haha).

So that's it. That's the story of how something I vehemently swore I would never do again became a positive force in my life, even though I must say my life was not enriched by the actual experience of reading the books--only by what I built on it.


  1. I have a feeling I know what books you are talking about! At least you turned a negative into a positive and you can take something from it.

    I have never written a 25k word essay in a weekend and nor do I think I will ever attempt it lol Though, I have added a significant amount of words to a manuscript in a weekend. Still I don't think it has ever been as high as 25k.

    Good luck finding a publisher! My fingers are crossed for you!

    Thanks for joining the bloghop. I loved your post :) !

    1. Thank you Theresa. Good luck with your future as a published author! I've begun following your blog because of this hop. ;)

      I generally write a crapload at a time for fiction, too, so I guess it's not that weird for me to turn on the firehose for a heated essay. My record is something like 26K in a day, but that one did come close to killing me. (And it happened in a book that was 255K at the end of 5 weeks. Later I had to rewrite it as a trilogy because, well, you know. That's the one that's on submission.)

      My famous essay hit the Internet around ten years ago if that helps. Urk! Ten years! How old am I??

  2. So I seriously thought I left a comment here, but now I came back and it's not here. Hmmm.

    25K--no way, not in a weekend. Well unless I could get rid of my family for 3 days. :)

    Do you still have your reviews of 'that book' up somewhere, cause I'd love to read them? I hate when people write negative reviews that don't explain why. It doesn't help me at all if they just say it sucks. :)

    1. You did leave a comment but not on this entry! It somehow ended up on my "about me" page. ::shrug::

      Believe me, I'll say a lot more than "it sucks" if I think something sucks. I'll have to share the goods with you in one of our e-mails. ;)