I have to start off letting you know I happened to be with Laura* when I told her the title for this blog post. I wish I could accurately describe the expression of resigned despair on her face. It was somewhere between being told the test results are iffy and learning the wait time for customer service is an hour and a half.
Poor Laura, she not only has to deal with me, but with those who prompted this blog post–in addition to everything else.
In any case at the end of the year I did a blog post about positive virtual space, and resolving to maintain this blog and my Facebook pages as such.
It didn’t last a week. I don’t often make resolutions for just that reason, but in this case I’m determined enough to see it through to do this follow-up.
The title of this post is what I often wish to say to posters who come on those Facebook pages, into a thread where everyone’s pretty happy, and feel entitled or compelled to drop some negativity bomb. Moreover, if I–or other posters, or Laura–address the explosion, said bomb-dropper gets defensive or increases the charge. The most-used defense is:
It’s just my opinion.
Recently Laura announced there would be a new trilogy, The Guardian Trilogy, starting at the end of this year. Most who come on my Facebook pages enjoy getting updates like this, finding out what’s coming up, engaging in the discussions Laura springboards. Nowhere in any of that is the phrase: So, let’s have your opinion on Nora’s work.
That’s what, as I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again, reader review sites are for.
In the middle of the excitement over a new trilogy, someone comments all my trilogies are the same. (One of the given reasons is they’re always about three men/three women, and I can’t argue about that. But . . . duh.)
Some posters object, Laura smooths the waters, and the expected rationale is: It’s just my opinion.
Readers are absolutely entitled to opinions, and there are a zillion places on the internet to express any dissatisfaction. I’m not going to go onto those sites and debate with a reader over her opinion on my work. But these are my pages.
Another poster followed up, a few days later by adding not only predictable (soooooo predictable) but it didn’t take much brain power to read them.
That crossed a line for me. It’s not only insulting my work on my page, but insulting every reader who enjoys the work. That’s a frigging bitch-slap to everyone.
This one went on with ‘facts’, the most baffling and oddly amusing thereof was that every one of my couples admits their love 78% of the way through the book. 78%. Not only is the math inaccurate, but it’s just silly. However when I objected, she dug in, and hard. These were FACTS, and I should grow up and learn to take constructive criticism.
Here are two things, and I’m not going to apologize for either.
Every reader has opinions. Using the opinion to take a swipe at my work, in my space, doesn’t make it any less rude. You’re invited to a party. Do you go up to your host and say: Nice party, but the guest list is predictable and the food could be better. And hey, are you ever going to change those drapes? Just my opinion!
If you find any of that okay, you sure won’t be invited back, not in my world.
If you find this person’s parties boring or sub-standard, here is a suggestion. Don’t go.
Second thing. Constructive criticism. The reader is not my employer, my teacher, my mother. This is not my hobby, this is my profession, and in this profession I have an editor. I welcome her constructive criticism. I have an agent. I welcome hers. Readers, having those opinions that will vary dramatically from one to another? Not welcome. Not asked for. Not accepted.
Because you use a sink do you get in the plumber’s face and advise him how to fix it? Do you walk into a shop and tell the owner she needs to shake up her stock?If the plumber isn’t doing the job to your standards, find another plumber. If the shop doesn’t have what you’re looking for, try another shop. That’s your power as a consumer.
A book doesn’t come with a suggestion box, and the writer is not obliged to sculpt a story to your specific needs.
Readers read. Writers write. Readers can voice their opinions in appropriate areas, to their friends, to their bookclub and so on. But those who insist on coming into my spaces with their negativity are going to be called out for it.
Those who get huffy because they were just expressing an opinion or offering me constructive criticism? Bite me.
* Laura’s note: I was extremely grateful to have had two glasses of champagne BEFORE Nora told me the title. Joking aside, it’s a hard balance — to acknowledge an opinion while asking myself “why would you share that opinion in this place?” (Honestly: why would anyone decide the best place to complain about trilogies is a thread on a new one???) I know we can’t erase all negativity, but we can request that conversations stay relatively on point and are cordial.