WRITING CHRONICLES #25: back to the chalkboard with new dilemmas and insights

Via: Daily Prompt – Continue & Finite

 

 

I went away for two weeks to prepare for/attend a cousin’s wedding and when I returned, I found my access to all things WP blocked. Hence, my monthlong absence. Since this is not the first time it happened to me, I didn’t go into immediate panic-mode like I did last November.

You see, every once in a while, the Bangladesh government likes to shake things up by blocking server access to various blogging and social media sites in a bid to “combat” cyber terrorism. This is because Bangladeshis really enjoy our right to the freedom of expression and often use social media/blogging as means of venting frustrations towards various stakeholders in our everyday lives and the world in general, which, of course, also includes the government itself. The government attacks the platforms randomly to monitor activity. What they really mean is, “Hey! You’re using your freedom of speech, kudos to you. But just remember to be cautious how you use it because, you know, words can hurt.” Wish our government wasn’t such a pansy about taking criticism but there you have it.

Of course, this Summer, I have been very cool about it but, last winter, I was pissed. There was a whole lot of name-calling involved and contacting various bodies of government to tell them to do their jobs professionally. Finally, the WP Support Center helped me out by contacting the communications board in BD to see what was really going on and after a week or so, all road were clear to go. I didn’t go into all that this time. In fact, the only time I felt a niggle of frustration was when I received a notification about likes or comments or other activities on my site that I could not fully access to review and approve or reciprocate fellow bloggers with my reading what was happening in their part of the blogosphere.

Instead, I took this opportunity to catch up on my reading (just crossed 75% of my Goodreads Reading Challenge even though I had a late start this year), chill with cousins and the new cousin–in-law (a really sweet girl), buy a new laptop since my old one had been running without a battery for the last six months (the new laptop is a smoothy when it comes to typing, btw, and so far near perfect), get my hair colored burgundy with flaming red streaks (a bit of a shock for my loved ones but I think I’m rocking it), re-run Roswell (why did they cancel that show after only three seasons), and really take some vital decisions on continuing my WEDNESDAY REFLECTONS column (even though I didn’t get much writing done the month).

Which brings me to my very critical dilemma: I’m an author aspiring to become a well-revered author. Is it really fair for me to review the works of fellow authors, especially that of contemporary writers? I mean, I try my best to remain impartial in my reviews of books but ever since I have taken on novel writing full time, these fiction writing courses, and etc., I have become really critical of every nittygritty aspect of creative writing. While it has made my reading experience richer and more profound, it has also dampened the sheer joy of curling up with a good story for entertainment’s sake. It has made me slower at reading, too, and I was already perusing at snail pace compared to, say, my best friend. But this has made me think that while I want all writers to do well out of a spirit of fellowship, I also tend to nitpick more often, searching for plot holes and believability, and that I think shows up on my reviews at time.

At the same time, I’m also conscious of the fact that when I’m inspired by a book or it really manages to annoy me, prompting me to write the review, it is actually building me up as a writer too. I am learning what I should work on and what to avoid when drafting and editing my own manuscripts. So with all these pros and cons of reading like a writer, I have been really in a bind as to how to continue with my WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS, which I write for my “Works of Others” blog category. Finally, this is what I decided:

I can’t stop reviewing novels. I mean, books are my life and now, hopefully, on its way to become my life’s work. I love learning from them whether they are good, bad or ugly. But what I will do is cut down on the number of works written by current authors because… even the best are still learning every day and at this stage, I have yet to prove my worth so it is really not fair of me to judge my contemporaries. To recompense on the fewer book reviews, I will increase on critiquing fictions created in other mediums such as the silver screen or television, and also share my learnings from pure classics. Because dead authors can’t come to call me out for a duel at dawn, right?

I’m quite decided on this. But, of course, I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t second-guess myself. So I’m throwing this out to you guys:

Is this a good decision? Should authors be free to critique and review the works of fellow authors? Let me know what you think in the comment section 🙂

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FullSizeRender_1

Headshot of my newly dyed burgundy hair with flaming red streaks !

I’m updating this post with my photo only because some of you requested. I’m terrible at taking selfies and far too self-conscious to ask someone else to take my photo. Generally, not a very gracious subject, much to the consternation of my loved ones. So pardon me but this was the best I could cough up (reason for the need to scroll down).

I did, however, do a bit of editing like adding a filter before uploading it 🙂

 

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  1. #1 by Soul On Rice on September 8, 2017 - 9:26 pm

    Hello. First off, you’re a good writer. Your writing flows smoothly.
    To answer your question, yes, yes, you should feel free to critique any and all works.
    And I think it’s natural for writers at any level to spot errors or notice statements that could have been written more effectively (which is really a personal opinion). I do it too. I also judge the writing of movies I watch, while watching the movie.
    And burgundy hair with flaming red streaks sounds awesome!
    And I think I’m going to check out Roswell. I’ve never watched it. Thanks.
    Okay, I’m rambling here.
    God bless.

    • #2 by lupa08 on September 10, 2017 - 12:36 am

      Hi. Thank you for visiting and reading my blog and for your kind words 🙂 I visited your page, too, btw. But I keep getting logged out whenever I try to take any action; I think it might be residual from whatever the government did when they closed the ports against WP 😐
      Also, the reaffirmation on it being okay to critique helps. However, I wasn’t merely contemplating my part in gabbing with friends about the latest paperback release but rather making official posts here when I am already a self-published author of a novel. Especially, since I review authors who write in genres parallel to mine, my immediate competitors (albeit mostly senior to me). I was wondering if that was a professional faux pas when I’m publishing my opinions on their work. Yes, it’s my personal opinion and, yes, I’m doing it mostly for the sake of documenting my own reading experience (like a book-diary) to help me grow as a storyteller – but it’s a public platform nonetheless and may/may not affect a fellow author’s general rating [wait! I do not have a big ego, thinking people wait for my review before purchasing books]. So, is that okay?
      Again, thank you again for reaffirming my hair choice. As a brown girl from a relatively fashion-conservative country, it was a culture shock for many but my friends and family are coming around too now that color has set in… or maybe they have gotten used to it… ;p
      Yes, do look into Roswell. The characters are so emo for extraterrestrial creatures.
      Rambling is okay, it’s great, actually. I ramble all the time and mine is topically listed, too, like yours so it’s okay.

  2. #3 by thealvarezchronicles on September 9, 2017 - 1:58 am

    Finish every review with “everything you just read could be wrong”. That should fix any guilt or other issues. lol. Great piece.

    • #4 by lupa08 on September 10, 2017 - 12:38 am

      Haha 😀 Excellent disclaimer, thanks! Maybe my WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS should have a subheading, e.g. “a.k.a. what do I know?”
      Thank you for reading!

  3. #5 by Louise Foerster on September 9, 2017 - 7:44 am

    Okay, one woman’s opinion: your hair color sounds amazing! No, seriously, concerning the current author’s fiction? I read a lot of books. A serious lot. I review only a few, the ones that get me so wrapped up in the story that I skip past awkward construction, visible plot machinations, rushing at the end if the story experience was so gripping that I’m still thinking about the story days later. I just finished reading THE SCRIBE OF SIENA by a debut author — lyrical, time-traveling, set in Siena, pure bliss to imagine…such that I noticed that there were rough edges, but zoomed by them because I loved other parts of it so much. Sorry to go on and on about this, but books are my passion, storytelling my art and my calling, and, hey, you asked. So, in short: Yes, review what you read current or past authors. I myself do not post bad reviews because I don’t read bad books. I put them down and move on to something I like. My reviews tend to be quirky and off-beat because I don’t do a “can you top this” list of exclamations and declarations of genius and I also don’t recite character and plot points that decent cover copy and amazon and other sites provide — so, do what works for you, as long as it works for you with your nifty new computer…

    • #6 by lupa08 on September 10, 2017 - 1:14 am

      Hey, Louise! Gonna address the “Sorry to go on and on” part first: I always love the thorough feedback you provide on my posts because to me that means you could appreciate my latest crisis/epiphany, whichever is the mode of the moment. Having said that…
      It’s real peace of mind to receive your reaffirmation that reviewing works of other authors, whether current or past, is an okay thing to do since you are an author and an author who I hang out with in an author community 🙂
      I don’t review every book I read either because… where is the time?!?! And not every book makes me want to talk about them, not even most books that I’d rate “Loved It!” on Goodreads. I only review books I have learned something from for the development of my own writing capabilities. On my blog, I don’t even rate the books but rather opine what I liked and disliked (or rather thought needed more editing) about the book and provide a recommendation on what makes the book read-worthy. For the sake of balance and objectivity, I point out both positive and negative part of every book (except Jane Austen’s because obviously she can do no wrong).
      Moving on… I remember that about you, that you are able to put down a book before finishing if it’s not working for you. I’d say you are blessed because I’m pretty OC about finishing what I start, from stacked potato crisps to boring TV series (reason I’m afraid to invest myself in even one episode of GOT).
      About the hair, a woman’s opinion always matters because they are your severest most faithful critiques with a side of solace. So yay! 😀

  4. #7 by jrusoloward on September 11, 2017 - 2:26 am

    It sounds like your month off was a busy one, even if some of it was spent getting back on-line. Please post a picture of your new hair, as it sounds amazing! Of course writers should critique and review other writers’ works. All writer’s are readers, and readers should be able to voice their opinions and make recommendations for other readers. You’re an excellent writer and reviewer. You don’t nit pick in your reviews, either. Keep being you and doing what you do!

    • #8 by lupa08 on September 12, 2017 - 1:49 am

      Writers reviewing other writers seem to be the consensus here. I think I shall continue to review other writers then. Well, that resolution didn’t last long, did it? Lol!
      Also, updating the post with a headshot – but only because you asked since I’m the opposite of photogenic.

      • #9 by jrusoloward on September 13, 2017 - 3:21 am

        Oooo!!!! I can’t see it on my cell. I’m going to have to long on to my pc tomorrow and check it out!

      • #10 by lupa08 on September 13, 2017 - 8:25 pm

        Lol

  5. #11 by jrusoloward on September 14, 2017 - 3:06 am

    Wow! Beautiful! I love the hair! It brings out your big, expressive eyes.

    • #12 by lupa08 on September 14, 2017 - 12:55 pm

      Big and expressive, huh? Throw in fine and I’m Elizabeth Bennet, dream-come-true! Well, Darcy would be dream-come-true but I’ll take it, lol.
      But seriously, I thought the angle of my head makes me look like a thirsty rabid vampire but I didn’t know how else to showcase the strips of red 😂😂

      • #13 by jrusoloward on September 14, 2017 - 10:49 pm

        A thirsty, rabid vampire??? Lol! It’s a different look from your regular picture, but I noticed your eyes, not your evil cravings and immortality.

      • #14 by lupa08 on September 16, 2017 - 8:13 pm

        I guess, I hide my evil cravings and immorality well from others then, lol.

  6. #15 by Adam on September 19, 2017 - 7:17 am

    I definitely sympathize with the dilemma of how long it can take to truly study and understand a story.
    I can breeze through a story in a few days, but to properly understand all the ins and outs of a narrative often requires me a few weeks, if not longer.
    But that is often how I best learn from the piece, and I do feel myself improving, so while I’m not able to post a review as often as I would like, I am getting everything I can out of it.

    I definitely think there’s an interesting, and very personal question in the topic of whether or not to review and how to review a piece.
    On the one hand, an aspiring author knows better than most the effort that goes into creating and publishing a story, but on the other, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and once something is put out for the public to experience, people are going to respond in a variety of ways.

    While no one likes a bad review, I think it’s also fair to say that most stories have both strengths and weaknesses, and a good review should reflect that.
    As long as the reasons are well explained, a review can easily become a free learning experience for the author.

    • #16 by lupa08 on September 20, 2017 - 5:05 am

      Thank you for commiserating. For me, it was not so much as the time and effort I invest into reviewing a fellow author’s work but whether it is politically correct. However, the general opinion among my author-friends here in the blogosphere is that it is perfectly acceptable to do so. Hence, I have reconciled myself and will continue to publish book reviews whenever a work compels me to.
      As to bad reviews, I try my best to not write off any author with my opinions. I have been lucky so far to find something that entertained me in every book that I read and even the ones that I found generally tedious have taught me something. My reviews aim to highlight my learning.

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