‘I’m Going To Read It Anyway & See What I Think’

As a blogger, I read book reviews almost daily. Whether it be here on WordPress, Tumblr, Instagram, or Goodreads, I use them as a guide to find out whether a book I’m thinking of reading is really worth it. Granted, you don’t have to use them, and I’ve often dived into a book without knowing what it’s about or what people have said about it (it’s one of my favourite things to do), but hey, reviews are useful!

As a book blogger, I also write them, and while I don’t write reviews of books that I just stopped reading after a short while for no particular reason, I do write reviews of books that I did not like and also include, if necessary, warnings about scenes or chapters that some may find triggering and/or upsetting. I want my reviews to, if positive, entice readers into picking up the book and sharing the joy that I felt. But I review the books that I did not enjoy to make aware to my readers and others who are browsing the reviews on goodreads of why I don’t think said book is worth your time.

However, at the end of the day, I cannot decide for you whether or not you read a book; my opinion may contribute to that decision, but reading tastes are reading tastes and my opinion will not be the same as yours. And that’s ok!

Whether or not a reviewer likes the book or not is very different to a reviewer stating the problematic issues in a book.

Vocal debates on this topic have been surfacing around once a month about these two definitions and how they’ve been overlapping. While the same issues happen with disabled bloggers, LGBT+ bloggers and Muslim bloggers, it’s specifically POC bloggers who are constantly being harassed online for their reviews of books that they have stated have racist content and therefore should be at least called out on to make others aware.

The problem does not lie in bloggers making readers aware of racist content, what is worrying are the many (white) people who respond to these criticisms with ‘I’m going to read it anyway and see what I think’.

In my scenario, where I give a book two stars because I didn’t enjoy it, that’s where a statement like that would be ok. Books are subjective, and ‘the writing style is poor’ is an opinion that another reader may not share. However, when POC review a book and say it’s racist, a white person cannot then decide to ‘see what they think’, because here are your two outcomes:

Outcome 1: You read the book and agree yes, it is racist. You have therefore ignored the claim of a person who actually experiences said racism in real life in favour of yours, as if there’s does not mean anything unless you’ve waved in on it.

Outcome 2: You read the book and disagree, it is not racist. You have therefore ignored the claim of a person who actually experiences said racism in real life in favour of yours, as if you can decide what does and does not clarify as racism.

I think the crux of the matter is people don’t like it when they are told not to read a book. Of course, when someone tells you not to do something, you kind of wanna do it, right? But here’s the thing, racism is not an opinion. That book, whether you read it or not, dislike it or not, has racist content. So, you cannot ‘read it and see what you think’. And when these bloggers/reviewers are asking you not to support these books, they are not trying to restrict your reading, they are trying to let publishers know that books like these cannot slide, that they are problematic and should not be getting published in the first place. Institutional racism is deep and ingrained and small justices can make large waves. Read the books if you want, but keep aware, and support the voices who are hurt by racist, homophobic, and ableist content.

You see a person stepping on another person’s foot without realising. They walk away. The person whose foot has been stepped on is hurt and rubbing their foot. They come up to you. “Did you see that? That really hurt.” Would you then question if that actually hurt them? Or would you have to find out for yourself and step on their foot too?

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RTP #3: Crippling Self-Doubt (A Light Post)

Welcome to the post-change up blog, where, if you haven’t read this post, I’ve been making a few changes in regards to my life. It seems the changes this season aren’t stopping, and while I’m changing my schedule, how I manage my time, and the way I look after myself, I am also changing something so huge that it may affect my whole damn career (if it ever gets that far):

My WIP! shock.gif

Since I began kneading a story into shape when I was around fourteen, I have been entirely focused on this WIP which, for the sake of not getting confused, we will call it Sci-Fi WIP. Sci-Fi has taken up so much of my time and thought that it has become this very well rounded novel with 100,000 words and has been critiqued by many beta readers. It was part of my dissertation, as well as having gone through bouts and bouts of edits. I even got to the point of researching agents.

parttwo

But that’s where it hit me.

I’m a writer who doesn’t necessarily like to stick to just one genre. I find myself pulled to multiple genres that I’d love to write. But it also means that I’ve sensed a pattern when it comes to debut authors and even authors who churn out books; they keep to their genre. It may be personal preference, but there are crime authors, high fantasy authors, contemporary authors, romance authors etc. Authors do not generally branch out, and if they do, they’re already fairly high profile or it’s only a gentle nudge into a different direction.

A part of me is scared. If I manage to get my Sci-Fi WIP published, are the publishers/my agent going to turn around and say “What more sci-fis have you got for us?” Because here is the thing; I have 0. Big fat fucking zero. This is the only sci-fi story I have ever written, because most recently, I have found my genre to be contemporary. Yes, contemporary with a little darkness, with a little magical realism, but contemporary no less.

I had to have a long hard think: if I had to, what would be the genre I would be able to write for the rest of my life? And I had my answer.

In a perfect world, I would be known as Hollie Wilson, author. But I understand that people write to their strengths as well as for the demand of their audience. If I’m going to get a debut out there, it can’t be a sci-fi, because I’ll feel the pressure to write more sci-fi, of which I know I can’t.

But contemporary? Well, I may have some stuff on the back burner constantly when it comes to it.

And so now, I am working on a new WIP, which we’ll call Church WIP. I have 10,000 words of garbage, and I’m excited to actually show you my writing journey.

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RTP #2: The E Word

Funnily enough, I do a lot of editing.

I write a blog, as you know…you’re reading it, and I am constantly proof-reading and checking to make sure every single blog post makes sense. Back at uni, I used to edit and proof-read my essays, stories I wrote for assignments, as well as being the best friend in the world and editing other people’s dissertations.

I charged in chocolate back then.

I also got into the editing game on Wattpad, where I exchanged proof-reads for views. While this sounds nice, it actually took up so much time and I got nothing in return. Turns out, a lot of people don’t know what grammar or correct English is and also don’t follow up on their promises.

But it’s editing this novel that has got me seriously questioning my own abilities as a writer and amateur editor. This manuscript will be the first thing an agent sees of your work. It is basically a CV; it shows what you are capable of and how talented you are and you have to boast and big yourself up by making sure every single sentence, every word in that story is relevant and supposed to be in there.

So it’s not just grammar and spelling and correct sentence structure. It’s not just about competency, it’s also about making major changes and finding inconsistencies about large themes in your story. I have scrapped big chunks of scenes in this WIP because I’ve read it over and physically wanted to shield myself from the cringe. Some things just don’t work, and despite how much you enjoyed writing it and thinking it up, sometimes it’s gotta go.

#2 Making sacrifices is hard, but it’s gotta be done.

You may love that one character, that one scene, that one line of dialogue, but when you’re polishing that manuscript, you can’t afford to have things in there that don’t need to be. I like to write quite a bit and then come back to it with fresh eyes and it really puts stuff into perspective; lines that I laughed at while writing aren’t so funny anymore, a character isn’t relatable anymore, just annoying.

I have so much information about my world in my head that it’s hard to come back to the novel without already knowing so much about it. I don’t notice plot holes or things unexplained because “duh, everyone knows that.” But oh, no they don’t.

Enter beta readers, the simultaneously most scary and exciting beings you’ll meet on your publishing journey. Beta readers, I have found, are so necessary when getting your manuscript perfect. I’d never planned to recruit any until I realised everyone did and it’s just SO IMPORTANT. I’ve been loving the feedback I’ve been getting, mainly because they’re asking questions about things I never thought to ask, to wonder, that people might even think. One beta gave me a huge list of things she didn’t understand, and honestly it was a life saver. I couldn’t imagine not giving my manuscript to beta readers, but instead to agents, and missing my chance because no one had the foggiest as to what was going on.

I think that’s it for today. If you’re editing, I salute you. This is bit is definitely harder than writing the actual thing.

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RTP #1: In The Beginning…

In the beginning, I had an idea.

This idea became dreams, day dreams, and conversations with anyone who would listen. This idea became words on a page, words on a screen. Pinterest boards. Playlists. Maps drawn on napkins and names taken from Facebook pages and baby names books.

I sat in cafes and holiday homes and on my own bed, typing and rattling my brain until last week, I mother. fucking. FINISHED IT.

My WIP, currently titled …’WIP’, stands at 100,500 words and is what I also like to call my baby. It’s this giant fat file that sits in my documents as well as on a USB. And here is tip number one that you should follow no matter what stage you’re at in getting published:

1# KEEP COPIES OF YOUR NOVEL

Save, save and save. Keep it on multiple devices. The other day, my laptop decided to show me a blue screen of death with a sad face (yes, really), which told me my computer had crashed and that they were trying to fix it. As a writer who had never backed up her stories before, my heart stopped beating. I felt the cold grip of death that morning.

Until, of course, it fixed itself and I backed that shit up about 1000 times. Drama over. Real, professional life begins.

In this series, I’ll be documenting my journey to getting published. It will be silly, rambly, and have some advice that you can listen to if you want. Disclaimer: I have never been published, nor do I have wonderful wisdom about the publishing industry. This is about my bumps in the road, and how you, a beautiful writer, can be prepared for them. Posts will sometimes be words of comfort, and sometimes be practical things you need to remember when writing letters and approaching important people with the power to make your novel a reality.

The first step is to have a finished product that you wish to publish. That is not something I can help you with; and idea has to be your own, the words have to be your own, and the passion? That’s all got to come from you. So, if you’ve got something, even just a flicker of a story, then GET WRITING.

Writing is great. Painful and hard, but great nonetheless. It’s what I love doing, and what I’ll always love doing. And who, when has this passion for something, turns away the opportunity to get paid for doing it? I am imagining it now, the thought of waking up and getting excited about going to work.

Anyway, enough of dreaming, it’s time to work.

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