Hey, Authors! Sorry My Mood Ruined Your Book

Hey there, Author. How’s the book going?

The public reviews? The sales, the marketing, the royalties, the writing career in general? The back- and buttockbreaking toil of writing the great 21st century novel, for years and years, and then the hawking of your soul and the draining of your last reserves of enthusiasm and optimism in order to to sell it?

Good? It’s going good? Yeah? Great! You won’t mind atall what I’m going to say, then.

And that is: I’m sorry. Sorry my mood ruined any chance your book had of me thinking it was brilliant. Sorry I picked it up when it hadn’t a snowball’s chance of getting through to me. And sorry I doggedly persisted in reading it when my brain was about as receptive to fiction as a White House reporter with ethics.

Books, like seeds, might just fall on fallow ground

Most writers will tell you that they write for themselves, or they write because they just have to.

(Yeah, whatever.)

I reckon most writers actually write for an imagined audience who think we’re only brilliant and fabulous.

If we didn’t, none of us would write at all. After all, who amongst us would write for a moody cynic who thinks they want to be perfectly entertained, when in actual fact what they want is a big non-existent magic wand to undo the day they’ve just had?

All this came to mind recently because I’ve only recently returned to what I call “Proper Reading”, which is when I’m able to pick up a book without judgement, and read it in an amount of time reasonably short enough to allow the story to breathe.

When I can allow one chapter to flow into the next and the next, without the brain constantly asking “Aw feck, who’s he again? What year is it? And why is yer man wearing a toilet seat?”

Prior to this, the vast majority of books which came into my hands were doomed. Life was not conducive to good reading. I was working from and until stupid o’clock. Domestic tasks were glaring at me. I was tired and under stress. I was worried. Sometimes I was just plain angry. Stuff was going on, and stuff did not allow for fairytales.

Books got started and books got left. Most of us have To Be Read piles: I had a To Be Finished pile which toppled. And as the pile got bigger, the books in it started to look crappier.

Who would want to be an author whose baby got consigned to that pile?

The Irrefutable Scientific Research Part

The sad thing is that it wasn’t any of those authors’ fault. But I only realised this when I went on Amazon to check the reviews for a highly unusual book I’d finally and unusually enjoyed. At least 50% of the reviewers hadn’t agreed with me at all, at all. We disagreed on every single point to such an extent that I wondered – had we even read the same book?

I completed this utterly scientific study with a whole second specimen, and checked Amazon reviews for a book I thought I’d love, but didn’t so much. And yet so many of the reviews were breathlessly admiring. They seemed to particularly like the bits where I remembered putting it down. And then I remembered – I started reading that book when my Dad was sick. And no amount of magical realism was going to unreal that reality.

More Demotivational Posters For Writers

I thought back to previous books which were supposed literary marvels, lyrical and beautiful and sweet and funny and sad, and which left me cold.

I thought about books I had loved and recommended to people with my own breathless admiration, and with which they had struggled and strained, leaving them squinty-eyed each time they saw me thereafter.

I thought back to the books I thought would be one thing, only to be disappointed they weren’t, and thought about rejections which said that very thing to me. And then I wondered if perhaps it wasn’t actually my fault.

So while I’m apologising to authors, I’m also going to tell them to suck it up. A bad review can be merely a result of someone else’s bad day. Or a bad week, or month, or year. It could be down to a reader’s baby blues, breakup, bereavement, or battle.

Sure, it can be down to a bad book, too. But more often than not, books are just collateral damage in someone else’s house fire.

So look, I say too, Authors: the only thing to do is to shake your head at the damage while you’re passing. Keep sympathetic to their plight. And then keep on walking to where you were going.

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  24 comments for “Hey, Authors! Sorry My Mood Ruined Your Book

  1. July 30, 2019 at 7:53 am

    So true. There is a book which will always stay with me as it’s the one I read as I sat up through the night with my dad the day before he passed away. On this occasion though, it’s not one I have bad memories of. One of the characters was also dying. But he was surrounded by his family and surrounded with love and aware of it. I like to think it was the same for my dad 💜

    Liked by 3 people

    • July 30, 2019 at 8:34 am

      That’s nice to hear, Joanne and I’m glad you have such healing memories of it. It’s often the opposite for me – but I suppose a lot of it is down to a lack of ability to concentrate.

      Like

  2. July 30, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Some of the worst people end up as writers, and history will bear me out here. My theory is that we are all slowly being driven mad in our search for that magic goose to such an extent that we are barely human any more.
    Teachers end up hating kids, doctors hate their patients, so it follows that writers will end up hating everyone!
    I’m not there yet, BTW!

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 30, 2019 at 8:38 am

      I suppose I’d ask, though, why bother to hate people we don’t know and haven’t even really interacted with?! The internet and its keyboard warriors aren’t going anywhere. Faceless critics are also here to stay. I know it’s fine to say and all that, but unless we learn to ignore criticism from people we don’t know and who don’t know us, nobody is ever going to be happy, whether they’re writers or not!

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 30, 2019 at 9:48 am

        That is a good question, along with all the other ones that are impossible to answer…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. July 30, 2019 at 8:37 am

    A bad review is just somebody’s opinion. Everyone’s entitled to their views, and sooner or later somebody else will love the book you’ve taken so much trouble to write. As you say, suck it up and move on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. July 30, 2019 at 8:57 am

    “More often than not, books are just collateral damage in someone else’s house fire.” I love this phrase. And you’re so right; even the best book can feel like crap if we’re in the wrong mood for it. Maybe it works the other way around, too. There’s no bad book, just the wrong time for reading it.

    Wait, does that mean there might be a certain stage in my life where I might even enjoy… 50 shades? (gasp)

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 30, 2019 at 9:33 am

      Ah no, Nick! I wouldn’t go that far. Jesus. The very thought of it!! Still, if you do, I’d recommend supervision. In case you set the bin on fire, like.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. July 30, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I have always thought a book, your novel, my novel are totally dependent on factors beyond our control. MY novels deserve to be read by someone on holiday by themselves in a nice cosy room / sunny patio after a good night’s sleep and with no painful afflictions or personal problems! Though a writer friend, who was reading my long manuscript for me years ago, did say it got her through a miserable bout of flu!

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2019 at 9:34 am

      They might be 2 different ends of the pleasure spectrum but both sound ideal to me for enjoying a good book!

      Like

  6. July 30, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Us writers are such a mixed bunch – not unlike the rest of humanity, BUT, contrarily, I find most of the group I have linked with, admirable human beings.Or they certainly seem so…Should we, perhaps,have a questionnaire printed along with our new book, asking how the proposed reader is on the particular day they purchase it? Are you sitting comfortably? I trust you are in good health and not suffering from any physical ailment or mental disturbance? Is your cat/dog/relative/guinea pig feeling well today? Is your financial standing in a good state? What about your love life? Has Mr/Miss Wrong just deserted you?.Oh dear.. How negative and what a load of twaddle….I write because I enjoy the process, despite the pitfalls, of which there are many. In fact, I love writing and only hope my readers at least enjoy/appreciate some of my scribblings. I’m certainly too busy to wonder about the moods of people…Perhaps I should, although none of us can please all the people, all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2019 at 9:30 am

      Hi Joy, I appreciate that you may not have been here before so you wouldn’t know that this blog is usually tongue-in-cheek, if not outright satire, but still, all have the right to comment here, whatever their mood!

      Like

      • July 30, 2019 at 11:05 am

        Hi Tara, I apologise if I came across as a boring ‘heavy!’ I too love humour, although it probably didn’t seem that way from my comments!! Peace. x

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Will Hahn
    July 30, 2019 at 10:47 am

    Holy hell, pure genius. The last time I thought “sheesh, wish I’d thought of this” was… probably the last column you wrote.

    I think the symptoms of didn’t-like-it you ascribe to bad mood are also present when the modern life itself just prevents immersion. Forgetting who’s-who, absolutely- when the book has a huge cast, a schedule interruption acts exactly like a poor mood, because you don’t come back to the book for a while and then the memory fails either way. I’m thinking about including a bookmark with the Cast of Characters stuck in every copy…

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Will. Every time you call me a genius, an angel in heaven feels pleasantly drunk.

      Obviously I concur with everything you say….

      Like

  8. July 30, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    I hate hate hate when I’m ready to 3 star a book and all the reviews tell me it’s the most magnificent work of art. Whatever my mood I hope I think impartially, but the truth is, in a bad mood, a bad book will drag you down so far, but I still force a 3 star onto it to account for said mood. A good book pulls you up or you’ll least recognize it’s your fault and you need a break from it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2019 at 9:31 pm

      Very true Bernadette… impartiality is the curse of the conscientious. I agree. Maybe the book I really liked was not just unusual, but bloody brilliant, and maybe it was entirely responsible for depositing me back in the land of Proper Reading!

      Like

    • August 1, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      Hi Tara, just thought I’d drop by and say hi, it’s been a while. I can tell you weren’t quite yourself when you wrote this, hope ‘stuff’ has improved. It is disconcerting when you dont rate a book while everyone else is raving about it. I’ve had that happen to me recently. I put it down to not being a sheep. Or a lemming. Though I much prefer them to humans. As fellow creatures, not on a plate. Humans are too chewy, I find. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. August 5, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Writing Amazon reviews is a hobby for some people, I think. They don’t actually read the books. I was on the point of picking up a historical novel the other day, set in Roman Britain. The reviews were the ‘awesome writing’ ‘best historical novel I’ve ever read’ ‘great research and attention to historical detail’ etc etc. I dipped into it, characters with names like Jordan and Linda, living in a two up two down semi in a village with the usual amenities, tavern, brothel, baker, school, everything but the Tesco.
    Reviews go the other way too. Senseless.

    Like

    • August 10, 2019 at 9:44 pm

      Sorry I’m picking this up so late, Jane, but I’ve had the good fortune to be on holidays! But agreed, many reviews are unhelpful at best, lies at worst. That’s why I always read the 2, 3 and 4-star reviews. They give me far more reasons to buy a book than most 5-star reviews could.

      Like

      • August 11, 2019 at 10:13 am

        Lucky you! Hope you had a good one 🙂 When you look at some of the tripe that gets masses of five star reviews it puts the whole system into perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

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