Bad days, one-star reviews and book snobbery

As a writer, it’s a fact that some things don’t turn out as planned. Whether it’s a plotline not coming together, a character being difficult or that dreaded writer’s block, bad days are common. Today I’ve had such a day.

I’d planned the day well, got all my ‘day job’ work out of the way – books balanced, invoices paid, admin list checked off – and I was looking forward to spending two hours after lunch on the read-through phase of my work in progress. As I sat down to do so, a notification came through on my phone – a one-star review of The Memories We Hide.

It happens to the best authors with the best books. This I know. It’s happened to me before. And usually, I can shake it off, but today wasn’t such a day. So instead of sitting down to my work in progress with thoughts of self-doubt and imposter syndrome sitting on my shoulder, I put my manuscript aside.

Sometimes you have to do that. Stop what you’re working on and walk away. Not only does it allow your mind to clear (of whatever is troubling you) it also gives you perspective.

I headed over to Goodreads to leave a review of the book I’ve just read, Mhairi McFarlane’s ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’. I loved this book hard. It has everything I believe a good book should have; great characters, engaging plot, relatable subject matter, good humour with deep emotion (fiction with all the feels!). So after leaving my 5-star review, I flicked through the reviews left by other readers. Frankly, I was shocked at some of the one, two and even three-star reviews. How could they not love this book? How could they criticise the characters? No character growth? This book as one of the best main character arcs I’ve ever read!

Reading these comments was a great leveller for me. A reminder that we all want something different from a book. We all go in with our own personal expectations and preconceived ideas. It’s that old adage of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. And that brought me some peace.

But, it also got me thinking about snobbery and labels too. I’ve written before about ‘book snobbery‘. How genres such as romance, chick-lit and women’s fiction are often seen as of lesser value in the literary world. To me, that’s bullocks and something I always believed will phase out over time. Unfortunately, not sometime soon.

All too often the awards and prizes for novels are filled with serious, literary style fiction, and crime fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good crime fiction and I don’t mind a literary tale or two. Maybe it’s just a simple fact that those prizes attract those types of books as that’s the way it’s always been. But to me, it still reeks of snobbery and arrogance that books that don’t tackle serious subject matter in a particular way are of less weight in the fiction world.

Thinking about it, I think it comes down to how we like to read about things. What stimulates our mind and the way we feel we best process information.

Women’s fiction often does tackle serious issues. It’s not all bumbling heroines or strong-willed feminists. It’s simply the case that the issues are confronted in a different way, from a different perspective.

I believe all good fiction should do two things:

  • Take us on a journey and
  • Make us think

The mode in which those two things are delivered doesn’t matter.

I like to think one day the perception of my favourite genres – women’s fiction, chick-lit and romance will change. That it will be taken more seriously and even sit aside literary fiction and genres such as crime and historical fiction. And that one day, we’ll all recognise that story is Queen, and every story has it’s own rightful (and equal) place in the world.

1 thought on “Bad days, one-star reviews and book snobbery”

  1. I’m sorry about your bad day, Jodi, and your one star – so harsh! I feel like traditional literary awards were essentially created by and for a very distinct class of person, and for that reason alone, it very much excludes a whole wealth of others, most obviously, women! Thankfully I do think that these things are changing, and the lines between literary and genre fiction are beginning to blur. But the real take away is that we are all different and what works for some, may not for others. Keep putting your work out there, you clearly have an audience for it! Lots of love X

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