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October 23, 2013


Rosalyn Eves

Wow, you will be busy! I didn't realize you were doing a spirit animals book, but I'm thrilled to hear that--they sure managed to muster an impressive list of writers for that series: you, Brandon Mull, Maggie Stiefvater . . .

I appreciate the reminder about how we read. I teach writing classes on a regular basis and I've done my share of literary criticism (sort of happens when you do an MA/PhD in English!), but I think the most valuable thing I teach my students about giving one another feedback is to respond as a reader: why did this work for you? If you're confused, why? We write first drafts for ourselves, but unless we plan on writing in a vacuum, we have to revise for readers.

I had a grad school professor who insisted that we "take the gold out of Egypt," even with a book we were less than impressed with. By this, I think she meant that we needed to a) appreciate the real effort it takes to put together a coherent argument/plot/etc, and b) find something in it that we *can* use.

Kathryn Purdie

Great advice and a good reminder for me to start thinking this way again. The lazier way is to just say something is bad. We can flip that and make it constructive for ourselves with more effort--and a much more satisfying experience.


Awesome post! I can 't wait for the next Princess Academy book! I have a tendency to rant about books,especially ones I love because I'm so caught up in the story, sometimes I forget that no one eles can hear me screaming inside my head about my favorite parts. It 's so much easier to talk about the parts we don't like simply because we are lazy- and no one is going to stand there long enough for you to explain, in detail, every single one of your favorote parts, so we tend to scream " IT 'S AMAZING YOU HAVE TO READ IT!!! but there was this...and this and this I didn't like..." and so we talk openly about everything we think should be improved, and hold the things we love close to us. I personally do this all the time, and I'm trying to stop because it only does it give a prickly impression of me, it also gives the book a bad reputation if all everyone does is complain about it.

Melanie Conklin

I am a reader who goes all in with books. I rarely fail to complete a read, and I often find myself so consumed with a story that I find it hard to join the real world. In short, I love books. Like, more than any film or tv show or most people I know. But this particular book did let me down as a reader, and I worry that my disappointment will be swept aside as dislike for the author's choices. For me, that couldn't be farther from the truth. I did not mind the plot choices at the end of this series, but what I did mind were the authorial choices with the format, writing, and pace that made it difficult for me to get lost in this read as I have in the other two books. I worry that many readers felt this same disconnect with the work that had little to do with the ending, and that the only reason they are reacting so strongly to the ending is because they felt such great disappointment after holding out for an ending that would improve upon the story. Should their disappointment will be discounted? No. Sometimes books don't hit the mark for readers. It's the reader's responsibility to understand why, but it's our job as authors to give them great stories and characters they can love. We all try our best. Some times things work out better than other times. :)

Meredith B.

Funny-- when I think of Literary Criticism, as an academic student would define it, it's the exact opposite of the way you define it in this blog entry. You define it almost the way we define movie critics-- and contemporary movie critics seem to think they have infinite scope in their abilities to trash movies (many of which I happen to love!) But the way academics define literary criticism is the reader's ability to trace themes, theories, and meanings in a given piece of literature by analyzing the characters, plot, setting, tropes, imagery, and any number of other things that they find in the text, and then looking at what they find within the text in the context of the author's life, the political and historical atmosphere the author and text were in, and in relation to other texts.

So, the entire point of academic literary criticism is how the reader reads the text, and what the reader finds within the text. Not being critical *of* the text.

Maybe there's a point worth considering there.


Amazing thoughts! Thanks so much for posting this again. I shared it at my favorite Christian fiction blog forum, so I hope some of them come check it out :)

Jen Robinson

Interesting stuff, Shannon. As a book reviewer who is not a writer myself, I think this post gets to why I have difficulty reviewing books by people I know fairly well. Because when I know the author, it's much harder to make that separation, and just focus on myself and the book. I try to keep that out of the reviews, (because why on earth would my reader care about aspects of my experience that have to do with my personal understanding of the author?), but the whole thing just adds this level of complexity that I find a bit stressful. I think this post will help me. Thanks!


Possibly relative, possibly not. We'll see where I go with this.
People tell me all the time that they don't get why I insist on finishing a book even when I didn't particularly like or enjoy it. I try to tell them that each book is a learning experience. I write, and to write words you have to eat words, and you can't have an unhealthy diet of those sweets that are just your favorites. Sometimes you have to take the nasty medicine of books you don't like.
If I don't like a book, I want to identify why. Sometimes I can see why a book is so loved or say that it was good but I say I didn't like it. That it was just not my style "A Separate Peace" is my best loved example, as I thought it was an excellent book both well written and with themes relatable to teens of any era while striking some deep chords. But those chords struck rather unpleasantly in me, and so I couldn't say I enjoyed it while still admitting it was very good).
But for the others, I have to look a bit deeper. what made it "bad"? Was it the actual words? The phrasing? the direction the plot went or the way the characters were developed? How did I want it to be? If I wanted to turn this into a book I really wanted to read, what would I do? How am I reflecting this in my own writing? Am I doing the same things I didn't like in someone else's book? If I am, why is it okay when I do it? Is it really okay? It goes the same for books I liked, taking the time to identify what I thought was good about, and whether those techniques are something I'm weak or strong in, or if there something that needs to be incorporated in my story at all.
On a different note, I always worry that the people around me when they read my stuff will begin to consider me differently, because my personality and my stories have nothing to do with each other, and it is so often assumed that the author is projecting something of herself into her stories. But I've really never done that. Making a story a mirror of myself or opinions or any part of my life never really interested me. What does interest me is writing stories I want to read. It's really that simple.


We put so much emphasis on critical thinking skills
that we forget it takes just as much effort to use our
complimentary thinking skills.

Loved Austenland!!

Divergent Enna

lol the trilogy you were talking about didn't happen to be the Divergent trilogy did it? Because I am so sick and tired of people hating on the ending of Allegiant....It was a beautiful ending and people need to get over the fact that something happened that they didn't like.

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