Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dona at Bites

I keep it real. Maybe a little too real. Maybe like wet your pants when you're passed out drunk on your friend's floor real (because that doesn't come from a life experience . . . really . . . O_o).

When it comes to writing, I take my gymnast years of training to the table - Are you broke? No? Then shut up, get the ^*(% up and do it again. And I had that form of crazy in my face from the age of 6 to 12. Just in the winter sessions though. Woman was nuts. The thing is, my skin thickened then and little did I know it was preparing me for my future as a writer (at whatever scale that may be).

You know what? This industry is a bitch. Bend over and say 'thank you sir, may I have another?' I'm convinced you have to be a masochist to be a writer because of the beating that your writing, and you as a by product, can take on a daily basis, whether from an outside force or you yourself. You write because you have a story to tell, because you want to see your work in print. And for every fifty rejections you get, you live for that one YES! that'll pay you with publication and author copies. You write to be dredged from the slush pile like a gold nugget from the East River and squeal with joy when the tables turn and your dream agent says I want YOU! You strive for that call that says your book's been sold.

But getting to that point takes a hell of a lot of work (for most) and staying there takes a turtle shell and a hell of a lot of resilience. The thing is though, all of this negative does something (aside from callous your butt). It makes you better. All of those critters saying 'WTF is this?', all of those editors saying 'tweak this' and all of those reviewers saying 'I've seen more substance in a puddle' MAKE YOU A BETTER WRITER.

That's why I review the way I do.

I've been editing and critiquing fiction since high school (broaching ten years now, I'm on the verge of a premature When Harry Met Sally moment, I'm telling you) and I've never wanted anything less than the very truth on my writing. Why? Because that's the only way I'll get better. If it sucks, for the love of god tell me and help me make it better! In turn, I've always offered the same advice to everyone I've edited and critiqued over the years. Published authors are not exempt.

The number of backlashes I've had from such honesty? From the beginning? I can fit them on one hand with fingers to spare. Literally.

Whether they'll see the review or not, I won't know unless they let me know (I know at least one author saw a review I did of his book and it wasn't the most flattering of reviews). But the way I look at it, it's still a learning process, even for them. MOST authors look at their careers in much the same way. It's forever a learning process.

I say what I think about the book as if the person were sitting right in front of me waiting for my reaction to it. And I have done that many times before, and just as honest. Just because I can do it doesn't mean it doesn't sting, either giving or receiving, but it needs to be said. The thing is, as any writer would know, you take what you need and leave the rest behind. If multiple reviewers are saying the same thing, perhaps it's time to take notice. If it's a matter of opinion then they can't do much about that, right?

I devour a book like my dog does his food and if I want to digest it properly for a review, I need to look at it with my critical eye. Some people might not like that. Then they can walk away from it. Some appreciate the honesty. In that case I take payment in pound bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans. But everyone's different. I know the mantra, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all" but that's murder in writing and detrimental to the entire process. The last thing I'd want anyone to do is pat my head and tell me how special snowflake my writing is. Tear into it, would you? So I give that back as well because I wouldn't want any less for myself. So long as the opinion is substantiated, I don't see the harm.

So go head, sick Butch on me but just remember, I have my own Cujo and he bites back.


  1. Just a little correction, it's Donna with 2 n's. Thanks for posting this!

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