Being an author means that you have to be prepared to take criticism and use it to improve your writing. An inescapable fact of writing is that there will be a bad book review once in a while. Even great books mistakenly get bad reviews from some quarters.
Gatsby was once reviewed as ‘obviously unimportant’ and recently, the Pulitzer winning Goldfinch failed to make top reviews when it came out. But in most cases, a book that is attracting bad reviews is genuinely badly written. What makes a book attract genuine bad reviews?
Any interested reader will first go through a book’s summary to get the gist of the story; the contents and the context. If the summary is too brief, misses to tell it clearly, or gives an irrelevant summary, it sends the wrong vibes to the reader. It is as if the author did not want the book to be read. It is surprising how many people will skip a book because of a bad summary.
Grammatical mistakes, incorrect punctuation, spelling mistakes and use of unfamiliar abbreviations can turn a reader off. While these mistakes will be inevitable during draft stages, they should not make it past the final copy. The reader gets the feeling that the author was more interested in hurrying to get the book out rather than telling a good story.
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, incorrect facts make the reader feel patronized or downright infuriated when it is something that relates. Saying that there is winter in Mombasa, for example, is incorrect. It is absolutely important to get the basic facts right. If your book is set in a fantasy world where tech plays a big role, research the basics of the tech, to avoid blunders.
Hazy conflict layout
The reader should get a layout of the conflict in the first few pages. The characters and character motives should be fairly understood in the first fifty pages or so. If the reader keeps guessing what the characters’ motivations are, the plotline does not make much sense and the book becomes too ‘hard’ to read.
An implausible plot
Even in fantasy fiction, there are rules to be followed. When characters start using previously unknown powers to get out of challenges, for example, the reader starts seeing the plot in a questionable angle. Plot lines must be well crafted for consistency and flow.
An abrupt ending
A reader wants to keep turning the pages until the end, with a closure. Rushing to the end disrupts the pace of the book and brings an anticlimax too early on.
Bad reviews should not be debilitating for any author. These are lessons on points of improvement for better writing in the future.