As in past posts, we’re going to try to learn another thing or two from other creative writer’s mistakes – actual or perceived. This is by reading their reviews, especially their negative ones.
Now, in the case of this round’s book in question – which, as usual, I won’t name – I’m going to flat out state that I’m as certain as I can be that the negative reviews are accurate.
In full disclosure, I haven’t read the book. Nor will I.
But the integrity of another novel by the same author that I did read was non-existent. And the one-star commentaries of this newer one are so on-point with what I recall, it seems safe to say “SD” hasn’t matured at all as a writer since.
Also in full disclosure, SD is pretty popular for an abject farce of a historical fiction writer. She gets away with using inaccurate setting details, romanticizing characters, plots and everything else ‘til her heart’s content to suit her preconceived narratives.
Again, the one-star comments cited below support this commentary – all of which I bring up for a very good reason: your future ratings and reviews.
This is just a smattering of the “not historical fiction” reviews SD received on a book she lists under as historical fiction:
Amazon Customer: “One Star: A disappointment. Read like a romance novel.”
Rick Noe: “Romance novel posing as history: Just one more ‘chick-flick’ of a novel upon which to base another vapid movie. This book was disappointing in its shallow vision of a woman who held history and lives in her hands and destroyed them both!”
KWDC: “True romance novels cost less and are more filling: Not only did this read like a romance novel, it was also written in the typical short-attention span style of today. With lots of periods. And incomplete sentences as whole paragraphs. Such cardboard characters, the women all gorgeous, the men dashing and arching their brows. Bodice-ripping pathos and drama…”
I have to especially point out that last one, not because it’s more relevant than the others, but to stress that this post isn’t meant to bash romance novels. Some romance novels are extremely engaging and well-written.
The problem here is falsely advertising the genre you’re in, a sin you might not be able to recover from.
Here’s the thing about SD’s non-historical fiction: She can sell her works as well as she does because her targeted readers don’t know historical nonfiction.
I know that sounds snotty, but it’s true nonetheless.
I know it sounds petty, but it’s (also nonetheless) intended to save you from similar one-star reviews – especially because you probably won’t have SD’s publishing power. She has a HarperCollins publicist, someone who’s literally paid to get her the highest reviews possible.
If that’s not you, then make sure to understand the genre you’re working within.
If you’re working with historical fiction, for instance, know that it’s not just about pretty dresses and old-fashioned speech. It’s also supposed to portray actual events and/or people of the past with as much accuracy as possible.
Historical fiction is supposed to educate as much as it entertains. It’s supposed to leave readers feeling intellectually enlightened instead of merely emotionally fulfilled. That’s one of the major differences that sets it apart from other genres, especially romance, which is intentionally emotion-focused first and foremost.
In short, people have genre-bound expectations they expect to be fulfilled. And if they don’t feel fulfilled, they’re much more likely to leave a one-star review.
Which you probably want to avoid if at all possible – particularly if you don’t have an effective, influential industry machine ready to smooth out all your flaws.