Saturday, April 05, 2008


Eduts.JPGI recently changed the text of a posted review. Not much -- basically only a single word. But it did somewhat alter the meaning of what I originally said.

I did this because the author (very politely) wrote to question my original language, and, after due consideration, I agreed that my original word choice had been poor. I want to be clear: I did not change my review because someone challenged me. I changed it because I came to realize that my review as first posted did not, in fact, accurately convey what I truly feel.

I've never substantively changed an entry before (although I have fixed some typos). Going forward, I will redouble my efforts to choose my words carefully, so that I don't have to make such changes again. But I want my writing to be as accurate as possible about my thoughts, even if that means making after-the-fact edits. I feel particularly compelled to listen with an open mind to valid post-posting suggestions (even from interested parties) because I, like (I suspect) most bloggers, don't have anyone else review or edit my work before I post it. We POD reviewers constantly urge authors to have their work edited by a third party before publishing it. If I don't take that advice myself before posting my reviews, the least I can do is listen to comments afterwards.

Some might argue that I should follow the blogging tradition of striking through the old text (but keeping it on the blog) at the same time as I insert the new language, so that my change of heart is recorded for posterity. But I'm not sure what that accomplishes. I don't know that the few people who may have read the original review are ever going to go back and read it again to see if anything has changed. Nor do I think that new readers of the review would gain anything by reading my original poor word choice.

So why am I posting a whole blog entry about this? For one thing, I'm making penance for my original poor draftsmanship by confessing my sins.

But more fundamentally, this whole experience will hopefully make me a better reviewer. It has served as a humbling reminder of the massive task that any novelist undertakes. I can't get through a few-hundred-word review without agonizing over it again and again; even so, I quite clearly still fail at times to find the right words to convey my thoughts. The novelists whose work I critique often write more than a hundred thousand of those words, primarily to entertain or enlighten readers like myself. The tremendous effort involved certainly does not mean that the resulting books are above criticism. But after all of that effort, POD novelists at least have the right to expect that if I am going to say anything, and especially anything negative, I am at least going to make every effort to say it right. That's an important standard for me, as a reviewer, always to try to live up to.

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