I have spent the last few days trying to decide if I even want to tackle a response to this. There is a few things I want to tackle, so this will be a series of posts.
For those that aren’t in Twitter land, there is apparently group that meets Friday nights under #romfail. The basic gist of the group is that a book review blogger post lines from romance and erotica books that are then mocked and ridiculed.
Okay, now a note. I will not post any links in my discussion. They are easy enough to search (the number of hits I got on just people search is one reason I felt I should say something). While I’m going to use #romfail as a current example, these three posts post is a general topic that can go to any group in any genre at any time. End note.
Now, I won’t say that among friends I have not done the same thing. I think many of use either to ourselves or friends remarked at one point about an atrocious line of writing. It happens, it’s fun, and it makes you feel better after you’ve done it. And as a group of friends or acquaintances or whatever they want to call themselves, #romfail have the right to say those things on their mind.
Hang on! I see some of you already fuming and others smiling cause they think I’m on #romfail’s side. Read the first half again carefully. See how I’m making a remark about a personal relationship? Here is the first thing everyone who wants or does write must know:
Personal relationships and professional relationship should not and cannot be interchangeable.
I, too, write book reviews. I know a number of writers in a personal level. When the two come together, I have the hardest time writing a review. I want my reviews to be unbiased and tell readers how I learned from the good and/or bad of a book. I want them to be professional. Not as in, I want them to help launch a career as a reviewer, but that there is an air of authentic criticism to them. I do that because my reviews are open to the public. I have to present myself as a professional. If I have something I don’t like that I think would skew the professional outlook of my reviews, I save that for when I’m talking to friends and it is away from the eyes of the public. Why?
Respect. I only have a short story published so far. I’m the new guy on the block. The people who have written books have accomplished something I haven’t, so far. Therefore, they deserve credit and respect for that accomplishment. Sure I have a M.A. in Writing and I have the knowledge and learning of the language. But that doesn’t change the fact that knowing and doing are two completely different things. Knowing what a great book is can only start you on the path to writing one.
From what I understand, there are a number of aspiring writers in #romfail. They openly make the remarks about the writing out into the public that are personal opinions covered in snark in hopes to be funny. This is not what criticism is. That’s just personal conversation. And that is something I don’t think many on the #romfail side see. If you are just chatting with friends on Twitter, it’s one thing. If you insist that it somehow relates to true literary criticism, something that people will learn something, then you are making a world of hurt for yourself in the professional stratum of your life as a writer. Doing so openly on Twitter just makes it easier for potential colleagues, editors, and publishers to view them as your professional manner and viewpoint, they will make note of that and have a biased judgment when your manuscript comes around.
You don’t think they will? Ok, what about the fact that employers and businesses regularly try to look at potential and existing employees Facebook and Myspace pages to see if there is anything objectionable to them on it that might cause a problem for the business? It is the same thing. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Twitter is added to that list soon. What people don’t seem to realize is that doing anything on any social networking site is the same as doing it in an open area in public. Now on all of them, you can lock your account so you choose who can see these things if you wish, but if you don’t, you have to think about the consequences of your actions. Would the #romfail ladies be as secure to openly criticize these books the same way if they were in, say, a hallway at the next RWA Conference?
We are extremely lucky to live in the world we do to day. We can communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime, in nearly real-time. But I think that so much access has blurred the line between the professional and the personal. We can’t just do what we want when we want to. That’s anarchy and it is self-destruction in the end.
We have common sense, reasoning, and willpower for a purpose. Yet more and more, we seem to use them less and less.