Novelist PJ Parrish agreed to read a manuscript as a favor to a friend of a friend. The book is awful and there are a few things she’d like to say to the author:
Get out, now, buddy. Get out of any notion that you could possibly ever
succeed as a writer. Because you are tone-deaf to dialog, blind to
characterization, and utterly and completely unable to tell a basic
linear-plot story. Worse, you didn’t bother to learn a damn thing about
the craft that goes into fiction writing before you tried. You had the brass balls to think you could shortcut all that.
God, this just rots my socks, this whole idea that anyone can just
write a novel these days. I have had it with professionals who write
and think that just because their printer spat out 200 double-spaced
pages of typing, they have made the leap to professional writer.
But instead of saying that, she simply told the author she was too busy to read his manuscript after all. I’ve done that, too.
It’s even trickier when you’re asked to blurb a book… and you start reading and discover, for whatever reason, that you just don’t like it. That’s happened to me a few times over the years. In that situation, I politely decline to offer a blurb, saying something like "this book just wasn’t my kind of thing" or something else vague and non-judgemental. Only a handful of authors whose work I read and declined to blurb have pressed me for specifics. And when they do, I give them the reasons I didn’t like their book — but I resent being put in such an awkward position (ie trying to be honest without hurting their feelings) simply because I did them a favor. It’s a no-win situation for me and they should know that.