IWSG – Dec 2023 – To Review or Not To Review

Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh created IWSG — because Alex understands we need a place to congregate, insecurity is part of our creative nature, and together we’re stronger.

On the first Wednesday of each month, you can write on any subject related to your writing journey or adopt the option of answering the month’s question. Either way, you’re in safe territory.

If this sounds good to you, sign up here.

IWSG’s Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and the hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, a specific question is offered, which may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or a story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you struggle with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

December 6 question: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book review do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?

The awesome co-hosts for the December 6 posting of the IWSG are C. Lee McKenzie, JQ Rose, Jennifer Lane, and Jacqui Murray!

Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!


I’ve been away from writing for so long that I’m struggling to even write this post. Please bear with me while I sort out my muddled thoughts…

I review novels I enjoy for two reasons: As an author, I understand the value of a review. As a reader, I appreciate hearing about good books. Writing a novel takes tremendous effort and time, so if the story is compelling and the writing is exceptional, I want to share the news.

I can’t write a review for a novel I can’t finish. I don’t believe it’s up to me to dissuade anyone from reading a book just because I didn’t enjoy it. I don’t have a monopoly on what is good. ..


Flowing from there…

I spent the entire month of March 2023 querying literary agents–to no avail. I expect that’s what took the wind out of my sails.

My first novel (Dead Witness) was published in 2008. I’d been dreaming about getting published for twenty-six years, and when it finally happened, it was a surreal experience.

Many times over those years, I wanted to quit writing; I had a family, a job, a marriage, and no extra time. But, I persisted. I wrote late at night and early in the morning. I spent years refining my craft. And that was before the WWW. I studied, researched and read. You have to be obsessed to be a writer, and I was.

These days, I’m often referred to as “an old-timer.” And I feel like one.

Last April, I decided to take a six-month sabbatical because I had lost my muse and my confidence. When I flew back to Canada in April, I stepped away from my dying Macbook and spent my summer working on our property. Fast-forward to November, and I still hadn’t returned to writing. To make matters worse, I made pathetic excuses:

“I’m tired, I’m old, and the humidity is sucking the life out of me.”

“I’m in no mood to write.”

“I’d rather take a nap than sit at a computer.”

When I dug deeper, I felt the sting of a lingering fear: the failure-slash-rejection syndrome.

I’m sharing this because it’s important to note that most creative folks feel this way at some point in their careers. Fluctuating between feeling confident and insecure is normal. It can also be humbling.

But because I’m no quitter, (and we did accomplish a lot on our property) I’m returning to the hunt. One day, I’ll post (soon?) about finding that perfect agent. I may be tired, but I’m also stubborn.

On a different note: My current manuscript was titled “Shattered,” but three authors I admire published novels with that title, so I changed it to “The Silent Man.”

My editor’s response was, “He’s not silent.”

Good point.

This brings me to ask you a favour.

Could you tell in the comments what you think of  the following choices:

  1. “An Ambiguous Man”
  2. “The Quiet Man”
  3. “A Vengeful Man”

I left out a blurb on purpose.

ps. For those who don’t know, I write Thrillers.

Comments 17

  1. You are so right, Joylene. We NEED to be obsessed to be a writer. And humidity DOES suck!

    That being said, you are a wonderful writer. We all need you. We need your posts, your books, and your smiling face online. I like The Quiet Man best for titles. But remember, he needs to BE quiet: in his manner, in his voice, in his choices. All the luck with your work in progress. Love you, dear friend.

  2. I get it. I’ve gentled myself about not feeling like writing by realizing we all go through seasons in life. Perhaps this is the season for querying and making decisions on how to publish your book. I bet it could also be a season for creating stories. Let’s call it your writerly season. I like the “sound” of the Quiet Man for the book. Ambiguous is kind of hard for a reader to decipher in the 3 seconds it takes to scan your book cover. Best wishes for getting back on track with your creative side.

  3. The Quiet Man was a John Wayne film from years and years ago. The rest didn’t do much for me, but I read the comments and someone suggested he was broken. I like single word titles most of the time and thought: Damaged, Chipped, Scarred.

    I didn’t know rejection syndrome was a thing. I thought it was me being too weak or too sensitive and fragile. If nothing else, your post pointed out that we are just human. It helped.

    It’s been a couple years, but I’ve finally starting submitting again. It feels good. Exciting, even. And I feel brave.

    Thanks for the post. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  4. Good Post! I also suffer from failure-slash-rejection syndrome. I eventually found an agent, but then she couldn’t sell my manuscript. So, back into the trenches and more failure. I haven’t sent a query in over a year. Instead, I’m self-publishing.

    I’m old too, but I’m told~ age means nothing as far as being a writer is concerned.

    I like ‘The Quiet Man’

    Have a Merry Christmas!

  5. Great post, Joylene! It’s so great to have you back. I must get a tattoo of your words – I don’t have a monopoly on what is good! LOL.
    Well done on getting back to your writing regardless of the doubts! I like ‘The Quiet Man’ even though it reminds me of The Quiet American by Graeme Greene

  6. Hi, Joylene! It’s good to see you back! I hope you dump this excuse: “I’m tired, I’m old, and the humidity is sucking the life out of me.” I see you as vibrant and full of life, but I get the humidity! I liked “The Quiet Man.” It’s close to silent, and still waters run deep. btw, I loved Lee’s “Shattered.” It was really good. Hugs and love to you!

  7. Hi Joylene,

    I don’t think any of the suggested new titles for your novel convey the essence of your story. Jason may be quiet and ambiguous, but he is so much more. And vengeful? He is seeking revenge, but his story is more than that. What about ‘Broken’, as he is definitely that. His heart is broken, his health in broken, his relationship with his daughter is broken. Or maybe go with a synonym for shattered: ‘Fragmented’ or ‘Splintered.’ My thoughts. _Merilyn

  8. Your journey, from the highs of acceptance to the lows of rejection, is a testament to your determination. I’ve always appreciated your honesty and sense of humor about the challenges you have faced.
    I’m confident you’ll keep pushing forward, and I look forward to reading “The Silent Man” or whatever title you decide to use. Sending you positive vibes!

  9. What you went through with rejections was the final reason to go Indie. It brought back the joy of writing for a niche group who would enjoy my pen.

    Quiet Man? Or maybe The Unsilent Man?

  10. That failure/rejection syndrome… So many near-misses, including two close encounters with the Five. Dared to hope, only for a few weeks.
    One more reason why I’m hesitant about reviewing again, and would only review books I love.
    You accomplished a lot on your property… Brilliant. This year, I know how great that feels, but work on your property can be tough, mentally and physically draining , can’t all be DIY.
    This year, two major problems were fixed, old roof, nearly 400 years old, leaking like a sieve and a water supply that failed every summer.
    Not roofers or water engineers, we had to leave that to the professionals, make the tea or coffee… Roofers tend to be young, so it was coffee, and everything else will be DIY. In time for Christmas, of course…

  11. Hi,
    First, I am glad you’re coming back. We as writers go through those ups and downs but I know that moving forward is better than quitting.

    I like the Quiet Man. He goes deep and is a challenge, and I like a challenge.
    Thanks for co-hosting.

    Shalom shalom

  12. I totally relate to the muse taking a sabbatical after rejection. I haven’t been writing for a couple of years, and part of the reason is lackluster sales of my past two novels. A groundswell of good feedback seems to create a synergy where I market more, sell more, and write more, but if readers don’t notice my novel among the million others out there, I feel deflated. Signing with a literary agent is so difficult!

    I also struggle to write a review for a book I haven’t finished, especially if it’s in a genre I don’t normally read. I don’t want my personal feelings about a genre or topic to sway a review in a negative direction.

    I like “An Ambiguous Man” though maybe that connects in my brain to The Ambiguously Gay Duo sketch on SNL, hehe.

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