I couldn't quite settle on the right balance for the gaming article. As a mixed rules / game report piece, I had to be careful that the information in the report section would be intelligible, but without making the first half read like a rulebook. I also had to try to keep it interesting enough that people might want to read through to the end. Hopefully there's enough information there but not so much as to be overwhelming. My biggest concern is that it's probably lacking a little in entertainment factor, but I guess we shall see!
The other one was very difficult to write. As a review of what turned out to be a bad book - by far the worst non-fiction book I've ever read on the era - it was difficult to keep my indignation under control and maintain the objectivity needed to show what was wrong with it in a matter-of-fact fashion. I ended up with some 8,000 words, pared it back to just under a quarter of that, attempted to excise anything that might sound like frothy-mouthed ranting and looked for something to say about it that was not wholly negative.
|Full frothy-mouthed ranting book reviewer mode.|
It's not an experience I want to repeat.
Hopefully the next time (if there is a next time after this!) that I get to review a book it will be something properly researched, intelligently written, on-topic and drawing sensible conclusions that follow from the material presented. Then I can say nice things about it with no drama and everyone will be happy.
A bad non-fiction book requires a significant amount more work to review than a good one. If the reviewer's own criticisms can be shown to be biased, incorrect, or based on a misreading, then not only have you unfairly impugned the author, but one's own credibility will be destroyed. There is a responsibility, in other words, to make sure you get it right.
Incidentally, this experience reminded me again of the good thing about cigarettes. Although I quit about nine years ago, smoking was very good when writing. Going out on the balcony for a smoke every hour gave time and the mental space to reflect. Invariably new ideas would arise spontaneously for a better way to say what had already been said, or for how to approach the next stage.
I really enjoy the writing process, but it is intense. I am the type who takes weeks to get the first few paragraphs right, but then the rest will follow quickly. I find these days that without the ruminative effect of cigarette breaks, 'the rest' does not follow so quickly or so intuitively. Alcohol is no good; after the third drink it just impedes the judgment, you can't trust your revisions, and will generally find you need to rewrite the whole lot.
Perhaps I need to take a humble cup of tea outside every hour...
Anyway, it's good to have them done, and I might even treat myself to a favourite game in the near future to celebrate.