Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Hate Your Ending.

It's interesting when you write exactly what you want and tell yourself you don't give a care in the world to what people will think of it or YOU for writing it. Of course, it's one thing if you decide to stick that project in the drawer at the end of the day...quite another thing if you decide to publish the thing.

Let's face it. Writing fiction is not only difficult in all the technical aspects, but it is difficult emotionally as well. You really DO care about what people think. You're putting your creativity out there to be scrutinized and critiqued, ignored and praised. Most of the time conflicting emotions abound.

When I published my novella, Cinders, I expected many readers to dislike the ending, and they do. I received two extremely honest reviews this morning. Both reviewers disliked parts of the book and on average gave it 3 stars. Still, they praised the writing and other things about the book they liked.

Like I said, I expected this kind of reaction, but it hurts anyway - no matter what you expect - when someone you like and respect doesn't fawn over your book like you envisioned them doing. I've had this happen again and again and again with my writing, published and not published. I've also had some readers love my work when I thought they'd hate it. Go figure!

All this is just to say, once again, that you should write what is closest and most real for you and no one else. You should also keep a very open mind about feedback, critiques, and reviews. I have learned to embrace every opinion and celebrate the fact that people read my work in the first place!

What is hardest for you to embrace about sharing your work?

14 comments:

  1. I don't think it's possible to distance ourselves enough from our writing not to get our feelings hurt (to some extent at least) when someone says something, no matter how little, bad about our writing.

    I have a project out to two beta readers right now. I know they're going to find issues. I know my feelings are going to get hurt. It's all part of the process.

    In the end, as much as my former coworker thought her neon blue shirt and bright orange socks were a fashion statement . . . in a good way, the fashion police thought otherwise. Her feelings were hurt when someone made a comment about her outfit. My response: hey, if the outfit makes you happy, then don't worry about the fashion police. : )

    Same thing goes with our writing. We need a tough skin to survive the critics. Some people will love our writing, and some won't. Such is life.

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  2. I did a photo show my senior year of college. That summer I had been doing sociological research on a neighborhood in Indianapolis that was this bizarre, rural small town surrounded by the urban environment. To cut to the chose, my photo show was less about artistic photos and more a photojournalistic exploration of that neighborhood.

    I was so proud of that show.

    A few people really clicked with it early on and saw what I was doing.

    A ton of people absolutely hated it and had no idea what was going on. "What's special about that?" "I could have taken that picture." "That's not art."

    A few of my closest friends and fellow artists refused to give me any feedback and did not even sign my guestbook.

    I was truly devastated. I still am when I think about it, to be honest, and that was *coughcoughscough* years ago now.

    What always gets me through it though is one guy (who later became a friend), who said to me one day, not knowing that I was the photographer, "You know, when I first saw this show, I thought it was terrible. But for some reason I kept thinking about it, and I think I see now what he was doing here. I love it."

    I'm not quite sure why I'm sharing this, but there it is...

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  3. When I fall in love with my disgusting, repellent, totally loathsome characters and a reader says that couldn't connect with them.

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  4. As authors, I think we need bulletproof vests for our hearts. Every other profession where you get shot at on a routine basis encompasses them. Why not writing? My husband is a cop and he never goes to work without strapping his on--even in 102 degree heat.

    Sounds like the heat surrounding new reviews, huh? Positively sweltering.

    So, what's the equivalent for us? I have no idea. Maybe those good reviews. Maybe those comments from beta readers that affirmed our suspicions that we were on the right track. Or, maybe each other.

    I'm leaning toward each other.

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  5. This is where old-age and treachery prevail over youth and beauty.

    Raw numbers dictate varied responses. When I was a corporate Hack Writer, I had my writing viewed by thousands of people. Believe me, if I didn't receive some negative feedback on a particular article, the first thought in my mind is "no one read it; I am doing something wrong."

    Thus, after awhile, all feedback is welcome, and if someone doesn't like it somewhere... you're doing it wrong.

    After awhile, you look forward to it because some of the feedback is constructive.

    Indeed, the gift of feedback is not just a review, but an honest dialog between readers talking about your work. I talked to a published author about this very topic, and she confessed she is a total lurker. She reads everything anybody posts about her books, but she doesn't comment because every time she does, it stifles the potential for a thread discussion (she does however send people mail).

    Of course, review medium for books today also stifle that because of the pour conversational comment technology, but now I am WAY off topic.

    Great post!

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  6. Indeed. It's rather humbling to get someone's honest opinion, as much of the time that means there will be something that wasn't quite up to the readers' preferences. And whether whatever they mentioned was something I intentionally did or not, it still kinda stings to see it out there for everyone to read.

    But I'm always grateful when there are negative elements to a review that a friend has done, because it shows the person actually *read it*, and didn't just fawn because they know me or something. I think it comes across as more genuine to others who may be considering my work.And I'd rather get critical comments from people I know than people I don't - because I know there's no malice intended, and if I need clarification I can email the person and start a dialogue. I'd be hesitant to do that with someone I didn't already know.

    Now if someone who doesn't know me at all wants to read my work and fawn over it...I'd be perfectly okay with that. LOL

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  7. Well I expect I shall soon know this joy. :)

    I admire how gracious you've been about the reviews, Michelle. I think it does make it easier for people to take a chance on reading and reviewing your book, even if they normally prefer HEA.

    I hope to be as gracious when it happens to me.

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  8. Scott: I don't think it's possible to distance ourselves, either, because if we did manage that we would be numb to feeling and completely out of touch with our own emotions. That wouldn't be good for anyone. The difference comes in how we react to these things and how we ultimately internalize them and help us grow and appreciate our own work and others work.

    Nevets: Actually, that is a very cool story and helps me feel better. I LOVE when people say they didn't really like the book but that they can't stop thinking about it. That says a lot. :)

    Cheryl: I love the way you worded that!

    Breanne: EACH OTHER, absolutely! And someone needs to invent that bullet proof vest for my heart. Still, Cinders has received the best feedback I could ever hope for! Even with the honest reviews where readers didn't absolutely love it. I couldn't ask for more!

    Anthony: What a great comment, thank you! I agree that feedback is feedback and I'd take a hundred negative reviews over NO reviews at all. Being ignored is terrible and a very bad sign! Evoking an emotional response (positive or negative)...THAT'S why we write!

    Jamie: YES. You get it, and that's great! I usually always have something critical to say about a work, and I always try to make it clear - in a constructive way - in my reviews and feedback, even if I loved the story!

    Tara: I made up my mind before I started to self-publish that I would love all the feedback, negative or positive or somewhere in between. I think the in between ones are actually the best - like the ones I received today. They're helpful and honest and show much thought went into the reading.

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  9. You are so write. I've only shared my book with two people, one was my husband, the other an old friend. When they say they like it, do you believe them. My husband knows to tread lightly when it comes to criticism, but I think he genuinely liked it. I'm afraid, not of strangers, but family and friends. I do care, but if you want the dang thing read, you have to put it out there.

    Thanks for the post, it touched me.

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  10. I gave my book to David Morell (creator of Rambo), who you might not think to be a great critic of literary works, but you'd be wrong. He was a student of the classics and university instructor for a long time. He liked the first part of the book, but told me I had made a rookie mistake, and put it down.

    Ouch....

    But he was right.

    But he also told me that he had made the same mistakes and more in his writing. How else can you learn how to do it right, if you don't do it wrong a few times?

    So yes, learn from your mistakes, practice makes perfect, and a hundred other cliches, but at the end of the day if you like what you wrote, isn't that what's most important?

    The only thing I would caution you about, is that I have seen stories where the writing came out a certain way, because that's the ending, or conclusion that the writer wanted. It wasn't what a real character would have done, and readers will pick up on that in a heartbeat. Make your characters real, and don't worry about the critics.

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  11. The only way to avoid this type of criticism is not to publish! Think of it this way...IT MEANS YOU ARE PUBLISHED!! YAY! ;-) There is not a story, book, song, poem, etc. out there that hasn't gotten some negative reviews! It does hurt...but it goes with the territory! I know you, and YOU will learn all you can from it and just get better and better. That's who you are!!

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  12. Elizabeth: Oh, it's such a tough thing, too, especially if you're new to it all! Good luck, and let me know if you need support. :)

    Douglas: I believe I stayed to true to the characters. Sometimes it's hard to know, and it's even worse if you start listening to too many people. What a great balance we must keep!

    Traci: LOL! Yes, don't publish or share your work at all and you won't have this problem! Hehe. :)

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  13. Considering I'm writing a memoir now, I had to find strangers (in addition to my writing partners) to BETA my work. Now I'm worried about what they'll think of my style...and my life. Great! Of course, when I write fiction, YA and MG, pieces of me go into the writing, but this is so much different. And I hope they'll give me honest crits!

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  14. Samantha: That is exactly why I'm not sure I could write a memoir - at least during this part of my life. I can take criticism and feedback, but wow, putting my life literally out there for people to read is pretty intimidating!

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