As you may have guessed from the title, I recently received some fairly harsh criticism about my debut novel, Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It. I’m not going to lie — it really bummed me out. But that happened last Wednesday, and I’ve since rallied. Well, enough so that I’m able to write a post about it, anyway!
Here’s what happened: I recently started attending a local writer’s group, and one of the gentlemen in the group bought a copy of my book and read it through. When he finished, he invited me to have coffee so he could share his thoughts with me. What followed was … kind of brutal.
Basically, he didn’t like the book at all — he thought it was unoriginal, boring, and lacking in “fangs”. He classified Imminent Danger as “juvenilia” — quoth Wikipedia, “a term applied to literary, musical or artistic works produced by an author during his or her youth”. As in … it’s a decent attempt for a first novel, but actually it’s pretty bad and you should probably forget it ever happened and move on. He also told me that if I want to seriously be a writer, I need to abandon self-publishing and aim for traditional publishing, with self-publishing as only a last resort.
In his defense, the criticism wasn’t all bad and soul-slicing. He did say he found parts very funny, that he quite liked a few of the characters, and that he thought I had great potential as a writer. And he was very kind about it — he ended a lot of statements with “I don’t know — just a thought” to lessen the blow. And obviously I appreciate the feedback, especially from someone who has studied literature as extensively as he has. Still … brutal.
Not a fun experience. And he wasn’t entirely wrong — Imminent Danger isn’t a hard-hitting, super-intense, hard-core science fiction story where everything goes to hell in a handbasket and people get their limbs blown off and have their minds blown by crazy metaphysical questions about life and the universe and whatnot. That’s because it’s not meant to be. It’s fun, flirty, and silly. It’s the kind of book you bring to the beach and read whilst sipping a pina colada and basking in the tropical breeze.
I forgot that for a while after the coffee chat — I was really down on myself, thinking, “He’s right, this story is awful, why on Earth did you ever bother self-publishing it?”
And then I remembered that different people are different, and everyone has their own opinion, and that not everyone is going to like my book, regardless of how much I wish it were otherwise. My book may not be a ground-breaking, Earth-shattering book that will radically alter how we humans perceive of ourselves for decades to come … but hey, I like it! I like the characters, I like the world I created, and according to the reviews, I’m not alone in that.
So … I guess the moral of the story is this: different people are different, and you will never write a book that everyone likes. So if someone gives you a harsh review:
- Extract the good advice from the bad, and apply it to your future writing as necessary.
- Remind yourself of all the reasons why you wrote your book, and why you love your book.
- Get right back on that writing horse and keep going! You’re an author, dammit! Giving up is for lesser beings!
Totally related media of the day:
From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success!
Something every writer/artist needs to hear. Thanks 😉