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Oct
23
2017

Learn to take the heat (or get out of the kitchen) -- by Carol Ervin

Writers who are new to the critique or review process sometimes reject negative comments (“Stupid reader”) or wither as though personally attacked (“Just as I feared--my writing sucks”). Neither response will help meet your goals.

I’ve had negative reviews that I considered intelligent and helpful because they touched on some of my own concerns. (Intelligent because they agreed with me—how arrogant is that?) Others have been plain stupid: “Don’t bother reading this book; it has nothing at all to do with the series.” (Didn’t she read the book blurb?)

I don’t let complimentary reviews swell my head, though they’re pleasant to receive. I want to write better. So should you.

If you’re serious about writing, be prepared for readers who just don’t like it or get it. But if most readers tell you pretty much the same thing or you can’t get anyone to read past the first paragraph, suck it up and learn. Try writing in another genre or try another narrative technique.

Sometimes writers haven’t found the style that suits them. I’ve read exciting, terse essays by people whose attempts at fiction are flabby and limp. Why, I wonder, are some people’s unique styles and interesting voices not present in their fiction? If you think you know the answer, please leave it in a comment. I’d love to know.

I’ve made serious mistakes. If I could start over, I’d write all the novels in my historical series in first person, past tense. Initially, I was afraid of writing in first person, as though using “I” would make the story personal. Third person seemed a safer distance. Quite possibly I did not want to be identified even as the author of my first book; after all, I'd used a pseudonym for years here on CC. For the third book in the series, I switched to present tense, another bad decision for a series. Finally I came around to first person, past tense. Only one reviewer has mentioned the different narrative styles, most noticeable when the books are read one after the other. The point is, after seven published novels (five in the series and two stand-alones), I finally found the style that feels right.

Turns out the series is selling well on Amazon, despite the differences in narrative techniques. But some readers don’t go on to book two, turned off, I think, by the fact that I chose a different main character for that one. Another mistake! I didn’t realize how attached readers were to the main character of the first book. I got complaints.

In the early days, I commiserated with my newly published friends about ridiculous and insensitive reviews (and quite often the lack of any notice at all). None of these writers seem to be posting any longer—I think they’ve gotten past the bumps and bruises of putting themselves out there.

In the beginning, every writer wants to challenge insensitive or ridiculous reviews and critiques. Don’t. Bear up. Get better.

Carol Ervin (breeze)

My website: www.carolervin.com

Posted by Carol Ervin 23 Oct 2017 at 00:45
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