I've stated in almost every one of the interviews I've done, that your work should be your work...not the by-product of a committee's suggestions and recommendations. I've also said that if you ask for an opinion for something you're working on from a reader...then consider what they tell you carefully. After all, you went to them to learn how they feel about something...you owe it to anyone who responds to consider their comments. If you see truth in what they've told you...then you also owe it to them to use the information to your advantage. But be sure there is viability to what they're saying needs to be done, change because you agree ... not because they told you too.
Recently I did just that...went looking for readers and their opinions on the book I'm working on. By now I'm fairly certain when I've drifted into the land of Literary Fantasia and am headed up the creek you normally don't have a paddle for. Four responses....four cold prickles on the spine...and confirmation of what I already knew and refused to accept. You might even say the number was five....if you count my publisher. But what do they know...after all I'm a diva author who ignores what anyone has to say about my work...unless they're telling me how fantastic I am of course.
I now find myself in the same situation you're in when you're holding a poor poker hand(small straight or two weak pairs). You know the hand is a ninety percent loser, can tell by the betting somebody has something and you're trying to decide whether to hold em or fold em. Well if the truth be known, I know I'll fold and save my money for the next hand....did I mention I'm also cheap? The real problem is I haven't been drinking and knew what was going to be the outcome of seeking readers even before I started.
Now why do people get stupid when they read their own work? Is it something like the lie you tell yourself just before your bike hits the asphalt(greasy side up) at the Legal speed limit(that's my story and I'm not changing that one)? Do you really believe ...."It'll be OK?" Or is it because you can't see the stuff you just wrote sucks? Would you like to know what the coldest prickly of all was? Every piece of feed back I received said the same thing and were the very things I was questioning to start with.
What is it...ego?
I know you can read the same thing you've written a thousand times and be oblivious to the obvious. Not that I have done that you understand, but I've been told most authors do. Being a diva author.... I could never make make a mistake...let alone a simple spelling or grammar mistake that lessor folks do. There would be no way I could ever change a character's name three times in the same chapter or any of the common mistakes other authors do.
But when you're reading your own stuff and can't decide which mark you would give it...minus one or minus three stars...you really don't need a beta reader....you need a dose of reality.
So maybe having a set of beta readers on hand is a good thing. Not to tell you how to change your work....but to take a baseball bat to your head and shoulders. After they've gotten your attention, they may be able to convince you to see a few small things you've missed.
Friday, September 7, 2012
Warm fuzzy and cold prickly feelings for a writer.
I have a habit of getting different people to read whatever I'm working on at the time. I've found for the most part it pays to have three or four people who don't like what you write and one or two who think you're absolutely fabulous tell you how they feel about any of your new work.
Now this may is not a balanced approach and you may be asking yourself why would anyone do that? Most people would likely feel an author's best chance to have anything judged fairly would be by those who are in the middle ground where your writing is concerned. There may be some truth to that position of security, I really haven't thought much about having my work judged fairly. I use my method of "How am I doing MOM" as a token of defiance against Cold Prickles.
Don't know what a Cold Prickly is? Well in the text I'm using the expression, Cold Prickly means those reviewers who delight in being as sharp and biting as they can be in their written assessment of the author, you'll note I didn't say author's work. This is done in hopes of inflicting stinging spasms of emotional pain on the author and impress other readers with their brisk, nipping wit at the same time. This type of reviewer truly loves to slide an ice cube down the spine of an author, and I believe their only regret is they aren't able to watch the reaction of the author.
I've had the privilege of getting to know a number of young folks who have a driving desire to write. They pour their hearts and souls into every word, phrase, sentence or paragraph they write. One of their biggest joys in life is to strive to create a story which will please their readers. For this type of author, writing has that same type of wondrous joy as that first love or the thrill of a first kiss and will be treasured for a lifetime. They rejoice each and every time they see their names attached to any printed (in today's world... Digital) page. They feel vindicated with each positive review they receive and each one pushes them to strive even harder on their next work.
They are crushed each and every time a Cold Prickly is dropped down their backs. The very instant the Cold Prickly touches their soul...they forget about Warm Fuzzy feelings revived from the positive reviews they earned.
What is a Warm Fuzzy? It much the same as the day you become engaged, get married, hold your sleeping child in your arms for the first time or any of a thousand memories you'll acquire and treasure for a lifetime. For me....well a Warm Fuzzy is a Royal Straight Flush, a free bottle of Ten High or a warm fall evening and miles to twisting roads.
Does this mean I'm unaffected by Cold Prickly reviews? Well as a matter of fact, yes it does. You must understand this is a hobby for me...I am not young, have never had a driving desire to write and have never cared what people think of me. But I've talked with a number of young authors who forget the vast number of Warm Fuzzy reviews they've received and are devastated by the one or two Cold Prickly ice cubes from a boring fool or two.
If you're a writer and fall in that group of young talent I've discussed, try my method of "How am I doing Mom." Think about it for a second and I sure you'll understand. If a reader canned something you wrote before, but gave an honest reason for that one or two star rating.... then you need to follow that reader and be grateful they shared their feelings with you . If you can get them to read your new work and give you a Warm Fuzzy....well think how you'll feel?
A Warm Fuzzy from someone who really disliked one of your works, but is pleased with another? Well there is a memory for your treasure chest.
You might ask why I include one or two folks who love everything you write? Well lets say you keep getting Cold Prickly reviews from those who don't like your work...why not add an ego safety valve? Now this can back fire, think how you would feel if those Warm Fuzzy folks threw Cold Prickly review your way. So chose your Warm Fuzzy folks with care, I recommend people who are afraid of you and know you have their address.