Friday, January 13, 2012

In Defense of Writers

If you're reading us then you probably found us because of someone linking to us somewhere in Romancelandia or because you like old farts or because you know us and we make you come here. Oh yes... we have our methods and we're more than willing to employ them all **evil stare**

So all the author behaving badly shits are on your radar. The recent slew of YA authors getting butt hurt because of middlin' reviews or the lack of the squee in response to every pearly nugget of wisdom they depart. Oh you know it all.

And by the way, if you haven't seen Miss Meljean Brooke's hystical Diary of an Author then check it out. OMG. She should sell it on Amazon under the Kindle Select Program (seriously, $1.70 from everyone who reads it!)

Dear Author had a wonderful post of the author/reader paradigm and what Jane said should be required reading for every author. Some of the following responses not as much (as some, very much).

Much I agreed with. I've spent many years writing and taking classes and workshops and critique doesn't bother me. I've said this before and I mean it: a thoughtful rejection outlining what you did wrong can be the greatest gift a writer receives. I've been on the lines a long time and some of my best writing has come after it was rejected.

If you can't take critique, this is the wrong business for you.

But I was bothered by the attitudes that a writer should be completely hands-off once the book is released. Don't thank people for a good review. Don't acknowledge any feedback whatsoever. In fact, one person suggested that authors shouldn't even check reviews. Once you hit send then your emotional connection is severed and whether praise or disdain greets what you do, it's none of your business.

Um... no.

I'm not going to say that writing is the hardest job ever or that my work is art or well... let me try this again. I sit down with an idea that I like and I start to write it. As I write characters appear and a plot takes shape and things happen. Sometimes when I'm writing it's like being possessed and the words are all there and it types out lickety-split and life is good.

Sometimes I can't come up with the next word and I think that I'm crap and nobody will ever want to read this and why do I bother? Sometimes I don't write for days on end because I suck and the words refuse to come unless I threaten them with creamed spinach and liver and it just doesn't feel worth it.

I can't tell you how often I decide to stop. Just not do this anymore. I don't sell that much and I'm never going to hit my goals and it's just distracting me from playing Plants Vs Zombies and getting my ass kicked by Carolyn in Words With Friends.

But at some point I finish a story. And then Carolyn and Lea read it and point out errors and give me (usually) positive feedback. And I fix the errors. And I polish it up and send it out. And then maybe someone says, "Yeah, we'd like to publish this."

And my soul dances and I'm lifted from despair and I call Carolyn and write Lea and then post it on Facebook and all is well with the world.

Then the edits start. And I discover how wonderful Carolyn and Lea are because they didn't point out that my hero was 6 foot tall in one scene and 6 foot 7 inches in the next. And commas are not supposed to be used the way I was using them. And the line editor is pointing a pitchfork at me and my hair starts to fall out in stress and then I get a cover and I'm so happy again for awhile...

And the book comes out.

Truly, the worst thing that happens is nothing. It's ignored. Nobody reviews it, nobody cares. Oh yeah, I know that feeling. Shall I tell you how many copies of Miss Hex Mex have sold? You can count it on your fingers and that's with one hand behind your back.

But maybe the book does okay. 666 Angel Lane has done okay. It sells, even a year after release. Oh, not in hundreds but every months statements show sales. And on Goodreads every now and then someone new might put it on their bookshelf.

And it got reviews. Some really good reviews. And even a not so good review. And over on Goodreads someone gave it 3 stars and no comment. (By the way, I never google myself. But I have googled the titles of my books to see if there were reviews.)

I care about how people react to the book. I created a world where the Devil has ads on the radio and War Demons become television stars. This is my imagination and I made that. I'll say it again because I'm proud of it: I made that. If someone praises the book I want to know and feel good that they got it and they liked it and I did it right. And if someone didn't like it I'm interested to know where it failed for them and if it's a flaw in my writing or my world building or maybe they just didn't like it.

Just because it's out of my hands doesn't mean I'm not still attached. I wrote it. I made it. That was my world built from my words and my imagination. The reader can react however s/he chooses (my brother loved the epitath the Demons used that now instead of cussing, he says "Clouds!") and I don't have any right to tell a person how to read or react but damn if I don't want to know.

Some folks think it's all about praise. Some say writers have no right to learn where they might have failed in a reader's experience. I say that almost every human being carries around an invisible sign that says: How am I Doing? We want to know if we're connecting and doing okay.

Writers are people too, you know.


  1. I just wrote a big, long post and clicked the wrong button and it's goooooooooooone.

    I must compose myself. I shall return.

  2. Sever all ties once you've released it?

    As you say - umm, no! I equate that to giving birth and then just walking away. Well, they're not the same but you get where I'm coming from, right?

    How ridiculous - you pour your heart, soul, time etc in to something just so you can let it go and not care what happens next, well, that's just very wrong. IMO.

    I consider my first ever fully completed and first ever shown to other real human beans story 'part of me'. I even felt a sense of loss, so to speak, when it was finished.

    I had invested so much of myself in to the story, the characters and the situations etc, I came to care about them. Does that sound woosy - I don't care.

    That's why when I was posting it, I loved the feedback. 9.9 times out of ten it was always short and positive (Great, more please or I really enjoyed this, etc) but on occasion a comment between the readers - sometimes funnier and more interesting than the story they were commenting on lol - would spark an idea for a plot twist, help to get over a block, or helped me pick up an error or three.

    I don't mind admitting I'm a hussy for feedback and comments. Sure, I'm not overly fond of the criticism or someone hating it but I am learning to suck it up and take it like a woman. I may not have posted anything in over 18 months but I"m still writing bits and pieces and I'd like to think that I'm retaining those less than positive thigns and using them to help me get better.

    So, in essence, I'm trying to say I agree with you Lori. If some people are fine with delivering and dashing, then more power to them. Me, I'm gonna continue putting my stuff out, even if it's just to a couple of friends via email, just to see if I am improving or if it's all in my mind.


    PS - Umm, Lori? I don't point out the 6' - 6'7" height difference because in my Hobbitness, everyone looks tall to me and I can't tell the difference.