Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hits and Misses

Thanks to a 24+ hour power outage, due to a storm on Thursday, this blog post is late.  It is what it is. :)

One thing we all have to accept is that everyone has an opinion.  Everything in life is subjective.  One person likes blue, another doesn't, and yet another likes a different shade of blue.  Some people like broccoli, some don't.  Some people like to read, and some don't.  Those who do don't always agree on what they like to read.  It's the same all over the world.  We are individuals with different likes and dislikes.

Writers feel this difference even more.  We write the kind of stories and characters we enjoy writing.  Other people may like them, but there are those who won't.  Readers aren't any different. There are historical fans and contemporary fans.  Some like comedy, and there are readers who choose dark and dangerous mysteries.  When it comes to romance, some enjoy quirky, sassy heroines, but others think that kind of heroine is offensive.  And when it comes to heroes, they really have their favorites.  Bad boys, charmers, boy-next-door, tortured by the past...  The list is as endless as the likes and dislikes.

So what's a writer to do?  We write what makes us happy, and sometimes we write something a little different.  What we don't do is write a character who displeases us.

I happen to like those quirky, sassy heroines.  Whether reading or writing, I like strong heroines, who are able to stand up and be an equal to the hero in the story.  She may not be strong in the beginning, and her strength may not appear until mid-point or even the black moment, when she realizes that deep inside, she really is strong.  After all, a character needs a happy-ever-after as much as the story does.

When it comes to heroes, my favorites are what my friend Kathie DeNosky calls "stinkers."  These are charmers, often with a touch of bad boy.  They like women.  They love women.  But "love" for them isn't wedding bells and a lifetime with one woman.  They like them all.  It takes a strong heroine to bring them to their knees.  Much like a heroine, this fall they take for that one woman can happen at any point in the book, and even then, they'll often try to tell themselves that their hearts are still untouched.

What does this have to do with hits and misses?  Quite a lot, when it comes to things like contests, editors and especially reviews.  We all get our share of good and bad.  What hits with some readers may miss with others.  Does one bad review mean your story and characters are bad?  It's all in how you look at it.

When it comes to contests, we're not only looking for great scores on our writing, but we're also hoping for feedback.  Yes, a winning or even a finalist entry is a big plus, but reading the comments/scores can often tell us what works and what doesn't.  Again, it's subjective.  People like different things. (For more on contests and how to use them to your advantage, use the search box in the right column.)

Editors?  Well, yeah, they'll turn down a book that has weaknesses they don't feel can be fixed.  If you're lucky enough to receive a rejection that includes comments, pay attention.  Are you way off base for the type of books that editor/line/or publisher is buying?  Are your characters' conflicts not strong enough?  Maybe you need to do a little more research and reading.  Let's face it, editors are looking for a great book.  Make yours a great one.  If you're indie or self-publishing, before you make it available for download, find a reader--two are even better--to read it and give feedback.  Readers, too, are looking for a great book.

And then we come to reviews, which are seriously subjective...for all the reasons above.  I read the reviews of books I'm thinking of buying, and even free ebooks I think I'd like to add to my ereader.  Not only do I read the good reviews, but the not so good ones.  I recently saw the description of an ebook that grabbed me, then read the reviews, which were mainly good.  But when I saw some of the not-so-good reviews that said the writing was confusing and riddled with bad punctuation, sentence structure and spelling, I passed on getting it.  Indie and self-publishing are great, but a read by someone other than Aunt Susan would be a good idea.

As writers, we need to grow thick skins.  We have to learn to take the good with the bad and learn from both.  We need to learn how to use those subjective comments.  Some readers will love your book, some won't.  And by won't, I mean not at all.  One of my recent books received several reviews.  The majority of the readers liked it.  Another found it boring and bland.  Did I get upset over that 1 star review?  No.  That reader obviously didn't like my kind of story.  Or maybe there was another reason.  Whatever, she didn't like it, and although I'm sorry she didn't, I have to chalk it up to that subjective thing.  Let's face it. We all can't love everything.  Someone out there is not going to like it.  That's life.

Writing is a tough business and it takes being tough to be a part of it.  Enjoy the highs and build stamina to make it through the lows.  Never take it personally.  That isn't easy to do, but in time, it can be learned.  Whatever it is in this crazy writing and publishing world that we live in that gives us both ups and downs, let's make it the best we can.  Hit or miss, always keep learning!
I wish I could be like Shaw who once read a bad review of one of his plays, called the critic and said: 'I have your review in front of me and soon it will be behind me.' - Barbra Streisand 

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