When I started playing around with the idea of writing a novel, I learned quickly that asking for one’s opinion was risky. Candidate A of that short-lived experiment turned out to be my well-meaning mom. After completing a page or two of the story that would become Forgetting My Way Back to You, I proudly begged her to read it, and it didn’t take long for her to point out the unrealistic elements in it. I later realized the truth in her gentle remarks, but as a hormonal sixteen-year-old, I succumbed to the discouragement of being human and gave up on the draft.
Once I became serious about being an author, I knew I’d have to toughen up if I wanted to survive. I had to allow someone to proofread my work, and if all went well, I’d work with an editor one day. (See Editors: A One-Person Jury or a Friendly Doorman to the World of Readers?) Then, of course, I’d have the fearsome yet delightful prospect of friends, family, and total strangers alike able to critique my every sentence if they wished.
Why hadn’t I gone into accounting?
Nine years after my experience with Candidate A, that prospect came to fruition with the release of Husband in Hiding. There was no turning back; my book was in people’s hands and on their lips. To my relief, everything I heard initially was great. No one could put the book down, they told me. They were invested in my characters and plot twists, and even the professional reviewer I sent it to gave it more praise than I ever expected. Was it really this easy?
No. Within a month, I received a pretty critical opinion from an unexpected source. Thankfully, it was said in private, and I could laugh it off. In truth, though, it crushed me, and the pain stuck with me for weeks. I may not have quit like I did as a teenager, but doubts plagued me for some time.
I recovered, however, and thankfully, that was the harshest review I received. Still, a writer—especially a worrisome one like me—often wonders how their future stories will go over with readers. When I finally had my second novel published, I kept worrying if it would disappoint those who enjoyed my debut and were anxious for more.
One month after its release, I can say the reception’s been good…but I’m not yet releasing the breath I’ve been holding. Like I discussed in a previous post, books are like their authors’ babies. We’re protective of how others view our works. Comparisons, I’m learning, can be tricky to hear —even if they’re favorable. After all, no parent wants someone to say, “Your baby’s so much cuter than his big brother!”
As scary as it is, though, I encourage my readers to review my books on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or elsewhere. Good or bad, they inform other readers about what they can expect and help me grow in my craft. Just, please, don’t dump a whole truckload of fertilizer on me!
And to my fellow authors, I can’t pass along a foolproof way of handling criticism. I haven’t mastered it myself. However, what I keep in mind when I hear a less-than-glowing remark is that my favorite authors disappoint me from time to time, but do I give up on them? Nope. So, why give up on myself?