Can you please everybody with your writing?

the worst thing you write

Hopefully, you answered the question with a resounding “NO!” But some of you said, “I sure hope so,” or “I’m trying!” This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. Let me tell you why.

If you go to the reviews of any of my books on Amazon, you will quickly realize that the same thing that one reviewer loves, another hates. While these aren’t direct quotes from the reviews, you’ll see things like, “The beginning just sucked me in from the first page,” followed by “It took awhile to get into.” One reviewer will comment on how great the dialogue was. Another will say there wasn’t enough and they couldn’t tell who was talking. A third will say there was too much dialogue. On the characters, you’ll read everything from “totally believable!” to “I don’t think kids would act this way” or “the husband and wife seemed to have a weird relationship.”

What’s up with that? Don’t I get discouraged?

Well, honestly, no. I don’t get discouraged. Because I am a reader, I completely understand that not all books are for everyone. There are books that people swear are the best things ever written and I literally despise them. Some of the books I love meet no technical requirements for a good book. Many technically great books are awful (in my opinion!). Why would I think that my books are any different? Hopefully some people will love them. Certainly many people will both like and not like them. It can be hoped that not too many will despise them, but it’s likely that some will.

An honest review is a great thing for a writer, whether you like their work or not. An honest review isn’t like a lot of the “troll” one-star reviews out there, clearly written by people who’ve never read the book, or who even say, “I only read the first chapter, but…” and go on to slam the book. An honest review is, well, honest. What you liked. What you didn’t like. What worked for you and what didn’t. Those are the reviews that are constructive for the writer and the potential reader alike.

For a writer, reviews can be a kind of mass beta reading. You aren’t going to go back and revise that particular book, most likely, but if there are things that resonate, or if many people have an issue with the same thing, it is helpful as a teaching tool for future books. For the potential reader, reading a good number of honest reviews can give them a sense of whether they will like the book. There are things I know I love in books, and things that are pet peeves. If I read a review of a book and a lot of the comments point out something that’s a pet peeve, I can save my money. On the other hand, if the things other readers love are the same types of things I love… I’ll have it downloaded in a minute.

The main thing, as a writer, is that you write the story that’s in you to write. We can always hope that our loved ones will like it, and our friends. But the likelihood is great that at least someone you love won’t. My 99 year old grandmother wanted a copy of my latest book, IXEOS, because I wrote it. I can guarantee you that she has never read a Young Adult sci-fi fantasy dystopian novel in her life, and would never, ever buy one. It is absolutely not at all something she would normally read. But she read it, liked it okay, and will read the next two in the trilogy. My husband will probably never read IXEOS. He doesn’t like any of those genres in movies or books, with very rare exceptions. And that’s okay! It is not an indictment of my writing; it is an indication of his preferences and personality. I don’t take it personally.

The single hardest task we have as writers is avoiding our inner editor. I would say overcoming it, except I’m not sure we ever do that. We can subdue it, ignore it, stuff it in a box, and tie it up, but it never goes away. One of the inner editor’s main weapons is telling you that nobody is going to like your work. Because most of us have some perfectionist tendencies, and all of us want to be liked, we can easily get discouraged and even give up at the thought that what we are doing will be disliked or worse. We can’t give up. We can’t even think about the people who are going to read our books, other than to try to write the best and most entertaining books we can. That’s our job. That’s our only job.

Let people think what they want. Just do your job, and do it the best you can. You don’t need everybody to like it. You just need a group of fans who will support you and enjoy your work. They’re out there! Trust me.

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6 Comments

Filed under Self publishing, Writing

6 responses to “Can you please everybody with your writing?

  1. Wow! Very well written and I totally agree with you. I’m not an author but I love to read and I’m grateful for honest reviews that let me know whether I’ll like a book or not. Sometimes what someone hates about a book will prompt me to buy it (for example, I like romance on the clean side and if someone blasts a book for not being “hot” enough, I know it’s one I would enjoy). I’m certainly glad there are lots of authors out there to choose from because all of you make life much more interesting!!

    • Thanks! I’m with you as a reader, esp on something being clean. That’s what I want! And even there, the reviews can be so weird. I have a Christian historical romance set in the Civil War. I had one beta reader tell me they wanted more sex (there’s no sex, just implied sex) and then a reviewer on Amazon said there was too much! Thanks for reading!

  2. Great post! If you love to write and you are an indie author there is little to risk from the attempt.

  3. Eloquently written, Jennings. Thanks for this post. As an Indie Author/ publisher myself, I can relate, although I wish i had a thicker skin, as you seem to. It’s so hard not to take a negative review personally, when you have put so much of yourself into the writing, and have spent your whole life learning the craft (and that learning certainly never ends). Though I’ve been fortunate to get few negative reviews, I think the ones that bother me the most are those from readers who aren’t so discerning, and often miss nuances and deeper meanings, and then trash the author personally, without knowing a thing about the author’s education or knowledge. The changes in the publishing milieu allows anyone, anywhere, to say anything, any time, never mind whether or not they are qualified to do so. In yesteryear, reviewers had to have an education (and sometimes a degree) in literature or a comparable discipline, in order to publish their opinions. Now, it’s a free-for-all. But to say that flirts with a haughty egotism, it seems. Authors aren’t allowed to rebut those things, and so we are left to swallow these opinions at the expense of our self-esteem. It is,, as they say, the nature of the beast. That doesn’t make it any easier to withstand, though. Thanks again!
    Kelli Jae Baeli

    • Unfortunately the internet lets people be anonymous and therefore say anything… Obviously, no one who only “knows” you through reading your writing knows you well enough to comment on you personally. I’d just not even read those. It’s amazing what people will say when you can’t find out who they are!

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