Monday, July 25, 2011

Swallowing the Criticism of Your Baby.

 Today my friend Maryn Sinclair, author of two exciting erotic romance novels, is my guest. Her books are Sexual Persuasion and a new one, The Escort.

The Escort
Someone criticized your book? The nerve of them. It’s like an acquaintance looking down into the carriage at your cooing infant and making a face. Doesn’t she know your baby is the most beautiful creature ever created? It’s no different with your book. Reviewers who aren’t writers don’t realize how much sweat and love and anxiety go into writing a book. Just finishing it is a major accomplishment. You love your characters. Live with them for months on end. Go to sleep thinking about how they’re going to handle the problems you’ve spent the same number of months creating. And someone finds them uninteresting? Annoying even? And they found the sex trite. (I write erotic romance, don’t forget. Sex is a MAJOR part of the book. I have to admit, though, compared to what’s out there, I write more vanilla than kinky sex.) Still, trite? One sex scene is harder to write than the rest of the book. Multiply that by seven or eight. Groan.
You want to vent—to tell them, hey, you don’t know what you’re talking about. But you can’t. We all remember that unfortunate gal who argued with the reviewer who gave her a tepid review. She was the laughing stock of the Internet for days as the back and forth got out of hand. I wonder if the poor thing still thinks that the people who jumped all over her were wrong, or did she learn a valuable lesson?
Not everyone will like what you write. Some will even tell you they couldn’t get past page thirty.
Sexual Persuasion
It’s a given. Suck it up. Yeah, it hurts. But the most important thing to learn from a not-so-great review is that they are as important as the good reviews. Remember the contests you entered? Which critique did you get the most out of? Go on. Admit it. The one that gave you the lowest score. Sure, some of the things the critiquer said were off the mark. She saw the situation differently or in some cases she was plain wrong. But tucked in that ugliness were some things that made you go, Hmm, she has a point. You learn little from praise other than a massage to your ego. The reader saw your brilliance. You two are on the same page. Sure, it’s nice. Better than nice. But how much did you learn? How much of what she said will you apply to your work in progress that will improve it? Not much, I betcha.
In the wake of criticism, the inability to find a publisher, or the failure to reach one’s own high expectations, many writers have taken drastic measures. They are sad footnotes to a difficult career choice. Writers, more than anything else they do, must learn to roll with the punches. Rejection and criticism are part of the game.
Writing is exhilarating, depressing, frustrating, awe-inspiring, ego-shattering, mentally draining, but it can be ultimately rewarding. Just like life.
 Maryn is giving away one of her e-books to two commenters. Winners will be announced on Friday. You can read the first chapter of each at her website: http://marynsinclair.com.  Please remember that these are erotic romances. There’s graphic language and, you know, erotic stuff.
Thanks, Ellis, for having me back and giving me the opportunity to say a few words.

15 comments:

Maryn Sinclair said...

Just a note: Erotic romance isn't for everyone. Say if you want to be included in the drawing. If you don't, that's fine too. I won't, sniff, be upset. :-)

Ellis Vidler said...

LOL. No one ever has to accept a book if they don't want it. It's not like it's going to magically appear on their computer. Usually I, or the blog guest, post the name of the winner and the person sends the email address where they'd like it sent. Or a polite note saying thank you kindly but they already have it or something.

Linda Lovely said...

Good advice, Maryn. You're absolutely right about learning more from your less than stellar critiques and contest entries. I usually put any ego-bashing critiques aside for a day or so after I read them and then come back. It helps me be more objective. Often though the critiquer's "solution" may not be your cup of tea, you can find a better way to tackle what's bugging the person.

The East Coaster said...

I'm much of the same mind. Read what they point out. Learn from it and keep my mouth closed!

E. B. Davis said...

I only agree with you to a certain extent. Yes, I've learned from bad reviews, but if the reviewer hasn't also picked up on the good aspects, I begin to doubt the integrity of their review. On a short, I received two fairly complimentary reviews (some minor negatives) and one totally negative. The two that contained both good and bad spoke louder to me than the totally negative review.

Why? Because to learn you have to know what you are doing right as well as what you are doing wrong. Without both, the writer becomes stymied and directionless.

Maryn Sinclair said...

Exactly, Linda and East Coaster. Take the comments that work for you and ignore the rest, after, of course, you pout for a while.

Elaine, most reviewers in a contest will find something good to say about a book before they say what they thought needed work. I still wouldn't dismiss a bad review without giving the comments consideration.

Ellis Vidler said...

If the review is on a site like Amazon, you can check the person’s other reviews. If they’re consistently negative, I’d ignore them. There are a few people around who seem to find pleasure in tearing apart others’ work.

Donnell said...

Ellis, thanks for hosting Maryn, and letting her address this important subject. I just have to say, I've read Sexual Persuasion. It's a wonderful, fast-paced sexy read, full of intelligence and suspense. I'm glad you write erotic. What's more I'm glad you include plot. You're like a Kathleen Turner/William Hurt dream come true for me.

Would love to win THE ESCORT.

Maryn Sinclair said...

Thanks, Donnell. The story and characters are just as important to me as the erotic romance elements. I'm glad you found that to be the case, and I appreciate you comparing the story to Body Heat, although Sexual Persuasion has a more upbeat ending. The Escort is much lighter fare, but only a little lighter. :-)

morganalyx said...

Nice post, Maryn. I agree that we learn more from our setbacks or rejections than from all the praise in the world. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, he learned 1,000 ways electricity wouldn't work...it was only a matter of time before he found one that did.

Bring on the erotic fiction! :o)

Maryn Sinclair said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alyx. The only problem with learning what might be wrong with our published work from a review is that it's published. You can't go back in and change anything. I have another blogpost today--I don't think Ellis will mind if I mention it--on Terry Odell's blog that deals with knowing when you're finished editing. For me, it's never. But that's just me.

Ellis Vidler said...

http://terryodell.blogspot.com/2011/07/when-are-you-finished-editing.html
Here's the link to Terry Odell's blog where Maryn is.

VR Barkowski said...

Excellent advice, Maryn. I've had more than a few folks criticize my work just from hearing a plot summary. As a result, I've developed a pretty thick skin. I've also learned to separate critiques that address my writing (helpful) and those that critique the story I'm trying to tell (not helpful). Looking forward to reading The Escort!

Maryn Sinclair said...

I think it's great that you can separate the writing critique from the story critique, Viva. They are indeed two different animals. Still, no matter how thick a skin you develop, criticism after publication ceases to be constructive because you can't do anything about it, and it stings.

Maryn Sinclair said...

I'm sending a copy to all who requested one. I'll get in touch separately. Thanks everyone.