Friday, June 1, 2012

For the Love of the Book

I almost didn't blog this week, but I have a lot on my mind and it only seemed right to write it out. As most of you know, I've been working really hard on my book trying to get it ready to query. I've read through it twice, added a few scenes, taken out a few more, and sent it off to be critiqued.

Here's the thing. I love my book. Both times that I read and edited, I did it within three days. It's easy for me to get lost in the characters and the story and fall in love each time I read it again. But not everyone is going to love my book.

It's a good thing to have people read your book who don't like it. You can get insights into things you might have otherwise missed. At the same time, it's really hard.

I handed my book over to a complete stranger that I met on Ladies Who Critique. It takes a big leap of faith to trust your baby with someone you don't know, but someone who you trust will give you honest feedback.

The only problem is that sometimes honesty is translated as, here's everything I hate. Which, for me, is sometimes a lot to swallow. I want to know that they at least laughed at my jokes or considered something thoughtful about my characters. But to deal with a rampage, it can take a lot out of person.

Critiques are important. They help you grow. This person had a lot of good points about my book that I would not have picked up on. But one comment has stuck in my head and refused to let go.

She told me she hated my main character. HATED! Why? She thought my MC was too confident in herself, and cocky to boot. Personally, I don't have problem with confidence. In fact, I love a character who can take the story by being a strong leader. That's how I wrote my character. When it comes to time travel, she knows how to handle herself.

Not everyone is going to agree. It's hard when you love someone so much, and they feel so real to you and you're told that they are awful people. It's like a stranger coming up and telling you your friends and family are worthless.

My head is in a bad place right now becasue of it. I can't change who my character is. She's confident becasue she knows how to handle the situation. It doesn't mean she's not flawed. She makes mistakes. Sometimes she's rude without meaning to be that way. Sometimes she doesn't see people for who they really are.

Even with all that being said, I still love my book. I've just lost confidence in if it's right to share with the world.

Yet, I'm still going to try. I can't quit just becasue one person didn't like my MC. I may be the only person in the world who does. And that's okay, becasue at least I didn't give up on myself.


Angela Brown said...

There's one thing I've learned as I started taking this publishing dream of mine seriously. Critiques of the work itself are going to cause some kind of reaction, especially the honest ones that don't give me the warm and fuzzies.

This crit partner sounds like they were true to themselves in sharing their thoughts about how they felt about your MC. So what's the silver lining in finding out that this person hated your character?

YOU, my writer bud, are the silver lining. You can take the critique, working in what works for you and leaving the rest alone. As I've been reminded from time to time, this is YOUR story. You must be able to stand by it. If you know that your MC is where you want them to be, then there it is.

Write on.

Write strong.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Your story and characters won't be liked by everyone. That's hard to take sometimes. But for everyone with a negative opinion there will be far more with a positive opinion. Only if the negative far outweighs the positive do we need to seriously consider changes. If not, then don't worry about it.
And I did have to make adjustments to my main character because he was too unlikeable. Some people still didn't like him even after the changes. But enough did that I didn't worry about it.

Steph Sessa said...

Sometimes I think it's best to pick and choose the advice you get from CPs. As you said, not everyone's going to like your book. (If you haven't seen Beth Revis' post about responding to negative reviews, check it out here:

Angela V. Cook said...

Sorry to hear you're feeling kind of icky :o( I think it's important to give writers a little bit of positive feedback along with the negative (some would disagree with me on that, but that's how I feel). I always make a point of telling the writer what I liked, along with what I think needs work. I think positive feedback can be just as helpful as the negative!

Regarding your critique, do what I do--if you don't agree with the feedback, put it off to the side, and don't think about it UNLESS you get other people telling you the same thing. The feedback could've been a fluke, but at the same time, she could be on to something. Character likability is a big, big, BIG deal with agents/editors. If other critters have a similiar opinion about your mc, don't despair! There are ways to skim off some of the abrasiveness of a character without changing who they are :o)

Good luck, Jen :o)

Kyra Lennon said...

I agree with Steph. With critiques, you have to listen to is being said, but you don't have to act on every single piece of advice.

So, this one person hated your character. That really sucks, BUT not everyone likes the same things. Get some other opinions, because maybe she was in the small minority.

Take a deep breath, get your confidence back, and stand by what you know is right for your story. <3

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

I wouldn't worry about it based off of one critique. I have a friend who read a couple chapters of The Hunger Games then put it down because she found Katniss to be unbearable. Does that mean Katniss is an awful character with no hope of ever being liked by readers? I think it's safe to say that's far from the case. :)

Get more feedback and compare your results. It's impossible to please everyone. If you start getting more consistent feedback that your main character needs some changes, then you know it's time to tackle that hurdle (which, by the way, isn't impossible to overcome. As Angela said, there are ways to make your character less abrasive without changing them).

I wish you the best with your writing! Don't give up!

Shallee said...

Hugs. I'm sorry, Jenny. I've had that issue before too. Beth Revis did a great post on reviews that kind of applies to this situation as well.

My rule of thumb is this: if more than one person says it in a critique, maybe I need to look at that aspect of the book again. And sometimes, even if just one person says it, I think about it anyway. I can choose to change something or not.

Good luck!

Carolyn V said...

I've read books that I hated and my friends have loved. And I've read books I love and my friends hate. Sometimes, it depends on who is reading it.

Weaver said...

Definitely don't quit! Especially for one person's take on the story. I've got a dear friend who didn't like mine--the only part she liked I was told by the publisher in the R&R that that part is tedious and repetitious (it is, because that's what's going on for the characters).

If your mc has a growth arc in spite of her confidence, there's not a problem.

Jenny S. Morris said...

I am going to agree with everyone else. One person's critique should not stop you. It's when multiple people all agree on the same point. I LOVE strong female MC's and tend to shy away from quiet whiny ones. :0) We all connect with people on a different level. Don't give up, and let other people read your story. Maybe someone you "know" that will be honest with you, but still be able to tell you all the good points of the book. I personally can't stomach critiques that only point out what I need to change. I absolutely want to know what needs to be changed, but my brain needs to know what I'm doing right too.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I think the most essential part of critiquing is learning how to give the criticism in an appropriate manner. I'm sorry that your reader didn't like your main character.

If you are interested, I would love to read it for you and give you some additional input.

Leslie said...

Wow! I can't imagine getting a critique like that. One thing that stands out to me though is that maybe hating your character is better than thinking the character is really boring. Just a thought.

I agree with what others have posted to pick and choose what you need from crit partners to help you with your story and to just keep going.

Remember there are a lot of best selling books out there with characters that some people LOVE and some people HATE and it's the same character.

prerna pickett said...

It is scary thinking that people are probably going to rip your characters and writing to shreds once it's out there. Gah! But so worth it when you are going through edits and are able to make your story stronger.

Luanne G. Smith said...

It's true not everyone will like our characters, but people really do need to learn to blend a little kindness in with their honesty when offering feedback. Most of us are very sensitive about our writing and it's hard to stay objective with someone telling you in a blanket statement something as hurtful as that. It's better if they point to a specific act the character has done that didn't sit well with them. That way you can evaluate better whether or not it's a real problem. Grrr.

Precy Larkins said...

Rule of thumb: If most of your beta readers have the same problem (hates your MC's confidence), then it's helpful to take a step back and look at it from a different angle. If only ONE beta reader had that feedback, and the rest did not have a problem with it, chances are, you're okay. Reading is SO SO SUBJECTIVE (yeah, I hate that word, too. But it's true.) I've put down some books that are BESTSELLERS or have been HYPED a lot to be supposedly awesome because I, as a reader, couldn't connect with it. Does this mean the book was crap, and I was right while a million other readers who loved it were not? No. It just means that in a sea of readers, I was one who didn't make the connection, and therefore, didn't love it or finish reading it. The book could have possibly been flawless in every way. But every reading experience is personal and subjective, and the same goes for critiques.

It's also up to us to choose which feedback/comment/critique works and which one doesn't. Because ultimately, the story is yours. You have the vision. You know where's it supposed to go and what it's supposed to be like. You know how to deliver the story because it is yours, and yours alone.

When you query, you will get lots of rejections. And most of them will say "this is not the right fit for me". Does it mean your book is crap and you should just give up? Does it mean the agent rejecting you is blind and don't know what they're talking about?

No and no. Just as we readers reject some published books, the same principle goes for them. If they can't truly and completely love it, they won't ask to represent you, even if your writing is stellar and the concept intriguing (yes, I got this during my querying days).

So keep on writing. Keep on moving forward. Because while we can't make EVERYONE love our work, there will be those who will love it just the way it is.


Anonymous said...

My thing on the "hating the main character" : it's one person's opinion. Now, if you get three critiques, all with the same opinion of the MC, then you might have a problem.

Hildred Billings said...

Well, you can't say that your MC didn't get a reaction out of somebody. It may have been negative, but at least they felt something aside from "meh". (I don't know about others, but I get really excited when I get an emotional reaction of any kind!) It's actually a compliment to your writing skills ;)

But I agree, reviews and feedback that are nothing but negative...well, even if it's helpful in the long run...what was the point in that?

Unknown said...

There have been time when crits I've gotten have resulted in me losing confidence in the story, so I stop writing it. It's very painful, but since the ideas still plague me I know I'll get around to writing them again when the time is right.

Keep in mind, as many people have said, this is one opinion. Even if ten people hate your MC, there's still hope for your book (lots of people hate Bella Swan, and look at how much money Meyer has!) so don't give up! Just, have a drink. And some chocolate. And maybe watch a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then you should be all good!

J E Fritz said...

Characters are like people. It's not possible for everyone to like them. Being disliked isn't an issue unless it's a lot of people who voice the same opinion. I guess your character rubbed your critiquer the wrong way. I think confidence is great. She's probably interesting :)

Annalisa Crawford said...

It's a harsh thing to hear, but it is only one person's opinion - a strong opinion, granted. I'm sure you've had other readers say they liked her, or didn't mention her in that way at all.

If you love the character, she'll appeal to others as well.

Jeff Hargett said...

I so agree with Angela Cook's comment about providing positive as well as negative feedback. Yes, I definitely want to know what people didn't like, but I also want to know what they did like. If no one tells me they like something that I thought they should, it might get cut during future revisions.

The positive feedback, when honest, gives the writer a dose of confidence and makes it far easier to tweak those things that weren't well received. On the flip side however, if someone loved *everything* in the book then I find myself doubting everything they said. Out of hundreds of pages there has to be *something* a person doesn't like.

Ruth Josse said...

Oh, that must have been so hard to hear. But I agree with everything everyone has said. You know what is best for your story. Keep your chin up and keep going! It's one opinion and one is a very small number. :)

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

I've been told that my MC isn't realistic by one person, and then "Completely well rounded, and I loved her" by another. Critiques, just like agenting, are people specific. Everyone thinks something different. If you're hearing the same thing from a LOT of betas, I'd consider toning down the confidence.

But! There are some agents who CRAVE strong narrators, strong MCs, especially if they're girls. Look around, if it's your story, you're the writer, it's your call how you handle it.

And yes, keep going. Always, always, keep going.

Cassie Mae said...

Trust me, you aren't alone in this, girl. It's hard to take in, especially when you've spent so much time with this character, they feel like your baby. I would hate to hear that someone hated my kids, or my best friend. But I love them. And it's all subjective anyway. Not everyone will like everyone. I'm sure your MC wouldn't get along with your cp if she was real, you know? Just different personalities.

Christa Desir said...

Oh dude, I had to go through all these hard knocks too. Part of the deal is that you have to find people who will always like your stuff, then you have to find people who understand and are awesome at writing. The thing about beta readers is that I learned not to trust them so much until I read what they had and thought it was completely amazing. In all fairness, how could I really trust someone who I didn't trust as a writer? So if I were you, I'd offer to beta for people and then if you like their writing, you can give up your baby. Otherwise, you're on really shaky ground.

Also, you are not allowed to take any criticism as real until you have heard the same thing from 3 people. Just saying.

Lauren said...

The fact that someone didn't like her is a good thing. If you created a character that everyone liked, she'd be a boring wimp and probably not a good MC. Better, she disliked your MC well enough to tell you about it! Wow! Not ambivalent, not wishy-washy. This is a memorable character!

I'm blind-siding you for the Versatile Blogger award (which isn't really an award, but oh, well.)

Come to my blog for the details.


Andrea Teagan said...

Sorry to hear about this, I try to not be so negative in reviewing a story, I always try to see the positive in what I read, and make suggestions/offer ideas that might help.

Hate is a strong word to use, I would be upset too! Just remember, it is only one person's opinion.