Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stop Complaining...

Reviews and contests - I hate them.

I always love sitting at conferences and listening to writers talk about contests and reviews when it comes to their writing. I really have to laugh at their responses for both the good and bad comments that come from each. Generally, writers clumpt things into two categories. If they get favorable responses when it comes to their writing, they walk around saying "see I told you I was amazing." But when the comments come back negative, it is always "that judge/critic was a complete idiot."

Well guess what, maybe, in both cases, they were wrong.

We need to understand that the feedback we get from someone else regarding our work is subjective and extremely personal. But we also need to remember that if we get a negative response, we can't just discount the comment. Maybe, just maybe, that critic was correct and your writing really wasn't that good.

When I was researching my first Masters degree in Literacy, I spent some time looking at student learning in the classroom. I was intrigued that many teachers, when they had a situation when the class failed in some way, would always blame the textbook, the students or even the environment they were teaching in. Never once did they examine their own role in the equation. What the research proved (and this was the same in business models as well) is that all of the parts had to work together and sometimes, the flaw in the system was ourself.

Writing is no different. I don't care how much your friends like your book, the story may not be that strong. Don't just ignore the comments because you don't like what you hear. Examine what the person said and determine why this happened.

I had a writer that got a review back from Romantic Times. The comments were fine but the "star count" wasn't as high as they expected (you need to understand that her first book earned a 5 star). She was certain the person reviewing the story just didn't get it. But here's the thing. We sat down (over the phone) and talked about it. The comments were right on the money. The star count, although not amazing was fine. The reviewer didn't say the story was bad. They just said it was average. And guess what, the plot was that. She walked away understanding and when she went to work on the next book, she incorporated some of the ideas into the new book.

This is a success. She listened, she learned.

So, before you go jumping online with your discussion groups or on your blogs, or before you go ranting and complaining with your critique partners, stop and think. Evaluate the writing and simply think.


  1. I am so very, very sad that you don't accept anything other than romance. You are such a great agent!

    Wonderful post!

  2. I really think you should be required reading for every writer - published or not. I love your commonsense approach, not to mention your "think" admonitions.

  3. jkb...
    I have often thought about it but frankly, keeping track of the romance and women's fiction market is tough enough.
    Besides, I have found that by focusing my attention on one market allows me the chance to really work with individual writers better.

  4. Karen,

    Glad to hear you are enjoying the thoughts. I try hard to make sure I am up front about a lot of things. Granted, for some, the truth hurts but this is really the way we learn.

  5. Hello Scott,
    This is not a complaint, and I am not holding a sandwich behind my back.
    I agree that writers may as well drop the complaining. How can anyone write well when they are consumed with envy and anger? Someone else made it-now there is no place left for me? How about, someone else made it, which proves that it can be done? By me. Works out better all around, yes? I am amazed at the rage and spiteful comments directed at published authors on the websites. Every writer writes the best book that he can write at that time. What else can anyone do? How does tearing apart their work, in the most vicious and demeaning ways, make one's own work any better? It is all very sad to me.
    Why not look at their published book carefully and try to discover why their work was chosen, and yours has not been yet. YOW. Feel much better now, thank you.

  6. Personally, I have learned a lot more from the constructive criticisms(the bad stuff)---whether from my writer's group or at a conference---than I ever have from 'attaboys.' Your friends and family ARE going to love your book, whether it's good or bad, because they LOVE you. Also lots of people are afraid to tell you what they really think. They don't want to hurt your feelings. Agents and publishers are in the business to make money and if your book is good enough, they will want it---it's their livelihood. They're not going to pass on a book that's GREAT. Another thing that's important to keep in mind is that publishing is a smaller world than you might think and if you post your rants online or spread the word to all your writer friends, you might ruin your chances of ever getting published. Getting published takes years of work and committment. If you are writing to make gobs of money or to be noticed, you're writing for the wrong reasons. Writers should rejoice just because this book is better than the last and the next book will be better still. This business is a ladder and you climb rung by rung. There is no easy way. Writing is not a crash diet--just like losing weight there are no real shortcuts. In order to maintain a good weight, you HAVE to eat right and exercise. In order to become a good or possibly great writer, you have to write, write, and then write some more..

  7. Scott, I can totally understand why, but you BREAK MY HEART. LOL

    I would have a query to you so fast it would make your head spin. hehe

    Oh well, a girl can always dream, can't she??