Friday, July 3, 2015

Ten Unfortunate Things We Have to Accept as Authors

1. When judging a book to determine if we want to read it, we can pretty much only judge it by the cover.

And the summary, first couple of pages, and reputation of the author, but, mainly, superficial aspects that may not give accurate representation of the book. It is impossible to judge a book until after you’ve read it, but you can’t read it to determine if you should read it.

2. People don’t read carefully.

You take your time to use very specific words and they just skim right over all of them, completely changing the meaning. Sometimes you have to accept that people won’t always hear what you actually said, and you need to write for connotation, not technical definition.

3. Everyone thinks they’re a better writer than you.

Unless you’re their favorite author—and even then—pretty much everyone you’re ever going to meet will believe that they can craft a better book than you. They might not have written better yet, but they have the capacity—if they ever got around to it. What your goal is is to convince them that you’re a better writer than all those other people.

4. Rejection happens to good writers.

Especially if you’re going through the traditional route, you’re going to have to deal with the ramifications of oversupply and less demand. Time is a bigger commodity and no one, not readers, agents, or publishers, have enough to give everyone who they would like to. Agents can only pick up a few authors a year. Readers, even the most avid ones, are lucky to get 20 books in a month. That’s only 240 a year, when 50,000 traditionally published fiction books were published in 2014. That’s not counting the number of self-publishers online.

Thinking that genius will be recognized immediately does a lot of disservice to all the geniuses who died in anonymity, or even killed for their masterpieces.

5. No matter what choice you make, someone will tell you it was wrong.

Whether that be the publishing route, the genre, the name of your characters, even your name (How dare you not change it?!) someone will always decide that you made a mistake. In writing, it’s far more important to be confident in whatever decision you made than even to have made the “right” decision in the first place. Use the Oxford comma, don’t use the Oxford comma, it doesn’t really matter; someone will have a hissy fit either way.

6. Something will work for someone else that didn’t work for you for the singular reason you’re you and they’re them.

I once read a criticism of Stephenie Meyer’s work, Twilight, in which it runs through all of the “crimes” the book committed. When someone responded with, “But Shakespeare does that too!” the critic said, “But she’s not Shakespeare!”

It’s a frustrating argument, but too common to ignore. An author is certainly the sum of his parts, and whether it be because someone has the reputation to back him up, the choice worked within the context of that specific story, or simply because a reader wants to like him and not you, people will have double-standards when it comes to their feedback. Many times, a choice is wrong simply because you were the one making it.

 7. You’re lucky if you get bad reviews.

This isn’t my usual spiel about the benefits of bad reviews (LINK), but that the most common thing to happen to a writer is utter obscurity.

If you are getting noticed enough to even get backlash, sometimes it can be more encouraging than the years of silence you had been seeing before. Especially in this day and age, a personalized rejection letter can be a breath of fresh air compared to all the non-responses. The worst thing to fear is being ignored, not rejected.

8. You can’t prevent yourself from being criticized, only influence the criticism you get.

You can stop yourself from being the next E.L. James and have your hero make “healthy” relationship choices. But if it’s not the abusive boyfriend or the Mary Jane girlfriend, you’ll hear complaints that “sarcasm is mean,” or “I like a man with a little drive.”

Consider the negative opposites of the qualities you want your book to have—if my book is intelligent, it will be dense. If it is high tension, it could be “tiring,” and aim for those criticisms. Do not focus on avoiding criticism altogether; you will go insane.

9. Readers lie about what they want, but are adamant about it.

Primarily, they lie to themselves first. But no matter how much we hear things like, “I hate cliffhangers and love triangles,” there is always a discrepancy behind what readers are saying and what they’re buying.

In order to really give readers what they want, you have to parent them and determine what they need and why they think they want what they actually do, understanding that what we feel we’re supposed to desire isn’t always what makes us happy.

10. The quality of your work will always change, and not in a logical line.

Your best work might be your first. It might be your last. It will probably be somewhere in the middle. You’ll write something fantastic followed by something idiotic, followed by something mediocre. Even if you start winning awards and getting on a hot streak, something will happen to lose “your game.” And you’ll have no idea what that is.


In a way, this is a good thing because it minimalizes the importance of the question, “Am I a good writer?”