Saturday, May 28, 2011

On the Rebound: The Key to the Reader's Mind

I'm back at A Life Bound By Books chatting about the things I look for in reviews, and what I take away from them when I write the next book.  Come on over and say hello!
Reviews: The Key to the Reader’s Mind

Reviews are a mixed blessing for me. I admit I get excited when an alert for one pops up in my e-mail, but I also click on it with trepidation. Did they like my book? Did they say nice things? Did they hate it and the review is terrible? I never know and anything can be waiting for me.

Naturally, I wish every review was filled with glowing praise, but a book can’t please every reader. And negative comments in reviews can be useful if you know what to look for. Good or bad, I try to understand why someone felt as they did -- and what I might want to do about that:

Read the full article here.


  1. It was a great interview. (Had trouble posting a comment there.) You have a great attitude toward reviews. Rather just focusing on getting upset I can tell you learn from them.

  2. Thanks! (and yes, I had trouble commenting as well. I passed that along to the blogger). The occasional review has upset me (one or two have been downright mean, but I guess I can't take that personally) but I try to treat all of them as mini crits. It's just one what person thought. I don't get upset with my crit partners, so I can't with reviewers, right? It helps keeps them in perspective I think.

  3. Treating them as mini crits is a cool way to look at it.

  4. Thanks! So far it's helping me keep perspective.

  5. I also had issues replying at the other blog, so I'll relay my thoughts here, and I'll try to be more brief than my last comments here.

  6. Once again, Janice, you've touched on a subject that we all face or will face at some point, and even though I remain undiscovered from a commercial standpoint, getting feedback from your peers can sometimes be more humbling and vexing than from the average reader.

    I think it's hardest at the very beginning simply because you're not always sure how to keep it in perspective.

    In my case, all the agents i tried for my last WIP resulted in form letters or silence that eventually meant "NO!"

    Yet I often have the honor of giving critiques for writers who are strong in the areas I'm weak in their books, and I rarely have to point out typos or shameful tense changes that I knew were not intended, I can focus on the story that's there instead the story I "think" should be told, that doesn't mean it's totally error free, it's just any missteps I find are more about the actual story, and not if the margins are too small or the page breaks are atrocious, I often give the kind of critiques I wish I'd get more of.

    I'm glad for those writers, I really am, and many have gotten agents or book deals that were in part thanks to what I did point out, but it can be

    Many often tell me they envy my imagination, as for whatever reason, they feel they strain for new story ideas, I don't have that problem, but I've come to realize that as great as my imagination is, that alone won't outshine the areas I'm weak at, if not technically, it's in terms of clarity without condensation

    To avoid coddling the reader too much, nor write so beyond them I get the shaming "Complexity" lecture in various degrees an flavors, and I don't get how you can trust the reader without asking too much of them, because every book will need a different answer, how can your figure it out?

    To put this a shorter way, everyone has some form i this problem, and the key is to remember you're NOT the only one who finds it annoying!

    There has a to be a way or no one would publish anything.

    Anyway, great blog as always, Janice.


  7. I forgot something here-

    "I'm glad for those writers, I really am, and many have gotten agents or book deals that were in part thanks to what I did point out, but it can be hard when your peers see the good in your story no one on the other side of the desk seems to think is there, if form letters and silence is all you get back.

    Even if it's a market issue and not a sign of being a weaker writer than you thought, not knowing where you go wrong is just as worrisome."

  8. Taurean: One of the toughest things about the publishing business is that perfectly good books sometimes don't sell. You can be a good writer with a good story, but it's story that is too much like what's out there already, or close but not quite there. Getting over that last 5% from good to great can be heartbreaking.

    As for complexity and knowing when to trust your reader and when to explain, that's what knowing your market and your reader is all about. You can use other books in that market and genre to get a feel for the level you need to be at. Other writers have done the work for you in a way.

    And crit groups can be wrong, even if their advice is good. Someone who never reads your genre or market isn't going to understand the nuances of your book. An adult writer who never reads MG is likely going to feel like it tells or explains too much and needs to be more complex. But it probably doesn't, because the markets are very different.

    No matter how much advice you get, in the end you have to learn to trust your own instincts are do what you feel is best for the story. And sometimes, the best you can do ion a story still isn't good enough to sell it. It stinks, but it happens. When it does, you start work on another book and hope you've learned from the experience and get a step closer to your dream.

  9. You're right, Janice, and I'm sorry for being even more self-critical than normal, which is still too much, but I'm really trying to hang in there.

    It's just that after walking on eggshells, creatively speaking, for so long, it brings out the worst in me, but thinking about it another way, maybe it at least shows that I'm not so full of myself that I think I'm right all the time.

    I'm certainly not right all he time, nor you or anyone else, but I do think you and all the writers in my old critique group are definitely more patient than I am, or at least have mastered not getting too negative in public, and I need to be better with that, and it's part of why I've been so flaky updating my blog.

    When I decided to try blogging again after getting in over my head the first time, I promised myself to not make my blog a virtual mouthpiece for my unintended, but sometimes unavoidable, pessimism and childish frustrations.

    I only have three simple reasons why I wanted to blog-

    1. Have Fun

    2. A baby step to not feeling so inept at self-promoting without getting extremely obsessive.
    (That's proving more difficult than even query letters, almost, but not quite)

    3. To give whatever solace and support I can.

  10. Taurean: Have you considered journaling? It might be a nice private outlet to express your more negative thoughts, allowing you the freedom to be more positive in public forums.