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FACT – writers need thick skins


To a writer, our books are our babies. They often take longer to gestate than real babies, and we are every bit as protective as new mothers. And when it comes to first books, we’re the proverbial roaring lion protecting our words against all comers.

Think about it. Our first book. We spend months creating every aspect of it. The characters, the world building, the plot, the dialogue. We stay up late at night debating whether Jack would really say “divine”, or would he be more likely to say “cool,” before restructuring the sentence completely.

The experts tell us to write what we know, and boy, do we do that with book #1. The pony-crazy, car-loving heroine who could be us, if we were ten years younger and several pounds lighter. We unwittingly pour the pure essence of ourselves into our books, and on the one hand, that’s great. They’re real. We know exactly how it feels when that boy snubs you at the party—because it really happened to you. We know the location inside out and upside down, because we spent every holiday there as a child. Our first book is often a thinly disguised version us, warts ‘n’ all. Though usually with fewer warts.

And so when some well-meaning person says something critical, boom! It’s the equivalent of them saying, “You have an ugly baby.”

So how do we react?

We go on the defence usually, e.g. “I haven’t finished editing it yet.”

Or you might think about attacking right back, e.g. “At least I’m good at plotting. Your last plot was so thin I could blow a hole right through it.”

But what if it was a highly respected agent / editor / publisher that offered their views? Does that make their words more valid?

Either way, the reality is that it hurts. It really does. You might smile, and gloss over it at the time, but you’re weeping inside. I had feedback on one story which ripped it so completely to shreds that I felt like deleting every part of it from my hard drive and pretending it never existed.

Another hard reality is that as writers, we feel compelled to put our work out there, for people to read. And then invite them to review it… and then spend weeks weeping over the reviews. I don’t know which is worse, a couple of bad reviews, or none at all. Some writers I know REFUSE to look at their reviews. Not. One. Look. Others skip over anything less than 4 stars, and only ever read the good ones. That’s a neat strategy.

However you choose to cope, you need to be able to deal with criticism. Whether it’s that N.Y. Agent telling you to do more world building, or a disappointed reader grumbling that you skipped over a sex scene / made a sex scene too graphic.

 So don that Kevlar-lined overcoat, and brace yourself. Like Abe Simpson said, “It will happen to you!”


P.S. The story of mine that was shredded? I rewrote parts of it, and it’s now one of my best sellers. Hang on in there.