Sunday, 24 June 2012

Apology to a Book...

“No name-calling truly bites deep unless, in some dark part of us, we believe it. If we are confident enough then it is just noise.”  ― Laurell K. Hamilton, A Stroke of Midnight

If you haven't already thought I was certifiable (crazy, that is) by now...well, you will after this blog.

But I came to terms with something recently and I wanted to share it.

Last year, my very first book, Candy G, was published.

Like all new authors, I was in the clouds. The entire experience from writing the words The End to the offering of a contract to the first glimpse of the cover to THE event...its release.

And, then, like all authors---new and veteran---I got reviews.

Most authors may have much more confidence that I; feedback may not affect them. Bad reviews may just glide off them like water on a duck's back. Good feedback may just be taken in stride.

Not me.

Oh, I got many wonderful reviews...some I didn't even have to pay for! (Joking, joking). Even some of the not-so-good reviews cited some very good, strong positives about my writing. Most importantly, many took my book seriously. My chest swelled, of course, with pride.

But here's the kicker.

Those weeds---those unavoidable yet necessary weeds called negative feedback---cropped up in my lovely garden of praise.

In retrospect (you know how you remember the harsh stuff more than anything else?), I think the worst hit to my pride was for a reviewer to call the plot 'silly'. Ouch
To compound the fracture of the embarrassment, the reviewer's tone was---and gods, how I hate this word---snarky. It made fun of the plot. To have my book mocked on a very well-known review site in such a demeaning fashion was hurtful, especially as I was a new author. Welcome to the world of thick skin development! Double ouch.In my smashed ego-vision, I saw the reviewer as a sort of Skut Farkas, making fun of my silly story and taunting me to run home and tell my mommy.

Oh, hey, I'm not arguing and I'm not pitying myself. I'll be the first to admit the plot probably was kind of silly. I learned the hard way---which I have to admit might be the best way---that plotting is not my strong suit in writing. I DO have many strengths, but, alas, plot creation may not be among them.

Even this realization doesn't discourage me. I'll learn to put the iron to my writing weaknesses. To acknowledge those issues and thereby work on them can only improve my skills.

What DOES bother me is that I took that one weed and held it close to my heart, clung to it and, for some reason, set it as the standard for my self-confidence.

After that review, I even found myself warning potential readers, Hey, the plot is pretty silly, just warning you. Or, Hope you enjoy my silly little book.

Tragically, I constantly referred to my book as silly. And I meant it. I really believed---because someone poked fun at my book---it was a piece of garbage.

Shame on me.

Recently, after the first year had passed, after I'd resigned myself to having a 'silly' book to my  name, after apologizing constantly for the book itself---I took a look at Candy G.

And you know what?

I just about cried---first, just from reliving the memories of writing it, the pride in being accepted by the publisher, the thrill of it all. And, finally, I cried because I'll be damned if I didn't see my baby through new eyes, and actually found myself admitting it wasn't such a bad book after all. It had its good points as well as its bad, and I was sorry that I'd spent so much negative time on being embarrassed by it.

It was a first book. Some write perfect first books. I did not. Yes, the silly plot hadn't miraculously changed in a year's time. It was still there. But I finally allowed myself the pride I should have had all along. I realized what was THE silly thing was to have judged and condemned my own work based on one comment in one review. I'm not saying I should not take the feedback seriously. I should. And I do.

But I shouldn't have lost my pride in my work---which put the shadows of doubt on any future works, in my ability---based on one little neutron of negativity.

I'll always embrace humility in my work, but I'll write to the best of my ability and I'll try to embrace my pride as well. A happy medium of both, I hope.

So...Candy G...I owe you an apology for letting myself ever be ashamed of you. You weren't such a bad little book after all.


Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

In the early part of the farcical game which is called Reviews, the bad ones really shattered me. Man, did they stir up my anger, Grrrr... But now I know, after about 25 novellas, 3 or 4 novels, one of which, Holy Communion, won the Lambda Literary Award 2009, their stinking reviews don't mean shit. Read 'em and forget 'em, I always say. Anyway I have other things to worry about and write, don't waste my time with crap. Turn the page.

Unknown said...

It is sad -- and funny -- that one bad review sticks with us and isn't lessened by a dozen good reviews. But like you said, that is part of the writer's life.

I am very fortunate though, that my first works will never see the light of day or a reviewers cruel pen. And trust me, those were worse than silly.

Regina Carlysle said...

I know where you are coming from. As writers it's hard to craft our babies, raise them and then let them fly. It's like an insult to our own 'blood' and hard to let go. I've come to the conclusion that while reviews are 'nice' they are not necessary. Keep writing and dreaming and letting those little birds fly. Never let anyone else squelch that joy you have in what you do so very well, my friend.

Cassie Exline said...

It's so easy for some people to be nasty when he or she doesn't have to face the person they are snarking about. A review is just one person's opinion and some of those opinions don't matter. True, it's not easy to ignore and yes it hurts, but your publisher had faith in you as do your other readers.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

The absolutely exact same thing happened to me! We gotta be related. I cried for 2 days. My family avoided me on the 3rd day because my husband said I had a scary look in my eye. LOL. I was plotting you know what.

Can you imagine what big time Hollywood stars must feel like constantly on trial by the rest of us?

Rejection, and that's what a bad review is, is part of our business. Everybody, and I mean E V E R Y B O D Y gets them. It's what you do with one that counts.

Oh, and don't forget, they also incite spectulation. "Why the bad review? Maybe I should read the book and find out for myself? I hate it when somebody tells me I shouldn't read a book. It makes me wanna read it."

Big huge cyber hugs!

Ps, another author I know got a review on Goodreads that had some dork copy the second para of the opening with a title that read THRASH, then at the bottom s/he wrote "I rest my case."

Dork. Couldn't even write a decent crit. Besides, the para was fine. I don't know the author, but I still wanted to punch the reviewer. Remember, some of these people can't write so they go around humiliating authors instead.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Mick!
Well, you know, you're proof that the crappy treatment by some reviewers doesn't amount to much.

Hugs and love, my friend!

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Pat!

Yep, we writers are that way, aren't we? That ONE bad review...and POW...we're sunk. LOL.

And I'd be devastated if anyone could ever read my first stories, too. Candy was only my first published story. There were many before him which I hope shall always remain only MY horrible little secret! LOL...

C. Zampa said...

You know what, Cassie? You're right. How easy it is to make fun of a writer when you never have to face them. You can just do your poking from a hiding spot.

Well, shame on me for letting it affect my confidence like that.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Regina!
You're right! They ARE our babies and it hurts just as much as when we knew our real children were made fun of by bullies and their peers from time to time.

And we have to follow our own advice...just keep on going. And don't lose your pride.


C. Zampa said...

Joylene, it IS rejection, isn't it? And it sure does hurt.

Okay, now I can't imagine anybody who would EVER have been able to call YOUR plot silly. AT ALL. So there you go.

And you did not quit. You know you've been an inspiration to me, always have. And you made it!

Tom Webb said...

You know what? I never thought the book was silly. I read it then and liked it a lot. Then I re-read it a few months later and STILL liked it a lot. I even reviewed it for you and told you how much I liked the guys.

So, I am rambling, but I want to say, NEVER let a review steal how much joy you have in your work. You didn't write it for someone to mock and call silly. You wrote it because something in you called hands to keyboard and you sparked something pretty terrific.

I'm a fam. I love Candy G unapologetically. I'm looking forward to the next book too.

Don't make me come to Texas and shake you!


C. Zampa said...

Oh, McTom! You did read Candy G and you gave it a beautiful review. A heartfelt review. You sure did believe in that book, and I love you for that.

Thanks for your support. Always.