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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Toughen Up!

Some people believe my books are too graphic, too gritty, include too many cringe-worthy taboo subjects. My heroes tend to be amoral and twisted in certain ways. Well, that's all right. I write for myself and hope there is a niche for my style, but I have to no expectation that my books will be everyone's cup of tea.

I began writing as a political columnist. In that area too, I tended to be confrontational and controversial. I pulled no punches. My mail consisted of death threats, marriage proposals and suggestions that I run for President. People are passionate about politics. They don't mind taking you head on. I developed the hide of an elephant. Nothing anyone says can hurt my feelings.

Some respondents don't realize that. They let fly a zinger, obviously assuming it will crush me. It doesn't.

It seems to me, from reading the discussions on the various writing groups I belong to, that more writers need to develop a thicker skin. They are so easily hurt, so easily put off, so easily agreeable to someone who says they need to change their ending or shorten their book or lengthen it or add more description or less description. Some of them are so cowed by too much rejection that they lose their confidence and give up altogether.

The truth is that most of these advisers may know what's right for them but they don't necessarily know what's right for you. No doubt someone told Diana Gabaldon that the novels in her Outlander series were too ponderous and full of detail. Someone probably told E. L. James her Shades of Gray books revolved around a subject that would make most people squeamish. Sure thing -  those ladies are laughing all the way to the bank because they had the courage of their convictions.

That's not to say getting advice can't be helpful. There are definitely times when you will see the point your reviewer is making and use it to improve your writing. On the other hand, if the length or the ending or the style or the amount of description feels right to you, don't be afraid to ignore your critics and go with your own gut feeling. This is your work.


Liz Flaherty said...

I'm one of the non-confrontational ones who still gets her feelings hurt easily, but even the ones like me know what comes with the territory. Most of us can take it--it just takes us longer to get back up.

Vic said...

Well, that's the thing, Liz. You always got back up! I had people in my writing class who were probably better writers than either one of us but a couple rejections so knocked their ego into a cocked hat that they gave up. I think there a lot like that.

Liz Flaherty said...

Can't argue that point. I have a friend who can write me under the table, who sometimes bemoans her unpublished status, who has NEVER submitted a manuscript...

Vic said...

Me too. I have a friend who writes wonderful novels. We met years ago when we both belonged to the same writer's club. Despite tons of encouragement from everyone who thought her stuff was great, she'd get right to the end and never finish anything. That's been 25 years ago. So far as I know, she still has never submitted anything.