Monday, January 31, 2011
Do You Like Me?
Before you're published, the advice might come from people that you allow to read your work for the critique. A beta reader or someone from a writing community you're a part of. While criticism is all well and good, you do need to be wary sometimes. Both about how much you take into consideration and how much you let pass by. One person may tell you they love it. Nothing is wrong with your work. Another may say it's good, but this or that needs work. Then you'll get another that will like what the other didn't, and then point out something different that 'needs fixing.'
This can cause a whole lot of confusion from your end and kill your motivation. I know this from experience. After posting my first novel up on my writing community, there was such a great response from people I thought: "Hey, I'm not that bad, eh?"
And then came the more serious readers, the ones who--bless them--really want to see other writers improve their skill. Unfortunately, their lengthy and well meaning critique wound up contradicting each other and left me seriously questioning my writing ability. I mean, I really liked what I had written, and now there were all these people telling me that this was wrong, or that needed to be cut out. So I would change it, try to improve on their suggestions, but it seemed like nothing was working because there would be more critique with new areas for me to focus on.
Now, nobody's writing is perfect the first time around and even after you've edited or revised half a dozen times...There will always be something you could improve on. The point of critique is to get your mind thinking. To catch things we often miss in our own writing but can easily spot in someone elses. And yes, to fix the things that really need improving. So take the advice from those who take the time to read your work, sift through it, and apply it to your writing. But one thing you should always listen to, and that's your gut instinct. After the obvious grammar, spelling, punctuation...If you truly love what you've written--then stick with what you've got. It doesn't matter if you really love that person's writing and they always give you such excellent advice...At some point you are going to have to realize that pleasing everyone just isn't possible. It's never going to happen. And sometimes, pleasing that one person you really trust to be honest with you won't happen either. At some point you are going to need to really ask yourself: "Do I like it?" You're the one writing it, after all.
Now once you're published, or trying to find a publisher/agent...Things might be different. That's when you might start to hear something like this: "You need to change your writing to appeal to a broader audience."
Oh...and you're going to want to do it. Especially if you're new in the publishing world. You're going to want to do everything your agent/publisher says because you want to sell. You want more fans. And that's not a bad thing. Still, you need to ask yourself a few things before doing anything drastic.
Do you already have fans? Whether they are from your pre-published days, when you were barely starting to learn the ropes, or new ones acquired after your book(s) hit shelves--if you have fans, that means you've done it. You've made a connection with people who enjoy your writing because they like what you like. They like your stories and believe in them. That's not something to thumb your nose at. Especially the ones who stuck by you from the beginning. When you're writing what you love, having fans means you've found people who see the world as you do. Which leads to the next question...Do you like what you write? Is it something that you really, really, absolutely, positively, LOVE? If not--if you don't like the genre at all and it's something you did only because you thought it would sell more books--then maybe it is something you should consider changing.
Chances are that if you change your writing to appeal to those who don't already read your books, the fans that you do have--the ones who do enjoy your work--might not anymore. This is something worth serious consideration. Is it worth it?
There is no easy answer to this and I can't lead you in any direction. When this day comes along, it will be up to you to decide where you want to go from there. All I can do is give you something to think about.
Think about it though. Every author has fans and haters. What would happen if Stephen King decided to appeal to those who don't read his novels? Would he lose the readers he already has? Or take Stephenie Meyer...how many fans of hers would be dissappointed if she did kill one of her precious vampires?