I’ve read and heard that to be an author you have to have thick skin. Well, I call BS on that. How in the heck is that even possible when you pour so much of yourself into writing? Writing is difficult, and wonderfully-fun and fulfilling, and exposing and nerve-wracking. I know I can only speak for myself, but I find it very hard to believe that I’m the only author out there who labors for years on a book, who struggles to find confidence that others will see the value in my work, who constantly struggles with self-doubt.
When I write, my characters are alive to me. They are in my head constantly, sparring with each other, working their way toward an epic HEA, and they demand that I take time from my husband and kids, time from the comfort of my own bed well into the night (even though I’ve got a nine-hour work day ahead of me). They demand that I steal every possible second away in order to write their story.
Then, come the reviews.
So far, so good, I’d say, but I know it’s gotta be coming. And that is, the bad review, the scathing appraisal of my years of work, sacrifice, and agonizing over details and editing. It’s got to come because not everyone’s tastes are the same. Someone’s gotta dislike my book(s). And when that bad review comes, I wonder how it will affect me. I get the idea behind the whole “thick skin” comment, but it is far easier said than done. I care about my stories, and I want people to LOVE them. If someone says they didn’t, I’m afraid that I will feel like I failed. Intellectually, I know that’s crap. In business, and in life, I have learned that you absolutely cannot please everyone. Why can’t I let that sink in with my writing?
Now, constructive criticism I can handle. When I entered Love of a Lioness into the Amazon contest and made it to the quarter-finals I considered it a huge win, even though I didn’t move on to the semi-finals. But then I received my review from Publishers Weekly and I got upset. The reason I got upset was because it was a good review! According to the contest rules, it was the PW editors who determined which books moved onto the semi-finals. When my book didn’t move on, I was upset, sure, but I was anxious for that PW review to find out what I could improve on, to find out what went wrong to boot me out of the contest. So, to find a good review was unacceptable to me. I wanted to know why and that review didn’t tell me. If it was that good, why didn’t it move on? Well, the only other logical conclusion would be that it just wasn’t as good as the other stories, or not good enough. To feel like everything you did was good, but not good enough is…nauseating. I’m more of a tell-me-how-to-make-it-better gal. So, helpful criticim I can handle, but for someone to just not “like” my story – that will be hard for me. I just know it.
If there are any authors out there who can give some tips on how to bounce back from a bad review, I’d love to hear it…because I know it’s coming.