Mark Terry

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Head Games

June 3, 2009

I'm well into the Blurb Scavenger Hunt for the upcoming novel, The Fallen (due out April 2010 from Oceanview Publishing). I requested four or five and yesterday I got my second. I won't tell who it was from, but it was a well-known author of a well-known book. It's a dazzlingly great blurb, as is the other blurb I received to-date.


Said author sent a lengthy paragraph detailing all the things he didn't like about my book and my writing as well.

I'm not sure I disagree with any of it. The problem, of course, is that I rather easily take into consideration the criticisms and tend to ignore the praise.

And I gotta tell you, this is playing with my head. I mean, really, don't we all--at some level--want a seasoned, successful pro to look at our work and give us a goddamned honest opinion of it, warts and all?

Or so we tell ourselves. Maybe all we really want is a "yep, it's great, good job."

Was anything he told me really useful? Yes. Some of it was not, not exactly, and some of it was from a point of view of someone who really prefers different types of books than the ones I'm currently writing.

But man... this sort of thing can really screw you up.

Mark Terry


Blogger Allie said...

It is so easy to latch on to the criticism. I think because it's hard to put stuff out there and we want to be reassured that people will like it. But so much is subjective. And the fact that the writer was willing to put his name on your book with glowing praise means a lot.

Are you going to make any of the suggested changes?

6:39 AM  
Blogger LurkerMonkey said...

That's weird. I've never heard of an author offering a great blurb on the one hand, but also offering a pointed private critique on the other hand. I wonder why he bothered ...?

Anyway, I hear you. I've had criticism get into my head before. It usually takes me at least a few days, if not weeks, to fully process it and separate myself from my own writing enough to see if it holds up.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

The criticisms were more global in nature rather than specific in fixable. Something to consider for future work, but not usable for this one.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Certainly unusual in my experience.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Mark:
I so hear you.

My publisher for Magickeepers arranged this large blog tour among well-known children's lit bloggers and librarians and so on. I was sent links and they are really wonderful reviews. And then one lone blogger did not give it a good one. In fact, some things REALLY seemed to big her (like how Nick didn't know he had magic powers beforehand) . . . and ONE thing was something I had no control over (the expectation of a LOT more detail--when I had been held firm to a page count because of luring in reluctant readers to a new series without intimidating them). And so I said to myself, "Enough." I don't usually read reviews--good OR bad--because I find the whole thing does indeed mess with my head. My crit partners know all the ins and outs and whys of choices. But a finished product has had those choices made . . . and the whole thing sometimes boils down to "This person wants a different book than the one I chose to write."

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

It can be hard to know what to make of criticism because every writer and reader and editor and agent has different personal tastes. If the taste of the critic coincides with yours what he or she says might be very useful, but if the critic is simply looking for something different than what you want, then his or her opinion doesn't help you at all. If you're getting books published and they are what you want then the criticism probably isn't very important.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, the thing to remind myself, even at this point in the game, is the publisher liked it the way it is. Liked it a lot. I'm also aware that I'm writing for a certain type of reader, at least with the Derek Stillwater novels, and this blurber probably isn't one of them.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

What I want and what this particular publisher wants and what at least some readers out there want. Gotta focus on that. I just finished reading agent Donald Maass's "The Career Novelist" and I think one of the most significant things he said was that in his experience the novelists who have had the longest, most successful careers are focused on their readers. He doesn't dismiss marketing, agents, editors, subsidiary rights, conferences, etc., but he does say, in his experience the writers who've had those good careers not only know what their readers want, but give it to them.

I think that's sort of important to keep in mind.

9:37 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I can agree with that last comment, Mark. There is a separation point, where what makes a good novel is not what pleases your readers. There is a difference between writing for writers, editors, and agents, and writing for readers.

Nora got better with each book, but at some point, she changed so much that she lost me. If Stephanie Meyer were a better writer, would she be the success she is now? If Dan Brown had axed all those ridiculous flashbacks and pages of dumping?

Take two choirs: you get one that sings every phrase with nuance and artistry. You've got another who just gets up and sings with their whole heart, blaring loud the whole time, completely raw. Guess who gets the standing ovation? (#2) Guess which one would get a recording deal? (#1)

I think there's a way to walk the line between them, but in the end, you gotta choose. And get lucky.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Christine said...

I guess my real question here would be, what was the real point behind this writer's criticism? Why bother to criticize something that is already going to be published? Was this sour grapes on his/her part because of personal writer's block? Since you said it was global criticism, then I'd have to assume it wasn't particularly helpful.

And other writers should know better than to do that to other writers.

The publisher liked it as is. You can't say yet whether you've pleased your audience. One writer's opinion is just one writer's opinion.

Having said that, I know how hard it is to take criticism from someone you admire. It hurts. A lot. And it's hard to get over it to see that the guy gave you an awesome blurb, and that's all that really matters.

Personally, I can't wait till I find your book on the shelf so I can buy my own copy.

12:09 PM  

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