Sunday Afternoon Ramblings

My good friend, Stephen Zimmer, tells me all the time I’m too sensitive and need to grow a thicker skin, but negative reviews always bother me.  My rational, analytical side understands that as a writer I can’t expect to please everyone.  Some of the greatest books ever written have received terrible reviews through the years.  People’s tastes range across an infinite spectrum of likes and dislikes.  Rationally, I recognize that worry over a negative review is wasted time and energy.

However, it bothers me on an emotional level.  Each book I’ve written is nearly as special to me as my sons.  I work extremely hard to develop my skills and craft my stories.  Eight years removed from writing book one, I do recognize some of the flaws, especially in the first three to four pages.  However, I still believe it’s a good, solid book that sets the table for the larger series.  There’s foreshadowing in book one (Hell, in chapter one) that I’m still drawing on in book four.  Yes, if I were writing book one today, it would probably be a better book because I’ve improved as an author, but honestly, I wouldn’t make many substantive changes because it’s a good book.

I’m not going to waste my time refuting negative reviews or defending book one point by point.  Enough readers have enjoyed it that I don’t feel like the book needs defending.  I also recognize that most of the recent negative reviews, like the most recent from Allison’s Book Bag, have not been personal, and I don’t take them as an attack on me.  Two of them did feel personal, but I won’t give either of those individuals the attention they crave by responding to their personal embitterment from whatever shortcomings plague their lives.  All I’ll say is after eight years, three published books, and a new one on the way, I’m still here and still expanding my audience.

While negative reviews do sting and do bother me, I won’t allow them dissuade me from following my path and my style.  I will try to learn from them and improve myself as a writer because I do that even with the positive ones.  I’ll also recognize that negative reviews are a sign of reaching more and more people.  The wider the net, the more likely the series will land in the hands of people who don’t enjoy my style.  That’s just part of it.  I’m going to keep polishing book four, keep learning as a novelist, and keep reaching out to more and more readers.  And when the next negative review comes along, I’ll swallow the bitter pill, grit my teeth, and remain professional about it.

As we used to say in sales after getting a solid no, “Next!”

10 thoughts on “Sunday Afternoon Ramblings”

  1. Alex, you know how much I’ve enjoyed your books and how much I am eagerly awaiting the next one. Everyone I’ve introduced to your books has enjoyed them. People find themselves returning to chapter one to refresh themselves on the information they need.
    Yes, you have grown as a writer – I can see it as I read through your books. That does not mean that your first book is not good. It is. I read the review and find that I disagree with the author of it. However, we both have a right to our opinions. No, not everyone will like them. There are some books that many people like that I do not. For example, my sister and my best friend both love Ender’s Game and I found myself both horrified and repelled by it. That’s okay.
    You just keep writing your books for those of us (and our numbers are growing) who enjoy them.

    1. Thank you, Sandra. I think what bothers me is not so much the review itself, but the thought that some readers might not try the series because of the review.

  2. Okay, I was reading along and was almost prompted to give you a negative review of this entry. Why? Because I would have appalled had you gone on about negative reviews. I mean, sure I have been neglectful of my blog and own writing; but I fell in a hole and have only recently gotten out.

    That said, I am in the process of writing a review of “The Brotherhood of the Dwarves.” Be warned, I am a hack writer (and proud of it), therefore my opinion(s) matter supremely. Heh.

    SPOILER ALERT: I am not a fan of fantasy genre, prefer Star Trek: The Next Generation, and would step on a Hobbit in a heartbeat. However, I read these books of yours. And I have to say that I was pissed (still am), bro! I mean, I actually liked them, found myself rooting for dwarves, an ended book three thinking: “What the fuck is wrong with him?! How can he leave me hanging like this?!” In short, great books, well written, and where is book four?

  3. Hey Alex, don’t sweat them, which you already know.

    I will say, though, that you mention the first three or four pages. If you’ve received complaints about those, why not just rework them with some of your improved writing skills? Since it’s your first chance for an impression with a reader who may buy three (or soon four) books?

    Anyway, that’s what I’d do if those three or four were a problem — at least on the digital editions. But, maybe that’s now what they’re saying (didn’t go read the review you mentioned). Hang in there, man, and keep cranking them out.

    1. Okay, I caught a couple mins break at work and decided to follow up my uninformed comment above. I read her whole review, and I wouldn’t sweat it. At all.

      Dude, she wrote like a whole page about you. You know what that means? You matter. (The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all…)

      Secondly, she compared you to Tolkien. Holy shit, man. She basically said, “Well, this dude Adams used this technique that Shakespeare used, but didn’t pull it off.”

      So, if I’m a fan of Shakespeare, or in this case Tolkien, then I’m jumping on the band wagon because she’s just pointed out someone who writes the way Shakespeare — or Tolkien — writes.

      I’d be thanking her immensely, which I saw you already did. Be strong and be proud.

    2. It’s not as simple as just rewriting it. First, it’s not bad writing, just a little slow. Second, if I start changing the beginning, the whole first half of book one unravels because there’s a lot of subtle foreshadowing at work. Like I said in the blog piece, there’s stuff in chapter one I’m still drawing from now for book four. My regret, what I do recognize as a mistake, was putting too many names in the first three or four chapters. I’m not sure how I could change that now without completely scrapping and rewriting the first three chapters.

      There’s a third factor, as well. That first chapter represents something to me, my rebirth as a writer, if you will. Maybe it’s wrong of me, but I don’t want to change it because of what it means to me on a very personal level.

      1. Ah ha, all those points make sense. Then, don’t sweat it. Your name will continue to grow and and we can all name great books and movies that started a little less than perfect.

        And we’ve all recommended those books and movies by telling friends, “Just hang with it. It gets better after the first ten minutes.”

        Keep writing my man. You’re so close to making it big.

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