Thursday, May 17, 2007

Handling Criticism

I just received my first critique of an extended stretch (nearly 100 pages) of my suspense novel

The verdict:

There was no ticker-tape parade for me, the conquering hero. No key to the city. No line-up of fatherless strippers come to do my bidding.

Though I suspect, way down deep inside, that some things went unsaid (I should clarify that by saying, some bad things went unsaid. Good things always find voice), overall I would characterize it as a soft good review.

Now, just in case you're wondering, soft good is a whole lot closer to dreadful than it is to really good, at least from the perspective of getting your book published. In order for a company to invest energy, money and brainspace in your novel, they’ve got to love it. Lukewarm affection just ain’t good enough.

A soft good review means--once you accept that your reviewer has a point--that you’ve got serious work to do.

In my case, several of the complaints were relatively minor (and some addressed issues I already had concerns about*). But there was also the more surprising issue of a major character not working and her decision-making seeming inconsistent.

Beyond the criticisms that were raised (and perhaps buried in the unsaid stuff mentioned above), I got no sense that this book would be burning a hole in the reviewer’s desk, demanding to be read.

This, of course, is where the waters get murky, the traveling tough. It’s as if I were a doctor presented with a patient who has a general malaise, a patient with non-specific, I have no energy, Doctor, kind of symptoms.

It’s valuable input, just like the more directed stuff, but it requires more work on my part to divine some corrective action. Before I send this book out into the cruel world for assessment, I’ve got to believe that, for my trusted readers at least, it sings.

*a lesson for another time… Don’t ignore the stuff you already know is broken, hoping that for everyone else it will work.

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