When people read my books, I want honest opinions.
No, really, I do.
I know writers say that all the time, and then, if you give them a speck of criticism, they’ll turn around and argue with you for the next thirty minutes about why they needed to make it the way they did. They’ll imply or flat-out state that you’re wrong or uneducated or, if they’re feeling generous, maybe just mistaken in the honest negative opinion you’ve given.
Which, more often than not, is rather stupid – and on multiple levels.
For instance, the act of reading is a very personal process. We all have subject matter we’re interested in or not interested in, genres we can’t get enough of and ones we could care less about, and styles of writing we’re attracted to vs. those we just can’t stand.
I remember being in a creative writer’s critique group years and years ago, and it was my turn to submit a chapter. One of the other members ended up telling me he lost interest in my fantasy tale (the then not-yet-published Faerietales Book 1: Not So Human) after he read my description of a prominent character, who happened to have purple eyes. To him, that was just something he considered to be an annoying fantasy cliché.
Fair enough. I actually appreciated his feedback, considered it for several days, and then ultimately rejected it.
He was more than entitled to his opinion. I think it was a valid one too, or at least not an invalid one. But I couldn’t visualize my character with anything but purple eyes. Plus, nobody else in the critique group had a problem with that detail. So I decided to leave it as-is.
It was simply a difference of opinion, which is allowed and understandable. He’s as entitled to his as I am to mine.
Much more recently, I submitted the first chapter of the not-yet-published Faerietales Book 5: Flights of Fancy to my Meetup group, and they told me I had too much exposition going on.
Fair enough. I greatly appreciated that feedback too. Though this time, I didn’t consider it for several days before making a decision. I went right to work fixing the issue since it wasn’t a matter of personal tastes; it was simply a fact that I had given too much backstory and too little plot development.
At this point, you might be saying something along the lines of, “Blah blah blah. Chirp chirp. Beep beep. Those are critique group examples. It’s not like people were criticizing your published books, so you’ve proven nothing so far.”
Completely true. Yet I still stand by my original statement. I still want honest opinions.
If you like my books, wonderful! As I know I’ve said before, I love hearing about how awesome my characters and story lines and plot twists are.
But if you don’t like it, then I’d also like to know about it, complete with specifics so I can improve in the future.
I’m not going to say I won’t be disappointed. And please don’t take this as permission to be a jerk. If you utterly hated something I wrote, please choose your words carefully, keeping in mind that the old adage of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is pretty inaccurate.
Words can hurt a whole lot.
They can even hurt when they’re well meant.
Even so, I’d rather take that kind of constructive criticism than a pity opinion (almost) any day.
On that note, I do have to say that just because a reader doesn’t like something I wrote doesn’t mean I’ll automatically change it. It might not even be a matter of different opinions either. Sometimes readers are simply wrong.
They missed something. Or they’re misinformed about something. Or perhaps they’re just downright incorrect.
As a reader myself, been there. Done that. And I don’t expect my own readers to be any less infallible.
But regardless, feel free to be honest with me.
You now have it in writing if I ever respond badly to constructive criticism.
P.S. If it's a matter of ratings, then this conversation never happened.