Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Making Lemons into Hard Lemonade...


I recently received a “not so shiny” review for my novel, “To Stand with Angels”. Initially, I was devastated. The only thoughts in my head were, 1) “Where did it all go wrong?” and 2) “Oh dear Lord, it’s too late to fix it! My novel is going to flop before it even gets out of the publisher’s gate and I can’t even fix it.”

I’ll admit it. I cried like a baby for about half an hour. I cried because I gotten a bad review. I punched the wall… and then I cried because punching the wall hurt and I’d gotten a bad review.

But, then came hope. It showed up by way of an email from a writer colleague, who will here remain unnamed but shall forever be remembered. She said, “All authors must cope with not so stellar reviews.”

I was confounded. Have most authors gotten a bad review at some point in their writing career? Have they had to see the hard work of their hands criticized by someone who could have no idea how much love, devotion, and time they’d poured into each character, each scene of dialogue, each blessed kiss, moan, or sigh? Her words resonated with truth. Of course they had! It made perfect sense.

My revelation was; “Music is subjective. Art is subjective. Writing is subjective. Therefore, reading must also be subjective since, in its own way, it is an expression of personality and taste. No one person can please everyone, why should I be any different?”

I quickly returned to the critic’s webpage and re-read her review twice.

The first thing that I noticed was that only my plot device had been criticized. Not the setting, not the grammar, not the dialogue, not the construction of characters themselves, just the plot twist. She never even said I was a “bad writer”. Only that she didn’t like the end. And, as I finished her final, cringe-inducing conclusion, “So here is your warning. To Stand With Angels has a nice start, but an unfortunate ending…” another thought struck home.

Why was I so upset? I had done exactly what I’d wanted to do with my novel.

Sure, this particular reader’s reaction was not what I’d been shooting for, but my plot had achieved its desired effect. I had intended the book to make a complete 180 half-way through (the idea taken, in part, from Quentin Tarrantino’s “From Dusk ‘til Dawn”).

I had intended it to seem like a normal, western romance, only to be torn from its comfy little world of reality and plunged into a demonic chaos about ten chapters in. That was why I had written a western/paranormal/horror romance in the first place. And here I was crying because, basically, I was told my book had done exactly what I wanted it to do. A-MAZ-ing. Can I really find complaint with that? Heck no!

In conclusion, I have this to say to my beloved fellow authors. You will never write a novel that makes every reader happy. You may never write a novel that makes a majority of the readers happy. You may never even write a novel that makes one hundred people happy…

BUT, if you succeed in writing your vision, if you succeed in making yourself happy, then there will always be one reader who loves your work no matter what. YOU!

And that’s how you make hard lemonade out of lemons… Here's to all us authors who've gotten a "less than stellar" book review. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Personal taste never tasted so good.




  1. Enjoyed the post, CJ! Keep up the good work,


  2. Hi CJ,
    You may not realize it, but this is an encouraging article for all of us. Thanks for posting.

  3. Great post, CJ. Always good to be reminded that what's NOT said is just as important (even more so?) than what is!

    And bravo for accomplishing what you set out to do!

  4. Kudos to you for taking the review for what it's worth - one person's opinion. Don't ever let anyone stand in your way of doing what you love. Cheers!

  5. You know, sometimes a review like that actually drives readers to grab up that book just to see what the reviewer DIDN'T like. You never know! Best of luck to you. :)

  6. Well all I can say is at least you got a review!!!LOL bad, as it was! My novel has been out for months and has not even had ONE!! I began to get paranoid that maybe it wasn't even good enough to be reviewed. Then I decided 'what the hell' Reviews are opinions, thats all. I get plenty of them from my readers and they all loved The Heart of a Warrior. Thats the only review I need.

    Chin up, move on. Thats the best advice we can give and take.

  7. All of you have offered very kind words and great advice. Thank you!


  8. Sounds like you've been able to put this into perspective -- good on you.