Dealing with feedback

For anyone interested in writing and the issues that go along with it, I’d really recommend Mark Charan Newton’s blog. Mark’s a member of the BL team, but he’s also the author behind books such as City of Ruin for Tor, so knows what he’s taking about from both the author’s and the publisher’s point of view. I came across this post on reviews a while back, which gave me some food for thought.

As my current project progresses (slowly), I’ve naturally been keeping an eye on the reviews for Sword of Justice. Recently I posted a link for a blog review where the reviewer loved it; today, I came across one where the reviewer hated it. Like, really hated it – looks like he didn’t get very far into the book before giving up (which I guess raises its own questions, but hey). In the interests of balance, here’s the link.

It’s an interesting experience, trying to make sense of very different views on your work, particularly when there are some polarised opinions out there. It would be nice, perhaps, to be able to remain entirely detached and approach every bit of feedback with cool equanimity. Sadly, though I’m sure it indicates some kind of deep character flaw, I find it almost impossible to do – my instinct on reading a negative review is to become instantly defensive and try to find reasons why the criticisms aren’t fair. Of course, that’s not going to get you very far. Anyone who’s spent good money to buy a book has a right to say what they thought of it, and there are plenty of times where the criticisms pick out something that really has gone wrong.

So Mark’s post struck a chord with me. There’ll always be a spectrum of responses, and reading novels is an irreducibly subjective business – there’s no book written that hasn’t been hated by someone (and loved by someone too). The key thing is to try to take what you can from the reviews, and use them to make your stuff better. I guess the ultimate zen-like state to aspire to is when you can receive praise and brickbats in equal measure, taking on board the useful stuff from each.

In other news, much progress has been made on my latest 40K project. There’s a fair bit that’s ended up on the cutting-room floor, and there are some difficult episodes up ahead, but – thankfully – the halfway point looms…

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