Ego Check

I was honored to have a book club in Maryland choose my first solo book, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, as its September selection. Unfortunately,  I was unable to participate via Skype, but the coordinator (a fellow Hoya who was a year behind me in undergrad) gave me comments from the club.

Me: “So, how did your book club like the book?”

Hoya: “There were mixed reviews.”

Me: :/

As Erykah Badu once said, “Now keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my sh**.” 😀

It’s been a long time since I participated in a book club, so I had forgotten that if a book club is truly worth its salt, it will take a book apart.  It’s just about liking or disliking the book so members can move on to the potluck meal. They will get into a book’s character development , plot pacing, editing and grammar, and plot weaknesses. Anything that is the least bit tight about a book, will become exposed. Book clubs are better than reviews by singular people because you get a larger sample group, the book feedback is in real time (reviewers often get copies of books way ahead of a publication date, and review accordingly), and you get a reader’s perspective instead of a professional one. But don’t sleep: the opinion of a book club can be twice as brutal. If an author can survive his or her book being a book club’s monthly selection, then you’re doing something right.

The feedback from the book club was immeasurable, although my mental reactions ranged from  “Hmm…I thought that was pretty good” to “Yeah…I probably shouldn’t have done that” to “I see your point, but I wrote XYZ this way for a reason.”  Only one other person has done this so far, but he was an old writing partner, so I expected his critiques to be harsher and more detailed. Ain’t no critiques like fellow writer critiques. 😀

But yeah…the ego was a bit black and blue after hearing what the book club had to say. They also had some questions that would better be addressed during my upcoming Twitter chat about the book on October 7 (save the date! #TheCamilleChronicles #BFC)

No author wants to hear that their book wasn’t great, especially when receiving positive feedback overall, as I have so far (and since my sales are steadily increasing, readers are telling other readers about the book, for which I am appreciative and grateful).  Still, it’s a bit of a gut punch to hear that there was room for improvement–even though, as a writer, I know that there is ALWAYS room for improvement, and that the first book is usually the worst, comparatively speaking.  The constructive criticism validated that little voice that kept second-guessing some of my writing choices for the published version. (“See? I KNEW I should have kept X scene in!”). Still, I wouldn’t have known any of this had I kept the book in its unpublished form, constantly rewriting, putting off publication because I needed to change one more thing–and I was afraid of what people would say about my writing.

The lesson here? You usually aren’t as good as you think you are. 😀 The best way to get better at writing is to keep writing, keep putting your stuff out there, keep getting feedback, listening to it, and applying it for future reference.

An author’s book will never be good enough in his or her eyes. The best we can do is to keep trying, and put out the best product we can…but we must put it out there for public consumption. The only way we can grow as writers is to take the good, bad, and indifferent criticisms–all of which should be legitimate. Comments about editing, plot, grammar, etc are one thing to listen to; but for someone to say “it sucks” or “I didn’t like it” for no good reason, well…I wouldn’t suggest paying attention to those unless concrete reasons are given. Some people won’t like your work just because you did it.  And that’s okay.

The book club’s comments have helped me, and I thank them (and asked that my thanks be passed on). At least they expressed interest in when the next book in the series is being released, so I didn’t do too badly. 😀  I will apply their critiques as I work on the next books. The author who ignores constructive criticism on some “they don’t understand me/I’m an ar-TEEST” ish is a stagnant writer, and one who won’t succeed very much in this writing game. And if you can’t take criticism, then you’re in the wrong business.

Now, excuse me while I nurse my bruised ego and work on my next book. Thanks for stopping by.




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