Okay, so… being an author is funny. Not funny in the, “Oh, haha, this is a barrel of shits and giggles,”—though, I struggle to find the joy in a barrel of shit—but funny in the more accurate, “I pour my heart and soul into every word of this piece of paper and then ask people I will never meet to shred it to literary pieces because I seek validation by my peers and already know I’m a hack but I will keep writing and do it all over again because I am also a masochist,” way.
Yeah, you know what I mean, fellow fledgling author. I see you, there. And if you don’t know what I mean, well, just wait. Come back when you get your first taste and we will commiserate together.
“Why keep writing when apparently I really suck at it? What’s the point?!”
For those not interested in writing that might be reading this, I am sure you are sitting there in your bubble of self-confidence wondering why on Earth any human would do something so self-flagellating. Well let me just throw a few quick reasons out there:
- It helps us hone our craft. Sometimes getting ripped apart is the best thing to happen to a book. It makes the author question things and go in to fix them. Fixing usually = better content for you.
- We finally feel right! I’ve said before, there are two types of writers: One who thinks everything they touch is literary gold (regardless of the truth), and one who just knows it’s not good enough no matter how much they work on it and everyone who says it’s great is just placating you because they feel sorry for you or want to spare your feelings. (No, I couldn’t possibly be in group number 2.) You’ll be hard pressed to find an author who falls within the very narrow margin between the two.
- It keeps us honest. This almost goes with number 1, but by putting your work out there for critics, you are keeping yourself from developing an ultra-ego, helping prospective readers make a better decision as to whether they want to buy your book. In my opinion, transparency is invaluable when it comes to reviews. Not everyone is going to like your book (we’ll get to that in a moment) and when all people see are glowing reviews, it looks suspicious. I know if I don’t find at least ONE person nit-picking something, no matter how small, then the reviews start to feel disingenuous.
Also, to further explain how our brains work, we can save a lot of time by telling you to just NOT try to understand it. A creative’s brain is a twisty-turny labyrinth of nonsense at the best of times. Many people in my life have personally adopted the “smile and wave” strategy when dealing with me and I think it suits all of us just fine.
But that isn’t the main focus of this blog. As usual, I have derailed from my train of thought and wandered into a field of poppies.
No, I want to spotlight one of the most soul-crushing types of reviews:
The dreaded “DNF”.
For those who are not in-the-know—oh, how I envy your innocence—when you see “DNF” on a book review it means the reader Did Not Finish.
Let me say that again.
A reader, who is the bread-and-butter of your chosen path, who is of a type of personality that usually hungers for more and more books to read, DID. NOT. FINISH. READING. IT.
Nothing could be worse, right? Now you are back to an unformed lump of self-deprecation and hopelessness. All of your dreams and aspirations have been proven to be out of your reach and now you need to go ahead and finish those Insurance classes so you can return to the “real world’ and live out your life as just another wire in the machine of dull, menial, adulting. Right?
Okay, so, it might feel that way, but let’s take a deep breath and put down clipboard and 401k. (Okay, don’t really give up the 401k. You totally need that.)
DNFs happen. They happen all. The. Time. The fact of the matter is, you are not going to please everyone. There might be a million people who love you voice, your style of writing, or your genre, but there is always going to be a million more who are just not into it. Usually, thank God, many of those won’t find their way to you because they will know beforehand that your story isn’t for them. Then there are the few who actually do make it to your book, find it’s not to their taste, and put it away never to look at it again. Even then, it’s not the end of the world. The ones that hurt are the ones who actually review the book, stating that they couldn’t finish.
Yes. Ouch. That smarts.
But, guess what. You’ll still be okay. How do I know this? Because today I got my first DNF review. My initial reaction?
Yeah… I’m not proud. I almost cried. Was ready to just give up and forget it all. Why keep writing when apparently I really suck at it? What’s the point?! Because that’s what you do! Once I settled my overdramatic ass down, I made myself really read the review again. Really take it in and mull the words over, savor them, and allowed myself to step outside of my mental hangups to really figure out what this meant. Do you know what I found?
That it doesn’t really matter.
Sure, hearing that someone just couldn’t even get through my (free!) book hurts me right in the feels, but that’s just one person. One person who, might I add, was actually completely sincere and sweet about how they felt. She didn’t slam my book, blame my writing skills, or in any other way diminish my hard work.
It just was not to her taste. Simple.
You might looooove grilled cheese sandwiches, but if you find you don’t like fig and goat-cheese (or, maybe more accurately, a sandwich filled with government processed cheese product) does that mean the chef isn’t even suited for a school cafeteria? No. You just have a taste for some things, and it didn’t quite hit that mmmm factor. That is basically what this reader did. She was even kind enough to ask that other readers not take her personal tastes as gospel when considering my book. That’s completely fair of her, and who am I to have a tantrum over that?
So, even if you find your book on someone’s DNF reading list, don’t despair. It’s not as bad as it seems at first. Don’t listen to the voice that tells you that one (ONE!) person not being into it means no one else liked it. That voice is lying, and a dick. Breathe. Eat the ice cream. Have the tantrum. Now pick yourself back up and keep at it.