Monday, March 30, 2015

Want to Write? Better be a Pachyderm

Pachyderm (noun): any of various nonruminant mammals (as an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus) of a former group (Pachydermata) that have hooves or nails resembling hooves and usually thick skin.

So you want to be a writer. Then you'd better be a pachyderm. That is, have an "usually thick skin." Here's why:

What does a writer do? They create something. It's an labor of love. You pour your heart and soul and time and caffeine into it.

And then you put it out of the public to react to it and see what happens. And what might happen is someone hates it. Someone might give it a bad review.

Here's some comments from 2-star reviews I've had (so far I've had no 1-star reviews):

" . . .so much of the plot is poorly explained, or not explained at all. The grammer [sic] is poor and words are confusing , , ,leads me to believe the author is unfamiliar with a thesuarus [sic]."

" Lots of long exposition; technological details that didn't add to the story; heavy handed or stilted conversation by the protagonists; etc."

Or worse than a bad review: a rejection. Just this week I got a rejection email from a publisher I really wanted to work with. They were at first encouraging, saying the work made it past the initial review. But then, after having the novel for nearly 6 months, sent this:

" . . . we have decided to pass on publication at this time. We wish you the best of luck with your future works." (Which sucks more, a form letter or a form email?)

What is a writer to do?

You can have two reactions, I suppose: get upset and swear you're never going to write again, or learn from it, realize that different people have different tastes. If the criticism is constructive, learn from it.

Another example. I have a novel I'm working on. I've had three people from my writers' group beta read it. And I've gone through two of the beta's so far and while they didn't hate the novel, they had huge problems with one character and minor problems with others. So I'm giving my characters a good long look. And I'm about to start the third beta and see what that person has to say.

How do you grow to be a pachyderm? Confidence in your own abilities help. The other is to realize most criticism is sincere and not an attach on you (although in that first 2-star review quoted above, I'm not sure the person just didn't like me personally for some reason). Grow and learn and use the feedback to improve your art. And don't take it personally.

Be a pachyderm.

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