“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
― John Lydgate
As a fairly new writer to Contemporary Romance, I find that I have remind myself of this quote frequently. I have already felt the (mild) sting of a three star review for my first book, Demons. However, it was a well written and honest review, and I was able to take some really good things away from it. The reviewer didn’t get why I had added so much drama, as she described it, into my book. I got it, being that I was the writer, but since I am also a reader of my genre, I understand that readers read and process things differently. A scene that may be gripping or poignant to one, may make another reader stop and ask “What the hell did I just read?” And you know what? That’s OKAY. The world would be a very boring place if we all saw things in exactly the same way.
Part of my personality is to be a ‘people pleaser.’ As a child, I followed the rules set out by my parents, and by doing so, I made them happy. That philosophy, if I dare call it that, followed me into school. While I wasn’t considered the teacher’s pet, by any means, I always felt the need to remain on the good side of my teachers – be it in grammar school or in college. As with my parents, I was devastated if I actually disappointed a teacher. Motherhood for me, was natural continuation of that philosopy. Most mothers naturally strive to keep their children happy. It’s the necessities – clean diapers, bottles, and so forth that babies need. Then it moves into the niceities – an iPhone, a car, expensive clothes, that we may lavish upon our tweens and teens. Many times, mothers (and fathers, for that matter) will go without, in order to give their children things that make them happy.
In a sense, my writing is like giving birth– both my children and my books are creations that came from me. As for my books, I want my readers to be happy with what I produced. So far, Demons has been well received. However, a week ago, I received my very first DNF – Did Not Finish. It was from a new beta reader that was willing to give my second book, Damages, a shot. The beta sent my editor a note stating that she tried, but just couldn’t finish the book. She stated that it was ‘all over the place,’ and even after getting half way through it, she just couldn’t connect with my characters.
I was totally crushed. My writing was all over the place? There were no connections made? I wanted to cry and delete the entire manuscript – all 105,000 plus words that I’d poured my heart and soul into for over five months. I felt that I had let someone down, and that did not sit well with me. I even found myself doubting my abilities as a writer. But, then I remembered the quote above. I am not going to be able to please all the people all the time. If I can’t keep that front and center in my brain, then I’m going to fall apart with each and every negative review my books receive – and I’d be foolish to think that’s never going to happen.
After I regrouped, I remembered that my other betas enjoyed the book. They thought the story flowed well, and were able to feel a connection with the characters in the way I had intended. Damages, after all, was a difficult book for me to write. It dealt with both the physical and sexual abuse that my main character, Mary Andrews, suffered as a child, and the fallout that followed. Unfortunately, that fallout was in the form of an abusive marriage. Not all readers will like the premise, nor will everyone like my writing style. For one beta, it hit a little too close to home. She actually had to step away from the story for a day before resuming. That told me I was able to connect with at least one person.
I did not write Damages to be the dark, graphic novel that it could have been, but I do realize the topic can be a bit too much for some. Instead, I focused the story on Mary stumbling across that ‘right someone’ – in this case, Justin MacLane – who helped her see that she was not the damaged woman she thought she was. Along her journey, Mary discovered that she was able to survive some pretty horrific things, and yet still get up and live each new day to its fullest. As for me, a negative review or even a DNF, aren’t the worst things that could happen. Perhaps, in this case, I could really learn a thing, or two, from Mary.