Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keepin' it real...

For those of you who think being an author is all fame and fortune (HA!), here's a sampling of some of the reviews, emails, and conversations that have kept me humble.
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"An intriguing beginning, but the plot soon sinks into predictability and the characters become more shallow and underdeveloped as the story progresses."
A conversation:
Her: "How much did you have to pay the publishing house?"
Me: "Actually, they paid me."
Her: "Well, I know you might get royalties and stuff, but how much did you have to pay to get your book printed? Like, a couple thousand dollars?"
Me: "No, they paid me."
Her: "I don't think you understand my question."
"Boring and depressing."
"Your main character (Julia) has no integrity. I felt nothing for her."
"I bought your book because one reviewer compared you to Lisa Samson. You are nothing like Lisa Samson." (Well, I know that! Who could compare?)
"I will never read another one of your books."
*     *     *     *
Ouch! And yet, I can't help laughing. Don't get me wrong, I didn't always laugh... In fact, some of the above comments brought me to tears and made me think I should quit this writing gig altogether. But hey, maybe three years in the business (my first book came out in the fall of 2007!) has toughened me up a bit. Or helped me to realize that not everyone is going to love what I do. But I love doing it, and as long as they'll keep publishing me I'll keep writing!
And for those of you who are aspiring writers, start toughening up that elephant skin! We can compare bad reviews someday. :)


  1. So irritated with Blogger right now... My line spacing/fonts/pictures/etc. are all off. Please forgive the tiny print, huge spaces, and lack of interesting image. I have one, but it won't load... Grrr.

  2. Oh Nicole, I know it must be so discouraging sometimes to pour yourself into your work and then receive comments like these. I would venture to guess that you receive a lot more encouraging, positive comments than critical ones, but criticism sometimes succeeds in overshadowing the praise.

    Let me tell you why I ADORE your books. The first time I read Leaves I was immediately drawn in by your exquisite writing style; you have this extraordinary gift of creating prose that allows the reader to "experience" your story. But at the same time, the prose isn't too over-the-top, which assures clarity and a comfortable reading pace. I also love your use of imagery. It engages the senses and encourages an intimate and involved interaction with the story and its characters.

    I also love that your plots and characters are engaging, realistic and relatable. I appreciate how you present themes of grace and of "beauty in the mire" in a way that doesn't tie everything up in a neat little bow. It has given me the opportunityt to recognize my own story within those of your characters.

    Keep allowing God to speak through you and your writing. I am so excited about your next release!

  3. Here's on of my own favorites (though I admit it took me quite a while before the sting faded). These are select excerpts from a 3500 word review of Hands (yeah, 3500 words, she REALLY hated it) titled "Dirty Tricks" printed in one of Australia's premier literary journals for women.

    "Dodginess is rife in the background of this text… I am horrified by this author’s choice of story. So many stories could be told: why choose to expose this aspect of Indonesia, especially in these times of brittle understandings?... Given the way the text works by multiple connotations, innuendo, and juxtaposition, I can only conclude that Muslims are under attack in the subtlest of ways… It’s tricky; the author has been creative indeed to couch common prejudices in a narrative that appears to be fair… The representation of Indonesia and its people, even its environment, in Hands is in my view damaging Christian propaganda."

    I still remember reading that for the first time. And I remember us talking about bad reviews on the couch in Michigan. I treasure my memory of that conversation.

    And by the way, I think you are an uncommonly gifted writer, and an outstandingly quality human being to boot.

    Sending love, Lis

  4. Can't please everyone, that's for sure! It's such a subjective business. I've been a little discouraged lately because of a couple quick rejections I got on the new proposal my agent submitted a couple weeks ago. But then I have to remind myself that it only takes one! Thanks for keeping it real, Nicole.

  5. You're books are lovely Niki.... I guess it's the exact same in my field; people can say some pretty harsh comments sometimes. But loving what you do is all that matters, being vulnerable and expressing yourself is the best thing for you, I think! It will touch others if it's straight from the heart!

  6. I love your books. I do not want you to stop writing. :)

  7. You guys are too sweet. But I wasn't fishing for compliments, I swear! I'm not really even sure why I felt like posting about the sometimes crummy side of publishing... I guess partly because it's there, and it's one of those things you just have to laugh about. I realize that my books aren't for everyone, the same way every book is not for me. And I think there is something to learn in every negative encounter. Temper the comments with a little civility and I have some constructive feedback there. For example, the person who thought my book was boring made me strive in subsequent books to keep the plot moving. I think it's ultimately made me a better writer.

    Any-hoo, thanks so much for your kind words! I didn't expect them, but they're nice all the same. And don't worry, I'm nowhere near done writing. :)

  8. I hope this will make you feel better. These aren't reviews of books but rejection slips with editors comments. Even editors can be idiots...

    From rejection slip for George Orwell's Animal Farm: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”

    From rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It: “These stories have trees in them.”

    From rejection slip sent to Rudyard Kipling:
    “I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

    From rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank: “The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

    Rejection slip for Dr. Seuss’s And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street: “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”

  9. Too funny, Doris! I certainly don't consider myself in league with the authors you mentioned, but it's nice to know that even the "greats" had their detractors. Norman MacLean's rejection cracks me up!

  10. I know I'm a bit behind on posting a comment, but for the record, I LOVE your books :) Thanks for writing them. They've truly inspired me, both as a reader and a writer. (And I seriously cannot wait for Beneath the Night Tree!)