Sunday, April 3, 2016

Having a thick skin

by Kristi Belcamino

If you want to survive in this writerly bookish business, one of the best things to do (besides being stubborn as hell) is to develop a thick skin regarding what other people think about your books.

I was very lucky that a career spent in newspaper reporting prepared me for people saying, well, let's face it, awful things at times.

But you might be a tad more sensitive than me.

Here's why you should develop a thick skin from the beginning:

By not being so attached to your words and by realizing they are not precious, you are more open to hearing what someone else says to improve your book and your writing. This is SO IMPORTANT.

I have an amazing writer's group. It is very rare that I send anything out into the world without this group of people taking a look at it first. In addition, I also have a few very trusted readers who will give me feedback when I ask.

For instance, in the fifth book in my series, I'm taking a different approach. Instead of first person present tense, I'm writing it third person. I sent the first chapter to select members of my street team to weigh in on it. I don't want to piss off or alienate all my readers by switching things up this far into the game. But the feedback was great. Everyone liked it, so I'm moving forward in that direction.

But back to having a thick skin. You need a thick skin throughout the publishing process because it will help you deal with:

* Feedback on your rough draft from early readers
* Criticism from agents
* Rejection from editors considering the book for publication
* Reviews from readers and critics

See, it never ends.

You can *attempt* to avoid this by not reading reviews. Good luck with that. I've never been able to avoid reading my reviews. But one thing to keep in mind throughout the entire process is this general rule of thumb that begins when you first seek feedback on a rough draft:

If three or more people say something, I pay attention.
If two or more people say something and it seems to make a little bit of sense, I pay attention.
If one person says something and it resonates with me, I pay attention.

You can apply this to reviews as well.

I found it absolutely fascinating that when editors rejected my first book, two different editors would give completely opposite opinions.

For instance, maybe one would say my dialogue was unrealistic while the other editor said my dialogue was extremely authentic.

Hearing comments like that make it easier to swallow rejection. Everybody has a different opinion and that's okay.

However, if three editors had come back saying they thought my dialogue was unrealistic, you bet I would've gone back and taken a look at my dialogue!

In reviews of my four books, people have different takes on Gabriella's go-for-it, fearless personality:

Some people call her dumb. Others call her brave. It just depends on your perspective.

Last week for Throwback Thursday I posted a picture of  myself in the cockpit of an FA/18 fighter jet as we took off from an airport in Monterey. To my surprise, several people wrote I was brave and that they'd be afraid to fly with the Blue Angels.

I can honestly say I was surprised. To me, flying in a jet was not "brave." It was exhilarating and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I was never afraid so it was not brave to do so - in my opinion.

See, that's the take away, we all have different opinions. Realizing that helps you to have a thick skin and not take all criticism personally. Sure, there are going to be comments that really sting or deflate you for a little bit, but let them go.

Not everybody is going to like your writing or your book and that's okay.


Dana King said...

If comments and criticism form a consensus, anyone would be a fool to ignore it. Barring a consensus, I tend to ignore half of all criticism and not pay attention the rest. If these guys know so much, how come such a low percentage of books are successful?

Kristi said...

I agree. Consensus is key.

Steve Weddle said...

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
― Neil Gaiman