Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Biting the Hand that Feeds Back

Having confidence in your writing ability - even once it's been proven - can be a very hard thing to do. Yep, buckle up, folks, this is another one of my jaunts into the psychology of writing. I'm dealing with a slightly unusual topic; receiving positive feedback. There are loads of blogs about how to deal with negative feedback, criticism and general negativity, but sometimes positive feedback can have its own psychological knots attached.

I'm in just such a situation right now. I'm in the process of getting feedback from various friends on 'Heaven Can Wait' - while in the meantime trying to sort out cover art, world-building and an outline for book 2. So far, I've only had one response, from AJ Alto, AKA @AJAlto, AKA 'Run!'

Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, let's just say the feedback AJ sent me was very good. With wanting to blow my own trumpet (and hey, no-one else is going to do it for me. No, not that trumpet. Perv), AJ told me the book is engaging, exciting, moving and - but for two minor grammatical points and a couple of character tweaks - ready to publish. Given that less than 6 weeks before sending her a copy, I hadn't even dreamt up the idea, that's incredible.

And therein lies the problem. I wouldn't go quite so far as to call AJ sane and rational, but she's an experienced writer and I have a great deal of respect for her wit and judgement. Therefore, I should - and do - trust her. But if the book's that good, and I can write a book that good in six weeks, why the hell would I do anything else? I should be dropping everything else and writing book 2, while rushing to get book 1 up on Amazon.

Actually, I sort of am doing that, but I'm not rushing nearly as fast as I could - centrally, I haven't started formatting the text for Kindle or EPub yet. So do I actually not trust AJ? If you trust someone, you follow their advice - that's what trust means. If you believe someone's judgement correct, it's irrational - mad - to go against it. So am I mad?

I'm cautious. Caution is a good virtue for a writer to possess. I spent too long as a teenager fantasising that the new project, the one I was then working on, was the one that would make me rich - once or twice, I even put money where my dreams were and got burned (low point; starting a zine, getting a hundred copies printed, and selling only 25).

There's a balance to be struck between caution and trust, as there is in all human affairs (okay, that was obnoxiously pretentious). In this case, I'm leaning - and possibly erring - on the side of caution because I want to take the time to get my launch right (though I'm still seriously entertaining the idea of publishing in early July).

I'm also seeking the opinion of other beta readers, because there is always the possibility that for some reason 'Heaven Can Wait' resonates specially for AJ and not for other people, and you should never assume one person's opinion is univesal, however knowledgeable that person is.

Incidentally, if you're interested in 'Heaven Can Wait', there are two (overlapping) samples here and here, and I'm still happy to accept more betas - message me on twitter (@eatthepen) or leave a comment if you're interested.


  1. Yes, I know how you feel. It doesn't matter how many times nor from whom I hear that my work is good, I don't believe it.

    You can't appeal to everybody, of course, and somebody will always hate your stuff, so you have to learn to trust the ones you approach.

    I like the idea of being cautious. That's a very wise piece of advice to end on.

  2. Heya, I finally made it here. I love your post. And no, you're not mad. Caution is a good thing, indeed. However, I also respect AJ, but it's always good to check with others as well.

    In fact, I will check out the samples tomorrow and tell you what I think. ;)

    And LOL, from AJ Alto, AKA @AJAlto, AKA 'Run!'

    Anyway, it's nice to read about such experiences. You're right, too many posts on negative feedback. Well, I should post one about actually LOVING it (which I totally do and people look at me funny). So... yeah, thanks! :P

  3. Try this. Read the draft I sent you of mine. Do you like it? AJ did. If you don't, and she did, maybe you need to rethink. If you like it, then roll on brother, we're geniuses & she's got an eye for talent. :P

    I'm joking, but as a test, it'll really work.