With the release on April 15 of my latest book, Triple Burn, I know well the giddiness and sense of accomplishment that accompanies "The End" on a book manuscript. It never grows old.
There's a momentary lapse when the author heaves a big sigh and says, "It's finished." But it isn't really finished, and the savvy author knows that. Editing and revision and formatting have yet to come.
Many people get the same heady sense of relief and accomplishment when completing a project, whether it's related to writing or not. For instance, a carpenter can stand back and admire the beauty of the chest of drawers he finished. An electrician can flip a switch and feel satisfaction that everything hooked up operates as it should. A gardener harvests the fruits and vegetables of his labors.
"The End" is only just the beginning, whether that beginning is another phase of the project or another project entirely.
Sometimes, "The End" means the severance of a relationship. The tension and anxiety leading up to that severance cause lost sleep, indigestion, worry, and other problems. I've been going through that lately with a client. There's fault to be found on both sides, but the problem remains that I find it increasingly difficult to work for this client. Whether I finished the project or terminate the contract, I will feel relief once I can affix "The End" to it.
"The End" also pertains to the feeling that things are crashing down about one's ears and the subsequent crush and humiliation of failure will force me into doing what I absolutely, positively do not want to do or force me to quit doing what I love to do and what I believe excel at doing. "The End" doesn't necessarily translate to "happily ever after," but might be the harbinger of personal tragedy.
"The End." Those two small words convey enormous meaning and emotion.
Every author gets a bad review. Somewhere out there is someone who simply does not like what you write or feels the need to take you down. It happens. Get over it. Suck it up.
Y'all know that's easier said than done.
If you're the type to check reviews on your books and you come across the inevitable negative review, do not respond. Do not engage. Step back and examine the review for validity.
Responding to a negative review usually does nothing good, especially if that reviewer is spoiling for a fight. Do not feed the trolls.
Some negative reviews lack validity. You find the technical incompetent who combines a 1-star review with glowing compliments on the book. Sometimes you find a disgruntled buyer who purchased a book, but received the wrong product or only partial delivery of the product. That's not the author's fault. Sometimes you find an offended reviewer who expected one thing and got another. That happens pretty frequently in romance when a reader expected something sweet and clean and got a steamy read.
Disregard those negative reviews. They don't help.
If you receive negative reviews complaining that those readers expected a full story and got a cliffhanger--and many will automatically assign a 1-star review to such books--then be sure to alert potential readers in the book description that your book ends on a cliffhanger. If you're transparent about the cliffhanger, then those who don't like cliffhangers will avoid your book. Sure, that diverts book sales, but it also avoids negative reviews.
Valid reviews, however, merit further examination. Consider what the reviewer disliked about your book. Did the reviewer complain about poor grammar or other copy errors? If so, then hire a competent editor. Did the reviewer gripe about plot holes, inconsistencies, and other flaws? If so, then hire a competent editor. Did the reviewer simply not like what happened in the story? If so, then perhaps consider not reusing that kind of plot in future books.
Here's an example. One book I published received overall negative reviews: The Barbary Lion. Readers did not like the raw, harsh quality of the story: it wasn't sufficiently romanticized. I admit to being surprised, because abduction romances are popular, really popular. The lesson learned was that readers don't want too much realism in that type of romance. Of the few reviews this book received, one reviewer got it:
Did I change the story? No. However, I did make a note of what readers prefer and check myself when my storytelling becomes a little too raw or harsh.
In the end, though, I write to please myself. While reviews may influence what I write, they don't determine it. Most reviews can be taken with a grain of salt; the negative ones may have good medicine that a bit of sweetener in the form of a lesson learned may make palatable.
#HollyBargo #HenHousePublishing @HollyBargoBooks
This week's blog prompt concerns prologues: are they helpful or hurtful? Personally, I think they're overused, mostly by authors who ought to know better and don't do a very good job of incorporating them into the story. Such authors use prologues to dump a wheelbarrow load of backstory because they lack the skill to weave in the backstory without an information dump.
Yep, I can be harsh.
That said, I used a prologue in a book once. Once. (Remember Danny Vermin in the movie Johnny Dangerously?) I used a prologue in The Diamond Gate, because the book picks up where a lesser known fairy tale ends and I thought that readers ought to have a glimmer of that fairy tale before plunging into the story. I don't know whether the prologue did the job I wanted it to do. I think I've sold about half a dozen copies of the book and no one ever left a review. The utter lack of feedback as well as sales basically deserves an insouciant shrug of dismissal of yet one more literary failure chalked up to the growing mountain of experience.
Most prologues are completely unmemorable. In fact, the only prologues I can recall are those in David Eddings' Belgariad series which I read when they were first published way back in the 1980s, you know, the dark ages before the internet. Honestly, though, I don't know whether I recall them because they were good. Today's critics of fantasy disparage Eddings' work, although I always enjoyed the sardonic humor of his books. Of course, they don't think too much of Terry Brooks' Shannara series either. No matter, I liked them.
My basic thought regarding prologues is that if your book needs one, then make it the first chapter. Or do a better job of plotting out the story. The reader should not need to read the prologue to understand the story.
Of course, I feel the same about epilogues, too.
No, I'm not referring to the movie, excellent though it was. This week's blog challenge prompt asks whether participants have any odd, useless talents. While others may consider me odd, I don't think I have any specific talents that could be so described. Useless? That's another story.
I'm good with words, specifically written words. For years that talent wasn't considered odd so much as useless. After learning my major and then my degree (in English), people asked me, "Are you going to teach?" If teaching English (or language arts as it's now called) wasn't in my career plan, then the consensus was that my particular talent wasn't particularly useful.
I disagree, of course.
I draw better than most, but certainly not well enough to make a living at it. I'm not particularly artistic. I enjoy music, but have no aptitude for playing an instrument or singing. I have no weird physical ability, like double-jointed flexibility. I consider myself smart, but not within the realms of genius. I can't claim clairvoyance or other spiritual/metaphysical/psychic ability.
When you think about, I'm pretty darned average.
So, rather than gripe about how no one understood me and disparaged me, I'll just say that, no, I haven't any odd and useless talents. Actually, I wouldn't say that I have any odd talents, like juggling or knowing the brand of chocolate by its taste. Useless, however, is a matter of perception.
In other news, Bear of the Midnight Sun received another 5-star review. Now that makes my day!
This week's blog challenge prompt focuses on the differences between collecting and hoarding. It's my guess that the difference between collecting and hoarding is rather like the difference between erotica and pornography: hard to explain, but you know it when you see it.
The difference may be in the type of thing collected. Like cats. I apparently collect cats. Six live in my house and one in the barn. The barn cat is a "working" cat; she controls the vermin population. Unlike those who hoard cats, I am able to care for those under my roof. No one steps into my house to find feces and dead animals scattered throughout. (Okay, sometimes a cat overshoots the litter box. That gets cleaned up quickly, though.)
I do, of course, wonder why so many people view having cats as aberrant behavior. In the romances I read, especially the "new adult" romances, the young heroines bemoan their loneliness and bitterly complain about becoming one of those crazy cat ladies. Why is having a cat or two so much worse than having a dog or two?
After all, dogs are needy creatures. I know, I've seldom gone for so much as a year without a dog. Currently, I have a big, yellow-bellied coward of a Great Dane. Talk about needy ... zeesh.
The nice thing about cats is that they take you on their terms. They like your or they don't. If they do, then they make delightful companions. Cats provide us with a lot of entertainment. Don't believe me? When's the last time you saw a cat video on social media?
So, collecting means one acquires multiples of the same type of thing: stamps, coins, cats, etc. That naturally sends my mind winging toward the correct names for groups of things. (Yeah, I'm weird that way.) So, we all know from Agatha Christie that a group of crows is called a murder. Collective nouns give rise to some interesting word and image associations. Think of it: a group of hogs is called a drift. There's nothing "drift-like" about swine. They're solid, heavy creatures. One might think of a more suitable term, such as a "bog" or a "squeal" of pigs. Soldiers and peacocks come in musters. There's some justification for that, when one thinks of old fashioned uniforms in their bright, bold colors, fancy braid, and shiny buttons and medals.
But hoarding: that bears a connotation of too much. Too many cats to take care of, too many knickknacks to display properly, too many books for the shelves. I hoard books. Yes, I admit to the vice and I'm not ashamed. Anyone intrepid enough to take a look at my too-be-read pile downloaded to my Kindle will realize that I truly enjoy frivolous reading and that I have enough books to last more a couple of years, even if I read one a day. E-books enable discreet hoarding.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is happy to reciprocate Blog Swaps in 2019.
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