Someone WILL Dislike Your Novel, by Lia Weston
Regardless of what you write, there is someone out there who will irrevocably decide that you suck. They may dislike the particular topic you write on. They may think that the end of your story would have been better if there were more explosions or less expositions. They may despise your lead character because they have the same name as a kid who smelt like custard and bullied them at school. They may just hate your author photo because you look too happy. The ‘why’ is not important. (Well, it might not be, but I’ll save that for a later post.) The main thing is that this person just doesn’t like your work.
No-one is immune from a seething reader. The supremely talented, the sublimely subtle, the steady workhorse – all of them will attract someone’s ire at some point. This is easy to prove, too. Think of your favourite book (I know, I know; it’s a Sophie’s Choice of librarian proportions); the one that changed your life and made you curse the fact that you will never be able to produce such genius from your fingertips. Got the title? Great! Go to Goodreads or Amazon and look it up. Now look at the one-star and two-star reviews. Eye-opening, n’est-ce pas?
This exercise is also excellent for a day where you’re feeling like the lumpiest hack to ever approach a page. There’s something strangely comforting in knowing that someone you regard as close to divinity is getting reviews* such as:
- Why was this book written? There were so many morals, I never got the actual point of it.
- A highly forgettable novel with a bleak ending that is not nearly as interesting as it was made out to be.
- I thought it would have been a much better book if a lot less happened.
- Stoopid. Horrible way to start the week.
- (and my personal favourite) I’m really not interested in a fat girl who doesn’t believe in God.
We know deep down that not everyone is going to like everything we write, but to realise that our tastes are really this disparate is an amazing thing. Sure, you can bag the bejeezus out of whatever book du jour is the current industry whipping boy (at the moment, it’s still Fifty Shades of Grey. Still.) but you can guarantee that somewhere, someone will be crediting that book as the reason why they got out of bed, or started reading, or started writing, or kept reading, or kept writing. There is truly something for everyone.
The best thing about the fact that you will one day cop a seething reader is realising that there’s nothing you can do about it. Trying to write so everyone loves you is completely pointless. If Anne of Green Gables – a sweet book with nothing that anyone could possibly take offense to – can get ‘Worst. Book. EVER.’ reviews, you’ve got no hope of pleasing everyone.
Anyway, why would you want to? Do you really want to be the literary equivalent of iceberg lettuce? Embrace your polarising, zesty, bitter rocket self. Not everyone can be to everyone else’s taste. And that is an amazing thing. All you can be is you. Now go and write something.
* These are real reviews from a book whose writing I strive to come anywhere near. (No, I won’t tell you which one it is.) Sometimes I wonder if it’s morally wrong to be so cheered by another author’s bad reviews—is there a German word for this? Vergleichfraude?—however, writing is a lonely and often very strange process; take all the consolation you can find, even if it’s in weird places.
Lia Weston’s author website: www.liaweston.com
Writing Novels in Australia