Wednesday 21 March 2012

When disappointment strikes and hits a nerve ...

I really don't mind the fact that I got a rejection from a publisher on Bitter Like Orange Peel, and found out that I didn't make the quarter finalists of ABNA, all in one day. I don't mind at all. In fact, I'm pretty numb to rejections nowadays because I've finally reached that point in my career where I trust my instincts and fully believe in myself (well ... most of the time).

I'm different. Some people get me. Others don't. No problemo.

These things don't disappoint me. What disappoints me is feedback that makes me question whether 'being true to myself' and 'writing honestly' is really the way to go. I'd finally come to the conclusion that it didn't matter if I got an agent or published by the big six. In reality, it still doesn't matter. I just want my books read and to have the opportunity to get my work better exposure ... so far things are going pretty well, it's early days ... but ... when I read feedback on my writing that says it would have a limited audience because it's too realistic, and contains not very attractive visuals, then I start to doubt the reason I write like this. Is there a point in being true to my instincts if in the end it's not going to help me progress? Can I accept having a niche audience for the rest of my life?

I get that people read to escape and don't want other people's shit thrown in their faces. And you're not going to be able to escape reading my books. You're going to be made to feel stuff. Lots of stuff. And some of it is ugly. Such is life. And I also get that my work isn't commercial. I do get that. I have accepted these things. So why have these comments stung so much? My stomach is in knots!

I don't know. I guess my expectations are too high. I'm never going to single-handedly change the trends in commercial fiction. But I tell you one thing ... there's no way I'm going to stop writing fiction that bites.

Do you read literary fiction? Is there anything you've read that's disgusted you? How did you react to it? Did it make you hate the book? Why?

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  1. Jessica, that's your style - don't change it. Niche books are the new 'in.' If someone doesn't like what you write, that person wasn't your audience. I get slammed for writing simple science fiction, but that won't change the way I write.

  2. Every writer needs to find that balance. I think there is a difference though between writing more commercially (w/out completely selling your soul) and writing for art, our passion, which might not be as commercial. We can do both. We write one to get paid, to survive, so we can afford to write our niche/art. Does that make sense? I've struggled with this to a lesser degree.

    My favorite reads are usually commercial with literary/great writing. But I'm probably not your target audience. But I read so much. I just like great writing and a story.

  3. Be true to yourself. Others may or may not 'get us' - it won't be them looking back at us from the mirror in the morning. Best wishes.

  4. Be true to yourself. Others may or may not 'get us' - it won't be them looking back at us from the mirror in the morning. Best wishes.

  5. Everyone says to write the stories we have to tell. This is who you are as a writer. Keep at it. I have faith you'll eventually persevere.

  6. You have to be true to who you are. If you start to change that, then you're writing for the wrong reasons. And since you're a very cool person, I'd hate for you to change into someone you're not.

    There's nothing wrong about being a niche writer, as long as you know that's what you are. And thanks to self publishing, niche readers are finally getting what they really want. :D

  7. I'm not a literary writer and don't write contemporary. But I agree with everyone else. Be true to what you like to write as long as you can accept that it may fit a certain niche. And that doesn't mean that at a different time in your writing career that you can't write something else.

  8. I don't read a lot of literary fiction. That said, I think everyone and every project has its place, its niche, its merrits and its weaknesses. You're right- you can't singlehandedly change the trends. But you can continue to work towards that goal along with thousands of others. Its a noble goal and a necessary goal. Don't change to please the masses. You are who you are and your writing is what it is. Its unique, deserving, and worthy.

  9. No one else can write what you can write, no one else can offer what you can offer. I agree with the others: stay true to yourself, otherwise what's the point?

  10. I love, love, loved this post. The thing I love most about you is the fact that you can look at everything logically. It gives me the strength and inspiration to improve myself and my way of thinking.

    I have a ebook, my very first SINGLE short story out next week and I couldn't be happier about it. It's an ebook and I don't care. I love that my writing is out in the world. I love that I'm growing with each story. That's the goal, to keep improving.

  11. Your style is real and truthful; your images go past safe. That is your trademark and I wouldn't change it one bit. People do and will love you for it. Don't listen to those who want you to write safe. Just don't.

  12. I like dark. Dark, dark, dark. So I'm with you.

  13. Hi Jess .. that's what they like - not what you write .. and I'd rather start with a small niche of appreciative readers and move on up .. your instincts are right. Have faith ... cheers for now .. Hilary

  14. After Brooklyn, Burning, you should read this book called Rotters, by Daniel Kraus. It's filthy, disturbing, and disgusting, but it's also oh so beautiful. Nothing wrong with the brutal truth, as far as I'm concerned.

    A wise writer I know once told me that there are two kinds of writers. Those who write for intrinsic reasons, and those who write for extrinsic ones. You may not make as much money, but I don't think there's anything wrong with writing for intrinsic reasons. In fact, I prefer it.

    Besides, you can always write a commercial thriller someday.

  15. Wanna know something funny? I did write a commercial thriller, and my rejections so far are that it felt too far fetched. lol So you just can't please anyone these days, it seems. I entered it in ABNA too and it was way too soon cuz I'd just finished writing it and it needed work, but I wanted to get a feel if the hook was appealing. I never expected to get past the first round so I'm not surprised at all I didn't make it. My feedback was less than stellar, tho there were a few saving graces and they told me what I needed to know. SO I"m satisfied.
    But srsly don't let these rejections get you down. Ask yourself, do you love what you write? And do you give it your best shot? If it's yes to both than none of it really matters. Very few writers actually make a wealthy living even when pubbed by the big 6.
    We live a life of irony as artists/ writers cuz we're expected to be sensitive enough to make people feel, yet wear a skin thicker than a knight's armor to endure rejections and criticisms.Just keep doing what you love and your future will take care of itself.

  16. Every book has a market. If an author or publisher takes the time to find that market they've got supporters for life. Writing is a very personal passion and writing what comes out of you is always most rewarding. I found that in life not getting what I want has worked out to be the best thing for me. Maybe, you'll find that out too.

  17. I'm so sorry you had to feel those stings...:-( I think it is better to write honestly. I feel like I write honestly even though I'm a very commercial writer who will always put a HEA in my book.
    I do NOT read literary fiction and the reason is that I'm well aware of darkness/grief/pain and to read those things sends me into a deep place that's hard to come out of (I learned that from experience watching Legends of the Fall, blech). So I stay away from things that aren't good for my soul, personally. I have a feeling your writing is lyrical and special. Don't let the fact that some people won't or can't don't want to read it stop you.
    I started a famous memoir (can't remember the name) and only made it to three chapters. It's an incredibly powerful book but I was SO sad and crying that I just can't read anymore of it. It's still on my shelf. Maybe someday I can do it.
    Anyway...chin up, girl!! You're you and your writing serves a purpose. :-)

  18. I read a little bit of everything, including literary fiction. Having read your work, I think your strength is strong visuals with real characters -- I don't know why that's off-putting, to be honest? But I'm with Alex. I think commercial fiction is still going to be dominant - it sells books - but with new publishing models, publishers will be able to take on more niche novels. Hang in there!

  19. Is there a point in being true to my instincts if in the end it's not going to help me progress?

    Yes there's a point, but you have to discover it for yourself. (I can't tell you why you write; only you can!) One option is to try to stretch yourself out of your niche and see what happens. Maybe you'll find you like that new neighborhood, or maybe you'll discover why you love your "writing home" so much.

    Sometimes we have to leave home to realize why we love it so much. And so we can return home to stay. :)

  20. Don't write for someone else - write for yourself. That's what I do.

  21. I agree...Write for yourself. Be true to you first.

  22. Writing is SO subjective. You know this. I know this. We ALL know this. BUt it still stings. Know that you are awesome.

    I don't read a lot of literary...but YOUR writing is what brought us together. I know you're a superstar. Hang in there. xo

  23. Jessica,
    Seriously, when things calm down for me (I'm going through a lot of $%^& right now), I need to read String Bridge. I adore literary fiction. It has nuances to it that are rarely present in commercial fiction. To me, it is art (not to knock those who write commercial b/c I write it, too). But my foundation is in actual literature, and I love it.
    Definitely stay true to yourself and your writing.

  24. Jess, sorry about the rejections but I really hear you on dealing with it. Rejections seem so much easier to take these days now that I'm comfortable with my visions and what I'm writing.

  25. I consider that I have very eclectic tasted when it comes to fiction. I know I have not had the opportunity to read any of your work yet Jessica, but I do not understand how a novel can be considered too realistic. I like realistic!

  26. Definitely don't change your style. It's what makes you the writer you are.

    Personally I don't read much literary fiction, but I did enjoy yours. I loved and admired how you were able to describe such things. There is a poetry to your words, and that's awesome.

    I have read one book that disgusted me, but it mentioned these insects and such, but that freaked me out on a whole different level, but I still liked the book. I think I even gave it 4 or 5 stars, despite it creeping me out.

  27. Stay true to you. I think romance readers like pretty people, and there are a lot of them. But I think there are a lot of people who prefer more realistic stories. And I, for one, like a painful journey. When you get to the other side, there is more power in coming OUT of that. (and I think often that is true of literary fiction). Don't worry about the easier to sell set--you probably aren't going to relate to them anyway. (it's like me running around naked--easier to just scare off the people I would otherwise offend before I have a chance to offend them)

  28. Jessica, I am sorry for how you are feeling right now, but you are handling it better than anyone else could. You have to write with passion and if you alter your style, content or voice you could easily lose your passion. Your niche may not be the most popular right now and you are right that one person cannot single-handedly change the trend in commercial fiction, but in combination with other niche writers you have already made great strides. Niche is the new in and it is growing. I believe you must remain true to yourself as a writer. You can always write something else later, but for now (and it is early) give what you do best a chance to soar. I believe it will. You are on the right path. Your writing is real and anything else right now would feel like selling out to you. Hang in there. Your talent will shine and your audience will widen.

  29. I think you have to be true to you and your style. Otherwise you'll never be happy with your work. You'll find the right place for your work in time!

  30. One thing I've learned is that we writers can't please everyone. Write what you write, because no one else CAN!

  31. I think you already know the answer to your question. Of course, you have to write what you MUST write. Otherwise, why bother? Yes, I've read some literary fiction, and generally love it. Janet Fitch writes about some nasty stuff, but her words make my heart sing. Only book I've ever read that disgusted me was a William Burroughs compendium that delighted in smooshing vomit-filled filth into your face and making you smell it. I've downloaded your book onto my Kindle, but haven't read it, yet. Soon.

  32. In my opinion, literary fiction is the stuff that sticks with you the longest. I'll remember your books for years to come. I can't say that about the mainstream "feel good" fiction that I read.

    So there, world!

  33. I am a reader, I like good books. I love yours, so never change your style!

  34. Hey listen, your writing is gorgeous, lady!

    You hang in there and do what you do, ya hear me?! It'll pay off, that perseverance, in some shape or form!

  35. I agree with everyone who told you to stick to what you love writing. Also I keep hearing about niche audiences, even John Locke, the guy who made millions in 4 months says the same. I'd love it if you wanted to participate in the Gutsy indie publishers group I want to start on FB. At least there writers can pitch in and say what's working and what's not. I can tell you I've changed my opinion about indie-publishing and starting my own publishing company recently.

  36. Hi, Jessica,

    This is one of the reasons why I don't write reviews on the stuff I don't 'get'. I think it's so weird when people talk a book down because it's in a genre they don't normally read.

    You have it right, if your talent lies in a particular direction, then believe in yourself and do the best that your ability allows you to do t.

    You can't go wrong that way.

  37. stick to your guns... do what you love

    a friend has a different problem: she had her first book published, a romance - but, i don't DO romance, she moans...


    SOMEbody paid you, it was published, but YOU don't DO romance?

    i told her she's broken into the field, her next would almost be a cinch, yet... SHE does not DO romance!

    i told her there are many romance writers who make a living at it, a few make millions... but SHE does not DO romance?!?

    who CARES if it's not YOUR genre?

    it's writing, for chrissakes... YOU'RE good enough to get published!

    what's wrong with this picture???

  38. "Too realistic?" That makes no sense. You can't please everyone I guess.

  39. The more you put yourself out there as a writer, the more rejection will come, maybe not from agents or publishers but from others. It's inevitable. The more readers we have the more chance there is of getting poor reviews, because not everyone likes everything. The important thing is to keep writing and refining your voice. Ignore all the rest of it. *hugs*

  40. I found Ergo by Jakov Lind a hard book to enjoy. I wrote a review of it and, towards the end I said:

    One review described it as "a wild, strange, bawdy book for lovers of paradox and black comedy" which is a very glass-half-full view of the book. I could replace every word with a far less charitable synonym and leave the sentence equally valid.

    When I posted the review no one commented on it at all, not one and it was only when I mentioned this in passing to Elisabeth Hanscombe that she went back into my archive to see why and that’s when she left her comment. As I said to her I like to stretch myself as a reader but although the book wasn’t an unmitigated disaster— there were some brilliant passages in amongst all the murk—there wasn’t much to recommend it.

    Rejection is something we never get use to as writers. We try to grow thick skins but shed them far too easily. I’m irked at the moment because I’m struggling to get reviewers for my latest book. I hate to call in favours but even some of those who do owe me have begged off. I don’t mind being rejected after the fact but having someone do that without having read me is a hard pill to swallow I’m finding.

    As for you, well, you’ve proved already that you have an audience. We all have but some of our niches are smaller and harder to find than others. I would have no problems reading you again. There was nothing wrong with the writing in your first book other than being a bit heavy-handed with the similes as I recall but that’s just a personal preference thing and there’s nothing either of us can do about that; we each bring what we bring to the table. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Hell, it’s hard enough to please some of the people some of the time. But if you’re not pleasing yourself then what’s the point?

  41. Jessica! I totally relate to this blog piece - thanks so much for writing it.
    I've had mixed reviews when people read the book I am trying to write: from "you need to remember you're writing for an audience, so give them what they want"
    "Oh I can picture myself there! Thanks for being so true and honest"
    Hmmm, it's a difficult one - I would say: what makes you sleep easy at night? For me, being true to myself and not selling out to the mainstream does it - whilst always maintaining an element of not going TOO far and being TOO ethereal.
    The worst book I ever read? Sorry, it has to be "Eat, Pray, Love." That woman annoyed the HELL out of me, in fact - I couldn't even finish reading the book. All this 'I have to find myself' stuff and 'Oh, I SO want to kiss that man, but I can't because I'm finding myself.'

    Agghhhh! I should thank her though - she's been the inspiration for me to start my book!

    Look forward to meeting you - and great blog.

  42. What the publisher was saying is, "We treat our readers as stupid, and play to the lowest common, because god forbid we cause our readers to have to think."

    Fuck 'em! I think it was Sir Winston Churchill that said, "That the best revenge is to succeed where others have said it was imposible." Or something like that.


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

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