Ouch. Remember how I was saying ‘listening to criticism is hard, but we should do it anyway?’ One writer took that quite literally, and in his own way he suffered for all of us. Let’s take a walk through this Writer Meltdown and response, and then discuss what we can as potential authors can learn from it:
I love writing. My whole life I’ve loved to write. Being able to pick up a pen, set it against a blank piece of paper, and make a world come to life is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.
Back in 2015 I finally decided to write a full length novel and it came together very well. I didn’t have a lot of experience with the writing industry at the time, but I was convinced that if I took the time to write a story that was good, I mean really really good, spare no criticism on myself, rewrite every page, every word, to be better, make the plot interesting, the pacing off the charts, the characters believable, likeable, inspiring heroes, the villains depraved, angry and scary, but yet many of them relatable and deep, a world that you’d want to run away to, a sense of adventure and magic that would be impossible to deny. I got beta readers, hired an editor, payed for an awesome cover, set up a website, social medias, wrote a blog, ran ads. I’ve spent $2,500 dollars bringing my story to life, and seven years of sweat blood and tears trying to make it perfect.
And now? I can’t even get anyone to read it, not even my own family. 5 sales. That’s what all my hard work panned out to.
I love my story, so in a way I don’t really care if everyone else doesn’t. But as far as financial viability goes, I’m beginning to see that it’s just not worth it. I can’t afford to do all that twice for no return. I never expected to make millions, but I certainly wanted more than 5 people to read it.
So if you are thinking of getting into writing, heed my warning:
Hard work will not make it work.
Edit: thanks for the awards. I’m still reading all the responses. I appreciate all the helpful advice.
Edit 2: I hear your advice, and feedback, I appreciate all of it very much. There is always more to learn for everyone in life, as we are all just students of whatever school in life we choose. I still think many of you might have a different opinion if you read the story. I spent a long time on this, and I might just surprise you. Thank you all again.
The painful, yet honest reply
When picking up a book, you get two chances to grab the reader: Back of the book description and first page.
On Amazon, your description reads:
When Manie was born, she was given Mikhail’s Crystal, a rare and powerful stone that granted her the ability to see the Torch-Wings: a race of magical creatures that could raise fully grown forests in seconds. Because of this ability, King Dukemot believes Manie is the key to curing the Gray Death, a sickness that starves and drives its victims to silent madness. But when Manie’s long-lost friend, Veronica, arrives to steal Mikhail’s Crystal, Manie loses control of that power forever.
Unfortunately, this fails to differentiate itself from other fantasy novels I’ve read. It’s cluttered with proper nouns and doesn’t describe who our characters actually are. There’s so much going on that you simply drop “a teenager from our world,” into the mix without so much as giving context to what that means. Is this an alternate earth? A fantasy world? I’m confused as a reader, and confusion isn’t going to make me buy a book.
So instead I turn to the first page of your preview:
There was nothing here to see that the farmer hadn’t seen a thousand times already, but the beauty was never lost on him. He’d come outside almost every night of his life to see the stars, to watch as his land fell beneath a black blanket in the shadow of the sun, to listen to crickets chirp and wolves howl, to feel the cool wind blow against his tired skin and smell the pine of the woods.
What I have read is a description of a farmer looking over his land and the night sky paired with some small talk with his wife. Nothing exciting is communicated in this first page. No interesting character dynamics, no action, no spice.
Two million novels were issued in 2020 according to UNESCO. TWO MILLION. Why should I continue reading a book that hasn’t sold me on it’s back cover or first page if there’s another two million books every year being written that might interest me more? The answer is that I won’t, because if a book can’t promise something interesting in the short time I can allow it, I’ll look for one that can.
Oof, this poor guy
I’ve never wanted to give a hug to somebody so bad in my life. Make sure you take a moment to be kind to this guy if you have the chance. In a way, he’s all of us: Confused, frustrated, and discouraged. I wish this person well, and I hope they either delete this post, or delete their Reddit account and start over because the bad publicity won’t do their career any good. If he doesn’t, I just have more respect for him. Everyone should be sympathetic to this guy; it takes guts to put yourself out there and let the harsh criticism wash over. He took his Internet smackdown like Chris Rock … good for him.
What lesson(s) should we be taking from this painful moment for a fellow writer? ‘Never open yourself to criticism?’ ‘Delete the post and start over?’ ‘Argue with critics?’ None of the above. There are some powerful takeaways from this moment and we need to give them the time and reflection they deserve. Click to the next page for the root cause analysis of this Writer Meltdown.