(L)earning from reviewers

What happens when you start to receive conflicting feedback from your reviewers?  I’ve had this happen on multiple occasions.  At first, I was pretty baffled.  If I thought there was a problem in the readability of the novel one way or the other, I’d have changed it prior to putting it out there!

But I missed something, and two camps of people didn’t.  Only, they don’t agree with each other about what IT is exactly! 

I decided I needed to take three steps:

  • identify the underlying issue whose symptoms my reviewers were seeing.  For me, this almost always involves writing trade craft or mechanics.
  • fix the defect affecting my storytelling ability
  • experiment until I found a balance between good storytelling and good writing trade craft/mechanics

 Here’s an example:

 In my first novel, Damian’s Oracle, I had folks (hereby known as Camp 1) say they didn’t like the first half of the novel.  Some said it was too flowery, others that it was too slow, and still others that it was wordy.  Camp 1 liked the second half of the novel, where there was less prose, more action/dialogue.

Camp 2 said the first half was ideal, as it gave them insight and the ability to learn about the characters and setting.  This camp said that the second half of the book was rushed with not enough quality time with the characters.

Soooo … What did I do with these conflicting messages?! 

The underlying issue was clear: there was a change of pace and writing style mid-story that people noticed.  Bad or good – it was there.

 My first decision was to smooth out this in the sequel, Damian’s Assassin.  For Damian’s Assassin, I chose the style of the second half of Damian’s Oracle: less time with the characters and more action/dialogue.

The reviews: Camp 1 detested the pace and lack of character time, saying the book was over-edited and too rushed.

Camp 2 loved it.

Soooo … what does this tell me?!

Sounds bad, but it tells me I did one thing right: there was no split about which part of the book was better, so I smoothed out the mechanics of my storytelling.  Rather than call it quits at this, I took another look at the book and realized I needed to find a way to balance the mechanics with the storytelling (plot and characters) a little more.

This leads me to my third novel, The Warlord’s Secret, which will be out soon.  We’ll see if I managed to balance the two and what else I can do to improve!

10 thoughts on “(L)earning from reviewers

  1. This is something I haven’t quite figured out how to do. Listening to reviews/critiques/feedback for my writing especially when it’s conflicting. I am not quite sure how to solve it or what exactly I need to do to fix it.

    • It’s really hard, because you have to do a lot of digging both into what they’re trying to tell you and what the issue with the writing is!! I’m still struggling to figure out how to fix my writing style to address some of the comments. I think having Christine to help mentor me will definitely help!!!

    • Thanks!! Critiques can be pretty hard to receive, but they’re also hard to give. Years ago, I used to get upset when someone shredded my work, but when I started giving critiques, I found it just as hard to say things that needed to be said in a diplomatic way!!!

      Lizzy 🙂

  2. Speaking of The Warlords Secret…its the weekend!!! Where is it? Haha saw you tweet some teasers and I am waiting very patiently Haha…so looking forward to it!

    • I know, I know!!! It’s stuck in the Smashwords queue! It used to take 5 minutes to get through the queue, but now it’s double digit hours! I’m bummed.

  3. Hi Lizzy,
    I can’t wait to get home so I can download The Warlords Secret. I must tell you I don’t usually read the genre that Damian’s Oracle and Damian’s Assassin come from and I don’t know what Camp 1 and 2 were smoking but both novels had me from go to woe and I hate stories about vamps (well I did)

    Keep up the great work, looking forward to all your future novels.

    • Hi Kim!

      Woohoo, thanks! A non-vamp to vamp convert! Lol … yeah, I get sick of the same ole stereotypes, too! I think I baffled lots of folks with how I portrayed immortals (someone said they talk like 14 year old girls instead of immortals, which made me laugh!) I love different takes on common themes, and I love books that are well-written – no matter what the genre. The Warlord’s Secret is a bit different. I love it, but I don’t have too high of hopes for it, since fantasy isn’t as mainstream as paranormal right now … but we’ll see!! I’ll be happy to hear your thoughts!

      Lizzy 🙂

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