Monday, June 15, 2009

Reader Feedback: Thick Skin vs Thin Skin

This weekend, my husband sat down and read The Toymaker’s Son for the first time. The book only recently went into print, and the marketing campaign is still in the works for Fall 2009, but I was eager to get some feedback from my biggest fan.

The verdict? Two thumbs up. (Insert huge sigh of relief here!)

Feedback from readers is something that fiction writers probably shouldn’t think about during the writing process. But if your story gets published, then eventually someone is going to read it. You come face-to-face with The Reader. And let me tell you, The Reader can be scary. The Reader might not like your work - and if not, then it feels as if The Reader doesn’t like you, either.

This is where the thick skin comes in. I don’t have it, unfortunately. Someone once wrote a negative review of Wild Dog Summer that left me paralyzed for weeks afterwards: I doubted myself so completely that I couldn’t write a word.

What helped me was receiving piles of letters from readers – kids in classrooms, mostly – who had read my book as part of their Language Arts program, and who loved it. Not all of them, of course. But no book is going to please everyone, that’s just a given (especially when it’s assigned reading with tests attached to it!) Knowing that readers out there, somewhere, were enjoying my story helped me put aside that one negative review and get writing again.

Thick skin, thin skin. I’ll never enjoy negative feedback, but it’s part of the writing game, and the secret is to keep all that feedback in balance. And even more importantly, write the story that you want to write. Chances are, there's a reader out there just waiting to give you two thumbs up.

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