Today The Brainy Bookshelf is lucky to have a guest post by Liz Stauffer, author of Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club. I reviewed this book in November (which you can find here).
See below to learn how Liz deals with a bad review, which is a skill all of us indie authors need!
Good reviews are wonderful – and so right on target! A great story, wonderful characters, a well thought out plot, are all good words for an author to hear. But what have good reviews taught me? Not much, really. I feel good – really good sometimes, if I get a super good review. But I don’t always learn very much from them. It’s the bad reviews that can teach me to be a better writer or even a better person.
I got a bad review this morning. I discovered it when I was taking a break from editing my latest book. I was bummed at first. De-motivated for sure. After a bit, I reread the review, studying each point critically, to see what I could learn from it. I found out rather quickly that I could learn a lot.
The reviewer hated my dialog – called it very clumsy and totally unrealistic. She wrote that I overused the word ‘dear’, and thought no one in the 21rst century would use my dialog pattern.
After drowning my sorrows in a piece of coconut cake – at 8 in the morning – I sat back at my desk to reflect on what the reviewer was saying. I asked myself if my dialog did need improvement. I went into the book I’d been editing this morning to see.
I discovered right away that the dialog could be improved. When I made it more crisp and clear, the scene was immediately better. Point number one – taken. Dialog can always be improved.
The reviewer also wrote that my characters were not well developed. I’ll tend to this point more thoroughly later when I reread the book – but it is an important point. Characters are so critical to a book and to a series. Readers want to know who the characters are, and in the kind of books I write, should really like them. Up until now my feedback has been overwhelmingly positive on this point, so I need to figure out what this reviewer is saying and put the right amount of energy into any changes I make as a result of her comments. Not all reviewer comments should be treated the same.
One other point as it pertains to characters. I am writing a series. My plan (hope) is to continue to tell their stories over time. All sorts of things are going to happen to this wonderful cast of people. Good and bad things will occur, and my characters will grow and change as a result.
Finally, (and I’ll use that word because the reviewer did) she hated the ending of the book. She thought it was ridiculous (her word again), suggesting that I opted for the surprise ending rather than a plausible close.
I’ve gotten this feedback once before – from my other bad review, so I really studied the point. I actually thought the ending was too obvious when I was writing it, and other readers have figured it out, but the point the reviewer is making is beyond who did the murder.
When more than one person says something, it needs to be attended to. If I was writing this book today, I would change one of the last scenes, not because of the reviews, but because of how I feel about it now. But I’m not going to write the book again, so I have to just learn from what I’ve already done, and apply this information to future books. But that’s okay, too. Being introspective is fine, but sometimes the best thing to do, when it is what it is, is to just get over it, and move ahead. This may be the best lesson I’ve learned from my bad reviews.
Will I change my writing style because of a bad review. Probably not. But as hard as they are to read, bad reviews can offer huge amounts of insight. It’s like many lessons in life. Although they are not easy to swallow, there is much to learn.
That said, because the review came in today, I will enjoy an extra glass of wine and piece of chocolate when I watch a PBS mystery on TV tonight.
Liz Stauffer’s debut mystery novel, Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club, described as cutting edge Cozy, is being published by Sartoris Literary Group, Jackson MS. The book is available on Amazon at http://amzn.com/0989318605.
Liz has always written stories, but transferred her writing skills to the corporate world as a means of supporting her two young sons after a divorce. Moving between educational research and the computer world, she wrote everything from political encyclopedias and travel articles, to marketing literature and software manuals. But it wasn’t until she found herself stranded in a South Dakota winter, that she penned her first novel.
After a successful corporate career, Liz gave up that world to travel and to write, and in some cases, to combine both loves. Having lived in some fourteen states during her early adult years, she’s traveled to all fifty states, and to some forty countries on four continents, while writing mysteries. Currently, she lives with her two dogs, Mattie and Jake, in Hollywood Beach, Florida.
For several years after retiring, Liz spent six months a year in Pen Mar, Maryland, a small community nestled into the foothills of the Appalachians, straddling the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, her house just feet from the Appalachian Trail. Pen Mar, once the site of a grand summer resort built by the railroad in the late nineteenth century, is the inspiration for the site of her Thursday Morning Breakfast and Murder Club mysteries. She and her protagonist, Lillie Mae Harris, share some of the same interests. Both women love to talk, love their friends and family, but also love to meet new people, love to be outside, and love to hike. Lillie Mae would bike as much as Liz does, if the country roads she drives were supportive to biking. Liz also has a great love of the beach, but Lillie Mae finds the beach hot and tedious. Liz is vegetarian; Lillie Mae is not. Both ladies, however, love to cook.
Currently Liz is working on the third Thursday morning breakfast club mystery and is planning a grand historical epic that features the Pen Mar Park and Resort.
She can be contacted at www.lizstauffer.com or on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.