Creative Void

I’m feeling a bit of a creative void.  It’s not writer’s block, it’s more of a listlessness.  A non-desire to write, create, produce.

I got a really bad review of a chapter of Twenty-Five a couple of weeks ago.  The reader said the characters were cookie cutter, the sentence structure monotonous, and the dialogue cliche.  They said “there’s no story here.”

Of course, reading a review like that is like diving head first into freezing cold water.  It’s a shock to the system.  You wonder- did this person read my work and actually think that?  or were they just being mean and spiteful?  I have to believe that it’s a little bit of a mixture of the two extremes.

I know, deep in my heart, that my characters are not cookie cutter.  They have histories, dreams, plans for the future.  I know what they look like, how they act, their likes and dislikes.  I’ve thought them through completely and I didn’t just base them on the archetypal characters you see in book after book, story after story.  However, I can understand how, in an isolated chapter, without the buildup of the beginning of the story and their relationship, a reader would miss their complexity and depth.

With the monotonous sentence structure comment, I think the reader may have a point.  I’ve been reading through my book slowly the last couple of nights and I think I do have issues with varying sentence structure.  There just aren’t that many ways to structure a series of actions without getting into lavish descriptions and similes and metaphors, which I hate.  So, one of my goals is to find fresher ways of saying what I want to say.

As far as the dialogue being cliche, I have to say- WHOA.  I am really surprised anyone would say that about my dialogue because if there’s one thing  that 99.99% of my readers have agreed on, it’s my realistic dialogue.  I can only assume that this is another instance of the isolated chapter, but will defend myself a little in saying that real people in real life use cliches when they talk.  Cliches are around for a reason- they are recognizable, memorable.  Just about everything we say in everyday life can be considered cliche.  For example, if I write this exchange:

“Hey.”

“Hey, how are you?”

“Fine, you?”

“Fine.”

is the cliche police going to strike it down and tell me I can’t use it?

The last comment is the one that really hurt.  “There’s no story here.”  I’ve put my blood, sweat, and tears into this book for the past year (and yes, I realize blood, sweat, and tears is cliche, too) and for someone to tell me there’s no story there, I mean, I can’t even express how much that hurts.  I know its not the first bad review that I’ve gotten, and I know it won’t be the last, but DAMN!  I would never tell someone that there was no “story” in their story.  Because anyone who writes has a story they are trying to tell.  And yes, some stories need more work than others, but everything is a story.  Life is a story.

So all of that to say that it’s been really hard for me to write lately.  I don’t want to be a failure and yet that’s how a review like that makes me feel.  Everyone says, “you’ve got to have a thick skin to make it in this industry.”  But isn’t that true of any industry, of any career?  Is that why I’m still stuck in limbo, I don’t have a thick enough skin?  Am I going to be a failure for the rest of my life?  Am I going to be stuck in the void for the rest of my life?

5 thoughts on “Creative Void

  1. Everyone is a critic. Its like this parent email I got questioning if I was qualified, saying that I don’t vary my methods and wondering if they wanted their child to continue to be taught by me. It was like getting sucker punched. I know those things are true. It was one uninformed opinion. It took a while to recover but I’ll tell you what I had to tell myself…my fans outnumber my critics, I have been gifted and feel “called” to do what I am doing. This is an oportunity to make sure I am putting forth my very best everytime. If I know that I am, then that is all that matters. Love you!

  2. That review was harsh. Especially the “no story” part. I think I take criticism pretty well and have a pretty thick skin, but I’d be crushed at a remark like that. Just take what you think you can use and throw the nastiness away. I really liked Twenty-five and I think there’s a story there.

    When we’re famous together, I’ll buy the first round and then we’ll laugh about this (or is that cliche too).

    Much love

  3. I haven’t read your book, so I can make no comment. However, don’t give up on your novel.

    If someone says your characters are cliche, it’s probably not their personality but what they’re doing. Have your characters do something a bit outside the box. Instead of having your characters do something the way 99% of the population does it. Have them do it as the other 1%. You’ll have to figure out what that is.

    As for dialog, we as writers listen as our characters speak to us and as we normally do, we tend to listen to the interesting bits and ignore the rest. I try to do that with my dialog. I write down word-for-word the interesting things my characters say and summarize the rest.

    Don’t give up on your story. Not everyone likes everything the same.

    Just my two cents.

    ann

  4. Rach!

    First of all, I would like to re-title your post as “Creative Break” and not creative “void”, because even the most accomplished bestselling author takes breaks from writing, and loves it sometimes, or feels disenchanted other times…it’s a very organic relationship!

    Now having this review occur around the same time definitely doesn’t help, but you said it yourself: does someone who is coming in at whatever chapter on the fly a someone who understands your book the best? I mean compare this type of reader to readers who have been there since the beginning and provided useful feedback along the way…the reviews should carry a different weight in your mind, with ones like this meaning less to you, ultimately.

    Still, I understand that some of what was described was overly harsh, but to that end, I just need to point you to Amazon; like type in a book which is widely known as wonderful, perhaps a bestseller, perhaps not, but generally agreed to be a great book. Once you find it in Amazon, guaranteed that despite ALL the 4 and 5 star reviews, there will be some 1 star reviews. And try clicking on those sometimes, because man oh MAN do those 1-star review-people dish out some harsh critique at times! I mean it’s routine to read things like “Oh, I only made it through the first chapter, but I wish I could have that half hour of my life back. or: I hated the characters, I wanted to suckerpunch them…”…this is just a small sample, but my point is, it’s not just about people telling you that you need to have a thick skin, it’s about realizing that no matter how far you’ll go or how much success you gain, there will always be complete strangers ready to bring you down. But…afterall…what do we care what a stranger thinks? Particularly one who didn’t take the time to read your book and just jumped in for a review?

    So chin-up butter-cup;, and there is NOTHING negative about taking a writing break; I am on one too and quite frankly…it’s a nice change 😉

    Love you dude!

    -Romi

  5. Rachelle,

    We’ve all had a few of those kind of reviews. The good thing is, you’ve used some think to think about your characters and plot lines. Let’s face it, no matter how great your story is, there’ll always be people who don’t get it, along with those who mean well, but come across so harshly that they destroy your confidence.

    I’m sure you’ve had enough people tell you that you have something in Twenty-Five. Listen to them, dust yourself off, and get back on track. Prove that your story is worth the time you put into writing it. You’ll never know how much of a success it will be if you let one harsh review kill your spirit.

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