What makes an author grumpy?

poodle & drone

Well, to be precise, lots of things, but I’ve got some specifics that I’d like to discuss.

Cold coffee – this intellectual fuel is best served hot. The major problem is that when I’m “in the flow” and writing as quickly as I can, I forget to drink it and it cools off. Self-made problem, so I can’t blame anyone else, but you’d think someone would come up with a self-heating cup.

Interruptions – This is self-explanatory. What isn’t is why when you’re concentrating on hammering out a particularly difficult section, you somehow become a magnet for interruptions. Everyone in the immediate vicinity seems to suddenly develop a problem or have a question that only you can solve or answer. This goes for text messages also. I’ve just gotten about fifteen-mostly useless. Still, being generous, this is self-made, since I should make it clear beforehand that I was writing and did not want to be disturbed. But, but how was I to know that the urge to figuratively vomit words all over my computer screen was going to hit me? One doesn’t always have the luxury of planning this sort of thing. It seems to just happen.

Guilt – Should be writing, but I’ve got to finish this last game of solitaire. If I could, I’d go back in time and ensure the parents of the person who invented solitaire never met. (Sub-note: Still feeling guilty even as I write this screed. I should be spending this energy on my WIP. I’ve left my hero in lunar orbit, about to be faced with another situation and he’s expecting me to write it.)

Marketing – I’m always grumpy whenever I think of this topic. Point one: I don’t understand it very well. Point two: It takes a lot of time and effort to climb the learning curve. Point three: I feel like I should be creating a story rather than studying audience targeting. Point four: I should be working on it right now, rather than spending time writing about my frustrations. Incidentally, writing this blog post counts as marketing to a certain extent. You know, reader engagement and so on. Plus, it’s keeping me from having to go do yard work:-)

Reviews – Authors want reviews. There’s no substitute. We live in an isolated shell, sending our work out into the void and waiting for some tiny clue that someone appreciates it. I depend on user feedback to determine if I write a sequel. It’s a thin line, too. I wrote a sequel (All the Moments in Forever) to Heart of Fire Time of Ice based on one single review that asked for more of Kathleen’s story. One single review! Readers do make a difference and have more control than they know.

While I’m on the subject of reviews, here’s a couple of points that other authors will appreciate. I recently got a three star review from a confused reader who apparently had read another book. Not one of the rather derogatory things he mentioned was in my story. For example, he stated that the last episode in the book involved time travel. My book Pirates of the Asteroids doesn’t use any form of time travel. He also mentioned some rather clumsy plot devices that I would never use. I asked Amazon to check it out, since I think such a review doesn’t serve potential readers well, but you know Amazon. No action apparently means they are okay with the situation. Take home lesson: Make sure you’re reviewing the right book. (Frankly, I don’t know how you’d make such a mistake, but apparently it can happen.)

Then there are reviews that aren’t. Things like, “I love Kindle books.” or “This story was about prehistoric times.” Yeah. Helpful. My favorite was, “This story wasn’t my style.” Great, pray tell what is your style, and if you know, why did you waste time reading something that has a fairly descriptive blurb and allows previews? If you didn’t like it, let other readers know why. It could help them decide to buy or not to buy. The point of a review is to contribute to the community. Placeholders aren’t particularly useful.

I’ve also received a few bad reviews on different books from people who didn’t take the time to read past chapter three. They then proceeded to discuss the book as if they knew what happened in later chapters. I console myself that no matter what you write, no matter how good or bad it is, some people will absolutely hate it (and by extension, you) and others will love it (though probably not you:-)

The commonly accepted advice is not to comment on reviews, but I violated that in the first example above. I left a comment thanking the reader for his effort in reviewing. Then I stated that I’d love his feedback, but apparently the review was for another book. I was quite nice in my tone. Then I got to thinking about how many times I’ve gone back and reread my own reviews of various products. The number of times is precisely zero, so the chance he gets the message is very low. Don’t know why I bothered, unless some potential reader will see it and be influenced.

As for the bad reviews, if they’re well-intentioned and point out a possible flaw in the story, I see no harm in thanking the reviewer. If they’re vitriol filled and include personal attacks, then that’s nature’s warning not to engage with the reviewer. They have other issues that you’ll never fix.

That’s it. I’ve got an appointment with my writing computer (use a different machine dedicated to that purpose).

By the way, if you’ve read one of my books and have left a review (good, bad, or indifferent), thank you for your effort. I do read them.

Namaste!

Eric

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