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Know Jack #374 Frenemies

“Woe unto you. When all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

Jesus Christ

Aristotle proposed that erroneous thought comes in pairs. Which says much about the state of America. But it also has something important to teach writers. If we are not to be defeated by naysayers and critics, it is equally true that there lies great danger in the company of sycophants.

A home on the plains may deter discouraging words, but if you choose to live there, there’s a good chance your writing will suffer. Genre labels may be confusing at times and most writers don’t even take the genre their work will be tagged with into consideration, at least not while they are writing. However, they exist for a very good reason—not everybody likes westerns, romance, or horror.

Not everyone is going to like your book. The best seller of all time is despised all over the world. I find it’s true that the more you try to please everyone, the less chance there is that you will please anyone. Good writing takes a stand. It also produces an emotional response. Even if that response is anger or loathing, the writer has succeeded.

I read book reviews and for my money, a book with only five-star rave reviews means one of two things. Either the author/publisher has paid for the reviews or the book has been sold only to family and friends. That said, I will add that I generally know little else about reviews or what readers will like or dislike.

In my own experience, books that I thought I did well on, readers are unimpressed. Others that I thought were a total writing disaster on my part, people love. Some of the reviews I’ve read praising my writing give me grave cause for concern about the mental stability of my readers. Which is alright, I question my own most of the time.

When I was a nursing student, my mentor was a gravel-voiced, gray-haired lady with bad knees who was as old as some of the nursing home residents where we worked. A southern lady, she was full of old sayings. She used to tell me, “Some people wouldn’t be happy with Jesus on a mule.”

A mistake writers make is buying into the modern idea that you only have to please yourself. I read a few books by such people. I’m glad they are happy; they need to be because they are never going to outgrow the place they are right now.

If the people who tell this are to be believed (I like to think they are) I’m a better writer now than I was seventeen years ago. If I am, it’s because of editors and readers who told me a piece I had written was garbage and that I could do better than that.


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