#WW The Reader’s Reaction

18 Feb

#WW The Reader’s Reaction:

I can admit the worst thing a reader ever wrote to me. It was 2007, I was 16, Golden Eagle Publishing had released my first novel, and Honesty Box was the hottest app on Facebook. My high school self was naïve enough to have one of these, and one day, I found myself staring at the message, “you are the bastardization of the English language.”

::blink blink::

I’ve tried not to think about this message often. In fact, I confess I’ve tried to completely kick it out of my mind – especially since I think it had more to do with high school bullying than anything notable. But the most common type of bullying I faced for writing a book in high school followed this script:

honesty-boxA fellow student would say, “Go write a book.”

Normally, I never responded, but sometimes I snapped and stupidly said, “I already did.”

Which almost always got, “Now, go write a good one.”

::sigh::

Perhaps, this affected me more than I would like to admit. A few months later, when I ran into issues with my publisher, I didn’t fight it much, and in turn, November Snow was taken off of the market. I can’t say I minded much. I think I was a little relieved. That’s probably why seven years passed between my first and second publication. Now that I’m 23, my coping skills have definitely grown.

Writers always get responses – both good and bad – and some days are more uplifting than others. Some days are even downright hilarious. Not in the mocking way, of course, but in the this-reader-could-be-my-best-friend sort of way. Some days, readers make your day, and other days, a reader’s comment inspires your next piece of work. Sometimes, they teach you by pointing out levels of confusion or confliction, and other times, they talk about how your work taught them something about life. The combination is a beautiful thing.

I have plenty of stories I wish I could tell you about all of the wonderful readers who have reviewed my novels, shared quotes, tweeted encouraging messages, and sent me an email just to explain their emotions – but the important part is how the uplifting readers always overcome the negative ones. I could share hundreds, but I would like to share a few to show types:

The Encouraging Reader:

Pau from Pau’s Castles recently read Death Before Daylight. In fact, she’s read all three books of The Timely Death Trilogy, and she even took the time to review them – and she goes even further. She LIVE tweeted to me about everything – her reactions, her jokes, her emotions (including how she squealed in the middle of class while reading), and her overall encouragement. Readers – WOW – you all make my entire life when you do this. I cannot begin to explain how delighted I feel when I am able to talk to readers and connect with them as friends. Joking about my own work with someone is surreal. The friendship between a reader and an author is unlike any other type of friendship I’ve ever had, but it brings me just as much love, comfort, and joy.

pau1

The Confused Reader that brings laughter into my overly serious writing life:

I want to clarify that this is not condescending laughter. This is more like a friend, even if the reader never knows it. I actually enjoy moments where readers have pointed out confusion or mislabeled something because it’s often something I (and many editors) overlooked. My most recent example came from numerous readers over Take Me Tomorrow. A few readers have compared the dictator, Wheston Phelps to Michael Phelps – the Olympic swimmer – instead of who I intended – Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church – and I’ve had a great giggle over that image-switch. If you’re one of the readers who thought of Michael Phelps instead of Fred, please don’t worry! I had a great giggle, and I feel like it’s more of an inside joke than anything else. Also, more people thought of Michael than Fred. (A handshake goes out to Just Another Girl and Her Books who pointed out many topics, including Fred Phelps, that went overlooked in Take Me Tomorrow. If you’re curious what the sequels might show, this review definitely foreshadows a lot of it).

The Critical Reader

And sometimes the negative can help me take a step back and laugh at myself. In fact, these have begun to remind me of my initial editing process. The clearest example I can think of was when my editor for Seconds Before Sunrise was going through the first chapter and saw, “Robb grabbed his plaid sh*t” instead of his shirt. Yep. That editing mistake happened. That’s embarrassing. And – trust me – I will never, EVER make that mistake again. Every time I write the word “shirt”, I will cringe. (And then, I will laugh uncontrollably).

Me as a Reader

I am a reader, too, and while I’m not everyone’s reader, my day is made when I tweet to an author and they actually tweet back to me. This recently happened to me when I sent a message to Stephen Collins, the graphic novelist of The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. (Read it if you haven’t by the way)! It was literal Christmas for me.

Stephen

No matter how many readers authors come in contact with, I think we can find ourselves in their reviews, but more importantly, we connect with friends. To think that I might be able to bring joy to a reader in the way Stephen Collins brought joy to me, fills me with a lot of hope and understanding that I didn’t have when I was 16. I am very grateful for all the readers who have helped me grow since then, and I continue to love my readers more than anything else. It’s also nice to have reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble instead of Honesty Box.

~SAT

A big shout-out goes out to Charles E. Yallowitz for posting my guest article – Balancing the Editor’s Life with an Author’s Dream – on Legends of Windemere. Check his website out by clicking the link! In my article, I discuss balancing my life as an editor and an author, and I hope you enjoy the read.

I also want to give a gigantic shout-out to JK and CK from House Kelley! About one month ago, this wonderful couple guided me to Clean Teen Publishing, and I thank them for their guidance. Check their writing out, say hi, give them a big hug, and write with them. They are fantastic.

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21 Responses to “#WW The Reader’s Reaction”

  1. tchistorygal February 18, 2015 at 1:22 am #

    Great post. You’ve had some major successes in your life being published at such a young age. Congratulations, and keep writing. 🙂

    • Shannon A Thompson February 18, 2015 at 7:58 am #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you for reading and for the congratulations. We’ll always keep writing. :]
      ~SAT

  2. Charles Yallowitz February 18, 2015 at 5:25 am #

    Feedback is definitely one of the highlights of this gig. Some do tend to be cruel, but I’m glad most are either kind or at least respectful. I fully agree that seeing a head-scratching responses can put a smile on my face. That Michael/Fred Phelps thing had me chuckling. Thanks for the shout out.

    • Shannon A Thompson February 18, 2015 at 7:59 am #

      I think every writer at some point in their career has to learn to love feedback – and real feedback. lol That Phelps scenario was the funniest thing. In a way, I was relieved that many people didn’t immediately have him come to mind. It means he wasn’t that important after all, right? :]
      ~SAT

  3. Mishka Jenkins February 18, 2015 at 6:00 am #

    Reviews and critique can be tough, I much prefer it when reviewers at least try to tell you what they didn’t like about the writing. At least that way we can look at where we need to improve 😀

    • Shannon A Thompson February 18, 2015 at 8:01 am #

      Very true! As a reader and writer, if I write a review, I always try to leave a comment about who I recommend the books to (rather than if I liked it or not). As an editor, I have to be a *little* more blunt, but authors seem to enjoy feedback more from an editor when things can still be changed than from readers when things are *pretty* stuck the way they are.
      ~SAT

  4. Vantui February 18, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    I haven’t written my novel yet, I am still trying to write a first draft! However, when I would feel stuck i would let my husband and my best friend read it specifically to give me feed back on how to move forward. All they said was “it’s great!” and I would be right back where I started. I made the HUGE mistake to give it to a third friend. I told her I didn’t want an edit, it is a first draft and gave her things to look for like what are you asking yourself about this character when you read it? What are you confused about? Those things would have helped propel me forward in the story. She came back with such criticism it almost made me give up. Nothing she told me was helpful (like how I should change the nickname of my MC). I went to the NaNoWriMo forums and expressed my depression and someone posted something there that I have kept with me. In addition to what you posted above about some people just being mean, others will try to tell you how to write “their” novel. All they will talk about is how they would have done it differently. That is what my last friend was doing. I feel it is a jealousy or envy that you are doing something that they want to but won’t do.

    After Hubs published his first novel from NaNo, I realized that I was correct in my assumption. So many people (friends!!) have come out with criticism that wasn’t helpful, it was all about what they would have written if it was their book.

    I point this out for anyone else that might get discouraged from the same thing. Ignore the mean ones and realize that some people are just going to want you to write their book for them. Ignore them to. Don’t let it get you down. Just keep writing.

    • Shannon A Thompson February 18, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      Great advice! I do think many don’t know the difference between constructive criticism and – like you pointed out – telling a writer how to write their book instead of the book the writer intended. It happens. But it’s always good to keep your chin up and your pen in hand. Thank you for sharing your advice with everyone!
      ~SAT

      • Vantui February 18, 2015 at 8:36 am #

        You’re welcome! The thing about this third friend, and why I chose her, was because she had already been doing a little freelance writing. I thought that she would have a good idea of what to ask. It wasn’t until later that I realized that wasn’t the case and now I find out she doesn’t even want to write, “it is too hard”. *shrug* Lesson learned! If I can help just one other person continue to write against what everyone else is telling them, then it was worth it. 🙂

        This has also spurred me to go back to school to get a degree in Creative Writing…so I can be a good editor. I know you don’t need a degree for it, but I feel it is what *I* need to do so if someone ever gives me work to edit I know I can give them my absolute best critique and they can be confident that their story is all I care about, not my own. 🙂

      • Shannon A Thompson February 18, 2015 at 8:40 am #

        Following your dream is often about doing what is right for you. :] Good for you for sticking with it. I went to KU and got my B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. So many professors tried to convince me to take the literature route instead, but now, they are really proud of me, and I talk to them all of the time. I also heard so much disapproval from loved ones about my career path and degree choices, but it was right for my life, and I knew it was right for my life, so I did it, and if that’s what you want, I think you should do it, too. 😀 I believe in you!
        ~SAT

  5. val February 18, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    Shannon, your honesty and humility inspire me to be a better person, and “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”, maybe a better author some day…

    • Shannon A Thompson February 18, 2015 at 9:15 am #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I am touched that you are inspired. Thank you for reading and commenting.
      ~SAT

  6. Sandromache February 18, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    Social media means connecting with authors and readers like never before but also outright meanness from the safety of the keyboard. Really cool post.

    • Shannon A Thompson February 18, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      Very true! I’m delighted to hear you enjoyed the post. :] Thank you for commenting.
      ~SAT

  7. Mallee Stanley February 20, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    I remember the worst critique session I experienced where I came home feeling I couldn’t write so know how you must have felt. In my case, it was well deserved. I had to take what was really helpful suggestions and turn my work around.
    In your case, I imagine the students back then were just plain jealous.

  8. theowllady February 21, 2015 at 6:03 am #

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

  9. Katie Harder-Schauer February 24, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    You know Michael Phelps never even crossed my mind while reading Take Me Tomorrow. But I think it’s just about impossible to be from Kansas and not associate the Phelps name with Westboro. Thanks for the shoutout to my blog!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] The Reader’s Reaction: I can admit to the worst thing a reader has ever said to me […]

  2. #WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary | Shannon A Thompson - March 4, 2015

    […] As a novelist, I made all the mistakes any writer could make. In fact, if you read my recent post, The Reader’s Reaction, then you probably guessed the editing in the original November Snow was quite disastrous…and it […]

  3. #MondayBlogs The Worst Thing A Reader Ever Said To Me | Shannon A Thompson - May 2, 2016

    […] Original posted February 18, 2015 […]

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