I can admit the worst thing a reader ever wrote to me. It was 2007, I was 16, my publisher at the time 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 this. Message:
“You are the bastardization of the English language.”
I’ve tried not to think about this message often. In fact, I confess I’ve tried to completely cut it out of my memory—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:
A 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.”
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, my book 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 24, 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
Meagan from The Book Forums recently read an exclusive sneak peek of my upcoming duology, Bad Bloods, and she took the time to e-mail an encouraging message about how excited she is about November Rain and November Snow. I cannot begin to explain how much these moments mean to me. Releasing work—no matter how many times you’ve done it—is nerve-wracking, and in the end, all we want to do is release a story readers will enjoy. To hear they enjoyed it, is priceless. To connect and talk to readers as friends is the best part of the gig. 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.
The Confused Reader That Brings Laughter To My Laugh:
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 favorite example came from numerous readers over Take Me Tomorrow. (I know. I know. That book isn’t available any longer, but I promise I’m working on it!) This reader story is still priceless. 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. And, of course, Take Me Yesterday is complete. I plan on editing it and then working on Take Me Never ASAP.)
The Critical Reader
Of course, 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 first 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). Thank the publishing gods it was caught during the editing process.
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 with one of my all-time favorite authors, Cassandra Clare. We even spoke about it person when I went to event later that week. My life was complete. No matter how many readers authors come in contact with, I think we 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 Cassandra Clare 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.
Original posted February 18, 2015
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15 thoughts on “#MondayBlogs The Worst Thing A Reader Ever Said To Me”
I hope this one will make you laugh. My wonderful proof reader was pointing out mistakes to me in my novel “Wisp” when she started to laugh. I had written in a characters sentence the words, “Its too late to order pizza.” I had been conversing with my wife whilst writing. We laughed so much and then, later on, ordered the pizza. lol
That is too funny…especially since I had pizza tonight! Thanks for sharing!
I’ve gotten some nasty responses over the years and I got annoyed at the beginning. Then I decided to look at them more as milestones since every author has their critics and it means somebody read the book. There was one really bad incident that still has me twitchy about some sites. So I guess nearly every author has that one event where a critic gets to them. As far as best criticism, I have to go with a mistake I made that had my editor threatening to fly out to my house and beat me with her Kindle. I wrote:
“She was sent clear across the clearing.”
It’s become a joke now, but I was rather mortified at the time.
Haha! Yes! Those mistakes happen, and we sit back, like, HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT? Editors are our saviors. Readers are our best friends. Thank you for sharing your story!
You’re welcome. Editors as saviors is definitely a nice way of putting it. 🙂
I’m still working on my first manuscript so I don’t have a book published yet, but one day I hope too. Your article has encouraged me. I have gathered some more ideas on what to expect.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this article, Patricia. Keep writing, no matter what. Your love for words will push you through those difficult times, and so will the readers who love your work as much as you do.
Have fun writing,
Thank you so much for mentioning me in this! You always talk about how reader’s comments make you happy, but being able to talk to authors is what makes me happy. I loved reading all of your reader stories and it’s so great that you got to meet Cassandra Clare (Pshhhh, I’m not jealous at allllll…)
You are the best! I love your emails and messages. Thank you for everything. ❤ And yes! Meeting Cassandra Clare was one of the best events I’ve ever had the joy of attending. Definitely recommended if you get the chance. She’s super sweet.
Reblogged this on Dorion's Author Blog.
Great post Shannon! I’ll share with my 3500+ author followers on Twitter. I’m sure they all have experienced at least one difficult or unfair review. Putting out a book in high school though must have been fraught with difficulties. As a teacher for many years in NYC, I knew students who were afraid to act too smart or do all of the assignments because they would be stereotyped as “teacher’s pet” or worse. Jealousy and bullying definitely are factors. Thanks for your very honest post. Writers and general readers need to hear such stories.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you for reading, sharing, and discussing the importance of sharing stories such as this!
I know how you feel. I had one of my fave authors mention me in their acknowledgements. I nearly fell off my chair reading it. :p I’m going to giggle about plaid coloured poos all day though!
It was a funny moment! Thank you for reading and commenting. 😀