Dealing with criticism: the wonderful life of an indie author!

 

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Hello dear constant reader, and a big shout out to all the aspiring authors out there!

My name is Luis Samways, and you may remember me from such books as Stasis and the Frank McKenzie mystery series, among many others (nearly 30 novels!).

I’ve been doing this writing thing for a long while now. And the one thing that I’ve learned from my time at the grindstone is that criticism will be a big part of your career.

It’s been a big part of mine… that’s for sure. 

Let me get one thing straight, first; writing books is difficult. Putting your work out there for others to read is one of the bravest things that anybody can do. Because we all know that when we create something, we made it with the intention of either entertaining somebody, or shining a light on our own personality through the characters in what we’ve just written.

And when somebody comes about and reads your book, then leaves an unfavorable review on Amazon, or any other book website, it can get you a little bit down. Trust me, I know from experience. I myself have received plenty of one-star reviews. Some of them the most scathing put-downs I’ve ever received. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it feels like I’m back in high school, and I’m the nerd kid that the popular kids use as a punchbag.

That’s what it feels like to get bad reviews. Well, that’s what it feels like at the start. You end up investing so much time in the characters in your books that you begin to lose sight of what really matters. Yes – it would be nice if people were a little bit more gentle when it came to the critical nuances of one’s work, but at the end of the day, all readers are different.

And all of their tastes vary significantly.

To quote that famous saying; one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. And I’m just grateful that my trash can sometimes be viewed as someone’s treasure. That’s the position that I take on critical reviews these days. Obviously, when a book receives an abundance of critical reviews, stating the same things, punctuation, spelling, grammar, or maybe the story wasn’t all that and was missing a few things, then one does need to take the steps to rectify one’s own writing so that it doesn’t occur again.

But then again, you cannot please everybody all of the time. And that’s one thing I have learned greatly from this journey of discovery that we call being a self-published writer in the modern age of the Internet. For a long time, I took all bad reviews to heart. And to be honest, I still do. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t read new reviews when they pop up. I tend to gloss over the good ones because it’s the bad ones that really get me thinking. But that’s normal. It’s normal to be a little neurotic when it comes to one’s own work.

After all, it’s our babies that we put out there into the universe. Our babies are precious to us. And when someone doesn’t like our babies, calls them ugly, stupid, useless and a waste of money, then it can affect our self-esteem. But I’m here to tell you that if I, Luis Samways, can survive the barrages of negativity that has come my way since starting this career of mine, then anybody can.

I’m probably what people would call a polarizing author. My books tend to split opinion down the middle. Some people love it, and some people hate it. But, and this is a big but, people are talking about my work. And that’s what counts. Because that’s half the battle when it comes to becoming a writer. Getting people to recognize you, your work, and what you stand for. Sure, I’d love to be universally loved and adored like George RR Martin, but at the end of the day, some things just aren’t meant to be.

So if I had any advice for you aspiring authors out there, it is this: grow a thick skin. Because you are going to need it. The world is a cold and unforgiving place. And the Internet is -100° of ice-cold digs, digs that get under your skin and make you question whether or not you are doing the right thing. But that’s a good thing. It’s good to always be kept on the tip of your toes.

I know plenty of indie authors that get better reviews than me, but they lag in the sales charts. Why? Because there are people out there that don’t feel strongly about their work. And feeling strongly about an author’s work doesn’t necessarily only mean that you like their work. To feel strongly about an author’s work in a negative light is also a good thing. Because it starts a conversation. A conversation between readers. A conversation that you are the subject of.

And there’s nothing better than seeing fans of your work defend you against your detractors. But also, there’s nothing better than seeing your detractors rip you to shreds, just to see your ever faithful readers assemble for the good fight, ready to defend your faults and flaws.

So, if I’m ever to give any advice other than just getting a thick skin to any authors out there, I’d like to also add this to the table: it’s a good idea to embrace what you are. Embrace your faults and your flaws. Embrace what people say about you. And learn from the mistakes that you make. That’s what I did, and that’s what many before me have done.

We don’t have to deal with rejection letters anymore from the publishers and gatekeepers. But, rejection still exists. And it exists within the bowels of Amazon’s review system. So one needs to come to terms with that fact. And once you do come to terms with the truth, then and only then can you enjoy your life as a writer.

Because it’s a tough one. And it can be a lonely one. But it’s also fulfilling one. It’s a life where you can bring joy and anger to a bunch of voracious readers on the Internet. And in return for that anger and that joy, you can get paid handsomely for your efforts. But it’s not only about the money. It’s about knowing that you tried your best, and made something that was worth making. Even if in the long run, a few people disagree with your creative decisions.

Keep on fighting the good fight people. Keep on following your dreams. And above all, keep on writing.

Luis out.

The power of surprising your readers!

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The power of surprising one’s readers is a skill that every writer should be familiar with. Part of the difficulty in writing a novel is that it’s a long and sometimes arduous process. Once you’ve written sixty or seventy thousand words, you’ll most likely be spent. (I sure am!)

When you finally sit down and start reading your book, you’ll notice either one of two things; you made it too predictable, or you put so many plot twists in there, that you’re even surprising yourself!

So, what do you do? Do you settle for a well-structured plot, one that makes sense? Or do you go balls to the wall, and throw a tonne of false twists and turns in, trying to keep your readers guessing?

Well, I guess I’m an in the middle type of guy. When I started writing books for a living, I was the opposite. I was into throwing a tsunami of twists into my books, sometimes just for the hell of it, and the results were sometimes a little underwhelming. (Or overwhelming, depends how you look at it.)

After doing this for a while (nearly five years) I’ve come to the conclusion that surprising your reader can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be related to a plot twist, or an unsuspected character reveal. It could just be the setting of the book or the mentality of the main character.

I for one get excited when reading a book that comes a little out of left-field, where the whole plot and storyline are kind of wacky, where it hasn’t really been done before. I know that there are plenty of people out there that believe that there is no such thing as an original thought, but I disagree. Most things in life, including stories, film, and music, are things that influenced us in some way.

But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t original. Just because Godzilla was made before Cloverfield, doesn’t mean Cloverfield isn’t its own beast in its own right! So surprising a reader doesn’t necessarily have to be about something super original. It could be the fact that your book isn’t just another Billionaire Romance novel! That in itself is probably a big enough twist to get your book noticed by somebody, hahah!

For anyone out there that’s struggling with the idea of filling your book with surprising twists and turns, here are a few pointers, things I use when I start writing a novel, things that help me determine whether or not my book will stick out from the rest.

  • A novel needs to have a killer angle, and whilst most writers tend to think that the angle must be plot specific, only true writers know that it can be as subtle as the way a character speaks, or interacts with the world, thus changing a reader’s mind on something, or even securing a bond between the reader and the character.
  • Plot twists should not be forced. They should surprise you as much as they surprise whoever is reading your novel.
  • Manufacturing a twist just to breathe life into a bloated story won’t cover up the fact that the reader had to sit through 400 pages of shite before it got good.
  • Plotting has to do with pace, and pace doesnt always mean fast, it’s good to slow down once in a while.
  • Pushing the envolope so to speak will help manifest a story that is already full of interesting and surprising scenes. Going for a plain old murder mystery isnt enough, you need something special, and if it isnt special, then you need to make it so.

I hope these tips will help any of you looking to inject some life into your novels, but as ever, everything is subjective, and if you think I’m just talking crap, then that’s fine.

You wouldn’t be the first to say so!

Until next time,

Much love,

Luis.

Another New Year, another new website!

Hello, dear readers!

As the more observant of you can probably tell, I have moved my website to a new hosting service (WordPress.) The reason I’ve done so is that I’ve become a little disenfranchised with my previous host. The features just weren’t there to bring a good web experience to my readers, so I decided to ship everything over to my old blog.

I’ve re-routed the domain name so anybody looking for my previous website will land on this one instead. The place is looking a little bare at the moment, but I’m hoping to rectify that soon. I’ll be regularly blogging on this website, and will soon enough be posting writing tips for all you aspiring writers out there.

For the longest time now, I’ve wanted to expand my online platform a little. But I’ve been too focused on the whole writing novels thing to blog or just chill out on my website. This year I’ve decided to be a little more open about my process and begin experimenting in different ways, hopefully entertaining you along the way.

I’ll also be diving into the world of Wattpad soon, and hope to bring my long-time readers some interesting content, for free.

Besides from the new blog and website move, I’ve been on a break from working for a while (through the Christmas period) and ended up taking a month off (alright for some, I know!)

But now I’m back on the grind, and working on a new novel (possible series) that will hopefully be published by a real publisher! (Naming no names yet, but if all goes to plan, then the book will be my first ever properly published novel, obviously if it doesn’t end up getting published “properly” then I guess I’ll just have to self-publish!)  Nothing wrong with that, self-publishing has afforded me my living, so I ain’t complaining.

I’ve got a slew of content lined up this year, and have also got a few non-writing related side-projects I’m working on. When the time’s right, I’ll let you lovely folks know, but for now, I’m afraid I’ve got to get back to tapping on the keyboard!

I hope you all had a great Christmas,

Much love,

Luis.