Life is full of ups and downs and when it comes to writing books, that’s the rule, not the exception. You bust your hump, you scrape scarce minutes together to write out a paragraph or three. You lie awake in bed toying with the plot and figuring out how the bad guy is going to hatch his devious plot. You skip off during meetings to jot down a couple of notes that could help out later on. Then you crash into a heap, cry that it’s not worth it, throw the laptop across the room and sulk for a week.
OK, maybe that’s being dramatic, but there’s a level of truth to it, and that’s just the initial phase. First draft, second draft, revisions, corrections, grammar, third draft, complete re-writes, plot holes and character development, it’s a slog. The front cover, dimensions and requirements, the paperback, rear cover and spine, the blurb, distribution partners and channels, the list goes on and on. But as you inch nearer to the release, the pain becomes dulled. It doesn’t go away, oh no, but it is drowned out by the at-first quiet roar of celebration.
The deep low becomes more tolerable as the light becomes more visible. The goal is almost near, it’s just there, a few more weeks, a few more days. There’s a frantic check for all the things you’ve already checked three times over. And then – the day arrives and you sit back in your chair, having done all you can, and drink a little glass of happiness.
The ups. The downs. The way ups and the way, way downs. You want to be a writer? I hope you like roller-coasters. For example, while figuring out how to put up ‘Tedrick Gritswell Gets Crabby‘ on Goodreads (I’m still figuring that out, mind. I think it might have something to do with the pre-release status), I saw a text review on the first book, Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef. Goody. I like reviews. It’s the audience’s way to say ‘I didn’t like X’ or ‘Keep doing Y’. It helps, it really does, and both good and bad criticism is welcome.
But the review was a bit, shall we say, unexpected: “2 Stars. I only got partway into this book. The theme is familiar enough: private eye noir and a dame in trouble. But the characters are the denizens of the coral reef: the main character is an octopus, his sidekick a cuttlefish, along with sharks, clams, etc. Creative but couldn’t take it seriously as a read/listen.”
Here’s where the roller coaster, rather than going up and down, takes a serious jolt to the left and does a spine-wrenching tumble. You… what? The characters are the denizens of the coral reef. Yes. That’s right. Hence the giant octopus on the front cover. Hence the title ‘Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef’. Hence the blurb talking about an octopus and cuttlefish. I’m not sure how it could be plainer. From what I can tell, the reader would like less octopus, not more.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not having a go because the review wasn’t good. Everyone is entitled and should feel free to express their opinion. In truth, I’m unsure what to do with this.
See, in one way, it’s a review saying that the book isn’t worthy of a read since it’s not a typical noir novel set in, say, 1940s Chicago with lots of brim hats and trench-coats and hour-glass figures. In that respect, the book is a failure because, true, it’s not like that at all. In another way, it’s telling me that I’ve hit the nail on the head with what I intended to write: a noir novel set under the ocean where the characters are denizens of a coral reef. From this viewpoint, the review is quite a positive one. And this is where I find it hard to take something from it. Am I reading too much into it? Does the audience really want less octopus? Why would you pick up a book about cephalopods, expecting something that isn’t about cephalopods? I confess, I don’t get it.
And there’s nothing in there about the writing style, or character development, or plot points or anything like that. Anyways, I’ve decided to put that one squarely into the ‘Dunno’ basket for now. At least until I’ve finished the series. Who knows? Maybe afterwards I’ll revisit the whole thing and it will make sense. Let me know if you have any thoughts.