Friday, November 15, 2013

Pushing Past the Subjectivity

Dude, this business is SO subjective. If you didn't know that yet, I hope I'm not revealing anything too heart-breaking. Because this publishing thing? It has the power to rip your heart out and trample on it.

And it's because of the subjectivity of the art. Writing is art. Books are art. I know intellectually that not everyone will "connect" with the art I produce. But emotionally, this is a much harder fact to internalize. Because, if the writing is good, and the plotting is smart, and the characters are well-developed (all compliments I've gotten), why exactly isn't this book for you?

Subjective tastes.

And that's hard to stomach, because I don't know how to revise to fix that. It's impossible. We can't revise our books for every reader who comes along, be them agents, editors, or fans. Maybe if you're writing a Choose Your Own Adventure (remember those?).

But seriously, the subjectivity of this industry is demoralizing. It makes you question your ability, and allows your mind to wander into Forbidden Territory: Doubt.

At the same time, this subjectivity is what's so great about publishing. There literally is a place for everyone, all stories, all types.

So each time I get a rejection that doesn't resonate with me, or with the reasons I wrote the story I did, or the vision I have for my story, I have to push past the subjectivity of it. Sometimes it's hard -- oh, so many times. But in the end, I have to create the art I love and believe in.

How do you push past the subjectivity?


Christine Danek said...

This is so true. I'm still learning how to deal with this. It's not easy and it does make me question lots of things, but I keep in mind that I love my work and in the end that's what matters because it shows in the work. Thanks so much for this post. Perfect timing for me.

Laura Pauling said...

I agree this business is hard. By self publishing and watching different traditional and self published novels, I've realized that it's about story and about what the readers want. We have no control over that. I've seen books with no marketing take off and I've seen book with tons of marketing flop. It's not always about the writing.

Even though that's discouraging, it's also encouraging because that means one book doesn't seal your fate -- at least with self publishing. It might in the traditional world. But then I've known authors to take on pen names and work around it that way.

I've also seen one series be best selling for an author and then the next one doesn't sell. But yes, we can't dwell on the subjectivity or it will drive us nuts.

Angela Brown said...

It can feel like a daunting task, but dealing with the rejection due to the subjectivity of this publishing business is a must-do. And it's good to do so in healthy ways, healthy as in only eating four scoops of double fudge chocolate and walnut delight ice cream instead of the whole carton.

I just received another rejection from an agent on my MG story. It was a nice rejection that reminded me of the subjectivity of agents and readers, but it was still a rejection. I ate a couple of mini Snickers and downed a bottle of water then moved on to the next e-mail, the next job project, and made sure to note any ideas that came to me about possible ways to improve the story. I also felt a little giddiness at the prospect of possibly self-pubbing the story myself :-)

Natalie Aguirre said...

So agree that it's so subjective and out of our control what agents, publishers, and readers want. It does take a bit of joy out of the whole process for me. And makes me glad that I have another job where I can do good service and have stable income.

A. B. Keuser said...

This might be entirely the wrong way to do it, but when I write a story or a book. I pick one person, and I write that book for them, for their tastes. It might morph away from that in revisions, but I try to stick to one "ideal." Weather or not that is a good idea... I'm still not sure.

K. L. Hallam said...

Soooo harrrrd! Everyone in my writers' group has their horror story of set backs on this incredibly exciting and frustrating journey.

I push past by remembering why I love writing, and like many of us, I've done it since childhood. I just have to remember why I love it so, and what fun it is creating stories.
~And I'd do it for free, as I have, and might have to for --EVER!! lol.
Feel better Elana. Your posts often make me feel better. :)

Mart Ramirez said...

Amen! Perfectly said. I totally agree. You can't please every single person and it is frustrating when the writing is strong and the story idea is amazing but there is still a BUT.

How do I push forward? One of my two fave quotes ALWAYS keeps going. I forever will keep them close to my heart.

“What's meant to be will always find a way.”
―Trisha Yearwood

"Rejections are often gifts of direction."
―Paul Young

Hugs and love to you for always bringing up amazing topics we ALL can relate to.

Crystal Collier said...

Totally!!! I think that's why this indie trend has become so powerful, and I'm afraid it's going to do terrible things to the traditional publishing industry. Okay, okay, they're adapting, but you're totally right. There's an audience for anything. You just have to find it.

Kelly Polark said...

Yeah, I've had a scathing rejection for a book that another publisher ended up loving. So as much as that rejection stung, I did feel a little smug two years later when it was accepted!

And I totally remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I actually liked them a lot!

Missed Periods said...

I don't think that rejections will ever not suck, but so many great books were at one time rejected, so that keeps me going.

PurpleMist. said...

This is off-topic, but I just came across your books in a bookstore near my house. I live in a small island in Malaysia. I got so excited so thought I should share :D

Dianne K. Salerni said...

It's especially hard to face the criticism and rejection when you pick up an acclaimed book and wonder, How the HECK did this thing win a Newbery Honor Award?

I'm trying to force my way through one right now. (I won't name it.) Because I need a book at this particular reading level for a certain reading group, and this one fits the bill ... except I find the narrative disjointed and confusing. If I can't follow it, how will my "slightly under grade level" readers. And HOW did it get a Newbery Honor seal on it?!?

I can write better than this. I know I can! And yet I don't have a single award to my name, (obviously.) What I do have is several unsold manuscripts ...

Subjectivity. It's hard to take. I can only try having faith that the right manuscript will hit the write editor at the right time. It just may take awhile.

Unknown said...

I agree with Crystal. I've taken the heat off of myself. I want to write my stories for fans not agents. Now I just have to get me some fans. I'm not worried. I'm not. I'm also not drinking wine, eating chocolate, or contemplating a face plant onto my keyboard. Swear. ;)

In all seriousness, thanks for the post. We have to stay true to ourselves. I think once we allow someone to take us in a different direction, we lose the connection with our characters and our stories only suffer for it.

Little Ms J said...

Rejection is unfortunately most of our greatest fear, but the thing I love about publishing is that you kind of expect it. At least for a while.

But, the other thing I love is the subjectivity of art. That is what makes us so passionate to create, consume, discuss and pass on. When a story lives within you, a character or a line… THAT IS GOOD STUFF. You will have those that will devour your words and others that they do not resonate with at one time or another.

You can be a grown up and expect that, but I'd honestly probably just assume they grew up under a rock. Y'know. Because they're my words. I can be so mature when it isn't me. :-)


Donna K. Weaver said...

I remind myself that I didn't write for everybody. I wrote a story I would like. I like it, so I achieved my goal. If you don't like it, then I didn't write it for you. No wonder you didn't like it. *shrugs*

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