WHAT PRICE, CRITIQUES?

I have been negligent in my postings! Between being very busy with my full time job and, for the past two weeks, being on my first real vacation in many years, it just hasn’t fit into my schedule. My apologies to anyone who went searching for my latest and came up empty!

Alas, though, I’m feeling a bit empty myself today. And frustrated. (It’s becoming a theme here.) I will be curious to hear if any of you have experienced this after I tell you my story.

As you may recall, I had been working on finding an agent and/or publisher for In Her Mother’s Shoes, my second novel, without success. I went the self-publishing route (due out in June) when I had no success with the traditional route.

But not before paying out a lot of money to have my book critiqued by multiple professionals to get it, I assumed, into the best shape it could be. I credited those critiques with the multiple “very good writing” responses I received when I was shopping it around.

But apparently it had a side effect (that happened with book #1, AutumnColors, to a lesser extent). Because what the professional critiques deemed cleaning up the writing (which probably was accurate) apparently wrung the book dry of the vivid connections between my main character’s thoughts and feelings and her family history. I went against my instincts and eliminated many sections of Meredith (main character) making those connections. They were deemed repetitive (and perhaps some were), but earlier readers did not have difficulty making the connections.

The Kirkus reviewer did. And the review was so flat and uncomplimentary, I’m at a loss to find any significant pieces I can use in the marketing of my book – if, in fact, I try very hard to market it. If it is that bad, why would I want anyone to read it? (I opted not to have the review posted, needless to say.)

Well, even I know it is not “that bad.” I did receive all those nice compliments about the quality of my writing, after all. But apparently it does not resound with what was the primary theme of the story – that behaviors within families, positive and negative, are passed from one generation to the next. And the most damaging of those behaviors accelerate, and it takes a conscious effort eventually to recognize and stop it from continuing. Taking out what was considered repetitious apparently removed so much of the theme that it disappeared, in the reviewer’s view, leaving a flat book with flat characters who behave coldly with no apparent reason other than that they are not very likeable people.

NOT the way your characters should be viewed. Characters may have unlikeable foibles, but over the course of the book we should come to understand their source and to revel in the characters’ attempts to become better, stronger and more likeable people.

Would the review have been different if I’d just followed my instincts and left in the many scenes I cut out? I will never know.

What is especially frustrating is that this is the second time it has happened – it happened with  Autumn Colors also, but apparently not enough to result in a negative professional review.

All I know is that if (and that’s a big if at this point) I put myself out there with another book in the future, it will be MY book. I would have it edited, of course, but not pulled apart at the seams. Because, after all, who knows what a writer is trying to say better than the writer herself?

About Dawn Lajeunesse

I, like so many others, am a novelist struggling for recognition. In Her Mother's Shoes was published in June 2013 - available through Amazon, B&N and iPad, e-book (only $2.99!) as well as paperback. Autumn Colors was my first. My third novel, Star Catching, was released in November, 2016 and has been very well-received! My writings are mostly women's fiction, most also suitable for YA. My website is www.dawnlajeunesse.com. Come visit me there!
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