The topic of this post is probably the #1 reason why it’s best to write what you want. If there is a single person out there who loves your story, it ought to be you since you’re the one who is writing it.
No matter what you write or how you write it, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. On the flip side, you’ll always have someone who does like it, which is good news.
Here are examples from my books to illustrate how people can have different opinions on the same book:
Book 1: Review #1 = “This author is awful with her historical knowledge.” Review #2 = “This author really gets into the time period with her understanding of how women were treated back then.”
Book 2: Review #1 = “Terrible grammar.” Review #2 = “Considering this was self-published, the grammar was polished up.”
Book 3: Review #1 = “No, not a heroine who is NOT a virgin!” Review #2 = “It’s refreshing to have a heroine who isn’t a virgin while the hero is.”
I’ve heard it all over the past decade. The stuff some people love, others hate. There is no pleasing everyone.
There are authors out there writing stuff they don’t like in order to please someone else. Either they are trying to please enough readers to get lots of sales or they are looking for tons of praise through reviews and awards. They are putting their own interests aside in order to tailor their work to someone else’s version of “the perfect story”.
I know. We’re apt to think, “Hey, she’s making a living. It’s a job. Plenty of people have jobs they hate.” While that is true, writing isn’t a job where you can just do A + B and get C. The creative process requires focus and effort. Books aren’t a widget on an assembly line.
So let’s say that we have an author who is pleasing others at the expense of pleasing herself. She’s writing books other people want to read (rather than a book she wants to write). Consider how short life is. We are all only given a set number of days from the moment we’re born. How would you like to spend that time? Do you want to do it crying in misery because so much of your time is dedicated to writing something you don’t care about, or would you rather be pursuing something that is your life’s purpose?
I do think it’s important to earn money with your work. I know that sometimes your passion isn’t what pays the bills. In the case where you need your writing to pay the bills, I recommend hiring a ghostwriter and writing the stuff you enjoy. Or, if you can’t find a ghostwriter, then at least give yourself something to write that is your passion. That way, you can at least get some enjoyment out of your work while writing stuff that pays the bills. It will probably mean less money (because the less books you get out there that sells well, the less you’ll make), but this might be offset by cutting back on expenses. If you’re so strapped for money that you can’t afford to stop producing books that you hate, then you might need to get another source of income. I realize that the advice I just gave sucks, but I’ve come across enough authors who hate what they write so much that they say it’s sucking the life out of them. That’s a terrible way to live.
In the case of authors who are striving for praise, I see two problems emerge here. One, there will never be enough praise to satisfy the writer. And two, if the book reaches enough readers, eventually someone is going to hate it. So even if you are getting praise, someone is going to creep into your world and disrupt that euphoric feeling. Not everyone is polite when they offer up criticism. Some people are downright rude. Check out the way people talk to each other on Facebook and Twitter. These two sites best demonstrate how strong the hate is in the world. Why would you expect reviews to be any different? Rude people is something all writers must deal with at some point. This is why I tell authors to read the 1 and 2-star reviews on books from popular authors in their genre. Even authors who are popular get their share of hate.
Also, keep in mind that creativity is subjective. The person reading your book is going to come at it from their worldview. They will have likes and dislikes that could differ from yours. They might have certain expectations going into a story. If you don’t meet those expectations, they aren’t going to enjoy it. There’s just no way of vetting the people who find your book and read it. Likewise, there’s no way that people can vet every single book they pick up before they read it. The reader has to take a chance to find out if you’re the kind of author that writes a story they will enjoy.
So if your aim is to get the praise of every single person who reads your book, you might want to rethink this goal because it’s just not possible. Instead of aiming to write a story to please everyone, why not write it to please yourself and the core audience you’re writing for? It’s okay to care about what people think of your book. Just keep in mind who you are writing for. As long as you’re pleasing them, that’s all that matters.