Over the twelve years I’ve been publishing ebooks, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on my books. And most of the time, I’ve noticed the things one person hated, another person loved.
For example, I’ve submitted a few books to contests in the past, and the judges offered conflicting feedback. One person said that it would be better if I went with simple dialogue tags like “said” and “replied” because readers will focus on what is actually being said in the dialogue rather than the tags that come with the dialogue. But then, I’ve had another person say that using the dialogue tags “said” and “replied” are juvenile.
Another example is my humor. Some people say they laughed their way through the entire book and that it was a great read. Then other people say my humor is immature and stupid, and the book sucked because of it.
I’ll give one more example. I had a heroine in a story who wasn’t a virgin. She regretted her past, and she hated the fact that she couldn’t change it. Through the hero’s love, she learned that her past didn’t have to define her future. While this book is a romance, my message in it was that we can overcome any mistake we’ve made in the past. Some people loved this message since it gave them hope for their own situation. Some people didn’t like this book because they thought the hero was a wimp since he so easily accepted her as she was. One person even said she’d never read another book I ever wrote because my heroine should have been a virgin.
I have yet to write a book that pleases everyone. At the time of writing this, I have 103 books and 6 short stories available. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in all of this time is that there will never be a perfect book. There will always be something that will turn someone off from your writing.
So, what do you do?
In my opinion, the best person to make the final call on what happens in your story is you. That goes for anything. Whether to use dialogue tags or not, whether to use weird humor or not, whether to go in a certain direction with a character or not, or anything else that goes into the writing of your story. Sure, check your grammar and remove as many inconsistencies and typos that you find. When it comes to the other stuff, however, there’s nothing you can do to satisfy everyone. You’re going to have to make decisions on what to do and how to do it.
I guess if you’re writing to market, then what you can do is take a person or two you trust from the pool of readers in your market and get their opinion. Writing to market is not about the author writing the story according to what the author wants; writing to market is writing the book according to what the reader of that market wants. If you get the help of too many readers, you’ll find that they disagree on something in your story. That’s why I think it’s best to limit how many readers you listen to. This has to be a reader who understands what your market wants. Advice coming from a reader who prefers a different genre isn’t going to help you.
But if you’re writing for passion, you are the final authority on everything. You don’t need to consult anyone. Your biggest struggle will be keeping all of the criticisms out of your head, which is hard. Sometimes I have to step away from the computer and take a walk in order to silence the inner critic. I also find it helpful to ask myself who my character is, what the character wants, and what the character is willing to do (or not willing to do) to get it. Then I use this information to advance the plot. I don’t insert myself into my characters. My characters might share traits in common with me, but they are not me. That’s why a lot of them do things I wouldn’t do. We need to think of our characters as real people and let them tell us who they are instead of us injecting ourselves into them. That’s how the story will work best.
Some readers will like the course of the story, and some won’t. Some readers will love your voice (the way you tell the story), and some won’t. Some readers will love your character for any number of reasons, and some won’t. Some readers will love the nuts and bolts of your writing (past vs present tense, dialogue tag usage, character point of view, etc), and some won’t. No matter how small the item is, you will find someone who doesn’t like it if you get enough readers.
That’s why it’s a pointless endeavor to try to write a book that will satisfy everyone. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just sit down and write the best book you can. If you’re writing to market, write it for the reader of that market. If you’re writing for passion, write it for yourself, knowing that others who enjoy your vision will enjoy it, too. The main thing is you finish the book and get it out there.