Sunday, March 5, 2017
Facing that first 1-Star Review
So what happens when someone isn't enamored by a project you love? What occurs at that moment when people don't get your project, understand something different, or heaven forbid, find the shortcomings of it all?
Well, to be honest, not much.
The world still turns, no one has died, and although the ego might have scraped its knee, it's much more a lesson than it is a tragedy. Recently I received my first 1-Star Review, and although one could make a case for several things, the fact remains that the 1 star is on the record, and that isn't a bad thing. It's not a good thing either. It just is.
As an indie author, I often indulge in many of the liberties I'm afforded by being an indie writer. This includes writing in a variety of genres rather than "stick to my guns." And that's a very important thing about me, I'm just not fond of "sticking with my guns" or even tempting the possibility of being a one trick pony. I like challenging myself; I like doing different things; I like taking risks and with risk comes occasional consequences, even if that word makes it sound oh so much more melodramatic than what it is.
I've always been fond of the Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore and as author of Only Human and the proud parent of several other literary works, I'm often a bit saddened that my first novel gets the lion's share of attention. Whereas the Human Cycle in its entirety is a complex amalgam of genres and opinions and beliefs and storylines and styles, the Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore are decidedly relaxed, almost too nonchalant in their whimsicalness.
The concept of this project is rather loose and rather than write an overreaching arc, the Daydreams are individual snippets to be enjoyed like cartoons or one-off short stories that are sometimes connected but often aren't. It's been a project loved by the few who get it and that has left several other people scratching their heads. It's also been a project I've adored investing time in and something that has evolved until reaching its current point… but in essence it remains exactly what it started out as: it's me writing for the sheer love of writing, of pushing creative boundaries while doing my best to make someone smile by the end of each story. Yet it is not my most popular book by any means.
The plot is pretty straightforward in its randomness. Me and a friend go on adventures with other people in the world of dreams known as Draem. It doesn't need to necessarily make all the sense in the world, it should feel dreamy, and it should be fun. The only real rule is to have fun and trust me, I've had plenty with each of the short stories. But as with most of my projects, as I begin working on it, its true personality eventually emerges. I literally postponed one upcoming short story to write a sort of get well story for a friend, who had just undergone surgery. That's why you'll see there's an Episode 3 and an Episode 3.2. The whimsicalness remained and original purposed remained, but metaphors began to seep in from life.
On the blog, the short stories are quite popular, so I decided to make a collection and release them, because obviously if they were successful in one medium, said success should translate to the other. Unfortunately for me, the next step was to get a nice reality check and realize something is off in the collection or at the very least misunderstood. Reviews have been few and far in between (a common theme I deal with regularly with my works, but such is the life of an indie writer or at least with me). But with this project, I can't help but insist on it, as I would on any of my projects, especially when it is misunderstood.
So in the hopes of getting more attention to the collection, I approached a reader on Goodreads, asked if their book club would be interested in reading and was super ecstatic when they said yes. "Awesome, now more people will get a chance to read it," I thought.
As was the previous case, reality came a knocking with a very different answer from what I hoped. Creativity and etherealness were praised, even world building, but the book didn't engage, didn't feel cohesive since one chapter didn't hold relation to the next. That's when the knee jerk reaction came through with me wondering why people call each episode a chapter when they're individual stories. So after three 3-Star reviews, I got a nice dose of reality in how little people understand the concept and that by expecting a narrative, it can be not only off-putting but frustrating.
Somehow, stories I mean to have people smiling by the end actually turned out to confuse and frustrate readers and then, last week I got my first 1-star review for the same book (pictured above).
Here's the review in its entirety:
"I really enjoyed the world building aspect of your book. I was able to truly feel transported to a magical land. However, I thought that the world building was the best part of the story. I did not really find myself drawn to the story, and it did not feel cohesive or completed to me."
I kept reading it and wondering why the 1-star because it doesn't feel like a 1-star, but alas, tis a 1-star review. But I read, re-read, and decided to offer my thanks and a reply, which I will copy in its entirety below:
"It's a bummer you weren't drawn in. As such, the book is a collection of short stories so I get why it doesn't feel cohesive. It doesn't really carry a single narrative and that wasn't the intention either, but I see a lot of people looking for that and being frustrated by the lack of it. The idea was more like having something quick to read after a long day and I think part of the issue might be the formatting, i.e. Episode numbers that might be understood as chapters, when it's closer to volume numbers like comics that don't necessarily carry from one to the other. Definitely taking several things into consideration so that it has a better flow from one to the other because the last thing I want is for anyone to read and be frustrated. Thanks so much for the honest review and know I'm addressing a lot of what is being shared about this series to ensure it has a better chance of connecting. Cheers"
More than being frustrated with the readers, I am disappointed that I failed somewhere in the equation and that they didn't enjoy what I wrote, thus I've in a sense failed with those stories. But rather than give up on this project, what this does is renew my love for the Daydreams and to insist on writing even more in the hopes that some people can focus on the better aspects of these stories, the messages within (equality, kindness, manners, beauty even with disabilities, etc.), the lessons in grammar (The Grammar Jammer is and shall always be one of my favorite creations), and how fun it can be to read something that doesn't take itself too seriously. And when I hit upon that thought, I had my aha moment, i.e.: If I took all of this too seriously I would be doing a disservice to these stories and the world of Draem as well.
So rather than putting my tail between my legs, I choose to wag my literary tail harder than ever and to insist on this project. Rather than consider this any type of failure, I consider it a victory because I'm finding out so many things about this project and how I can better connect readers with my whimsical dreams. Rather than even hint at thinking I would quit, the fire is fueled to push harder for more people to visit the world of Draem, because it is an escape from all the bad news we are bombarded with.
That's why during this month I shall celebrate the victory of my first 1-star review!
Firstly, I shall be putting the ebook for my Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore at .99 for the entire month of March, because I want to give more people the chance to check them out for themselves and see if more people have more advice to share, or thoughts to share in reviews or in general.
Secondly, I shall be reading all of my Daydreams on my Authortube channel to further share my stories with people.
And thirdly, I'll be doing a giveaway soon, in the search of some dreamers to visit the world of Draem.
My thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed and supported my writing in any of its various forms, from the blog, to the poems, to the novels, to the short stories. You may have an idea that it helps but I guarantee that you have no idea just how much each review inspires and fuels the fire to keep pushing to give my best as a writer. My deepest thanks for taking that time to write a review, good or bad, because they all inspire. Til next we meet through words.
Peace, love, and maki rolls.