Keep Them Talking

“As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Fresh out of college I wrote my first short story which was published shortly after in a state-run magazine. It gave me publicity and it gave me criticism. It gave me the sort of criticism that made me tuck tail and stop writing for a few days. The piece was not provocative in the least. If I recall correctly, the piece was about a local town with a funny history. Living in the area I do…there is enough funny history to keep your writing for years without needing to put your pen or laptop away. So to be assaulted with letters of criticism was a little like realizing you knew absolutely nothing. The only sane thing to do was call up my professors and begin asking for their advice. How do you get over something like that when you’re fresh out of the gate? The advice was pretty simple and I still take heart of it today.

Just get over it and keep writing. There’s no way to please readers fully and completely.

So I kept writing. I wrote pieces that caused little stir and then I wrote stories which outraged readers. Writing is all about provoking a feeling in readers. It’s not a good story unless you remember it. Unless you feel happy, sad, angry, hopeful, embarrassed, or any other emotion along the spectrum, your work may be meaningless to readers. I’ve had readers come to me crying and I’ve had some debating my words. I’m not a political writer in the least but it doesn’t matter. Your readers will always have an opinion about how things should have happened. They will hate the story ended like this or that, become angry that a character had to die, or even feel like the book was a total waste based on one storyline. It happens to all writers. But the part you have to remember as a writer is that you provoked a feeling. It’s a pretty great feeling.

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