What a friend said to me

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GoSpeed

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I recently was talking to a friend about my writing and I casually asked what they thought about my writing style. She said she bought all my books but admitted to not reading them. Her reason was, "the might suck". Of course that flippant remark hurt. She later admitted she chose her words poorly and finally told me she was afraid to read them because if she didn't like them, that I would not like her anymore.

I explained to her that her honest opinion was just that, but that she should at least give it a shot before passing judgement. Hopefully she'll give me her assessment soon. Whether she loves it or hates it, she's still my friend.

Anyone else have to deal with this problem?
 

Gillhoughly

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Oh, yeah! Mine came from a guy I'd dated. Gave him a signed copy of a book, then found out long after we amicably parted that he not only didn't read it, but gave it to some charity. I happened to be in their store, picked up the book, and felt the steam coming out of my ears.

A mutual friend admitted the guy had not read it, thinking he wouldn't like it because he didn't think I was smart enough to write anything. Apparently the other dozen books I had out at that point were no indicator of my literary ability.

I did not bother confronting the guy, not worth the effort, but I did adjust my expectations of readers who got books from me as gifts. The books were always to be a gift and no expectations, period. They can read or not, their choice.

However much you want to know what your friend thinks of your work, do not go there. The best feedback will be from strangers. You can get all you want here on AW.

Thank friends for buying the books and leave it at that. Don't ever ask for feedback or even if they read them. If they do and like them, they will tell you. Anything else you don't wanna know. Literary taste is like one's taste in art, wholly subjective. One person's masterpiece is another person's wallpaper.

Once I gave a book to a near-stranger at a party, didn't give it a second thought. During a quiet moment she cracked it and began reading. A few pages later she sought out our hostess and my BFF and asked very seriously, "Did Gill really write this??"

"Yes, of course, why do you ask?"

"Because it's really good and Gill is such a loud, self-obsessed, hyperactive flake."

I still laugh over that one. She was indeed correct in her review -- of me. :)
 
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PiaSophia

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Hi there!

I'm sorry you have to go through this kind of miscommunication.
I personally don't have experience with that exact situation, but I do have some friends around me who either don't want to buy my book because they say they "simply don't read" or "don't read my genre". Others did say they want to buy it, but then never do. And then I have some friends who did buy my book but immediately said they wouldn't read it, because they don't like reading. And, you know, while that sucks a little it's okay. Something like that shouldn't change a friendship, although it would be nice if they would make an effort and read it--like I would do for them. It's just something you have to deal with as a writer, I guess. Not everyone will read or like your work, same goes with friends.
 

fenyo

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I am not sure she can give you her honest opinion.

part of her opinion is effected by the fact that she is your friend. either consciously or unconsciously it must change and affect what she think of the book.

if you want her honest opinion, give her some thing that you wrote and don't tell her that you wrote it. ask her what she think of it and then tell her that it is you how wrote it.

That is the best way to get her honest opinion- but not a very good way if you want to keep her as a friend. :)
 

Fuchsia Groan

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What Gill said. I have had friends tell me all sorts of contradictory stuff. One friend doesn’t read the book herself but predicts it will be a bestseller because her teen daughter loved it. Another reads it and says I should write for adults because my style is too “smart” for teens. And then there’s my sister, who says lovely things but primarily wants to know which family member I based my villain on. :) Even when people try to be positive and helpful, if they’re not in the industry or well versed in your genre, they’re often ... not helpful. So I thank them profusely for buying or reading (because that shows they care) and nod and smile and try to forget about it.
 

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I think it's pretty common for friends and family to not want to read, let alone provide commentary on, one's writing. It can create a lot of friction if someone simply doesn't like their loved one's work or style or choice of topics, let alone if they think the writing really is lacking in some way.

It's possible to develop and honest critting partnership relationship with someone you know in another context, but it helps if they are also a writer, or if both are the kind of person who can put opinions about writing and story content in a place that's completely separate from their values and relationship with the person. And critiquing a work that's still in progress is different from reviewing a friend's or loved one's work that's already complete and published too.

Good critting partners and beta readers are precious jewels anyway, and often one gets feedback from someone unfamiliar with a particular genre or style, or with very particular tastes, so it can be hard to know what to make of it.

I remember being in high school and writing the opening to what I hoped would be a great epic fantasy/romance. It started with a woman leaving her abusive husband. I timidly asked my then boyfriend read it, and he became very furious and defensive. Hated the idea of women leaving their men and of men being demonized as bad guys, yada yada. I couldn't convince him the story wasn't about us. It resulted in a very torrid argument and shut down my writing for years.

In hindsight, the story was kind of about "us," as he was rather a jerk.
 
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I have a good friend who has published some contemporary romance novels. Once, before she was published, we were talking about it and I explained how I just can't with modern-setting romance because the romances always come down to some basic miscommunication or non-communication between the couple, and in this day and age there is just NO EXCUSE for that, in my mind. Give me a society with strict rules about when a lady can be alone with a gent, or even write him a letter, etc (Hello, Regency Romance!) and I can follow along with joy and zero impulse to fling the book against the wall in frustration.

Of course, when her first book came out, she gave it to me. I have never read it, because I will have to live with my opinion of the story forever, and I don't want to. I like that it remains a mystery to me, and I am happy she's getting paid for it.

She has never asked me what I thought, or even brought it up, thank goodness. If she did, however, I'd probably tell her I kept it in a place of pride in my bookshelf because I was so proud of her, but that I hadn't gotten around to reading it yet. Both true.
 

Marian Perera

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Anyone else have to deal with this problem?

When my first book came out in paperback, I gave copies to all my friends. It was something of a disappointment when nobody read the book (I could have used those copies for giveaways on Goodreads).

So now I don't expect my friends to read my work, and I don't mention my books to them. As Gill said, the best feedback is from strangers.
 

KTC

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I received a THANK GOD, I WAS TERRIFIED TO READ IT IN CASE I HATED IT admission. They didn't want to have to give their opinion if they hated it and they were relieved when they didn't. I always just tell people I'm fine if they hate it...don't feel a need to share your feelings. I never foist books on people. Inexplicably, I always feel guilty as an author.
 

frimble3

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Look at those friends who bought your book and didn't read it as real friends. They may not care for reading, or your kind of book, but they liked you enough to purchase a copy!
Not only do you get money, but, when people look at your book, even if they didn't leave a review, they are one more point in the 'copies sold' stats!
They did their best to be supportive. It's like the non-athletes who go out to races and games and meets, not because they like it, but because their friend, or friend's kid is taking part!
 
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Kat M

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Not quite the same, but my mother casually said to me once, "You know, Kat, I see you as a poet. You're simply not disciplined enough to ever finish a novel."

(And my mother is usually the salt of the earth, the kindest, most sensitive-to-feelings person I know.)

I spluttered, I gaped, I cried in private.

Then I sat down and wrote a damned novel.

Gave it to her for Christmas.
 

Paul Lamb

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This is why I keep my writing activities so close to my chest. I write for myself (and for the editors who publish my stories). Most of my friends are not literary and have only said things like "it's nice" or "it's very good" when I've shared a story. Not the most useful feedback. I have a couple of trusted writer friends I'll bounce stuff off of, but for the most part, few people even know I write creatively, and I think that's the way I like it. As long as it's solely for me, I have the drive to keep at it.
 

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I must confess to being on the other side of this. A friend had one of his short stories published in a collection by a small press and I have never got around to reading it. In my defence, I did buy two copies at full price.
 

mccardey

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I recently was talking to a friend about my writing and I casually asked what they thought about my writing style. She said she bought all my books but admitted to not reading them. Her reason was, "the might suck". Of course that flippant remark hurt. She later admitted she chose her words poorly and finally told me she was afraid to read them because if she didn't like them, that I would not like her anymore.

I explained to her that her honest opinion was just that, but that she should at least give it a shot before passing judgement. Hopefully she'll give me her assessment soon. Whether she loves it or hates it, she's still my friend.

Anyone else have to deal with this problem?

Oh gosh - I'm totally with your friend on this, and I think she sounds lovely. She values your friendship very highly, she understands the personal nature of writing, she's honest, she's careful of you and of her honesty with you, and she sees herself in a different, stronger, more intimate relationship to you than just a "reader". I think you missed a whole raft of lovely compliments in her statement.

Why does she need to assess your writing as well as be a friend to you? It's a very loaded ask, that kind of thing, and fraught with peril. Value her friendship. It's worth much more than any comment she'd make on your writing. If you were a dentist, would you expect her to examine the teeth of all your clients?

I think she's lovely - and she loves you, and she's worth gold for the times when you get a lousy review and she's on your side a zillion percent just because she loves you.

ETA: AND SHE BOUGHT ALL YOUR BOOKS, EVEN KNOWING SHE WOULDN'T READ THEM! :e2faint:Shes adorable! Give her a hug and tell her she's off the hook.

That's my advice (and I've given it because this isn't the Conquering Challenges thread.)
 
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Dan Rhys

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Before my novel was even published, I gave the manuscript only to those who were avid readers and expressed interest in reading it, and I told them to be as harsh as possible with their feedback because I wanted to make the novel as strong as possible. That way, no one felt bad about criticizing it.
 

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I recently was talking to a friend about my writing and I casually asked what they thought about my writing style. She said she bought all my books but admitted to not reading them. Her reason was, "the might suck". Of course that flippant remark hurt. She later admitted she chose her words poorly and finally told me she was afraid to read them because if she didn't like them, that I would not like her anymore.

I explained to her that her honest opinion was just that, but that she should at least give it a shot before passing judgement. Hopefully she'll give me her assessment soon. Whether she loves it or hates it, she's still my friend.

Anyone else have to deal with this problem?

Deal with the problem of a writer friend exploiting our friendship by forcing me to read their book, even though I don't want to? No. That hasn't happened to me.

I don't expect friends to read my work. It saves a lot of potential awkwardness, because people have different tastes and expectations and you can't live your life constantly seeking approval.
 

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I've mostly had positive experiences with friends and colleagues buying my books - in fact, I've been humbled and very positively surprised by how nice people have been. I write YA, which many adults I know wouldn't read, but most have gone out of their way to express surprise at how much they enjoyed it. If any had critical thoughts, they kept those to themselves.

However, I do also have people very close to me who have no interest in reading my books - namely my husband. He's supportive, but he isn't creative in any way, and doesn't even read ficton for adults. Only last year after I bugged him did he read one of my books, which he did with an air of suffering. It's not that I want to force him to do things he doesn't want to, but I'd like him to know what I spend so much time labouring on, even if he doesn't 'get' it. I guess I off-set his indifference with the many other people who are engaged. Can't have everything, right?
 

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I recently was talking to a friend about my writing and I casually asked what they thought about my writing style. She said she bought all my books but admitted to not reading them. Her reason was, "the might suck".
Yep that sounds like me, too -- what if I don't like it, what if I hate the MC and find plot holes or other stuff that doesn't tie up? If the book's already finished and published, I don't want to disappoint the author with negative opinions. I have many unread books on my Kindle for this reason! Buying their book is already supporting the author. If writing pals want honest feedback, they can let me see the first couple of chapters while they're still WIP and we'll go from there.

-Derek
 

lizmonster

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In the large, my friends don't have the slightest interest in what I've written. (A lot of them don't read the genre at all, but even so.) They'll congratulate me when things go well, but if they're running to the bookstore I'm not hearing about it.

It's of course OK for you to be hurt. It's OK for you to ask them to please read at least one of your works. It's even OK for you to tell them you don't need a critique (good or bad!), you just want to share what you love with your friends.

I also believe if they're not reading now that doesn't mean they don't love and support you. It's a rough thing, having a friend who's a creative, especially if you know how much of themselves they pour into their work. The best books ever written have people who don't like them at all; if a friend doesn't like your work, that doesn't say anything at all about its quality, but I suspect they'd worry about making you feel bad.

Hugs to you, OP. This writing gig is rough, and it can be hard to navigate around our own feelings sometimes.
 

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I gave my mom a portion of my most recent work. The first 78 pages and she didn't talk to me about it for 2 months. Never brought it up or anything, until I confronted her about it. Said, "I didn't like it" then she went on about, "I didn't want to hurt your feelings." Not talking about it at all hurt the most. She could have easily said this to me right away, I wouldn't have any problem with it. And this is after all my published books. She also didn't like another book, but I wrote it and went on to get that published too. She was even at my book signing.

And even after allllllll that she kept me hanging and flat out said, "I didn't like it." I never got any answers as to why. Not one single word more. I have a rocky relationship with this woman anyway. She's super judgmental and critical. There was a time when she was reading my work years ago and giving me feedback. But honestly there were bigger issues though. She still thinks its just something to help keep me busy.

BUT my son read one of my books for the first time ever and OMG, it was one of the most joyful moments of my writing career. I never asked or anything. He just surprised me one day, asking a bunch of questions on it. And I was like, OMG, did you just read that book? Priceless. Never thought that would happen while I was still alive.
 

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Sure, all the time.

When you're finished you have to be able to let go of it. There's always gonna be someone who doesn't like it, sometimes they'll be your friends and family. All artists have to deal with that. Takes a long time to grow that thick skin.
 

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Ugh, some of these stories. I've met plenty of people in life who do things I really don't like, but I'd never TELL THEM I thought that! What does it hurt to just say nothing, or to just be polite?

I'm really private about my writing, so was surprised to hear from random distant cousins and friends of aunts (people I'd never met) who'd bought and read my first book. It actually makes me a bit uncomfortable, but a sale is a sale, right? Being told the main character is like me was worrying … what if the main character in every other book is, too ...

I'm struggling with my current book, so I'm kind of hoping nobody finds out about it!
 

Paul Lamb

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I recently shared a story draft with a friend (because she's a world traveler and the story involved traveling and finally settling down). She (eventually) sent me her honest feedback -- it was personal and not suggesting edits or such -- and then she apologized and hoped she hadn't offended me. I was grateful for the substance she provided; most people who read my stuff have nothing substantive to say about it.

Take what you can get, consider it or not, and then move on. Only you can write your stories.
 

Barbara R.

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It's very common, although your friend was more honest than most people about it. People we know in real life know us, too, and therefore know that we're fairly ordinary people. They imagine that Authors are very different sorts, much more intellectual and brilliant, and therefore they think that our books must be lacking ia certain je ne sais quoi. Those of us who've known many writers know this is a fallacy. Most writers put the best of themselves into their books, so what's left over seems quite ordinary. Writing's just what we do, like carpentry or law; it doesn't make us elevated beings. Your friend imagines that to write a good book, you have to be Special, but you don't. You just need to be a writer.
 

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I'm not sure if my husband has written anything I've written. He likes to read true crime (serial murderers, gangs, etc) and fantasy/horror/sci-fi, but I generally write Golden Age-type detective stories, with the occasional whatever-punk/magical-girl fantasy thrown in for when I'm in the mood. I think I once left him a book with my story bookmarked in it, and I think he might have read it, but he never said a word about what he thought, and I didn't pry if he wasn't going to say anything voluntarily.

Instead, I generally say something like, "I sold another story." And he's like, "High five!" And then I'll leave the check or the contributor's copies lying on the table for a few days when they arrive. ;)

On the other side of things, he's very enthused about helping me with plots. He's the kind of guy who likes to predict how a story or a movie will go, and 99% of the time, he's able to guess correctly. So if I come to him and say, "I'm trying to write a scene. Bandits have attacked my character's caravan with swords. All he has to start with is a staff. What's going to go through his mind? What's his strategy going to be like, if he's outnumbered? Will he choose the closest target, the weakest target, or the most important target first?" And then he'll walk me through it and give me good pointers. Or, "So-and-so has gone on a cruise for the purpose of disappearing his rich wife. He's going to secretly replace her with his accomplice, and they'll relocate to a foreign country. But I can't figure out how he's going to get his hands on her assets, because surely her lawyers will know the difference." And then he'll walk me through a few strategies.

So-- part of me is sorry that it's not something we share, but another part of me understands that not everyone likes everything, even if we love the human being behind it. If he started writing murderous serial killer cults, I probably wouldn't read his stuff, either... :) So I'm happy with his participation in the way that he's able to participate.
 

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