Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Your Book Sux

Weight update!  I'm down to 203lbs.  YAY!  I'm finally able to wear a shirt I bought six months ago but haven't been able to wear.  I've still got a long way to go, but the work is paying off :)  Also, that means I'm up to 12 books to donate!

I came to a horrifying realization over the weekend:  Not everyone is going to like my book.  You're shocked, I know.  I was shocked too.  I fully believe that foul-mouthed angels perched on my shoulder while I was writing the thing. So, I mean, not liking my book is like hating puppies or something.  But it's true.  Not everyone is going to be able to relate to my sex-obsessed teen boy character.  Some people will be turned off by the profanity.  Some people just hate to laugh. And you know what, it's okay.

But still, that's a tough realization for a writer to come to.  Ollie's hilarious march toward his own death has been a part of my life for quite some time now.  I've eaten, breathed, and lived The Deathday Letter for almost two years.  I love it more than I love my blind dog.  And when I realized that not everyone is going to dig Ollie's adventure, it made me sad.  And then upset.  And then I finally realized that we all have different tastes.  I began thinking about the books I didn't like and it made me feel better.

I detest Hemingway's books.  Hate is more appropriate.  I think he wrote overrated dreck that is more appropriate lining the bottom of a bird cage.  I think his terse style and spare characterizations were simply a cover for the fact that he sucked at writing.  I read every single one of his books and most of his short stories and never found anything worthwhile in them.  Hills Like White Elephants is maybe the most ridiculous story of all time.

I also didn't like Catcher in the Rye.  For the most part, I felt that Holden was an entitled, hypocritical brat who used his disaffection to avoid life in an unmeaningful way.

I didn't like Slaughterhouse Five.  I thought it was dull and uninspired.

I didn't like Naked Lunch.  To me, it was pretentious and self-indulgent.

Now, I'm not trying to start an argument with the people who love these books.  What I'm doing is proving that taste is highly subjective.  I dislike books that a large percentage of people who read them, love.  And that's okay.  It's okay because it means that it's okay for people to dislike my book.  And that's just something that writers have to get used to.

So tell me:  Are there any books that you didn't like that it seems everyone else was drooling over?  Leave me some comments!  But keep it classy.  Even if you really didn't dig a book, there's a writer out there who hearts it more than anything.

And don't forget:  Only ten days left to send in your story and enter to win a slightly damaged ARC.  Also, if you're shy, you can just leave your name. I understand.


  1. Hmm, I'm sure there are some books I hate that people love. But I'm sort of in your boat right now. Dealing with the realization that people will hate my book. Worse than that, that they will totally slam me for having less than a PhD with no "professional" teaching experience and who the heck am I to have the NERVE to write a book trying to teach somebody something. Yeah. They're going to hate me :) But you know what, someone out there is going to love me too. So I'm trying really hard to just focus on them :)

  2. When someone gives your book a less-than-stellar review, just take a deep breath and say to yourself, "At least my book has not caused anyone to issue fatwa on me like 'Satanic Verses' did for Salman Rushdie."


  3. I know I will! I don't even do homework anymore and I'll be buying it :)

    It's sort of freeing though to think that, yes, people are going to dislike it. Because there will be the others, like you said, who love it. There will be those amazing emails from outstanding folks who make you realize that it's all good.

  4. Kat - LOL! I just spit coffee on my keyboard.

  5. Congrats on your weight loss. That is awesome, Shaun. And how dare anyone not absolutely love your book. My sixteen year old keeps asking how much longer until it comes out.

    I hated The Scarlet Letter. Probably the biggest part of that was the demand that we analyze it to death. While I can admire symbolism here and there in writing, it was way overdone in that particular tome.

    As far as those that hate your book Shaun, just rest easy knowing that your book is out there. Regardless of how many people dislike it, if you're proud of the story and what you've created, the right people will be too.

    And those that don't like it are probably commies. Or something worse that words cannot accurately describe. Yeah, that's it.

  6. Great post, Shaun. I am terrified of bad reviews - though I know they are inevitable - I have a thin skin and am expecting there will be tears.

    However, it's absolutely true that taste varies widely.

    Two popular books I can't stand:
    Wuthering Heights and The Giving Tree (I love Shel Silverstein otherwise, but hate this book. Too me it's condoning an abusive relationship!)

  7. I have sat in the slump of 'my book sux' for about two weeks now. I love getting feedback, but after a while, I become defeated. I mean, this book really sux. Like bad. But I can't throw it away--I love it. And I can't abandon my characters...they're too good. GAH!

    I should just shut-up now and tell you that I'm too much of a book-snob to read past the first chapter of any book that doesn't MOVE. So, I pretty much hate all the classics. How wrong of me, but it's the truth.

  8. Eric - I know, right? But not everyone has our great taste! I think that the school system sometimes kills our love of certain books.

    Andrea: Not The Giving Tree! NOOOOOOO! You know, I never thought about it like that. I'm pretty thin skinned too. I'm working on it though. It's realizing that people can not like my book but that has nothing to do with who I am as a person. When I separate that, it makes it a little easier.

    Chantal: It's tough hearing things you don't want to hear. One of the hardest things we writers have to learn is how to take criticism. Also, I think that life's too short to waste time on books you're not into. I give books about fifty pages before giving up.

  9. I'm looking forward to reading it. More funny books for dudes, that's my motto.

  10. I hate all books! Reading is stupid!!!!!!!!!

    (Oh, and be sure to buy multiple copies of my book when it comes out in 2011. THE FOURTH STALL (HarperCollins). A set of four makes for great coasters or could easily feed a family of five.)

  11. Have you actually gotten "your book sux" emails or are you imagining they'll start up eventually?

    You know what they say about humor--that the things that make us laugh are the things that surprise us and make us laugh as we realize they are true. There will be readers who won't understand Ollie's brand of humor because they don't share those teenage-boy truths.

    There is no such thing as an ugly baby. Your book will find its way to the readers who will appreciate it as their story, their brother's story, that gross boy in the back of classes' story. Hang in there! :) I know that you've already gotten some of their responses to your chapter preview.

  12. Paul: I'm with you...speaking of funny books, you should totally read Chris' book THE FOURTH STALL when it comes out.

    Chris: Nice plug :) Seriously though, I can't wait for The Fourth Stall to come out. Since I read the description I've been dying to get my hands on it.

    Rach: No, no "your book sux" yet, thankfully, but it was one of those things that was keeping me up at night. What was someone going to say? How would I react? I refuse to be one of those authors who goes on Amazon and has a public meltdown, so I figured I'd take control and just accept that it's going to happen and that it's not personal and doesn't mean anything. Also, I've made a pact not to look at my Goodreads page anymore :)

  13. Congrats on seeing those pounds fall away (and giveaway books stack up)!

    I'm not too worried about bad reviews because I think most young readers depend on word of mouth for their next reads. Of course, it'd be nice to get a good review so that librarians and booksellers will also rec my books to potential readers (and stock them in the first place).

    I have a personal rule about giving book opinions: if the author is still alive (and therefore presumably trying to make a living at writing), I won't publicly disparage their writing. Sure, I have opinions -- sharp ones -- and I'll share them privately, but, as you say, taste is so subjective I don't want to risk turning someone away from a book.

    Books in the public domain are a different matter, though. I don't think the grown children of dead authors should depend on their parents' book sales for personal financial health. So: I couldn't stand major works by Hemingway or Fitzgerald when I read them in high school. I think, though, I need to reread them. Tastes change -- maybe I can appreciate them now. Or maybe they were just glamorous figures of their time, and were popular because of their ex-pat, crazy-wife, suicide-committing lifestyles.

  14. I know what you mean about reviews. Logically, I know not everyone will like my book. I tell myself I'll be Ok with it, but we all know I'm lying to myself here. :-)

    Lots of books people loved that I didn't. Some big ones: Heart of Darkness, Scarlet Letter (really should reread it, though, as I read most of it in one night skipping the chapters about the forest).

    I also don't have much patience for slow books. If I'm not hooked in the first 10-20 pages, can't keep reading. The books that people say get awesome once you get to page 100, are not for me.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.