This isn’t a ‘how to’ guide. This is a ‘how I did it’ memoir. If you take something away from what I’m about to tell you then that’s great and I hope it helps you. If not, then I hope you’re entertained. If you’re neither of those things then… well… *shrugs*
I have a thick skin. My writing has been pulled apart, put back together time and time again and I know it has improved as a result. This is a necessary part of being an author and something that all of us should be able to do.
I hasten to add that this is a recent development. I used to be quite precious about my words. Nobody was allowed to read them. They weren’t good enough. They weren’t polished enough. They just needed one more tweak.
But no; I had to learn to let my ‘babies’ go if I was ever going to publish and the only way to do that was to grow a thicker skin.
What Happened To Me
In October 2013 I published ‘Vicki & Lara’ through Little Vamp Press. The story had been through several incarnations before that point, sat on a hard drive for a good five years and been read, in part, to my critique group. But I made the decision to let it go because I realised something.
Without a goal… without a tangible end point, it was likely that I would keep rewriting, reworking and tweaking the story forever. The process would never end. I needed to do something that would force me to write it, edit it, then leave it the hell alone. The only way I could think of was to publish. So I did.
What I Learned
Very quickly I realised that some people liked the story and others didn’t. It became clear in the first month when various members of my family read the piece along with several of my friends. A mixed bundle of reviews to be sure!
I understood something weird in that moment that, while I knew it, I’d never really thought about before:
Some people like my writing. Others don’t.
Simple right? But without thinking about it or keeping that thought in the back of your mind while you work, you tend to lose sight of that truth.
Anyway. After realising that, I figured I’d better get on and write the rest of the series.
The Turning Point
I read ‘Write. Publish. Repeat.: The No-Luck Guide to Self-Publishing Success.’ This excellent book by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt gave me a bunch of excellent ways to think about writing as a business. If you haven’t read it I really suggest you do. They are an awesome, insightful, honest and creative pair and with the third of their number (David Wright), they’ve taught me a lot.
My method (and that of Ileandra, of course) has changed for the better since reading this excellent book and now I’ll be looking for the podcast.
Basically, this book gave a lot to think about in terms of marketing, but also in attitude. These guys write books that they want to write. While I’ve always said that’s a good idea, I don’t think I’ve properly embraced it. I mean… Unicorn Western? Really? A gun slinging cowboy who rides a bad ass unicorn called Edward? No traditional publisher would have taken that on. Not in a million years.
But not only do these guys write what they want. They only market to those who like what they write. That means they find the people who like the crazy stuff they do and buddy up to them. Novels, short stories, novellas, whatever… once they’re written and available for sale they are products and they sell them. That’s it.
Now… I write erotica. I’m not going to try pushing my books at people who read great literary classics or sci-fi. Because they probably won’t like it. However people who enjoy the likes of Lucy Felthouse and Lora Leigh may enjoy reading what I write. So I’ll go find those people.
Let me put it like this; do you really think the president of KFC gets upset and pissy because a bunch of vegetarians avoid his stores? Eeeeerm… no! He’s not selling products for vegetarians, so he isn’t going to chase them, nor is he going to give a crap what they think. He will, however, go running after the people who love fried chicken and ask them what they think.
The people who don’t like what you write are not your target demographic. So they don’t matter.
Everyone else? To put it bluntly; fuck ’em.
Sounds harsh, but it’s true.
I’ve talked before about that single instance at my critique group where my work got pulled up for being pornography. *shrugs* It’s not, but this person doesn’t like erotica. Nor do they like violence or blood or torture or horror meaning they probably won’t like Ileandra’s work either.
This isn’t a reflection on us, this is that person’s personal preference. Which is fine. But if that’s the case, and they don’t like my genre anyway, do I really care what they think?
Let me answer that question with a picture:
After that meeting I came down to the Funk Master and talked his ear off for a full hour. He was good enough to listen to me, but listening to myself rant and bitch about censorship in the group made me realise that I wasn’t angry about the response to my work.
I didn’t care what this person thought. I was far more concerned about the effect on the rest of the group.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I had accepted that this person isn’t going to like anything I write and that’s okay. I’d made peace with the fact and put it to one side. Just like that.
I’d passed the test.
It’s taken a while to reach this point. I remember a year ago, maybe even six months ago that an experience like the one I described would have left me quivering for days. Now… fuck it.
I can’t tell you how to grow a thick skin. I can’t give you a step by step method to separate yourself from your precious words and understand that they are separate from you. But I can tell you how valuable it is to do so. I can tell you that when you do, you’ll find that everything you write from that point on will shine and glitter like nothing you’ve ever written before. Because you’ll be free.
I’m so free now. I feel able to write whatever I want and put it out there. Not everybody will like it, but those that do are the ones I’m writing for.