Writers – LEARN from your reviews!

All right – so most of you folks who have been following my blog will undoubtedly know that I have recently written and released an e-book entitled Uncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp – From Eden to the Ark.

I have ONLY mentioned about twelve or fifteen or a hundred times or so in the last couple of weeks. 🙂

Buy My Book on Kobo!

Buy My Book on Kobo!

And some of you folks might ALSO know that I am hard at work on the next book in the series Uncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp – From Babel to the Bullrushes.

The sequel will be due out by the end of the month. It is about three times the length of the first volume – more along the lines of a full-sized novel and involves some of the liveliest writing of my entire career.

Preorder my second book on Kobo NOW and save half-price!

Preorder my second book on Kobo NOW and save half-price!

(Oh pity the fat greasy spam that has died and gone on to spam-heaven to make this spam-laden post possible.)

Some of you may have even picked up a copy of the first book for your Kindle e-reader – or possibly you might have taken advantage of the Kindle Matchbook program and ordered a paperback copy of Uncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp – From Eden to the Ark and received a free Kindle e-book along with the paperback!

Buy my book on Kindle and giggle at us poor unfortunate  Canadian Kobo-slobs.

Buy my book on Kindle and giggle at us poor unfortunate Canadian Kobo-slobs.

Or you can buy book 2 on Kindle.

Some of you folks may have wondered just WHY I am writing about the Bible when I usually am more comfortable writing about ghosts and voodoo and monsters and giant screaming gorillas.

Oh wait, I haven’t written that last book yet.

Well – as I always say – I am a storyteller.

And the Bible is chock-a-block full of fat juicy stories that are just dying to be told.

So I decided to write some Bible stories. In fact I decided to write the ENTIRE Old Testament in my own voice – or rather the voice of my protagonist, Uncle Bob.

Naturally, I have taken a few liberties in the name of storytelling – but I figured that you folks would understand what I am up to.

That’s right – I made an assumption.

I actually ASSUMED that my readers could read my mind.

Writers have to watch out for that sort of problem constantly.

You get all caught up in the act of creation and you start thinking to yourself that just because you can see it in your mind – just because you KNOW what you are doing – that your reader will likewise follow along.

That is so much bull-puck.

The fact is – IF IT ISN’T ON THE PAGE IT JUST DOESN’T EXIST!

Sure, MAYBE your reader will read between the lines.

MAYBE they will understand the brilliant subtlety of your manuscript.

Odds are they won’t.

I found this out the hard way.

I sent review copies to TWO different Christian reviewers who BOTH got stuck on the line in the first chapter that went like this –

“Come the fourth day God decided that he needed a little bit more light and he threw the sun up into the sky and he wired it in good and proper and made sure it was up to the official celestial world-building code of construction and then he decided that he might like something little calmer – like maybe say a night light – so he wired in the moon and then he poked a few holes in the night sky and he decided to call those poke-holes stars and then he strung up a few constellations to give folks something to dream on and then he had himself a cigarette because even God needs to take a break now and then.”

Turns out that BOTH of those reviewers pulled to a screeching halt just as soon as they came to that image of God having a cigarette.

It upset the both of them.

Now I know that some of you folks are giggling at this – and some of you folks might think that I ought to giggle too.

Let me tell you how my whole thought process on this matter evolved.

First off I was a little angry and a little frustrated and even a little hurt. It bothered me that they couldn’t tell that I was writing in the voice of someone (Uncle Bob) who was TELLING the tale of creation in his voice.

So I stopped and took and breath and e-mailed a reply to the first reviewer. I explained my position and she saw what I was saying and understood my creative aim. I wrote the second reviewer as well with the same sort of explanation and she seemed to likewise get it.

That made me feel a little better but I was still feeling a little owly about having to get off of my high horse and EXPLAIN what I had written.

“How could they be so stupid?” was the first thing I thought.

Then my inner editor – who had been sitting inside my imagination listening to me work myself into a funk over this did something wonderful and compassionate and totally brilliant.

He climbed down out of my imagination, stepped behind me, and kicked me square in the keester – which is Latin for butt.

(Incidentally, my inner editor wears work boots – big smelly steel-toed work boots – and he smokes a cigarette that smells as if it were made out of old horse manure, pages torn from the lost volumes of the Library of Alexandria, and a crumple of rusted barbed wire.)

“Look, you,” my inner editor said. “The reason they couldn’t understand what you were getting at is because you DID NOT put it on the freaking page!”

I pointed out that I was writing on a computer and most of the copies of the book would likely be digital – so that any page involved was strictly theoretical – so he walked around and kicked me in the butt again.

His boot toe hadn’t got any softer through use.

“I deserved that,” I told my inner editor.

“I know you did,” my inner editor – whose name is Ralph – replied. “So what are you going to do about it.”

“I guess I might think about rewriting it just a little.”

“You are freaking right that you are going to rewrite,” Ralph said. “You are going to REVISE – which means you need to look at that manuscript through the eyes of a reader – not Carnac the Magnificent!”

Carnac

So that is EXACTLY what I have done.

Now I don’t ALWAYS listen to reviews that closely – until I start hearing the same comment over and over and over again.

So I revised the first two chapters of Uncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp – From Eden to the Ark.

If you want to read the revised version I have already gone ahead and posted it on my blog here.

Just click this link and it will take you there. For those folks who are wondering all that has been added is the italicized paragraphs – about three pages worth.

Let me sum this whole blog entry up for you.

WRITERS – listen to your beta-readers and your initial reviews – ESPECIALLY when they all seem to be agreeing on one particular point.

Your words AREN’T golden snowflakes.

They CAN be changed.

Both God AND Ralph encourage the occasional U-turn.

***

Lastly, I want to send out a note of thanks to two wonderful reviewers who wrote wonderful reviews for my new book.

First off – thanks to Veronica Dorval who told me that my book brought tears to her eyes.

And secondly – thanks to S.D. Hintz who pointed out that this book is a great fit for adults and teenagers alike.

Readers have no idea how greatly appreciated a well-written review can be for a writer. They can help sell the next book or more important they TRULY put a grin on a writer’s face. Writing is an awfully solitary sort of profession and the personal feedback that a short review offers is not to be down-played one little bit!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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4 responses to “Writers – LEARN from your reviews!

  1. Yup Yup. Lose the ego when reading reviews…this is key. Of course, I’ve haven’t found the key, but I’m looking in the couch cushions! Keep on writing!

    Like

    • I hear you, Ed. It is like I always say – I’ve been writing and selling my fiction for about forty years and I am still just figuring things out. Writing is a learning kind of game.

      I think the cat might have swallowed the key, myself.

      Like

  2. True, reviews can be painful but like you say, if two people make the same point it’s well worth listening.

    Cheers

    MTM

    Like

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