Friday, January 4, 2013

You Are More Than Your Novel

By Alice J. Wisler
A friend of mine is getting ready for the release of her first novel.  She’s elated. She’s also scared.  For so long she’s wanted to be published and now, it’s going to happen.  But the what ifs are crowding her mind.  What if no one likes my baby?  What if they criticize my story and tear it apart?  She’s never worried about the opinions of others until now.  That frightens her.

I responded to her email message with the words: Remember, you are more than your novel.

I came upon this mantra because I had to use it often when my first novel was released.  In the shower, when driving kids to and from school, and especially when I read a review that wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

The truth is, there will be those who love your work.  There will be others who rip it apart as though you have no feelings.  There will even be readers who have no clue what they are talking about (calling your characters the wrong names, missing chunks of your story and then complaining about why these segments were not included). One reviewer said my character in Rain Song couldn’t have been able to sufficiently support herself because she only had income from writing online columns.  Aggravated, I emailed this woman. Uh, did you not read that my character is a middle school English teacher, too?  I cited about ten page numbers that referred to my character’s students and classes.

Five books later, I’m seasoned like a tough ol’ piece of steak. The criticisms don’t ruffle my feathers.  As much.  My novels are only a portion of who I am.  While I’m grateful that publishers published each one, I also realize that I am so much more than any story I write.  I’m a mom, a loyal friend, a wife, a baker, a daughter, a sister, a believer of the Gospel, a missionary kid grown up. And true, as much as I try, I’m not perfect in anything I do.

There are plenty of writers who never submit because they fear failure. Fear keeps them confined.  If you are going to write and expose yourself to the public eye, then you have to be willing to withstand opinions. Opinions—that’s all they are.  No one’s opinion of your work should diminish you as a person.  On the other hand, keep your happiness over the great reviews at arm’s length.  Again, each paragraph of praise is just another opinion.

By not letting reviews—good or bad—carry a significant amount of weight, you won’t be valuing yourself by your reader’s comments.  Regardless of what others’ say, remember this: You are lovable and fun, deserving of ice cream and cake on birthdays, and always worthy to be called an author. 
Alice’s website: Alice J. Wisler is the author of five inspirational southern novels (each with recipes)—Rain SongHow Sweet It Is,Hatteras GirlA WeddingInvitation and Still Life in Shadows.  Her devotional on grief and loss, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, was released in December 2012.  She teaches writing workshops both online and at conferences.
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