Here’s something from Into the Wilderness that I would rewrite if I could:
They paused, both breathing hard, like statues in the moonlight. Kitty’s clothing was disturbed; a white breast glinted between the edges of the bodice she clutched in one hand. Her loosened hair hung in frowzy ropes to her waist. Her complexion was gray, but her eyes glittered.
The ‘statues in the moonlight’ thing irks me, far too cliched. I’m uneasy with the glittering eyes (but maybe that has to do with my current study of eyes in print). But worst of all: the bodice she’s clutching in one hand.
Okay, so the detail is historically correct. But it’s a bodice. A bodice, and I’m always telling people that I don’t write bodice rippers (that is, books full of sex scenes that are there for no other reason than to arouse, rather than to move characterization or story along). And here’s Kitty, clutching her bodice. Yikes.
On another front: the hardest thing about writing a series is the constant challenge of bringing new readers along for the ride without confusing them too greatly, and at the same time, not boring everybody whose been on board since the beginning. I’m at that point in the fifth volume where readers will need some background on the village, but I hate recapping. Wendy (my editor) says, people will be confused, to which I want to say, well hell, let them go read the first four volumes, right?
Now she’s wondering about a foreword for the fourth novel, in which the Author Recaps formally and thus saves the uninitiated reader from having to go read the first three. Stephen King did this in the new editions of his Gunslinger books — there’s an introduction that tells you what happens in one, two, and three if you happen to pick up four first.
Does this sound like a good idea?
everybody gets them. I try to make them a learning experience, or at least I try to laugh at the worst of them.
Constructive criticism doesn’t hurt; it’s the stuff that writers need if they are really serious about their work. A lot of criticism out there is in no way constructive, and that sometimes does hurt, if I’m in the wrong mood or make the mistake of taking it too seriously. Amazon.com has caused a lot of writers some really bad moments, because of course the reader reviews are all anonymous and anonymity brings out the worst in some people.
Into the Wilderness has 192 reviews on Amazon, and ten of them are one star reviews. A few of those don’t like the novel because I’m not Diana Gabaldon. A few more don’t like it because Into the Wilderness isn’t a proper sequel to Last of the Mohicans (of course, I never said it was; it’s more of a retelling of Cooper’s The Pioneers; a [careless] critic called it a sequel, and I’ve never heard the end of it). Others have managed to find some bodice ripping somewhere in it (maybe some edition I never approved, what do I know?) and object on that basis. Some find fault with my historical research. Here’s the funniest one:
I was hoping Elizabeth would end up being a black bear’s main entree, but no luck. Of course, with her amazing luck, she’d have brained him with one of her “boots” and eaten him for dinner.Oh, I forgot. Elizabeth is so ahead of her time, she’s no doubt a vegan. [from Amazon]
There are, of course, many wonderful reader reviews on Amazon, very complimentary and encouraging. The point is that not every book is right for every reader. I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway but that’s my fault, for the most part. I wouldn’t put the blame on him. And what a boring place the world would be if we all liked exactly the same things.
Of course, editorial reviews are a different (and very complicated) matter altogether. More on that some other time.