Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writing Reality: No Matter How High You Climb, Someone Will Always Not Like It

Earlier this year, I entered a writing contest. The manuscript that I entered semi-finaled in the same contest last year. A year later I had an agent and (I thought) an even better manuscript. 

Contests and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship. Mainly in that I seem to be one of those people who land judges who either love or hate my work. I've had results where there was more than 60 points between the highest and lowest scores. If you're looking for an ego boost, a writing contest is not the way to get one! 

Between the contest closing and the first stage results coming out I've had some encouraging feedback from publishers on my manuscript. So I have to admit that I was beginning to feel like surely I had a pretty good chance of semi-finaling again! 

Results came out today and, you guessed it, I didn't make the cut. However, I was in great company. Many talented writers that I know were on the list, but an equal number were not. Friends who also semi-finaled last year, who have finaled or won other contests, didn't make the cut either.

It was a great reality check. No matter how far you are along, no matter what success (or otherwise) you have had with publishers, agents or contests, there will always be people who don't like your writing. It's life! 

In order to cheer myself up, I went and read some not-so-great reviews of books that I've recently read that I loved and couldn't believe anyone wouldn't. These are some excerpts:

Got kind of boring and decided I had had enough about half way through

I couldn't even read a quarter of this book. It was extremely boring. The story was lackluster and unappealing. It was hard to stick with.

This was simply a horrible book.

From the number of positive reviews this book has, I was fully expecting to enjoy it. And, it wasn't too bad for the first chapter. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. 

Ouch! At least my judges comments don't get made public, unlike they will be if I'm ever a published author :)

So let's chat. What books have you recently read that you loved but other people have slated in reviews? Or what is a book that seems to be universally accepted as "great" that just wasn't for you?

Kara Isaac lives in New Zealand where, when she's not chasing a toddler, she writes contemporary romance. She has recently survived the torture of having a professional take her photo as apparently her previous trick of cropping out other peoples' heads isn't ideal. 

She is a contributing reviewer to Novel Crossing and can be found on Facebook and Twitter


  1. Kara, thanks for your lovely, honest post. I think you show a lot of courage not only in what you write but also in submitting that manuscript a second time after putting so much extra work into it. And you're right. We're not going to please everyone with our books and that's just the way it is. We're all different--and many times I have wondered why this or that book is praised so much when it didn't capture my interest, although I'm not game enough to name one here! God bless--and keep going!

  2. Congrats on submitting your entry. Contests are so subjective, but then, so is publishing, right? It's a crazy crazy business!

  3. Ohhhhh, Kara, someone who understands what it's like! Reading is very very subjective. And sometimes it's just a touch of meoww. Still, I wouldn't dare say which book I read recently that others thought was wonderful, but there you are. "One man's milk is another man's poison."

  4. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Jane Eyre. I understand that it's a classic, I have friends who would probably choose it as the one book they get to take to a desert island, but I have to admit I have never managed to get past the first quarter!

  5. I'm on Goodreads and I'm often astounded at the varitaions between reviews and comments.One I never finished which others rave over and is acclaimed in most circles is Cloudstreet and I like Tim Winton's writing. But that one left me cold. Sometimes it can depend on the frame of mind at the time or what one has read prior to it.