I wrote The Exalted, the sequel to The Diminished, in late 2016 and early 2017. By the time I began editing The Diminished, I’d already written the sequel as well as another book. By the time reviews started rolling in, I was already halfway through the initial edit on The Exalted. I turned in my first round of major revisions the day The Diminished was released. In a lot of ways, I think that gave me a lot of grace. I got to write the book I wanted to write without the voices of Goodreads and Netgalley in my head telling me all the mistakes I made in The Diminished.
A long time ago, when I signed my contract, I decided that I would read my reviews until the day I was published. I wanted to know if I’d made major mistakes, or if there was a consistent reaction to my book that I could improve upon the next go-round. I took creative writing workshops for nearly ten years. I was pretty sure I could handle the criticism. So I read them. Each review that came in, on Goodreads, Netgalley, Edelweiss, blogs, I read it. And, for the most part, I agreed with people’s criticisms. Good to know. File it away in the “Do Better Next Time” drawer.
Well, folks. It’s next time. I’m working on a project that I deeply love. One that I’ve been thinking about for almost five years now. And all those reviewers? THEY WON’T STOP YELLING AT ME.
I feel confident in the story I’m writing. I feel good about my characters and their story arcs and the way their voices are taking shape on the page. I like my settings, the world I’ve built, and the magic that shapes it. And yet, I still can’t seem to stop listening to the voices in my head telling me all the ways I failed in The Diminished.
For a while, it was crippling. But I kept showing up. I kept putting words on the page, following my outline, trudging along. I’m about 9,000 words away from the end of my messy first draft, and I think that this might actually manage to turn into something book shaped. I hope it does. I hope you get to read it. But I wouldn’t be able to say that if I hadn’t shown up and done the work. I wouldn’t be able to say that if I’d given up.
Writing is such a solitary act. We pull our characters and settings and words from the ether and shape them into something that might be mistaken for a book, and then we shove it out into the world, hoping that someone falls in love. I get the instinct to read reviews. I get that we desperately want to know how people feel about the pieces of our hearts that we’ve presented on silver platters made of words. But from me to you? If you want the next book to come as easy (which is to say it’s never easy, but you get what I mean) as the first, don’t read your reviews.
Kaitlyn Sage Patterson
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