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On Opinions of Others

Anonymous asked: “My story borrows elements from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Clue, but the plot has nothing to really do with the movies and all of my friends and family are knocking it before it’s even off the ground. What do I do?”

Describing a novel to friends and family can be difficult, especially if you haven’t yet figured out the “selling points.” Once your novel is done and you have some idea of how to pitch your novel to show off its coolest assets, you’ll feel more confident in talking about it. 

Some stuff you write your friends and family might just never really understand. Know that that’s okay too. For instance, I’m pretty sure my own parents don’t understand my stories. They think that they’re pretty good, but also pretty weird. Usually the only thing they say now when I show it to them is that they liked the ending or didn’t like the ending. 

I’m a big fan of Kelly Link and Karen Russell – just to name a few of my idols – and I love to write stories sometimes with vampires, werewolves, lake monsters, ghosts, and so on. A lot of the time, I’m really concerned with elements of folklore. The stories aren’t usually about monsters, but they have some kind of monster in them. Generally though, if you’re not familiar with this kind of story, describing it is a pain. More than once, people have asked if I’m rewriting Twilight. Even in more academic settings, I get a mix of criticism. If they know what I’m going for, generally the presence of monsters is not the biggest point of criticism. My stories are usually pretty human-centric, when I start talking about that, along with the history and more academic details, people get a little less weird about it. My parents I think became more accepting after I started getting stories published. They were accepting before, but I think they realized some people actually do read this and while they didn’t really get it, they thought, well other people must. 

I’ve also worked on stories where my mom has said, “That doesn’t sound like something I’d read.” She put it a little nicer than that actually – we’re really very close. But all I could say is, “Yeah, I know.” Because it’s not something she’d read. She loves chick-lit and light, breezy beach reads. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what I’m writing and that’s okay too. 

Not all of your stories are going to appeal to everyone and that’s always going to happen. That’s not an issue. Really, it matters more when you share it with someone who does actually read the kind of story you’re writing. If that person is knocking it, there’s a chance you’re presenting it wrong. When I talk about it to friends and family, I use that as a chance to work on my pitch. What’s cool about it? What is going to hook that person? 

Understand too, my perspective on this is a little warped – I don’t share my work so much while in the process of writing it. I’m really very private. I don’t talk about it with friends really unless they ask. I’m just not a huge sharer. So, when I do talk about it, it’s not so casual. It’s kind of a more formalized pitch. 

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