C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Do Not Write By Committee

The blowback is coming. Soon, Starbucks will offer pumpkin spice lattes. I just saw a social media post in which it was pointed out that it’s a mix of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This short post ended with, “It tastes really good and it’s okay to let people like things.”

First and only comment: No thanks.

(Gee, I hope that commenter was kidding.)

Next up, I listened to an interview with the delightful Simon Pegg in which he discussed the hazards of writing a Star Trek script. The tide of toxic fandom rose because, sigh, of course it did.

“THEY KNOW WHAT THEY LOVE AND ONLY LOVE WHAT THEY KNOW.”

Simon Pegg

(By Thor, I love that deep incisive cut, don’t you?)

Toxic fandom often goes to great lengths to demonstrate how little they understand creative work. They get the end result, but don’t understand or respect creators. Some even go so far as harassing writers and actors, especially if they’re women or in the BIPOC community. Gatekeepers are a particularly sad variety of this anti-enjoyment force. If you’re telling people they have to have read all of The Sandman before they really “get it,” please stop. We do get it. You were cool before everybody else. Good for you. Now shut up.

Actor Justin Long of Life is Short with Justin Long, confessed that he joined a I Hate Justin Long Club. (Note: Justin Long is a fine actor, and also a delight.) Funnily enough, by joining the club and agreeing with them, he defused the hateful action and made the organizer look awfully petty. However, as Simon Pegg observed, that shit still hurts.

Not everyone is going to love what we write and no writer expects that. However, some readers demand a home run every time. They want what they want and don’t you dare challenge their assumptions. They read books to confirm their biases and that’s all they’re in it for. More dramatic reviews sometimes end with, “I’ll never read this author again!” Gee, whatever shall I do without that $2? On the other hand, saying goodbye saves much more money in therapy. Trying to cater to each of those angry whims would lead to a lot of sleep loss. It’s nuts to try to write for the haters. Please, write for your readers, the lovers.

When I worked as a journalist, I wrote a piece about a common medical condition and profiled a particular sufferer. I soon got an irate call from a woman who was afflicted with that condition, but it rose from a different cause. She was in an anguished rage that I did not grind her particular axe that day. With threats to contact my editor and presumably end my career, she hung up in a huff. Her life brought no joy. She is not missed.

Sometimes you’ll detect a passive-aggressive version of this energy on a social media post. To demonstrate their higher expertise, some pedant will take the point you made and claim it as their own or take it further, as if you missed something. It’s not about you. They’re trying to feel good about themselves, and if that comes at your expense, they’re okay with that. Nobody likes the Well Actually Guy, so they have to feel good vibes some other way. A reviewer who proudly described herself as a know-it-all apparently does not know that the term is a pejorative.

One of my reviews (an outlier, by the way) declared: “Rubbish!” and “tries too hard.” Not really sure what trying too hard in this context could mean, but fuck it. It doesn’t really matter. For the sin of trying to entertain someone, you will get some negative reactions that are obvious overreactions. One wonders how these folks react when they face a real problem. The danger isn’t the nasty review. The danger is that you may take it too seriously and let it shut down your creative spark.

One reader contacted me with kind of a snarky question. I answered politely, but demonstrated that his assumptions were erroneous. At the conclusion of this interaction, he told me he enjoys contacting authors “to help them.” Dude, I didn’t ask, and I wasn’t helped. Actually, I helped you and no, I will not censor myself at your command. (As I’ve said many times in this space, write with your editorial team’s feedback, but DO NOT WRITE BY COMMITTEE!)

When we give too much power to readers, we’re essentially in the Florida school system where great books are banned for being too something or other. Among many, many others, their list of objectionable books included The Hate U Give, Of Mice and Men, A Wrinkle in Time, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Vampire Academy, and on and on and on until their fragility leaves them with just one book full of all kinds of violence. It’s a book they claim to revere, but few have read. For that one book, they give a lot of leeway. To be fair, some can quote the snippets they love while ignoring the uncomfortable bits. Alas, if only all authors could receive that grace.

Everybody gets to have an opinion, but don’t let them influence you too much. Don’t respect people who have no respect for you. We don’t write for everyone. We write for those who receive the frequency we’re sending. Everything else is static.

Now go write that fabulous genre-bending plot that most will love and some will absolutely hate. That’s what we do. Without us, how will the haters feel good about themselves? With us, our true readership feels better for the shared experience.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Check out all my work on my author site, AllThatChazz.com

Filed under: book reviews, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. I got a new fan today. She wrote to me after finishing the first book in my mainstream trilogy and said many lovely words.

    It is so good for the writer to find their readers.

  2. tone3d says:

    Could not agree more. And other writers can be the worst, they see everything as an opportunity to share criticism. Because y’know critique is good, and you should take all of that feedback and improve. Nah, I’m good. I’m the creator. Not the committee. Anyways, great post and great reminder!

  3. acflory says:

    There are Builders and there are Breakers. No getting away from that, but if you’re a Builder, it does hurt. I suspect that most negative reviews are meant to hurt. Says more about /them/ than us. :/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join my inner circle at AllThatChazz.com

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,285 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: