Since then, things have been…different. For the SPFBO contest, I’ve had six total ratings (with five reviews so far). My composite rating so far is 4.1.
(Muse: Out of five stars?)
No, out of ten.
(Muse: Dang, you suck.)
It’s by a long ways the lowest combined score of any of the finalists. It is also the lowest score (if it holds) of any SPFBO finalist, of any year.
So, notoriety….I got that going for me.
I kicked this around in my head for a while to figure out why these reviews bothered me so much. I wasn’t upset over low ratings or people not liking it, or even snarky commentary (of which there wasn’t much).
I love characters. I think they are the hallmark of any spec-fiction book. Plots and tropes are worn and reused. Settings can be unique but often aren’t, and writing styles can be near-literary to colloquial without raising a book’s memorability. But I think characters are what really makes a book both relatable and memorable.
And this is exactly what the bad reviews focused on: my characters and why they were terrible.
That realization–that is, for someone who is so focused on characters and character development, I apparently failed to make my characters appealing to a wide swath of readers–is like a punch in the nose.
(Muse: That sounds pretty dumb. You would think you would be able to see that before you published it, you dim bulb!)
One might think that but sometimes, it is awful hard to step back and look from an unbiased perspective at you own work. This is why good beta readers are so important–something not lost on me in working on Scion of Andoya, where beta-reader-input is is (in the current revision) leading to some major changes in the narrative.
Granted, the dislike of the characters hasn’t been universal but it has been a far more common issue among reviewers than, say, plot, setting, writing style, or dialogue. Specific criticisms have been varied but I really can’t argue with most. Even in places where I believe things were misunderstood or taken out of context, that’s still on me, for not communicating the intent more clearly.
I’m still disappointed in myself over this but nothing for it now but learn from mistakes and to move on.