If you’ve sent out queries, you’ve probably received rejections. They usually say things along the line of:
“This is just my opinion and others may feel differently.”
“Just because I wasn’t drawn in doesn’t mean others won’t love it.”
“Publishing is a subjective business and another agent would be better suited to your work.”
We can’t fault those who send those rejections like that. Writing is subjective.
Heck, most things in life are subjective. Some people like the outfits from the New York fashion shows, but others think they look like something an alien would wear. Some people will think the guy in the picture of this post is hot, and others will think he looks like a douchebag.
We’re individuals. We have different tastes, likes, dislikes, trigger points, etc.
Characters? Real People? We’re All Unique
As I pointed out before, one character wouldn’t react to plot events the same way as another character. (And we know real people aren’t less nuanced than characters!) So it’s normal for people to react differently to the same input.
That truth was brought home to me (again) by the fantastic comments in my last post about what stories we won’t write. The answers focused on many different aspects of writing: character traits, plot events, genres, profanity, sexual situations, and moral issues.
In other words, stories that some of us would love, others of us would hate. Things that set some of us off are no big deal to others.
We each have to decide for ourselves what we want to write—what we want to have our name attached to. We might make decisions based on our brand or our moral code, but only we can decide what’s best for us.
As I mentioned in the comments of the last post, I don’t swear in real life, so I don’t use profanity in my stories unless necessary. That means some of my stories have no swear words and some have quite a bit. The same goes with sexual situations. Some of my stories have just a kiss and some have very spicy scenes. I listen to my muse and my characters to figure out what’s called for by each character and story.
Others will have different boundaries and make different decisions. None of us is “wrong.” Taste in all things is subjective.
Having Different Opinions Isn’t “Wrong”
Differences of opinions come up all the time in book reviews. The same book can receive multiple five star and one star reviews. Even classics suffer from this fate, so it’s not just an issue of an author’s friends or enemies playing the system.
We’ve probably experienced this ourselves. People will tell us we have to read or watch a certain popular book/movie/TV show, and then we do…and we hate it.
That doesn’t mean we’re wrong or our friends are wrong. We just like different things.
Similarly, the agents who reject us aren’t “right” or “wrong” either. Would we really want an agent who doesn’t love our work to represent us anyway?
“Past Performance Is Not Indicative of Future Potential”
Sarah Callender wrote about this issue on Writer Unboxed last week. She revealed that when her original agent left the business right before she was supposed to go on submission to editors, she elected to start the query process over rather than end up with a random colleague from the same agency.
The agents she queried couldn’t even agree on whether her story was YA or adult, much less whether or not they liked it. One loved the first half but not the second, while another one didn’t like the first half but thought the second half was great. (And this was about a manuscript her former agent deemed ready to go on submission!)
This concept is something we have to remind ourselves of constantly. Low scores on contests? Rejections from agents? Bad reviews? Repeat after me: “Not everyone will love our work.”
Low scores, rejections, and bad reviews aren’t indicative that everyone will feel the same way about our work. We can get low scores and high scores from judges in the same contest. We can get rejections in the same week we get offers. We can get one-star reviews and five-star reviews on the same book.
This is why we have to listen to our muse before blindly implementing changes from critique partners or beta readers. Only we can decide the kind of story we want to tell. If a suggestion will help us tell that story better, we should make the change. If a suggestion would take us further from that story, we shouldn’t implement it. That difference of opinion doesn’t make either of us wrong.
Just like how what we won’t write is subjective, the same goes for reading and enjoying books. And if we take a step back, we discover that life, how we view it and how we experience it, is all subjective as well. *smile*
Can you think of other examples for how writing is subjective? What about examples from outside of writing: fashion, movies, etc. (Do we dare mention how religious and political beliefs are subjective?) Have you received wide ranges of opinions about your work?Pin It