June 1, 2010

Tuesday Testimonial: Anonymous Who?

There is a reason I don't allow Anonymous commentors on this blog. The week my book, THE ORCHARD, was accepted, I took a deep, happy breath, and posted the first 364 words of chapter 1, a mere page and two lines, here on this blog. I loved the scene and had received a lot of praise over the rhythm, the imagery. M. Gray commented. It was lovely and made me smile.
Then, somehow, as I believe my followers were at 4 at that point, Anonymous found me. Ripped it apart. Where was the love interest? Why was the character lamenting? Present the eviction notice! Then they listed a large number of questions and possible outcomes of where in the world this story could be headed and pointed out that I hadn't addressed a single one yet. My writing was drivel. Pretty drivel.
I was dumbfounded.
Had they not read that the book was complete? That the series was actually complete? Was I supposed to have my love interest come traipsing up in this quiet, compelling moment and introduce himself? Was I to have the lawyer blast through the trees at 8:00 p.m. and thrust the foreclusure papers up through the branches? All on the first page? Really? Really. I was asking myself these questions and considering changes because this was all so new and I knew I had much to learn and this Anonymous sounded like they knew what they were talking about. I was near tears.
I humbly replied, assuring them that the plot takes off just after this scene, that I only posted it for its imagery, and since the book was accepted, and completed, the publisher must see something. As I wrote, I realized something. This short, quiet opening scene had made this Anonymous reader ask questions. It made them wonder what would happen next (albeit, impatiently). They had 10 possible scenarios written right in their comment, wondering, demanding. I pointed this out in my reply, that perhaps this was a good thing.
Anonymous commented back. With a vengeance. How dare I? They had been published many times over! There were "Ha ha ha's" and lots of !!! And then came a list of numerous ways to NEVER begin a novel. It ended with a congratulations I could give no weight to.
My hands shook as I leaned into my husbands shoulder and he offered to write the next reply. As we talked about why someone would launch such an attack on a beginning author without at least earning my respect for who they were or their accomplishments, another comment popped up.

Bonnie said...
Good job. The way to keep me reading is NOT to outline the entire plot in the first few lines! In fact I'd rather you keep me up in the wee hours trying to find out!

I could breathe again. Bonnie was my new friend.
When I woke up the next morning, I knew it would be best to delete the offending comments and block anonymous commentors from the blog. I also took another deep breath and posted the entire first chapter in place of the small opening. Some of you may think my actions a bit cowardly, but I felt empowered. And I learned this: Comments like that from someone unnamed, no matter what their claim of expertise, are weightless. Even if there was truth in their critique, I would go elsewhere to learn more. People with names and manners and known expertise. Strangely, I also felt it might be better for Anonymous not to have those comments posted. I'm crazy-protective like that.
Since then, I've been critiqued up and down, and if you've been reading my posts here, you know how I take it. I need it. Give me feedback, and I'll do my best with it. I've written several opening scenes since I've begun writing, each different and fitting of the storyline and genre, some quiet, some jumping out of the starting gates. The thing is, I'm still writing. I'm still sticking my neck out.

Thanks, Bonnie. Your simple comment meant more than you think it did. I'll never forget it. Or your name.


Stephanie Black said...

I think blocking anonymous comments was a wise move. If someone really wants to be helpful and has valuable information to give, they should be willing to publicly stand behind those comments by identifying themselves. If not--like you said, get advice from someone you trust, not an anonymous critic. Don't let it get to you.

And congrats on your book!! That's so exciting!

Sarah M Eden said...

I, too, do not allow anonymous comments on my blog for very similar reasons. Not only have anonymous commenters attacked me in comments, but have ripped into others leaving comments and that is entirely unacceptable.
If you don't have enough backbone to leave your name, then I'd rather you don't leave your thoughts either.

Kimberly said...

Well said! And I agree with the previous commenters as well.

There is a trend in the publishing world to write novels like movies. To explode into the action and the story immediately in the opening scene. Hook 'em fast, build the tension like mad, never let them go. I find books like that a bit exhausting, and dissatisfying. Stories should unfold gradually. Make us ask questions and speculate the way that anonymous commenter did. Books are not movies and it's sad that so many in the publishing world are starting to think they should be.

I for one am deeply intrigued by the teasers you've given us and am eager to read more!

M. Gray said...

Way to keep going, Krista. I'm sorry about your previous experience--I had no idea! I remember a Farland Kick in the Pants email saying one reason why someone might not like our work is they just have different tastes. I think that was the case. So sorry!! Your writing rocks!

Ann Best said...

I too congratulate you on your acceptance!

If I ever get such an Anonymous response, I'll treat it the way I do junk mail and unwanted phone calls. Not respond, and DELETE. What an experience!

David J. West said...

I have seen lots of "published" anonymous authors before and I just have to laugh.

IF they were so respected why go anonymous?
IF they are such great writers why hide?
IF they had any courage, kindness, useful information etc, they wouldn't be anonymous.

Keep on writing and don't worry about the dinks.

KarenG said...

Oh I so wish I had read that post you're referring to so I could get into the fray and rip that Anonymous commenter/critiquer/jerk face's head off. That is absolutely unbelievable rude and beyond belief that someone would come to YOUR blog and tear apart YOUR already accepted ms!!!! Omigosh, I'll bet you were steaming.

Daron D. Fraley said...

Great post, I think you handled the difficult situation very well.

And I am with you: No anonymous posts.

Krista said...

Seriously, I'm not the kind to get mad. I wish I was. I get hurt first. But this writing gig is helping me with that. David said something once about a thick skin. I'm working on it and laugh more now than before. My writing group and you author friends get me over things quickly. I almost never think of this clown anymore, but my thoughts were on story beginnings and too much info vs. not enough, and I remembered.
You all ROCK.

MT said...

Yikes. Anonymous needs a new hobby - something less hostile, wouldn't you say? ;)
How do you protect your blog from anonymous comments? *going to search my dashboard*

KarenG said...

I wonder if this is the same Anon who kept posting on LDS Publisher's blog? Giving writing & editing advice to everyone whether they wanted it or not?

Krista said...

Karen, I have my suspicions.

Everyone go say Hi to Bonnie. She's a sweetheart.

Bonnie said...

Krista, I can't believe this is the first time I've read your kind words! I've had quite the summer and haven't been blogging much. I was appalled by the comments. I truly enjoyed your work and I instantly liked you! It was just an honest knee jerk, gut reaction, and I'm so gratified that it lifted you. I've had ongoing criticism from someone close to my family that has derailed my confidence for years, and this was on my book that was already in print! My husband finally pointed out that this person is a wanna be writer who has never had the courage to put herself out there and complete an actual work for publication! She also criticizes everyone and everything!

You did the right thing by stopping the anonymous comments, now just banish these thoughts for good--you are awesome! I can't wait to hold your book in my hands, and you've already promised that it will keep me up in the night!

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