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How to deal with highly conflicting feedback?

 
Jess Windsor
(@cube)
New Member
Posts: 1

Introduction

I'm not a professional writer but I aspire to write and release a series of science fiction books and short stories. I began writing a year ago and have more or less finished 4 short stories and 1 novella. A longer novel is halfway done, and 3 more short stories are in the works.

I thought I'd solicit some critique and tried to get friends and colleagues to read them first. After finding it difficult to convince people to read, I spent around $1000 on Fiverr to get a dozen more people to read them all over the past months.

The problem is that the feedback is extremely conflicting.

I've submitted some of the stories to various contests including WOTF but so far everything's been rejected.

 

The Good

The reviewers typically said the prose and grammar was passable to good and the characters were deep and had their own distinct personality.

 

Complexity Issues

This is a topic that I don't really know how to deal with. From the written summaries, I found that over half of the readers were confusing characters and factions, did not understand the philosophical issues being discussed, miss important plot points, and did not understand what was at stake. They often perceived it as the story unfolding too slowly, having too much information, or having too little action or tension.

On the other hand there were some people that read it and they gave the feedback that they understood it all and they loved the depth of the characters, story and setting, but that they wanted even more detail and more complexity and more intricacy and more information on the background, tech and philosophy.

Do I have to interpret this as the stories heading towards being niche, and that I just have to choose my particular niche audience? Since I don't want to dumb it down, double down on the complexity and philosophy instead and just accept that the average reader won't be able to understand it?

 

Diversity Issues

The feedback on this topic was polarizing to say the least.

Since several stories explore highly dysfunctional societies and controversial topics, some readers critizised these topics for supposedly being racist (eg Earth has sunk to the level of Idiocracy, in the very far future there are no more natural whites, and there is a slave race of genetically engineered white clones that does all the work and while this is the least of the problems of that world and only a footnote in the overall story, it seems to be something most of the readers remember and single out) or transphobic (a character trivially switches to an opposite gender body, but later in the story also intimidates/harrasses a colleague, so because the transperson displays some terrible behavior it's transphobic, while again this is just a footnote in the overall story and the depravity of it is pretty mild compared to all the other terrible behavior on display as the story concerns a hedonistic pleasure world).

Then there are readers that hold the opposite view, and don't like the stories for being too diverse, with one reader calling it 'way too woke'. The story has a female protagonist and the rest of the main characters are mostly Asian and Middle-Eastern. The only white males of significance are the aforementioned transperson and a free white slave clone. All the worlds have their own little cultural microcosm, which so far are distinctly non-Eurocentric.

I think that the whole diversity debate has been so polarized of late that it is impossible to choose the middle ground (A wide range of characters and cultures, but they all have serious flaws, which are often used to drive the story or create conflict). As people see identity politics everywhere, I feel being forced to go all-in woke or all-in white male conservative to appeal to either group, or both groups hate it and accuse the author of belonging to the other camp. Does anyone feel being in the same position? Or how did you deal with this issue? I really don't want to write all the non-white-cismale characters as perfect Mary Sue paragons of virtue to not offend anyone.

 

No consensus on comparative ranking

There is no consensus amongst readers on how these stories rank when compared to each other. The favorite story of one reader is often regarded as the most terrible by at least one other reader.

Since all the stories deal with drastically different issues, themes and characters and have a different writing style, this outcome makes me really confused and makes it hard to pick a theme/style for future stories.

 

Appreciated more by the non-book readers, not liked by critics

Overall the majority of readers found the stories not too great for various reasons, but there were some people that really loved it. I found out that these people are not habitual book readers. Some even outright hated all other science fiction books they had come across (I asked for more details and it was mostly due to contrived plot arcs), but these people liked my particular stories regardless.

The main positive points from these people were that the stories make logical sense, are complex and thought-provoking, are internally consistent and, according to some, have believable characters experiencing relatable issues.

With one notable exception, the professional reviewers/writers/editors didn't like it at all (too complex, too slow-paced, not enough action).

 

How to move forward?

I suppose the only thing I can do is to stoically keep writing, improving my skills and flinging stuff at the wall until something sticks.

Just keep writing the stories and characters that I want to write and accept it will be niche, controversial and potentially offensive to some?

Accept that it will never be accepted by a publisher or praised by a critic and just put it up for the minimum price on Amazon and accept it will sell only 100 copies? Hope for it to somehow attract a cult following?

 

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Topic starter Posted : December 11, 2021 12:34 am
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Silver Member
Posts: 252

Jess, first of all, welcome to the forum! Make sure you introduce yourself over at the New Users Introduction thread. This is a great place to practice, learn, and fling stuff against the wall.

I understand your frustration as it can be difficult to parse what is actually holding your stories back. I wrote novels for a couple of years without proper feedback beyond friends and family were always overly positive. Ego-boosting, but not helpful. 

Each writer’s journey is unique, so I’ll tell you what I’ve done. I shelved my longer works and shifted to studying and writing short stories to perfect my craft. I submitted one to Writer’s of the Future and got back an Honorable Mention. That validation that I was on the right track was huge, but only the beginning.

I’ve started exchanging critiques with folks on the forum here (I don’t recommend paying for critiques unless they are from professional editors), and they have really helped me improve. One aspect of my writing that has changed is a significant reduction in complexity. Learning how to tell a story simply has been…difficult, but in the end I think will help the clarity of my writing. 

Now bear in mind that I’m still relatively new to short story writing and my successes are still moderate. Haven’t made a sale yet, but I think I’m close. Others here have focused, learned the art and craft of writing that is freely available on this forum, and won major contests (including this one) and gone on to publication. So my suggestion is to delve deep into this forum and contest, join the conversation, and see where it takes your writing. 

Glad to see you here!

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: HM
V38 Q4: SHM
V39 Q1: Submitted

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Posted : December 12, 2021 6:08 am
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Gold Star Member
Posts: 1017

Welcome to the forum Jess Windsor.

That's a long post. The society we live in now is very sensitive to the issues you mention.

I have a story I think is awesome, but a large part of society would want to behead me over the content.

My latest rejection was a super-power capturing all of our satellites'. Doing that alienates a third of the world.

As for writing a story for WotF, get the latest anthologies and read every story.

Think of the forum as your daily class, check in frequently and mingle with everyone here.

Take the free online workshop offered by WotF, and read Wulf Moon's Super Secrets.

 

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1
HM-V38/Q4

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Posted : December 12, 2021 6:13 am
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Gold Star Member
Posts: 1229
Posted by: @cube

Introduction

I'm not a professional writer but I aspire to write and release a series of science fiction books and short stories. I began writing a year ago and have more or less finished 4 short stories and 1 novella. A longer novel is halfway done, and 3 more short stories are in the works.

I thought I'd solicit some critique and tried to get friends and colleagues to read them first. After finding it difficult to convince people to read, I spent around $1000 on Fiverr to get a dozen more people to read them all over the past months.

The problem is that the feedback is extremely conflicting.

I've submitted some of the stories to various contests including WOTF but so far everything's been rejected.

Hello, Jess! Welcome to the forum. I'm going to be responding to your post section by section, because that will be easier for me, but I wanted to make sure to say hi. grinning   I started a thread awhile back that talks about how to get the most from critiques, and reading through the discussions there might help you get a feel for ways to analyze individual reader feedback in helpful ways.

I do want to say, right off the bat, that I noticed it sounded like you're trying to compare critiques received on one story to critiques received on other stories. I don't actually recommend doing that, and here's why: It's like comparing apples and oranges. Some people are bound to like one more than the other, and might even be able tell you why in exacting detail--but apples and oranges are completely different types of fruit. What makes a good orange does not make a good apple, and vice versa. Trying to figure out why readers like one story better than another can lead to significant (and, in my opinion, woefully unnecessary) overwhelm, especially as a new writer. I'll go into more detail about my thoughts on this below, but I felt it important to mention right out of the gate.

The Good

The reviewers typically said the prose and grammar was passable to good and the characters were deep and had their own distinct personality.

That's a good start! Technical writing skills are an important part of any writer's arsenal, and the fact that people enjoyed your characters means that you've got a solid foundation for reader empathy. grinning  

Complexity Issues

This is a topic that I don't really know how to deal with. From the written summaries, I found that over half of the readers were confusing characters and factions, did not understand the philosophical issues being discussed, miss important plot points, and did not understand what was at stake. They often perceived it as the story unfolding too slowly, having too much information, or having too little action or tension.

On the other hand there were some people that read it and they gave the feedback that they understood it all and they loved the depth of the characters, story and setting, but that they wanted even more detail and more complexity and more intricacy and more information on the background, tech and philosophy.

Do I have to interpret this as the stories heading towards being niche, and that I just have to choose my particular niche audience? Since I don't want to dumb it down, double down on the complexity and philosophy instead and just accept that the average reader won't be able to understand it?

It sounds like, whether the readers 'got' your story or not, there might be some pacing or descriptive issues--the readers who don't get it want clarity, and the readers who do get it want more. I could be wrong about this--I wouldn't be able to make a more educated guess without reading some of your work--but it never hurts to do an editing pass for clarity and description, whether external or internal. (Editing and revision are among the most useful skills a writer can learn.)

As far as niche or not: The most important person you can write for is you. Write the stories you enjoy, and that enjoyment will bleed onto the page. I'd argue you don't have to dumb your story down or double down on the complexity and philosophy--unless that will make you happy, in which case go for it!

Diversity Issues

The feedback on this topic was polarizing to say the least.

Since several stories explore highly dysfunctional societies and controversial topics, some readers critizised these topics for supposedly being racist (eg Earth has sunk to the level of Idiocracy, in the very far future there are no more natural whites, and there is a slave race of genetically engineered white clones that does all the work and while this is the least of the problems of that world and only a footnote in the overall story, it seems to be something most of the readers remember and single out) or transphobic (a character trivially switches to an opposite gender body, but later in the story also intimidates/harrasses a colleague, so because the transperson displays some terrible behavior it's transphobic, while again this is just a footnote in the overall story and the depravity of it is pretty mild compared to all the other terrible behavior on display as the story concerns a hedonistic pleasure world).

Then there are readers that hold the opposite view, and don't like the stories for being too diverse, with one reader calling it 'way too woke'. The story has a female protagonist and the rest of the main characters are mostly Asian and Middle-Eastern. The only white males of significance are the aforementioned transperson and a free white slave clone. All the worlds have their own little cultural microcosm, which so far are distinctly non-Eurocentric.

I think that the whole diversity debate has been so polarized of late that it is impossible to choose the middle ground (A wide range of characters and cultures, but they all have serious flaws, which are often used to drive the story or create conflict). As people see identity politics everywhere, I feel being forced to go all-in woke or all-in white male conservative to appeal to either group, or both groups hate it and accuse the author of belonging to the other camp. Does anyone feel being in the same position? Or how did you deal with this issue? I really don't want to write all the non-white-cismale characters as perfect Mary Sue paragons of virtue to not offend anyone.

I don't know your background or experience with diversity, and it's a complex subject to say the least--but I definitely feel it's an important one. My best recommendation on subjects like this is ALWAYS to do more research. I recommend reading "Writing the Other," by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, as a good starting point. I attended an online class Gabino Iglesias ran earlier this year on the subject of diversity in fiction, and it was very helpful. (I'm not sure if he's offering one at the moment, but it's worth keeping an eye out for things like that.)

A quick shorthand for techniques that might prove helpful on this is REACH (I grabbed the ancronym, as well as the following definitions, from this article, which is worth reading in full):

  • Research – make sure you have an understanding of the type of character or community you want to explore (LGBT, disabled, a rural community when you personally live in a city, etc).

  • Empathize – improving your empathy, in general, will allow you to write more diverse characters because those characters will seem authentic if you can empathize with their underrepresented condition.

  • Acknowledge – recognize that you can’t know what this community feels and that that is okay. Have someone from that community read your work, or at least discuss it with them to gain their perspective.

  • Characterize – make sure your diverse character doesn’t just exist to serve the plot.

  • Humanize – know what you go through as a person in your everyday life and inject some of that daily routine into these characters wherever it makes sense. For example, if you’re writing an LGBT character, the love they feel for someone of the same gender is not different from the love you feel for the significant other in your life.

Some important questions to keep in mind when dealing with complicated topics like this are:

  • "What am I trying to say?" (For example, you've mentioned the existence of a genetically engineered white slave race above. I can definitely see how that could be interpreted as problematic for a number of reasons--but, because I don't know what you're trying to say via the existence of that group in your story, or how their existence affects the story as a whole, I can't provide detailed feedback on the subject. I can only say that the context in which this group is represented would definitely matter, and it would matter a great deal.)
  • "Am I saying it effectively?" (For example, a trans character displaying bigoted behavior in a story isn't necessarily transphobic in an of itself--but if that's the only trans character in your story, it might inadvertently leave readers with a negatively skewed perspective on what transgender people are like, and readers might then apply that skewed perspective to things that happen in real life. Increasing representation--for example, having multiple transgender characters with differing characteristics and beliefs--might help in this regard. The greater a representative sample you provide, the more opportunities you provide for your readers to understand and empathize with the characters in question.)
  • "Does this statement have the potential to hurt others?" (If the answer to this question is 'yes,' I definitely recommend analyzing who might be hurt and why. I'm not a big fan of causing harm in any case, but in situations where harm is unavoidable I feel it's important to punch up rather than to punch down.)

No consensus on comparative ranking

There is no consensus amongst readers on how these stories rank when compared to each other. The favorite story of one reader is often regarded as the most terrible by at least one other reader.

Since all the stories deal with drastically different issues, themes and characters and have a different writing style, this outcome makes me really confused and makes it hard to pick a theme/style for future stories.

As I said earlier, I don't recommend comparing one story to another, even if those stories are related. Each story is its own monster, with its own strengths and weaknesses. Silver's good against werewolves, but they have no concerns about sunlight. Vampires, on the other hand... laughing  

I'd honestly recommend approaching each story one at a time, as a separate entity. If you look at the feedback for one story at a time, comparing your readers' experiences to what you wanted them to experience for that specific story, and finish edits on that individual piece before moving on to the next one, you'll probably have an easier time of things. (Artistically-related example: I have a much easier time finishing one drawing than I do working on twelve different ones at once.)

Appreciated more by the non-book readers, not liked by critics

Overall the majority of readers found the stories not too great for various reasons, but there were some people that really loved it. I found out that these people are not habitual book readers. Some even outright hated all other science fiction books they had come across (I asked for more details and it was mostly due to contrived plot arcs), but these people liked my particular stories regardless.

The main positive points from these people were that the stories make logical sense, are complex and thought-provoking, are internally consistent and, according to some, have believable characters experiencing relatable issues.

With one notable exception, the professional reviewers/writers/editors didn't like it at all (too complex, too slow-paced, not enough action).

My thoughts in this regard are simple: It will be easier to sell books to habitual book readers than to people who rarely read books, because people who rarely read books will rarely buy books. That said, if professional reviewers, writers, and editors weren't fond of your work, that might simply mean that the stories in question are in need of further editing. (I can't say for sure--this is simply a guess based on the experiences you've described above.)

Are you planning to self-publish or try to break in to mainstream publishing? That can make a world of difference in how you might want to resolve these concerns.

How to move forward?

I suppose the only thing I can do is to stoically keep writing, improving my skills and flinging stuff at the wall until something sticks.

Just keep writing the stories and characters that I want to write and accept it will be niche, controversial and potentially offensive to some?

Accept that it will never be accepted by a publisher or praised by a critic and just put it up for the minimum price on Amazon and accept it will sell only 100 copies? Hope for it to somehow attract a cult following?

Definitely keep writing. Definitely keep writing what you want to write--but research the things you want to write about whenever possible, because the more information you have, the better equipped you'll be to deal with difficult or controversial topics. Continue getting feedback on your work (for free when possible--there's a sub-forum for critique trades here on the Writers of the Future forum, and critiquing other stories might help you learn things about your own).

I'm not going to give you blanket recommendations about whether or not to publish your work on Amazon. I do want to know what you personally want to get out of your writing, though, because that might help me give more specific recommendations on ways to approach things. Are you primarily focused on short fiction? Are you looking to write novels in the near (or far) future? Or perhaps you're interested in both. Have you been submitting solely to writing contests, or have you been trying your hand at other short story markets? Are you more interested in writing for the love of it or making a profit? (I, myself, land pretty squarely in the middle of that bell curve.)

Whatever you're aiming for, I hope at least some of this helps. grinning  

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
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Posted : December 12, 2021 9:52 am
NVHaskell liked
ellisael
(@ellisael)
Active Member
Posts: 22

wow this is such an interesting qn and also one asked only by the folks who are really committed to the craft- so wishing you all the very best!!

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Posted : December 13, 2021 10:50 pm
Jess Windsor
(@cube)
New Member
Posts: 1

Wow, thanks everyone for the useful replies!

I'll definitely have a look at the other sections of the forum for writing resources, good story references and general tips.

 

Posted by: @disgruntledpeony

I do want to say, right off the bat, that I noticed it sounded like you're trying to compare critiques received on one story to critiques received on other stories. I don't actually recommend doing that, and here's why: It's like comparing apples and oranges. Some people are bound to like one more than the other, and might even be able tell you why in exacting detail--but apples and oranges are completely different types of fruit. What makes a good orange does not make a good apple, and vice versa. Trying to figure out why readers like one story better than another can lead to significant (and, in my opinion, woefully unnecessary) overwhelm, especially as a new writer. I'll go into more detail about my thoughts on this below, but I felt it important to mention right out of the gate.

(...)

It sounds like, whether the readers 'got' your story or not, there might be some pacing or descriptive issues--the readers who don't get it want clarity, and the readers who do get it want more. I could be wrong about this--I wouldn't be able to make a more educated guess without reading some of your work--but it never hurts to do an editing pass for clarity and description, whether external or internal. (Editing and revision are among the most useful skills a writer can learn.)

As far as niche or not: The most important person you can write for is you. Write the stories you enjoy, and that enjoyment will bleed onto the page. I'd argue you don't have to dumb your story down or double down on the complexity and philosophy--unless that will make you happy, in which case go for it!

(...)

As I said earlier, I don't recommend comparing one story to another, even if those stories are related. Each story is its own monster, with its own strengths and weaknesses. Silver's good against werewolves, but they have no concerns about sunlight. Vampires, on the other hand... laughing  

I'd honestly recommend approaching each story one at a time, as a separate entity. If you look at the feedback for one story at a time, comparing your readers' experiences to what you wanted them to experience for that specific story, and finish edits on that individual piece before moving on to the next one, you'll probably have an easier time of things. (Artistically-related example: I have a much easier time finishing one drawing than I do working on twelve different ones at once.)

Right, this makes sense.

One important thing I forgot to mention though was that all the stories are set in the same universe (In a nutshell: Hard sci-fi setting in which humanity has been conquered by a Kardishev 4 civilization, everyone's now immortal, everyone has all necessities met and can do whatever they want as long as they obey some pretty minimal laws set by the generally unseen and uncaring overlords, explored from the perspective of a bunch of colonists that spent way too much time in stasis and are new to all of this).

There is some cross-referencing going on, although all the short stories should stand on their own.

 

I don't know your background or experience with diversity, and it's a complex subject to say the least--but I definitely feel it's an important one. My best recommendation on subjects like this is ALWAYS to do more research. I recommend reading "removed link ;psc=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Writing the Other," by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, as a good starting point. I attended an online class Gabino Iglesias ran earlier this year on the subject of diversity in fiction, and it was very helpful. (I'm not sure if he's offering one at the moment, but it's worth keeping an eye out for things like that.)

A quick shorthand for techniques that might prove helpful on this is REACH (I grabbed the ancronym, as well as the following definitions, from removed link " target="_blank" rel="noopener">this article, which is worth reading in full):

  • Research– make sure you have an understanding of the type of character or community you want to explore (LGBT, disabled, a rural community when you personally live in a city, etc).

  • Empathize– improving your empathy, in general, will allow you to write more diverse characters because those characters will seem authentic if you can empathize with their underrepresented condition.

  • Acknowledge– recognize that you can’t know what this community feels and that that is okay. Have someone from that community read your work, or at least discuss it with them to gain their perspective.

  • Characterize– make sure your diverse character doesn’t just exist to serve the plot.

  • Humanize– know what you go through as a person in your everyday life and inject some of that daily routine into these characters wherever it makes sense. For example, if you’re writing an LGBT character, the love they feel for someone of the same gender is not different from the love you feel for the significant other in your life.

Some important questions to keep in mind when dealing with complicated topics like this are:

  • "What am I trying to say?" (For example, you've mentioned the existence of a genetically engineered white slave race above. I can definitely see how that could be interpreted as problematic for a number of reasons--but, because I don't know what you're trying to say via the existence of that group in your story, or how their existence affects the story as a whole, I can't provide detailed feedback on the subject. I can only say that the context in which this group is represented would definitely matter, and it would matter a great deal.)
  • "Am I saying it effectively?" (For example, a trans character displaying bigoted behavior in a story isn't necessarily transphobic in an of itself--but if that's the only trans character in your story, it might inadvertently leave readers with a negatively skewed perspective on what transgender people are like, and readers might then apply that skewed perspective to things that happen in real life. Increasing representation--for example, having multiple transgender characters with differing characteristics and beliefs--might help in this regard. The greater a representative sample you provide, the more opportunities you provide for your readers to understand and empathize with the characters in question.)
  • "Does this statement have the potential to hurt others?" (If the answer to this question is 'yes,' I definitely recommend analyzing who might be hurt and why. I'm not a big fan of causing harm in any case, but in situations where harm is unavoidable I feel it's important to punch up rather than to punch down.)

This is helpful.

The problem regarding the transgender person is that I didn't actually plan this person to be a typical transgender and the character is not supposed to represent people in the contemporary transgender community. The character's main interest is using the technology available to his/her advantage. The character is a lot more progressive in that regard than the other characters that either didn't consider the possibilities (yet) or hold various moral/personal value positions that prevent them from doing these things.

The person has a whole chapter dedicated to explaining his/her reasoning and giving critique and a counter voice to the characters with the more 'traditional' points of view and those that try to do their best to remain virtuous.

From my personal perspective, the transgender character is amongst the most rational and pragmatic in the group and his/her point of view makes sense. I personally find the character likable, dispite their flaws. The character in question starts out as a young male, is slightly socially awkward and has been consistently rejected by the females in the same age group. Now place this person on a debauched pleasure world where literally everything is a brothel and people own a harem of genetically engineered slave waifus removed link Show them that pretty much anything goes as far as the law is concerned, drugs are free (character comes from an environment where drugs are illegal), and they can switch to any body they want. What do you expect is going to happen, realistically...

Later on, the same character switches to an indeterminate gender space marine equivalent body to participate in a massive brawl and smack down opponents by the dozens, further illustrating the point that this person is just using whatever body fits the occasion and it's not because of genuine gender dysphoria or anything.

Yet some readers fail to get that point and go "Oh no, the character that switched gender misbehaved! Totally transphobic!!".

Having a more genuine transgender character to contrast this character might work, but there is no room for it in this particular story, in which everyone is flawed/misbehaving in one way or another anyway. Even the characters that try to be paragons of virtue in this environment end up making costly mistakes, which gets them in big trouble.

 

My thoughts in this regard are simple: It will be easier to sell books to habitual book readers than to people who rarely read books, because people who rarely read books will rarely buy books. That said, if professional reviewers, writers, and editors weren't fond of your work, that might simply mean that the stories in question are in need of further editing. (I can't say for sure--this is simply a guess based on the experiences you've described above.)

Are you planning to self-publish or try to break in to mainstream publishing? That can make a world of difference in how you might want to resolve these concerns.

Definitely keep writing. Definitely keep writing what you want to write--but research the things you want to write about whenever possible, because the more information you have, the better equipped you'll be to deal with difficult or controversial topics. Continue getting feedback on your work (for free when possible--there's a sub-forum for critique trades here on the Writers of the Future forum, and critiquing other stories might help you learn things about your own).

I'm not going to give you blanket recommendations about whether or not to publish your work on Amazon. I do want to know what you personally want to get out of your writing, though, because that might help me give more specific recommendations on ways to approach things. Are you primarily focused on short fiction? Are you looking to write novels in the near (or far) future? Or perhaps you're interested in both. Have you been submitting solely to writing contests, or have you been trying your hand at other short story markets? Are you more interested in writing for the love of it or making a profit? (I, myself, land pretty squarely in the middle of that bell curve.)

Whatever you're aiming for, I hope at least some of this helps. grinning  

I wrote the short stories and novella first while working on my larger novel, and was hoping to use the feedback on the short stories to write my novel in the best possible way. After all, it's 10-20x the time investment and likely also the main entry point into the setting, so I want to be 100% sure I get that one right.

Then again a novel is a whole different beast as a short story so feedback is not always applicable, I suppose.

After the initial novel, I have 2 more planned to round out the main storyline and span 1.2 billion years of timeline and the major events (600 million years in the past to 600 million years in the future, it's hard sci-fi, much is limited by the speed of light, so everything takes a looooooooooooong time). After that, it's back to more short stories and novellas for the minor events and character backgrounds, I have outlines for 20 or so more and some are already partially written.

I did submit some stories to magazines, but only got rejections (no reasons given for any). I did participate in another unrelated writing contest recently with an unrelated entry and got first place, which did help give me some confidence in my basic writing skills.

So far I think in its current form the stories are not appealing to the mainstream Western audience, so I don't think traditional publishing will work, at least not in the West. Self-publishing would be the way to go. Either that, or rewrite, rewrite, rewrite... But then again the basic premise of hard sci-fi with humanity effectively under the boot of hyper advanced aliens (and a handful of jupiter-brain-equivalent ex-humans) might just not be appealing to most.

I failed to mention that I had one of the short stories translated to Chinese and got a far more positive reaction from these readers, as they all 'get' the story and all of the readers immediately compared it to the Three Body Problem trilogy in terms of scope, complexity and philosophical issues.

Western people often don't get it and have difficulty placing events in context. They generally don't really think it perfectly compares to anything currently on the market, although God Emperor of Dune, Culture novels, Altered Carbon and some obscure stories by Roger Williams (Prime Intellect and Passages in the Void) were mentioned by some.

Due to this result, I think it might be worth finishing a Chinese-centric short story before writing the novel, to see how the Chinese readers respond to that.

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Topic starter Posted : December 14, 2021 3:29 pm
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