I’ve been with my wife for a long time. In fact, this year marks the twentieth anniversary of our first date. I love her unconditionally, but there’s one thing that really gets under my skin: she hates the things I write about.
This is a tough one to tackle because she likes the writing itself. It’s the subject matter she can’t stand.
I just finished a second draft of a new story and I gave it to her to read last night. She got two sentences into it and said, “Oh, not another science-fiction-fantasy story!” They way she said it made it seem like I’d just asked her to rip out her own eyes and drink a gallon of gasoline.
And I suppose in context that’s what I did considering how much she hates speculative fiction.
Now, you might rightly ask why I even bother to give her stories like this to read. The answer is that she is my wife and I value her opinion. In addition, because she hates speculative fiction, her opinion about the more esoteric elements of my stories can be quite valuable. If there are sections that she just doesn’t get or can’t follow, I know that perhaps I ought to think about the way I’m leveraging certain concepts.
For example, this story has a near-future tech bent and she got lost in the thorny forest of virtual realities I created. I’m pretty sure a dedicated reader of SF will have no problem with the technique. In fact, I’m counting on them being interested. But I’ll definitely take her comments into account when I go back through the story, looking for places where I’ve jumped the shark and skipped important details.
What to do when the one you love hates your writing?
But this doesn’t deal with the larger issue, does it? I mean, what do you do when the thing you are bleeding out your soul for is the equivalent of a dead rat on a birthday cake to the person with whom you share your life?
My initial reaction is usually to remove myself from the room and take a few deep breaths. Last night I stayed up late and finished a book – All the Rage by F. Paul Wilson. That was relaxing in a way since the main character, the shadowy Repairman Jack, spent the last 50 pages putting the fix to all the bad guys.
Of course, that’s only avoiding the problem and it’s not really fair to the other person. There’s nothing that says she has to like speculative fiction. Nothing at all. Of course, the fact that I’ve applied to the Clarion West workshop and will hopefully spend 6-weeks of my life completely immersed in speculative fiction could be the tip off that new stories I write are going to have some sort of SF/F bent.
Petty? Ok, I’ll admit to that.
It’s just tough when you hear that sort of pain in a loved one’s voice, especially when they’re exposed to a bit of art you thought might be good enough to share with others.
Ok, so after all these years, I should have some sort of list for “dealing” with this most personal of rejections. Here it goes:
1) People are entitled to their own opinion. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t share it. (sorry)
2) Try to see it from their side. My wife likes historical fiction, so being asked to read a story about dragons or robots or the general impact of technological advancement on humanity is not exactly a recipe for marital bliss. (sorry)
3) Warn the person and explain why you want them to read it. This particular story dealt with the relationship between two women (a young artist and an old one). I was hoping to get some reaction to that part of the story, but because I was a pouty baby I didn’t get that information. (sorry)
4) Thank them for reading it. If you want them to read another one, thank them for going through the pain this time. (sorry)
5) Don’t take it so personally! Easy to say but hard to do, Captain Obvious. (sorry)
Hope this helps!