"I don't like it. It's well written and there's nothing I would change, but I just don't like it." So my poem was judged at a recent critique group meeting.
The room fell silent. Coffee cups froze mid-sip. Looks flew around this table of published writers.
I admit it. I let my critic fumble for a way to soften her condemnation. For a minute.
Then I laughed. The tension melted. Other members jumped in with positive feedback. I allowed myself to be reassured.
No, I wasn't offended. Really.
I wasn't surprised, either. Despite the often icky crimes and disgusting villains she depicts in her stories, my critic likes reading uplifting when she's not researching evil and demented. I'd composed four quatrains of darkest noir. Definitely not her cup of tea.
We don't often come face to face with our critics, but they're out there. And some are going to be close to home. If the reason for the dislike can be ascertained, it’s worth considering doing something differently. Noir characters never truly win so, in this case, a redemptive ending was out of the question. I made no changes this time, but sometimes I do.
We may as well accept there will be readers who simply don't care for what we've created, no matter how perfect others may view it. As long as the dislike isn't due to poor writing, there's not a thing we can do about it.
N.K. Wagner is the publisher and executive editor of Page & Spine.