My Harshest Critic Comes to the Dark Side

Well folks, I’ve done it. I’ve finally beat my harshest critic. I’ve written something that even my mother can’t put down. Victory is mine.

Okay, so it isn’t a publishing deal. But seriously, my mother hasn’t read more than a couple of chapters of my manuscripts. I’ve given her five up to this point and all five she cringed and sighed and then said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do it. It’s not the writing, honey, that’s fine, it’s just…why can’t you write happy stuff?” Sigh. I’ve given her dozens of short stories to read too and she reads about a half page before looking at me as though she wonders where I came from. “It’s not you, it’s me.” She tried once. “I just don’t like dark stuff and your stories are so dark…and raw. I don’t like raw.”

Fine, I accepted that my mom would probably never read my work. Is that a big deal? I tried to say that it wasn’t, but really, it was. You see, my mother is an avid reader. As a child I remember boxes of books stored away, a book or two on the go at all times, and she would talk about her favorites and share what she liked and didn’t like. I learned fast that my mom is just about the pickiest reader I’ve ever seen. She gives the author about a chapter (when she’s feeling generous) and if she’s not feeling it, she stops reading. If the author writes one thing that’s ‘unbelievable’, again, she’s done that book. If the author dared to fuck up the ending, she’d never pick up another book with their name on it again. No kidding. She’s a tough critic.

I printed Dirty Truths off, (my mom doesn’t own a computer) and took it over, expecting much the same reaction as I’ve always had. Dirty is dark and sometimes very intense, so I was certain she’d hate it. Then there was the scene with the pool table…let’s say my mom thinks that everything I write about, I must have done in order to write it convincingly. The pool table scene is not something you want your mother to think you’ve done. Let’s just say that. But still, the chubby little kid in me desperately wanted to hear her say “Good job”. Why? I don’t know. Usually other people’s opinions don’t really affect me one way or another, but this is my mom.

So, I promised her that Dirty Truths was a story she’d like and that there was no serial killer, no horrible scary scenes and I guaranteed a happy ending. Which doesn’t matter for my mom. If she’s not liking the book, she’ll turn to the last chapter, get the ending and put it down. Anyway, she was about a third of the way through the story and she calls me. Why? To rip me a new asshole over the ‘hero’, Wade Bowen, who is not the typical kind of hero.
Mom: Why did you make him kill that man?
Me: Don’t you think that man deserved to die?
Mom: Two wrongs don’t make a right. You can’t make him a murderer, I like him.
Me: So you’d stop loving someone because he’s less than perfect?
Mom: That’s not what I’m saying. Less than perfect is a far cry from a muderer.
Me: Not really. Depends on your idea of perfection.
Mom: You can fuck off with your writer bullshit. I’ll keep reading only because I have to know what happens, but let it go on record that I don’t like heroes that kill people.
Me: Noted.
Mom: It better have a happy ending.
Me: It does.
Mom: I’ll take you out of the will if it doesn’t.
Me: I don’t want your crap anyway.
Mom: Piss off.
Me: Love you. Bye.
(My mom almost never swears. Only me and my dad are able to get her to utter profanities most of the time. She doesn’t even swear at Bell Canada. It’s a gift.)

So two days later, or thereabouts, she calls me again. Here’s how it went:

Mom: I started reading at 7pm, last night.

Me: I thought you were already reading it.

Mom: I was, but I had to stop being mad at you for ruining Wade.

Me: Oh.

Mom: I didn’t go to bed until around 2am. I hope you’re happy. I had to finish it.

Me: Yay!

Mom: Yeah, so why haven’t you published this yet?

Me: Um…how long do you have?

Mom: Why?

Me: I’m going to explain the publishing industry to you.

Did I succeed in explaining how querying, rejecting, querying, rejecting, etc. went? Not really, she thinks it’s the dumbest thing she’s ever heard of and is quite certain she couldn’t handle that much rejection. “It’s a good thing you’re such a bitch, or you’d be a mess.” She said. Thanks Mom, love you too. By the way, she calls me a bitch in the most loving of ways and I am quite proud of the title. So no hate mail for my mom. Okay? Cool.

So, while it’s not a publishing deal, it’s not even a partial request from an agent, this particular achievement has made my entire year. She’s the one who tells me at least once a week not to get my hopes up. That writing should be fun, and if it never ‘happens’ for me, I should be proud that I stuck to it. When I say that I will publish something, and that it’s not a pipedream, I get “I know. But sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want it to and you might not find your audience.”

So, she isn’t like many moms who give praise simply because they love their kids. My mom loves me (shut up) but she loves me enough to make me face reality if the need arises. And if this critic loves what I’ve written, then I know someone else will. That’s okay. I can wait.

And by the way, I haven’t heard the ‘reality’ speech since she read Dirty Truths. Encouraging, no?

8 thoughts on “My Harshest Critic Comes to the Dark Side

  1. I like your mom. 🙂 She takes no prisoners.I read the last couple of pages in a book before I buy it. (Sacrilege, I know.) But if the author can't hold the ending together I have no hope he can carry the rest of it.The older I get, the less forgiving I am with what I read.

  2. Doesn't it ruin the story if you read the end first? I can't do it. Sometimes all that keeps me reading is not knowing the ending….wait, perhaps that's how the pair of you judge good writing. If you know how it ends and STILL you keep reading, you've got a good writer. Is that it?

  3. I think that's great. My mum's not a reader, she just can't concentrate, but she never gives any praise either. Hubby is the hard one to get it past. He's very critical. When he gave Lethal Inheritance the stamp of approval – he actually said it was excellent – wow – I knew I had a good one. My agent agreed.I hope you find one too.

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