Discussion: Why Everyone SHOULDN’T Like You

New article on the main site: Writing With Integrity: Why Everyone SHOULDN’T Like You.

Because writers are so often pushed to do anything that will get them more readers (and I’ve been through this, and can attest that it happens), I think it’s important to point out when changing what and how you write to pursue new readers is a good idea, and when it’s a bad idea.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

36 comments… add one
  • Stephen Brandon Mar 31, 2015 @ 19:36

    I’m a late coming to your post, sorry. I’m retired and now writing science fiction from my viewpoint. I’m self published on Smashwords, but only have an average of 500 downloads on my free books. My biggest problem, is how do I identify my readers and how do I get feedback from them?
    Thanks for any answer you give!

  • Glynis Jolly Feb 20, 2015 @ 15:18

    I don’t think I could write something that I was opposed to. I guess I like myself too much. One of the great things about being a writer is that there’s this other avenue to use the “speak your mind”, the written words

  • Natasha Nielsen Aug 23, 2013 @ 1:26

    I just wanted to thank you for this entry. I am a mother of four, currently working on my first manuscript, and at the same time attending college to become an animator (you may not know this, but your lessons are good for more than just novels). Being a writer and an animator are dreams I’ve had since I was little, and never had the guts to pursue either. I’m terrified of my dreams, but that helps to push me further; it’s the fire that propels me to discover the talents I may or may not possess. The idea that maybe one day someone will appreciate that I dared to face my fears of utter failure helps me to keep moving forward. So thank you. Thank you very much.

    • Holly Aug 27, 2013 @ 11:10

      πŸ˜€ I’m cheering you on.

      And I did know about the processes I teach being useful for more than writing. πŸ˜€

      They’re the processes I also use in every other aspect of my life. However, I developed them for writing first, and writing is how people know me if they know me at all, so I teach the processes using writing as my example.

  • Nessa May 6, 2013 @ 17:45

    This will be challenging. Good thing I’m doing HTTS so I can pull the real me out from behind the mask.

  • Reziac May 6, 2013 @ 8:32

    I’m constantly referring budding writers to this article. Bad crits, sanding down all the “rough” spots that give a work character, appeal to everyone on the planet… no, no, no!

  • Lee Burnett Mar 24, 2013 @ 5:39

    Holly this article is an awesome attest to your writing knowledge and character. I feel it is essential, as a scribe to write with integrity whether it be for oneself or the enjoyment of others.

  • earthy Feb 20, 2013 @ 22:24

    I’ve read this post before, but reading it through this time in the context of a discussion/argument I just had about writing/acting, I’m struck by this part:

    >>β€œI don’t have to like it; I just have to get paid,” is a form of prostitution. There is no writing integrity in following this path.<<

    My aforementioned discussion seemed to hinge around the fact that my "opponent" was telling me that I couldn't hold an actor responsible for a problematic role she took because the real "problem" was with the writer and his choices. The actor was just "doing her job."

    It frustrated me because in creative endeavors like writing and acting, there seems to be this mentality that you Do What Needs Doing For Commercial Success…and therefore can't be held accountable for any related outcome because "that's just the way it is in the Real World."

    Holly's article here seems to indicate what I believe, though I've basically been told it's entirely too idealistic to live: That we make choices, sometimes in tough contexts, and we are ABSOLUTELY responsible for the outcomes of those choices, even if the situation in which we made them is tough (i.e., if I do this potentially-against-my-creative-philosophy thing, I get paid; if I dont, I don't).

    I don't think deciding how/what you create and whether or not it needs to be changed in some way to be more appealing to your audience is ever an easy choice, exactly, but it's one a lot of creative people are faced with, and no matter what you decide, you should take responsibility for your actions.

    (And if I could just siphon off a bit of Holly's toughness so I could argue this type of thing without constantly worrying that ZOMG I'm alienating people I disagree with!, that would be awesome. ^^;;;)

  • Tamoso Deep Feb 19, 2013 @ 16:03

    I must say that you are one of the most wonderful writers I have ever read. And after Virginia Woolf, Christina Rossetti, Sandra M. Gilbert, Susan Guber- I think you are the English writer I like the most. The strange thing is, I have read only two of your articles so far. Because, I have been gifted the link of your site just today, my granny sent me the link in a mail. And now, I am reading you. You can say, I am hypnotized. I am flying in the sky of your writing. I am going through a village of mystery and truth at the same time when I am reading your articles. I must say one thing, I have not read so many English books or writers. I am a Bengali, and I live in Bangladesh, a country next to India. So, books I read are mostly written in Bengali. But I am sure even if I read so many English authors, yet you will remain in the list of my most favorite writers. Cause, I like the depth of your thought. I really wish to read your books. Sadly, I am not rich enough to buy them online. I do not have a credit card that works for internet, I actually do not have a credit card at all. Paypal doesn’t work in Bangladesh. Visa does work, but I don’t have it. Otherwise, I would really buy your books. Although I am not that much into Sci-fi or fantasy, yet I have read your great articles, and I know that your books too are gonna be good. And you know life is meaningless. Your books could fill up the emptiness of some days, and I would always remember those days I would read your books. I will never forget this day of my life when I discovered you. A book fair is going on in our country that will last the whole month. When I went there, I just wanted to discover a young and unknown writer who writes so great. A voice nobody heard, yet that is melodic. I could not find even one writer like that. No unknown writer writes good. And the one who writes good yet are not famous do exist, but sadly, I know them all. They all are my friends. So, I could not get anyone at all. And I felt disappointed. Perhaps you are not unknown over there in America. Nonsense people exists everywhere. So, I actually know what experiences you have gone through. I am sure you have been told, “Holly Lisle, you think too much, way too much.” I am sure someone told you, “Hey, why do you make everything so critical? See things as they are, do not try to discover anything else that nobody knows in the things you see.” I am sure people called you talkative. I am sure people called you hyperactive. I am sure you have gone through sad times of your life, when you lost your confidence for a while, and waited when you could get it back. I am sure sometimes it seemed that you will never be able to go back to your past self, yet you had secretly believed somewhere in your heart that one day you will get those days back, and it last all of them came back to you. I am sure about so many other things. I would rather not say all of them. Because if I start saying, I will never stop. I can keep telling you things I am sure about until I die, but sadly- life is only one, and we can not spend all of it for completing only one task. Yet, I do think I am going to be one of your dedicated readers. Holly, Thank you a lot for writing so good. For people like us, the world is livable because there is art, there is music, there is poetry, there is films, there is books, and there are the persons who love. The human civilization owes its entire survival to people like you.

    I will regularly visit your site. And I will wait for your new articles. Just keep up your good work Holly! People like me are always with you, will always be. I know you are not lonely and you may do not need everyone who wants to be with you, still- at least I am here. And will always be, although I am not someone who is valued, or at least correctly valued by other people.

  • Anjela Nov 29, 2012 @ 17:17

    To tell you the truth I am only 11. But your enthusiasm and knowledge about Writing sends chills up my arm. I have always loved Writing and one day I hope to be an author. Not to mention a teacher. I love this site because it is really helping me understand how I can use my psat experiences ,both good and bad, to discover events in plots, and personalities in my characters. Thankyou so much for providing me so much more knowledge on my favorite subject! -Anjie

    • Holly Nov 30, 2012 @ 10:52

      You’re very welcome. Good luck with your writing. πŸ˜€

  • Michele Aug 31, 2012 @ 12:00

    Hi, Holly! Just wanted to “drop on by” and thank you for your reams of writing advice. It’s funny; every time I feel the need for a pep talk, I always find something pertinent here. My muse is already dancing, eager to get back into action. Thanks for helping me recapture my love for the craft.

  • Heidi Aug 14, 2012 @ 9:59

    I’m glad you wrote this you see I get ideas for my writing, almost all the time, from different folklore. One time I went into an Irish store and I asked this old lady that worked there to help me find a charm that wards off Kelpies (the charm was an iron pendent of a Kelpie & a Kelpie is a water fairy that kills people)the lady started telling me to stop looking up myths and folklores because god and jesus didn’t like me beleiving in lies and that I was going to hell.
    About a week later I got the idea for a book: a romance between a girl and a kelpie. I’m now done editing the book and I’m trying to figure out what I need to do and how I can self-publish it. (1st complete story :D) An idea came to mind that I could give the lady a signed copy (probably never do it but it is a neat, and dark thought)I love my muse and am I the only one that’s been told by an OLD LADY that I’m going to hell for what I write? (I read in many stories that lucifer is hot so I guess hell can’t be all bad right? XD)

  • Nessa Jul 27, 2012 @ 11:29

    A great reminder in writing and in life.

  • Tiago Marques Jul 16, 2012 @ 19:32

    Hy Holly. I’ve been reading your site for quite some time now and i have to admit that your articles inspire me, this one in particular. I’m leving a comment because i need to ask you something and i really really understand that you are a very busy person and the last thing you need is another…well…ANOTHER. But i just have one quick question. I decided to be a writer about 5 years ago once i entered college. Anyway i spent the last years developing my stories. I have sucessufely finished my first novel, all it needs is to be revised and chapter re-organized, but it is in essence complete. But now I froze, i’m terrified with the prospect of really finishing it and trying to get it published. I can’t understand. Do you think a person who is so insecure about moving forqard should, you know, just do it? I don’t know how to react if they don’t like or the ask me to change things that i’m unwilling to change because it will alter the message of the story. Oh my god it’s so long, so sorry. I wish you could reply but honestly, i’ll understand if you just ignore it and delete it. Thank you

    P.S.: I’m European, Portuguese to be more precise.

    • Holly Jul 17, 2012 @ 4:48

      Hi, Tiago. This is a conscious mind (left brain) vs. subconscious mind (right brain) issue. Or, more plainly, your You versus your Muse. Your YOU, your conscious mind—the part of you that runs daily operations—prefers to stay where things are safe and known. Your MUSE wants to get out there and have fun with something new.

      So you’re frozen between these two conflicting needs…and your conscious mind is much louder and more determined to get its way whatever the cost. So it’s pulling PERFECTION on you, which is a trick conscious minds play when they want to stop and hide in their holes.

      It isn’t just you. Everyone has these two brains, and these two essential conflicts, running in some variation all the time.

      You CAN get the book done. You have to learn to give your Muse the reins.

    • Debra Jun 14, 2013 @ 6:48

      Tiago, I would like to add my thoughts to your comment. When I read your post I saw myself and the conflict I went through. I was a little nervous and scared that no on would want to read what I had written because it was personal. Those words may be made up but they came from me so that makes it personal. The I “just did it.” I write Christian romance stories. I do it for me but when the owner of the site tells me how many have read my stories it feels great. So there are others who like what I do and even though I may never meet them, I can know my writing is not in vain here are others out there who like it. So bottom line you never know who your writing will reach or how it may change another.

  • Camy Sussex Jun 21, 2012 @ 18:16

    ‘Why Everyone SHOULDN’T Like You’ gave me a very well timed, salutary, slap in the face. Apart from writing fiction I’m also a songwriter in a band. Our manager keeps telling us we should change what we do because it isn’t commercial enough….

    I know what I’m going to say to him tomorrow! πŸ˜‰

    Many thanks, and thank you for all your great articles, too.

    • Holly Jun 22, 2012 @ 6:55

      πŸ˜€ Good luck. Wish I could be a fly on the wall for that discussion.

      I’m cheering for you.

  • Roderick Tanguay Feb 2, 2012 @ 21:56

    Holly, hav’nt taken it all in yet but looks like a very important observation. I am going to read it time and again till I have every last phrase fixed.
    At last some one appreciates “The grumpy old man.” A phrase I hate “at my age” has some meaning! I have the time to see, observe, and now to comment. Great! Thanks Holly.

  • Jessica Quila Aug 27, 2011 @ 1:12

    Holly, you are so very inspiring to me! All your articles and e-mails are extremely helpful, in more ways than one. I’m a young writer who wishes to one day get my work published and inspire other young readers, as well. This article, and all the others I have read of yours, are guiding me in the direction of making my dreams come true. I want to be an inspiring writer one day, one who has readers who will love and remember my stories for a very long time. I wish to have readers who want to live in the worlds I build, and want to be the characters I create.
    But anyways, before I read this article, I was thinking of changing up my story for the sake of someone who thought my story would be better off a certain way. I got a bit discouraged, and was actually considering it for a while. But after reading this article, I realized I’ve put so much thought, work, time, and love into my story that I should not have to change it, based on what a few relatives have to say. I’m going to make my story come to life my way, the way I want it to.

    Thank you so much Holly =).

  • Mike Aug 24, 2011 @ 23:22

    Thank you so much for posting this article. I write science fiction but with gay characters and it has been extremely difficult not to listen to people who say that stories like this cannot work…that I needed to have straight people and a romance between a man and a woman instead of a m/m romance. I really needed this article. πŸ™‚

    • Holly Oct 19, 2011 @ 8:25

      M/M romance is huge. So obviously someone is writing these stories, and obviously they work. Why shouldn’t you write what you love to write?

  • Ayodele Aliyu Jul 12, 2011 @ 0:06

    I came across Holly Lisle website recently. Simply, I am positively influenced by her articles.

  • mistie Apr 17, 2011 @ 22:05

    No offense at all but I remember that on another article you told writer’s there should be no “but’s” and that if an editor tells you to change something about your writing you should to be successful. it was “How To Tell Who WON’T Make It in Writing (and How Not to Be That Writer)”
    You wrote:” If an editor tells you that you’re going to have to give the story a real ending, ‘But I want to leave the reader in suspense . . .’ is going to get you round-filed and lose you a big opportunity.”
    So, isn’t that changing your writing to fit the editor and to make money, which the exact opposite of what you’re saying here?
    It’s a good article, but it seems you’re changing your tune here.

    • Holly Lisle May 2, 2011 @ 14:30

      Hi, Mistie,

      You’re mistaking content with technique. It’s a common mistake, and it causes a lot of writers a lot of problems.

      If you have written a story that is true to your heart and soul, with a strong theme and rich conflict between characters, and your editor asks you to change the theme of the story to fit a philosophy abhorrent to you, or to destroy some of your main characters and most of your conflict to fit a shorter story length, you walk away.

      If your editor, however, likes your story content, likes your theme, and points out that you have utterly screwed the pooch on the ending because you have not GIVEN the story an ending, listen to your editor.

      How To Tell Who WON’T Make It in Writing is directed at preventing writers from becoming people who think every word that falls from their fingertips is golden, just because it fell from their fingertips; who make excuses for real, technical flaws; and who think their technique IS their writing.

      Why Everyone SHOULDN’T LIke You is about how to write while not selling your soul.

  • Danzier Jan 28, 2011 @ 2:35

    I’m reading this after a year and a half of media classes where they stress finding “your target audience” and crafting content to that audience’s preferences and buying strategies, but they give me precisely squat about how to find my TA. I say that first because I have two comments, and without the preface, they might seem dischordant. So, first, this article is the most concise, precise, workable definition of a target audience AND tutorial on finding it I have ever seen…and I’ve seen a lot.

    Second, it is refreshing and liberating to realize that I am my own TA! I’ve been inundated with variations of “it doesn’t matter if YOU like it; what matters is whether John Q. Audience will like it, and whether we can use it to sell commercial time.” The reminder that there are people out there who like what I like and don’t like what I don’t like is so incredibly encouraging. In a strange way, it says that I’m important enough for someone in media to base a program and ad campeign on what I like… and it’s perfectly acceptable for me to target that same audience. That’s something I needed to hear. Thanks. πŸ˜€

  • MarFisk Dec 11, 2010 @ 20:14

    Holly, I find the timing on this hilarious and telling, though not completely for the obvious reasons.

    My NaNo this year is a riff on the theme of following your heart where creativity is concerned instead of where others think you should go.

    And it’s a romance. I started writing with the intention of writing science fiction (and you know I still do that as well :)) but every time I write a romance, I start to doubt my reasons. However, these characters DO wake me up in the middle of the night and tease me when I have other things to do. Guess I’m destined to be a multi-genre author. Now I just have to sell some of my long fiction, right?

  • tambo Dec 11, 2010 @ 2:14

    Thank you for the article, Holly. I don’t want to clog up your comment feed with my own tales of woe, but I am thankful that I’ve finally stepped out of the dark block that’s crippled me for so, so long after writing what everyone else said I should instead of what comes naturally from me. It’s good to be back, and your article is spot on. {{huggs}}

  • Nina Brown Dec 9, 2010 @ 19:03

    It’s not only the writing, it’s the whole scope of one’s life this article applies to. I have been struggling with some family issues for all of my life, and this article just told me plain and bold what my problem is. By having courage – at last – at the age of 50 – to live my life the way I want it I upset tremendously some people, people close (by blood) to me. I also gained friends who are precious to me because we share the same ideals. Thank you Holly for helping me grow stronger.

  • Christa Polkinhorn Dec 9, 2010 @ 11:51

    I am an author and I have read quite a few articles on writing, being successful, and building your reader base. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST IF NOT THE BEST!
    Thanks,
    Christa

  • TimK Dec 9, 2010 @ 11:10

    “I want the latitude to write complex, twisting plots and layered, complicated characters…” Oh yes! Yes! Yes!

    I loved this piece, Holly. This truth has not been proclaimed widely enough. So often authors, especially aspiring authors, pursue “success” without first thinking about what success really means to them. You have to be true to yourself in your writing, or else you will inadvertently skewer a part of yourself with your own pen.

    -TimK

  • zette Dec 8, 2010 @ 14:16

    This is a timely article for me. I recently came to the conclusion that I am writing for an Andre Norton audience in a Laurell K. Hamilton market. This means, obviously, that I am not going to easily find my readers. This has encouraged me to keep trying, though, rather than deciding I just don’t fit. Thank you.

  • Nancy Dec 8, 2010 @ 10:59

    You always seem to know the right thing to say at exactly the right time. Thanks for a(nother) great and insightful article. Your words of wisdom apply to all of life and not just writing and I’m so glad you’re out here doing what you do (and most importantly, being true to yourself!)

    Nancy

  • Julian Adorney Dec 8, 2010 @ 8:33

    Great article, Holly.

    I like the prostitution analogy. Although I’m not sure it goes far enough; prostitutes often as not only sell their bodies (or at least, only try to), while writers who sell to readers they don’t like are willfully putting their souls on the market.

    Oh, and thanks for not selling out. One of the major reasons I keep buying your books and visiting this site is that I can always count on you to write honest work πŸ™‚

  • Spiritua Masquerade Dec 8, 2010 @ 1:22

    Another great article, Holly. I know for a fact that I’ll have to come back to this once I get a few books out. One of my weaknesses is that I’m always trying to make people like me or what I’ve made, and I’ll have to learn that an attitude like that will only bring trouble as a writer.

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