Okay, so it happens. I knew it was going to happen. The first one-star review. No matter how prepared I am, it never fails to sting. That being said, the reviewer took the time to leave a thoughtful review which covered their dissatisfaction with certain elements of the book, rather than a one-liner simply bashing my book. I certainly appreciate that consideration.
I don’t respond directly to reviewers, either positively or negatively, because the review section of the book is the readers’ space, and when an author interjects themselves into the conversation, it gets awkward and uncomfortable for readers. I want my readers to leave honest reviews, without fearing that I will be lurking like some gremlin in the shadows ready to jump all over them if I don’t like what they say. I usually do read the reviews (unless they look downright cruel), and I appreciate reader feedback and see it as one of the most important tools to getting my name out there so that my stories have a wider audience. Even a well-written negative review can do that for me.
In the case of this review, the reader had a lot of questions about my world-building and felt that it was incomplete and because of that, poorly done. This blog is not meant to be aimed at this particular reviewer, because if I failed to communicate the story to them the way I know it to be, that is my problem and not theirs. I bear no ill will towards this reviewer who took time out of their day to leave feedback that might help another reader decide to pick up my book, even if only to see if that reviewer was wrong. In fact, I thank them for their time, though that gratitude will only be posted on this blog because I don’t respond directly to reviews. 😉
The real purpose of this blog is to address one of the reviewer’s primary concerns about world-building and why they may have felt some confusion while reading, to the point that they believed the world I’d created was incomplete and not logical. I’m not going to get into details about what questions were asked or where I believed they were actually answered in the final version of the book. For one, that would include spoilers, but for another, it isn’t really the point of all this.
Instead, I wanted to reassure my readers that I have created the world down to very minute details, and have considered cause and effect in every nuance of each of the three distinct societies that exist in the Lilith’s Fall world.
There is a reason these details are not included in the book itself, which goes back to my first published work, The Princess’s Dragon. Back then, I didn’t have the same grasp for story-pacing that I have now. I included a great deal of detail on the world, its politics, etc. If I ever create a revised edition of my first novel, I will strip many of these details out to speed up the pace of the first four chapters or so. Some people appreciate more details with their story, but the general consensus in my genre seems to be less is more, especially when it is front-loaded into the story.
Which means, while I could have answered all the questions the reviewer had by putting more detail and more back story and just more… stuff unrelated to that book’s primary story, it seemed better to leave some things out to keep the pace going.
Many of these questions that might pop up in the first books will be answered in later books. Some of the revelations should be mind-blowing for readers (I hope 😉 ). I’m certainly excited about all the reveals that lie ahead.
I struggle during revision with how much to reveal, how much detail to get into with governmental systems, cultural mores, even artistic expression. I try to salt details into the narrative as the story moves along, but sometimes these details get cut during another edit because I, or my critique group, decided that they lent nothing to the primary story, though they may have answered the very kinds of questions this reviewer had.
What to include and what to cut out is always a fine-line. I accept that I won’t be able to please everyone, and hope that enough readers enjoy the story to look for the sequel and are pleased when more details come to light that tie into the previous books. Perhaps there will be some “ah-ha!” moments that make questions raised in previous books clear. Perhaps not.
Though Lilith and Ranove’s world is evolving even as I write the sequel, the foundation upon which I created it is sound, it is researched, it is thought-out and planned out. I’m sorry that I failed to convince the reviewer of that. I will try to do better in future books to find that fine-line without crossing it. But I do appreciate thoughtful feedback. So even though they will probably never see this particular blog, thank you. You’ve given me a challenge, which only improves my writing.
What are your thoughts on world-building details? Do you like a lot of details, even if they’re only peripherally related to the story, if related at all? Or do you prefer fewer details that won’t slow down the story and cause portions of it to drag? What is your idea of a happy medium? Please let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from my readers.