Friday, January 28, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Warning: This post has nothing to do with gunslingers, gunfights and hangings. I’m still reflecting on my book—this time taking into account the various comments sent by readers. I thought I should say that so you won’t feel I’m deceiving you into thinking that this blog post is about the wild, wild West.

Now that’s out of the way… I’ve to thank everyone who said something, anything, about Footprints. Whether the comments were good, bad or in-between is irrelevant. I’m truly grateful for any feedback because I could use that as a reference to improve my ‘work’. And I know it takes a few precious minutes to say something, search for the recipient and send your messages. So, thank you.

Just for the benefit of my blog readers who might consider writing their own books, the people who had been most gracious with their time were readers who were total strangers!

Malay Mail interview
Okay, now for the interesting bits.

My editor sent my manuscript for a critical review and told me about it when he received the feedback. My heart skipped a few beats when I read:
"From what I've read so far, it's just not chronological, and sometimes the events have no relation to one another.”

I was quite aware that the chapter referred to was ‘messy’ and that I needed to re-arrange my materials but I didn’t know what to think of the following:
It’s just not chronological……After a while, the chronological style makes for quite tedious reading.”

The editor said he hoped “the review will be able to help you look at your book from a different light and help you in fine tuning it further.”

I hadn’t set out to write a story in chronological order. From the beginning I had wanted each chapter to be about a particular topic. Anyway, I had to do a lot of cut-and-paste to improve certain chapters. The review was the kick in the butt that sent me in the right direction. It gave me an idea of how to go about improving the rest of the manuscript.

Book review in Cleo, May 2010
When the book came out, the review in one newspaper mentioned about the traditional Dusun names (relatives’ names I had included) as ‘unpronounceable’ and ‘difficult to remember’. I knew that readers could trip on these unfamiliar names but I kept them anyway. I wanted to record the old Dusun names because, even nowadays, many exist only in our memories. In ten years, who knows? Besides, they appear only once in the book.

Another review mentioned that ‘it may be too descriptive for some readers’. I was also aware of this problem. I had to find a balance between painting too skimpy a picture and giving the reader an over-dose of details. As it turned out, three readers had actually hoped for more vivid details! I recall someone saying she was disappointed that I gave cursory attention to some things instead of being consistently detailed in my descriptions.

At least one reader said she wished the book had been longer.

Now the good comments!

There were mostly good comments. Maybe readers were more ready to say something positive? Anyway, I’ll tell what stick out the most.

Footprints was featured as pick-of-the-week in the DE!

When he’d finished reading the copy I sent to his office, the State Tourism minister called. He was very generous with his compliments. Of course I was thrilled! But, as is my wont, at the back of my mind I was asking: was that really the minister on the phone? I told my sister: ‘It could have been his driver!’  But that was before I met the datuk in person.

A reader from Brisbane emailed my publisher to say it was ‘great writing’.  Someone from NY passed an email to my editor. Among other things, she said reading the book was both a geography and history lesson for her. That made my day.

I am delighted that many readers found the book humorous—partly because I don’t consider myself funny. (I've great admiration and respect for people who can make others laugh!)

Many readers said it was the first book they’ve read (1) in a long time (2) from cover to cover (3) in one/two days.

I’m keeping all the comments in a mental file because they’ll be helpful reference in future works. Did I say works?

I learnt that it’s quite true you can’t please all your readers all the time but you might just be able to please many of them most of the time! Cheers!


  1. There's the good, there's also the bad, but the ugly?

    Actually, I too wished that the book was longer. It's one of the books that I get to finish in just two nights.

  2. well, we can't please anyone.

    Most important thing is that you had done the best you could. you have your own style of writing so you can't possibly be Jodi Picoult, JK Rowling or Sidney Sheldon. That is copycat.

    you know that you got support all along. =)

  3. Hi Rick and Angel! Thanks for dropping in AND leaving comments. I appreciate your support. Wait for the next book! I may even surprise myself..hehe..
    @Rick: 'ugly' is main-main saja. There certainly wasn't any ugly comments!
    @Angel: That's right... we shouldn't try to write like other writers and become poor copy-cats!

  4. Hi I thought that you were sitting quietly at one Conner of your house reading last night!

    Rupanya you posted another article. I am one of the poor readers, has always been. Can you believe it even before I start reading a book I usually already fall asleep.Ha! Ha! Ha! What a great joker to some people may say but it is true. Well, surprisingly I read your book and finished it in just two days. Wow!!! What a tremendous success for me and I can say again that again and I could not believe that was me I thought. Truly very interesting book. Congratulate for such a beautiful moire.

  5. Hi Andrew! Thanks for dropping in. Last night? Er.. I hosted a dinner 'party' last night. Remember? This was posted on Friday night.

    Glad you found the book interesting enough to keep you awake. Thanks for your support!

  6. Hi Tina,
    I can't wait to read your book!
    Still waiting for my sister to send it from Malaysia.

  7. Thanks, Gunaqz. I hope you'll like it!