Contradictions: What’s Going On?

Raise your hand if this has happened to you….

You submit your manuscript to a contest or send it to a critique group or get feedback from agents.

One judge says your characters are well-developed. The other says they are one-dimensional.

One critique partner says your plot is too slow. The other says you’ve written a page-turner.

One agent says your work isn’t ready. The other says you’re so very close.

I think most of us can raise our hands. I think most of us understand that feedback can be confusing and contradictory.

As my debut novel makes its way into readers’ hands, I’m learning that the confusion and the contradictions don’t end with contests and critique groups and agent searches. It continues after publication. In a little land called Review World.

I’ve taken some snippets from various reviews of Wildflowers from Winter to highlight my point. It was a highly entertaining endeavor…

Overall Impression:

  • This is a decidedly light, romantic novel.
  • At times I felt as if the emotion was so overwhelming I couldn’t breathe.
  • It’s a great book to take on vacation. One that’ll help you unwind after work.
  • It’s not what I’d call a “bathtub” read. It’s full of meat and potatoes.

The Genre:

  • Although at times I wanted to roll my eyes at the corny romance plot that is present in so many Christian novels, Wildflowers from Winter can be recommended for those who desire a wholesome read with a fast-paced plotline.
  • I am proud to say that I FINALLY found a Christian romance that I liked, and even scarier, related to! This book restored my faith in Christian romance. (emphasis not mine)

The Plot:

  • Somewhat predictable
  • Twists that keep you guessing
Character Likability and Relatability:
  • I had a hard time connecting with the main characters.
  • You can’t help but fall in love with these characters.
  • Bethany is a hard character to identify with in the beginning.
  • I identified with Bethany’s struggles and rooted for her from the very beginning.
  • I’ve never met a protagonist I disliked as much as this one.
  • I LOVED the character of Bethany! (emphasis not mine)
Character Growth:
  • Bethany never changes!
  • The reader could see a drastic change.
The Hook:
  • While this book was a slow start for me, once I was fully engaged in the storyline, I couldn’t put it down.
  • Ganshert’s fresh beautiful voice gripped me from page one and hung on until the last page.

The Prologue:

  • The prologue set me off on the wrong foot. Actually, after the prologue, I didn’t even like the book. But take my word for it and stick with it!
  • I barely made it through the prologue before asking myself, “WHO is this new writer and WHEN is she writing the next one?” (emphasis not mine)

Alternating Third and First Person POVs:

  • I found it distracting, though not hard to follow.
  • Especially compelling are the first person passages interspersed in the main narrative.
  • Only real drawback for me was the author’s choice to switch back and forth from first to third narrative.
  • The book shifts at times to the past, which creatively adds substance and depth to the story line.
And my favorite….
  • I would not recommend this book to anyone. (Thankfully, this person’s flying solo so far.)
  • I could not put this book down and would recommend it to everyone!

Alright, So what gives?

How is it possible for one person to love Bethany and another to hate her? How can one person say the book is a lighthearted easy read, yet another call it “gut-wrenching” and filled with depth?

Who’s right?

Are you ready for the beautiful, amazing, glorious truth?

Neither. Both. Nobody. All. 

Because taste is subjective. 

Thank the Lord, taste is subjective!

If you have the basics mastered, like Jody Hedlund talks about in a post titled, 2 Tests that Can Help Writers Sort Through Feedback, then be prepared for…

  • Some people to love your work and some to wrinkle their nose at it.
  • A nearly perfect score from one judge and an in-the-pits score from another.
  • One agent to toss your story aside, another to snatch it up.
  • One editor to reject your book after two pages, another to be your biggest advocate. 
  • One reader to swear off anymore of your novels, another to become your newest, biggest fan.

It’s impossible to please everyone. 

Absolutely impossible.

Especially if we’re going to write from a place of honesty. Especially if we refuse to play it safe and write from the soul.

Some people will love what we have to offer, because of their background or personal preference or set of beliefs or (insert whatever you want here). And some people won’t, because of all those same reasons.

That truth shouldn’t give us ulcers. It should set us free.

And it should make for really great book club discussions. 🙂 Speaking of, Wildflowers is the May pick for the online Christian Fiction Book Club

Let’s Talk: Have you ever received contradictory feedback? Feel free to share it here. I promise, it’s therapeutic. 

If you’d like to read my debut and decide for yourself which reviews you agree with, it’s available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and

33 thoughts on “Contradictions: What’s Going On?

  1. This is why I love it when we have two reviewers per book on The Christian Manifesto a lot of times. Because the two reviewers might have totally different views even if they both like the book. Or one might love it and the other hate it. I love reading different viewpoints.

  2. […] The backgrounds, personal preferences, and life experiences each reader brings to our book, all of which influence their reaction to it. This is exactly why the very same book can elicit one star reviews and five star reviews.  […]

  3. I definitely can relate to this post. It seems people either love or hate my story. Perhaps this shows success in one area: getting a strong emotional response.

  4. Your post reminded me of a quote from Beth Moore’s James study (p.112)…”I’m not sure which is more toxic: the criticism of people or their adulation. The former tastes like poison but a steady drip of the latter can make you twice as sick. Let’s quit trying to take people’s pulse to see how much they love us…(Gal. 1:10)…If you can get people pleased, you cannot keep them pleased. Bind your wrist to the One who isn’t fickle.”

  5. Hi there. First time visitor to your site (and it’s really well done, btw!)–I clicked over from Rachelle Gardner’s blog. I just had to say how much I loved and related to this post!! I was laughing at all the contradictory examples of contradictions you shared because it’s perfectly illustrative of how confusing and frustrating it is to get directly oppositional feedback. At first, I would freak out and immediately start making changes, and then I remembered that old saying about how “you can please all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can’t please all the people, all the time.” So now I’m just trying to find an agent who likes me for me 🙂
    Thanks again for a great post and best of luck with your launch!

  6. Jessica

    I read this on twitter;) u can’t control success, fruit, reception, or perception. u can only strive to be faithful, pray, let God do the rest. 🙂

  7. Hilarious! I’m glad you could laugh at the irony. I’ve gotten the some very interesting contradictory feedback as well. But my very favorite feedback was from a contest judge who seemed to willfully misunderstand my entire story. He or she was CONVINCED that my MC Andrew who EVERYONE except his pastor and his mother-in-law calls Drew was in fact a separate character from Drew. In Elisabeth’s vows, she said “Andrew Marek, my Drew, the love of my life.” And this judge said, “why is she talking about Drew while she’s marrying Andrew. Not even kidding. And there was more. But . . . seriously.
    And yes, I’ve also had some people say, “this is too much background,” while others say, “give me more background; I want to know what’s going on here,” etc. Some say, I really connect with THIS character, but not that one, and others say the opposite.
    I honestly try NOT to ask for feedback anymore. I’m a little feedback’d out.

  8. I’m always shocked when 2 judges will give high 90’s and one will give a 60. What??? You are right. It is all so subjective. I cannot imagine dealing with reviews all over the place. I suppose you really have to learn that you can’t please everyone. That’s life across the board. 🙂

    I’m in the middle of your book and love it! Switching from 1st to 3rd surprised me, but you did a great job of it. I haven’t read a book that has done that! I wish I wasn’t getting so old and nodding off late a night. I used to stay up late and read, but alas…I’m an old fogey!

  9. Katie,

    This is hilarious! And so typical of our funny and diverse little human brains. I finally came to the conclusion that the more mixed the reactions are, the more God is asking me to trust Him and His calling on my life rather than looking elsewhere for validation.

    On the other hand, if you got Rachelle Gardner AND a book deal, then I’d say you’re on the red carpet for sure!

    BTW, Keli Gwyn sent me here and I’m GLAD she did. So looking forward to reading your work – love the shorts, too.


  10. Loree Huebner

    I’ve had mixed feedback. I set out to learn from the same common critique that keeps popping up, and I fix it. I go with my gut on the other random issues.

    Great post.

  11. I think it’s plain WEIRD how three judges can never agree on one thing. Ever.

    In every contest I’ve entered (except when I finaled in the Frasier) One judges LOVES it, needs to be published NOW, another judge thinks it’s okay. Needs work, but solid. And the other judge just wants to wretch.

    There is always a grain of truth in every comment I’ve noticed for me at least. Even my 0 out of 10 I once got on voice. It helped me, (after the tears and fury. ;-)) and I do believe made my writing stronger.

    Readers are fickle. Thank goodness, God isn’t!

  12. that’s awesome. seriously. such contradicting reviews…what else can they point to BUT subjectivity?

  13. Dear Katie,

    As long as you love your book, it’s characters, the plotline, etc, that’s all that matters! 🙂

    Sure it helps when your readers love your work too but you’ve got to love it first! And from what I hear, it’s a GREAT book! 🙂

    I can’t wait to read it.



  14. This is a keeper, Katie. Thank you! & Blessings on your launch!

    1. Katie Ganshert

      LOL, Kathleen! I love your review. Makes me all smiley. Here’s another one that came to me this morning via Google Alert:

      Super encouraging!

      1. Patti Mallett

        Wow!! Keep this one posted on the wall. Awesome!!

  15. Patti Mallett

    Thanks for sharing this stuff with us, Katie! It’s what we all need to remember as we write. We must love our story, get help in making it the best work possible, and then let it go out into the world.

    Easier said than done, I know. But you’ve kept your balance and sense of humor, and that’s a wonderful example for the rest of us.

    And what you wrote is true. We all know how much we love a book that someone else barely got through, or stopped reading. People are looking for different things in stories, and that doesn’t make a book good or bad, just not a good fit. We write for those who are touched by our brand of storytelling.

    ONE WEEK TILL YOU HIT THE SHELVES!!! You’ve worked hard for this, Katie!! Enjoy your week of Anticipation!!

  16. Moral of the story: It’s impossible to please everyone. Love that you revealed this. You teach me constantly. Constant-ly!

    Thanks for going first so have so much to learn from you! 😀 Thanks for being willing to teach. Thanks for being you.
    ~ Wendy

  17. Great post! This is all so true. I love getting reviews and I have to keep repeating in my head: “You can’t please everyone.” It’s so subjective!

    As a reader, I find that genre is really important to my enjoyment of the book. The writing can be fantastic but if it’s not my favorite genre, it’s really hard for me to give it 5 stars. Still, I’ll try to point out what I did like.

  18. I’ve allowed a handful of people to read the prologue for my WIP and most of them have become my biggest fans (which surprises me now because I hadn’t read anything about the craft of writing at that point and now that I have, I can see hundreds of errors in my prologue!) – but I had one person read it whose opinion I really value and the first thing she said after reading it was: “I don’t like prologues, I usually skip them.” Hmm.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this post – there are some people who won’t like the first page even before they read it. Which is why I love what Keli Gwyn said, “We’re called to write the stories the Lord places on our hearts.” And, as hard as it is to accept, we’re writing for an Audience of One and His opinion is the only one that matters. (I have to remind myself this constantly.)

  19. I’m feeling this from all the feedback I’ve gotten on my WIP. I had one reader who didn’t have anything positive to say about my book. Others who raved. It’s really, really hard because I’m a people pleaser, that teacher’s pet student who wants an “A.” But it’s impossible to please everyone. We just have to pray that God uses the book to reach those who need it.

    Looking forward to having you on my blog Wednesday! Yay! Happy Monday, Katie.

  20. Just started your book, Katie, and I can say the prologue totally worked for me. PLUS, I love the way you write.

    The people who actually READ Gone with the Wind (not just watch the movie!) are going to have totally mixed feelings about Scarlett O’Hara. Some of the stuff she does makes you want to wring her neck (ignoring her children!). But some of the stuff she does helps you recognize the lengths almost any woman would go to during wartime. I think the best characters stir both feelings within readers.

    After all, we’re not perfect, why should our characters be? Multi-faceted is good, because it’s REAL.

  21. Wow. So interesting! I’ve yet to read your book so I don’t have an opinion on it yet, but I can weigh in as an author who has had some reviews. I’ve had a couple that were not complimentary, but fortunately, most of my reviews were good, so I didn’t let those ones bother me. On the flipside of this, because I have had mostly great reviews, I’m a little scared for my next book to come out. I know you can’t please all the people all the time, so I’m preparing for negative reviews even before the book comes out! I think you’re actually fortunate in that you’re getting both right out of the gate, as you’re able to develop that thick skin and realize, as you said so well, that this is all so so subjective. I can tell you the same about responses from editors. One likes it, one hates it, and so it goes!! Welcome to the world of published! 🙂 I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine. xo

    1. Katie Ganshert

      The good news is that the reviewer who didn’t want to recommend my book to anyone is the same reviewer who hated my protagonist and said my protagonist never changed. I used three statements in this post from the same bad review. I’ve only received one “bad” review so far. Overall I’m getting really encouraging reviews.

      So my skin really isn’t that thick. In fact, I’ve discovered that my skin is pretty tender. But doing this – putting the feedback side by side like this – was a great exercise. Reminded me that it’s not about writing the perfect book that everybody will love. It’s about writing a book that will get people talking.

      I’ll hold your hand anytime. 🙂

  22. Here’s a little something I learned about deeply moving books people hate. Many times, it strikes a nerve. They feel conviction. They relate too much. It calls for change. They hate change. And maybe they’re not even sure why they dislike it so much, maybe they don’t want to admit it’s hit too close to home.

    Not every single time. But many. I loved your book. It was beautiful.

    1. Katie Ganshert

      Thanks, Jessica! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  23. Rosslyn and Keli summed up my reaction to your contradictory reviews very well so I just gotta add one thing… I love your answer of who’s right: “Neither. Both. Nobody. All.”

    Yes indeed, humanity *is* a wonderfully diverse group, and that includes tastes. I’m glad you can embrace this as a glorious & beautiful truth with your fiction, b/c it really is a lesson God keeps teaching me over and over again in life. Thanks for being so transparent.

    Btw, in my WIP I alternate first and third POVs, so, shame on me, but I didn’t notice you used the same method in your novel. I’ll have to go back and look. Oh well, at least that means you can count me in your varying opinions as someone who was NOT distracted by your choice to switch! 😛

    1. Katie Ganshert

      Isn’t that such a liberating truth? I mean, if we really grasp it?

      Plus, I’m in a book club. And the very best book club books are those that stir up really different emotions/opinions in our group. It’s not very fun when we’re all just like, “Yep, loved it.” What’s there to discuss?

  24. You wrote a moving story, Katie, one that explores tough topics, so I’m not surprised the reactions are varied. We can’t please all readers, but we’re not called to. We’re called to write the stories the Lord places on our hearts–which you did–and to trust Him to use our words as He sees best. Your story has already touched lives for good, and I’m sure it will continue to do so.

    1. Katie Ganshert

      Love this comment, Keli. In fact, my post for Wednesday is very similar! My realization after my first (and thankfully, only) really bad review.

  25. LOL! Katie, I’m so glad you made this list.

    I find a couple of reviewers who think my hero is too good for my heroine, and a couple of others who think my heroine is too good for my hero. Some people think it takes three chapters to grab them and others give the “gripping from page one” comments. It’s actually reassuring and helps me remember the subjectivity involved. You and I are writing somewhat similar works in that we write romance “plus” another substantial character-driven story as well. These are the only love stories I find satisfying, but they produce diversity in reviews. 🙂 And. as we’ve discussed, the more realistic and complicated your characters, the more people will respond exactly as they do to real people: with a huge spectrum of reactions based on their own life experience and tendency to accept/reject the specific failings of others. So you can take it all as a compliment!

    1. Katie Ganshert

      You’re totally right – I found this entire exercise (searching for the contradictions in my reviews) to be super reassuring! Totally reminded me that my job isn’t to please everyone, but it is to give them a story that elicits emotion.

      This one lady who hated my book and the protagonist and thought she never changed might have given it a bad review, but it seemed as if I still struck a chord.

      And thanks for saying we write similarly – I take that as a really high compliment!


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