The Negative Review


I was bound to receive a negative review eventually, and I did. And I'm sure there are more to come. Not everyone is going to like my story and that's okay. But I won't lie, reading my first really awful review was gut wrenching! So of course I reached out to my close friends and whined, told them how this woman shredded my book. And one of my friends replied, "Was it constructive feedback?" Hmmm... Constructive? I read through the painful review again.

The answer was no. Not it the least.

This reader just didn't like the story, and went on about how she didn't understand why everyone else is giving it five star reviews. So my friend said, "Then who cares?" And she's right. If the woman had ranted about my writing style being awful, thought I couldn't string together a coherent sentence, or felt I was in any way like my least favorite author (she who shall remain nameless), then I would take offense. But not liking my story? Okay, I can deal with that.

My fear, when I released this book, was that people would attack my writing. I didn't know if I was 'good enough' but something kept driving me forward, forcing me to face my fears and put it out there. The worst review I could ever receive is I have no business writing! And while my story may not be to some peoples liking, no one is challenging my right to write! Some have even praised my style. I have to remember that when negative reviews rear their ugly heads.

Something I've discovered is that writing is far less about talent than it is about practice, perseverance and patience. That's all it takes to write a book. A valuable piece of advice from Stephen King, "You can only learn by doing." He's absolutely right.

I wrote my editor a note the other day, thanking him for teaching me how to write a book. I said "anyone can write a bunch of words but without structure and focus, that's all they are." Handing him my manuscript was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I opened myself up to criticism, and that's not something I...enjoy. Who does? I wrote a romance for women, and here I was giving it to a man, an Ivy League grad no less! And he did rip it apart (in a constructive way), and I took what he said and made it better. And with each draft I learned a little bit more.

Yeah, it totally sucks to read nasty comments about something I poured my heart into, but I can't let it bother me. If someone wants to offer me constructive feedback, I'm open to it. Hell! I welcome it! But not liking my story? Eh. There are much worse things in life. Like regret.

Three Weeks


I didn't know what to expect when I sat down to write my first novel last summer. I thought maybe it was another one of my many whims. Something to occupy my time while I twiddled my thumbs at work. I didn't realize writing would come so naturally, the words flowing effortlessly from the visions in my head to the computer screen in front of me. I didn't know I could sit at the kitchen table, or the couch, sometimes in bed, and write for fifteen hours straight, or that I would look forward to doing it!

I didn't know whether anyone other than me would ever read it. Well, me and my good friend Becky who eagerly read the pages as fast as I wrote them. And eventually, my editor, Stuart, who taught me to be ruthless with my work, to get rid of any passage, no matter how much I loved the scene, if it didn't drive the story forward. I didn't know I had the guts to take whatever criticism was thrown my way, and grow from it.

A lot can happen in three weeks.

I didn't know people, a lot of people, would love my work. I didn't know the most common phrases I'd come to hear are "I loved it! I couldn't put it down! I read it in two days!" And "I never wanted it to end!" I didn't expect people to thank me for writing this book. Thank me?! No! Thank YOU for reading it! Really!

I thought I wrote a little romance novel that might appeal to women, probably housewives, aged 25-55, who live in Rhode Island. It was a pretty specific demographic. I didn't expect a 77 year old man, a total stranger from California, to enjoy it. Or any man for that matter! But many have, and many do!

I didn't expect the woman at my favorite bookshop who deals with self-published authors, to say my novel "is the best to cross her path in years," or to tell me she gave a copy to her book rep because "it's just that good." I didn't expect the young man behind the counter at another bookstore to light up when I told him my name, or tell me he's "never seen anything like it!" My books "are flying off the shelf!"

I never believed someone would ask if they could feature my book on a local morning show. Television? Really?

I never thought I'd receive messages and reviews like these:

"Just finished the book - I cried in so many parts - so beautifully written! I was constantly right there with the characters. Jayne - you've outdone yourself! I highly recommend it to all to read! Thank you for writing it!"

"Normally I have some difficulty being captured by a book. This book grabbed me from the beginning and held me hostage until I finished. Love that it takes place in Rhode Island. Great character development, felt as if I really knew them and connected with their "Roller Coaster" ride through life. Great read, highly recommended!!!"

"I do not read romance novels, ever. I picked this up largely because of the Rhode Island setting... Too few books are set there, despite all it has to offer. I'm really glad I did. Ms. Conway has crafted a very effective, modern-day spin on "Romeo & Juliet," tinged with some of the class-consciousness of "Jane Eyre" and insights into small-town America à la "Our Town." The characters are well-drawn and realistic, as are their struggles -- both visible (a wedding reception gone very wrong) and internal (tough decisions and ethical quandaries). I also really enjoyed the fluidity with which the author moved back and forth through time, which can be tough to follow if done badly but here was flawlessly executed. Definitely worth your time."

"Jayne I finished your book. I am so proud of you, it was great. Very well written, had my attention & I didn't want to put it down. GREAT JOB!"

"Oh Jayne! Loving the book. Been a long time since I've read a book I don't want to end. Trying to not rush through it, yet captivated."

"I just wanted to let you know that I truly LOVED your book! So much! I spent 2 days allllll day reading it. The first day I think I read for 8 hours! It was so good! I loved the humor and gasped when I read the words (DELETED SPOILER!)  I got teary at a few parts and now I really want to come to RI for the 4th of July! I will read anything you write!!"

Three weeks ago, I pressed the submit button on the Amazon website and held my breath, then spent the next week in a constant state of panic, hardly sleeping at night, as I spread the word throughout my social network that I'd <gulp> written a book. Who does that? No one I know! Am I completely insane? Doubts crowded my every waking thought. What if I become a local laughingstock? What if everyone hates it? What if I've been deluding myself? What if I totally suck? I hate what ifs.

Today? I feel a lot better about taking this leap into the unknown. Phew! And I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to not only read What if I Fly? but also reach out and reassure me that I don't suck, and share how I've touched their lives in some small way. It means a lot.

Now, the pressure's on for book two and I have to admit, I'm a little nervous. I don't want to disappoint anyone! But then I sit in front of my computer...and everything else fades away. I'm transported to another world, lost in the lives of my characters. The words flow effortlessly and I lose track of time.

Exactly what happened the first time I sat down to write a book.