I am writing this to clarify a few things regarding books and writing, specifically how we see it from an author’s point of view. You see, I was one of you once, full of opinions about what I read and sure that the writer needed to hear them. Then I became one.
Being a writer, your head never fully shuts off. The characters you, the reader, spend a few days with, we’ve cuddled for months, sometimes years. We’ve lived with them. We’ve fed them and clothed them. They are as much our friends as actual humans we call or text.
The plot you enjoyed or condemned was determined by their voices in our head. Often in the wee hours of the morning when you are asleep, writers are, instead, moving point A closer to point B. It’s a twenty-four-seven thing. We’re writing while we fold laundry, drive the kids to school, or shop for groceries. Everything we see, every person we meet could be useful.
As such, that review it took you five minutes to write is very personal. You are criticizing or praising something we’ve breathed, something we’ve worn. In one hand, we patted our dog, in the other we prodded John to talk to Jane.
Somewhere someone said we are selling a product, not a piece of ourselves, to always keep that in mind. Hogwash. It can’t not be personal. It’s always personal. Those words are ours. We planted them. We watered them. We babied them so they’d grow.
The morals in the stories are ours. The feelings of the characters are ones we experienced. When John broke Jane’s heart, we cried over the page and willed her to hold strong. Not for one afternoon or a weekend like you, but continuously. It’s like having a movie on permanent repeat. Even months after it’s released and you, the reader, pooh-poohed it, we can still think of where we were when we wrote it and the number of times we had to reread that spot.
This makes your thoughts far more poignant.
“This book is too short,” becomes, “Your time spent wasn’t quite long enough.”
“This plot isn’t well-developed,” sounds like, “This writer is too shallow.”
“No way this book is clean [or Christian or funny or suspenseful],” is, “This author lied to me.”
“This book is overpriced” is the harshest comment of all. For a 99 cent book, the author receives only 35 cents. Of that 35 cents, the government claims about 20 percent. Now, subtract equipment fees (internet, travel time, office supplies) and marketing costs … We gave you the book on a two-day freebie, but the ad you saw that caused you to select it costed us money.
Pennies. We write for pennies. Yet we turn around and do it all over again. In spite of that one reader who deconstructs our lives bit by bit.
Does this mean your opinions don’t matter? Of course, they do.
But will your opinion alter how we write? Not a bit. Because here again, writing is personal. In life there are lawyers and musicians and auto mechanics. In writing there are Earnest Hemmingways and Mark Twains and J.K. Rowlings. There are mystery writers, romance writers, devotional writers, scifi writers. God made us all unique and if you didn’t like what we wrote, then someone else will.
We live for that someone, for the stranger who saw our sentences and understood them. Who said, “This is a good book,” but meant, “This is a good writer.”
Suzanne D. Williams