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A Thousand Different Faces

September 20, 2013

Tags: Readers, book reviews, reviews, comments, the writer's job


Unless a writer writes solely for himself, for his own personal enjoyment, the goal of the writer is to get at least one other person to read something he wrote. If that one person, the reader, was to use her hard-earned money to purchase something he wrote, even better. If that single reader was to go even further and do something crazy, like actually read what he wrote, then hallelujah! And if the stars were perfectly aligned and it was “in the cards” and if that single reader made the effort to share a comment about the writing, then as a writer, he would have hit the jackpot, would have experienced the Grand Slam of Writing.

I know many writers who are not particularly interested in comments about their writing, and they are not interested in the posted reviews of their books. There are many reasons. For many of them, they cannot be interested, for to be open to the comments and reviews would be to open themselves up to a potential onslaught of emotional turmoil. Like the famous actor who does not watch his own movies and does not read the reviews from his critics, many a writer would simply prefer to focus on the craft of writing. I can understand that. I suppose that if the fortune—the advance—was paid and the product delivered and it was someone else’s responsibility to sell the product for profit, then maybe it is possible to just let it go and not care about what anyone might think. No, even then I think the writer always has to care.

I know that I care.

There is a truly, absolutely beautiful and unbelievably rewarding benefit to being a writer, and it is the realization that there might be one other person in the world who is willing to read the sequence of words you have strung together and who is willing to make the effort to make a subjective interpretation of those words. That’s the magic of the story and the wonder of fiction.

I know that if a thousand people were to read my new novel, Recalled to Life, there would likely be a thousand uniquely personal and subjective interpretations of the story. How cool is that! It may have taken me two years to get my words down onto the pages, to get my story into the hands of the reader, but in the end, it is still simply that—my story. However, for every person who reads my story, it becomes their story, for better or for worse. Because the reader was willing to invest the time to read my story, they have the right to internalize the story and subjectively interpret what I was trying to say or convey. Additionally, the reader has the right to say what she wants about the story. She has earned the right.

I want hear what my readers have to say. I need to hear what they have to say.

I was a member of a writing panel a few weeks ago, and the hundred-plus people in attendance were discussing book reviews and their importance to the writer. I shared that I felt reviews were important as a learning tool for the writer, that only by reading or hearing what people think about a book can a writer truly understand how well he did in communicating the story. Only then can a writer hope to improve. The reader’s perspective matters. The reader’s perception of the story matters, because for the writer, perception is reality.

I also said that the writer’s job—at least this was true in my case—actually begins when the book is published. I want people to read my book, and more important, I want to talk about it. I want the discussion to begin and I want to talk to everyone who will provide me the opportunity. I want to see their faces. I want to hear about every one of the thousand different interpretations of the story or any part of it. I need to “get out there” and make that happen.

I commented more about not only the investment, but also the effort that the reader puts forth to sit down and read a book. It’s a big effort, and I think it is my duty as a writer to show my appreciation for that effort. The effort means a lot to me. The last thing that I mentioned to the group is that the effort is so important to me that I would give a hug to any person who read my book, regardless of the feelings or comments—positive or negative—that the reader may have or express. For any person who is willing to make that investment, that effort, it’s the least I can do.

Let the national hugging tour begin . . .