A Valley in Spain

I read a post on facebook by a first-time author who had gotten the feedback from his first reader. The reader had said that the book wasn’t ready for beta’s yet, and need major work. This author basically said that he was sobbing because he was expecting the book to be something that was world changing for everyone who read it, and he had thought he’d managed that.

My books are pulp trash, maybe a bit of fun, some emotionally manipulative stuff thrown in, possibly for shock value.

I had one reader tell me that she sobbed when she hit a scene in my first novel.

Now, admittedly I was having strong feels when I wrote that scene, and it tapped into something that had caused me to openly sob for hours, so I guess it makes sense, but I don’t write thinking I’m going to change the world, I write to tell a good story. Even if I did write to change people, I would never believe that I would change the world, that I would make their entire worldview different. Maybe that’s just me.

Another reader put my book down about three or four chapters in and declared it unreadable. Part of the reason for that was how much he hated one character (since that character was the villain I think it’s not purely a bad thing, but still…)

I don’t know, all I know is that a lot of authors seem to have a very inflated view of what we do. There are very, very few pieces of media that actually change the world. The Bible, Green Eggs and Ham, Godel Escher Bach. A few others over the years. To think your book is going to be on that list, especially before it’s even published, seems to me to be arrogant. If it’s going to be that, well, you probably won’t know until it’s out there in the world for a while.

The goal should be to tell a story, to communicate a feeling you want to communicate, to entertain maybe.

Perhaps it’s growing up with a writer for a mother, maybe that’s what set my goals in a more realistic direction (this set the world on fire mindset seems common). Hell, the first time someone I don’t know bought my first book unprompted I was almost in shock. It was cool but totally unexpected.

Now people download my book all the time, I do wish some of them would leave reviews (or maybe I don’t… who knows what those reviews would say). I am editing that book to add more description, pad out some scenes, things like that. It will probably grow by a couple thousand pages. One of those pages will be back matter that prompts people to subscribe to my mailing list and leave reviews. With any luck that will improve the number of reviews (assuming they actually get to the end).

The point is, you don’t know what will resonate with people. Assuming your first-time novel will be the next big thing is simple arrogance. The truth is anything could end up resonating with anyone. A reader could be so invested they weep when you want them to feel sorrow. They could hate your character so much they can’t read your novel.

Let your book be what it will be, let people experience it as they will.

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