Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What writers know (or don't) about their own writing...

I love this from new writers who think they actually know what makes a good story or a bad one. Of course they don’t.
                                                                                                            Wesley Dean Smith*

This quote makes so much more sense to me now that my husband is a painter than it did when I was a beginning writer.

My husband began to paint three years ago. For years, nay decades, he’d been saying, “one of these days I’m going to learn how to paint.” I finally got tired of hearing him and bought him canvasses, paintbrushes and a gift certificate to the local Michaels for Christmas. I then told him, “Shut up and paint. If that’s what you want to do, stop talking about it and do it.”

Well, he did it and I’ve been blown away by his success. He’s come a long way in a very short time; he sold his first painting six months out and his work is now in several galleries throughout New York’s Southern Tier and Finger Lakes with, most recently, a few pieces placed in a shop in Rochester. Just last week he had his first international sale and one of his pieces is even now winging across the Atlantic to a collector in England.

What has amazed me most about all this? The paintings people choose to purchase.

Now I have a critical eye, especially towards composition and color. My husband, being a newbie at all this, plays around with both those concepts, sometimes to great effect, sometimes not so much. Sometimes the paintings are garish, or there’s too much foreground…a tree is out of place or colors clash within the painting.

Guess which ones sell?

You got it. Almost all the ones I don’t like.

Everyone has their own taste. There are times my husband will walk away from a painting saying, “I have no idea if that one’s good or not.” He’s too close to it. His sweat and energy and time are all bound up in that paint. He’s ceased to be objective.

We writers are in the same boat.

I know, I know. There’s an old trick many of us use (I still do) of putting away your manuscript for a few weeks and coming back to it with a fresh eye. That works. It really does and I see it as one of my necessary steps for editing. It helps me find the typos and the occasional continuity error and the (even rarer) gaping hole in the plot.

I also used to think I knew what was good writing and what wasn’t. Good writing was what I learned in school. It had rules to follow, although experienced writers were allowed to break them. But you had to know them in order to break them, so we dutifully learned the parts of a story, the various literary terms and techniques, good grammar and how to craft good sentences. Talent was needed, but raw talent wasn’t enough to make you good. Learning all of the above and applying it to your stories was what made you a good writer.

But whether readers will or won’t buy it? I have no idea. Some of my books fly into readers' hands, others sit there and go nowhere. And it doesn't matter what I, the author, think of the book. Shooting Star is one of my favorite books, yet the sales have been...disappointing. Is it a bad cover? Poor blurb? Poor writing? Without reviews, I have no idea.

So Dean Wesley Smith is correct: we writers are too close to our creation to know whether the book is a good one or not. The best thing we can do is put it out there and move on to the next. The second best thing we can do is beg for reviews so we can learn from our readers.

So picture me on my knees, begging for a review of my books. YOU tell ME what you liked (and disliked) about it. Let me see the book through YOUR eyes.

All my self-published books are listed here. Visit the site where you purchased the book and leave a review. Or leave a review at Goodreads, if you have an account there. And, if you want to make sure I see it, drop a comment below or send me an email with the link so I can find it.

*I've lost the post where he wrote this. If anyone happens on it, let me know?

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