Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Take It With A Smile

This is no joke: I think my last book put more strain on my marriage than my last kid ...

My wife is a great reader, but she's tough. She reads very slowly, extremely carefully, and calls me on pretty much EVERYTHING. Every goofy expression, every line of bad dialogue, every loose sentence. It's actually kind of funny, because even now, when we're watching TV and some ridiculous plot twist comes up, I'll turn to her and say, "You would NEVER let me get away with that." (I'm thinking of you, Lost. Seriously, your time-travel logic is all over the place.)

These edits aren't fun for either of us. I'll sit there, stewing, a fake smile plastered on my face, thinking, "OK, already, I got it. I get it. Is there anything you liked?! ANYTHING?" I start to argue, and then I force myself to shut up, and then I give myself some time to decide she's almost always right, and then I start rewriting. 

But here's what I tell myself: she's just the beginning. I've also got a supportive-but-tough critique group to deal with, plus editors, and (hopefully someday, for fiction), readers. At times, it seems like the whole world has been given a free pass to criticize me pretty much whenever the mood strikes. Worse yet—at least for a guy like me, who lives to argue—there's no defense allowed. 

I get it when people talk about "staying true to their vision" and all that. But the truth is, I think that's usually a shallow excuse to disregard valuable input. The time to stay true to your vision is when you're developing and writing the book. Once it's done, and once you've put it out there for consideration, it's not precisely yours anymore. Everyone who reads it will take a piece. A writer disregards and disrespects his or her audience at their own peril ...


5 comments:

Erica Orloff said...

Brilliant. There's not much more to say. Your last paragraph, especially, should be required reading for all writers.
E

Mark Terry said...

A writer disregards and disrespects his or her audience at their own peril ...


Words to live by whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction.

spyscribbler said...

I feel like people tend to think that it's an excuse, Jon, but again, one has to protect the work at all costs.

I don't let anyone critique unless they understand my genre. One of my blog readers happened to connect me with my pseudonym, whom she reads. I'm thrilled to have someone I can ask for help.

Still... I don't share until it's completed. Otherwise I will write to please and lose sight of my story. I can't sort out input if I don't yet know what my story is about.

That's basically it, for me. I need to write for my readers, not my fellow writers. There is sometimes no difference, and there is sometimes a big difference.

LurkerMonkey said...

Spy,

Hmm. Well, I see what you're saying ... multiple streams of input can be annoying, especially if they don't agree. But for me at least, I need to put the work out there before I put it "out there," if you know what I mean. I need to vigorously defend my choices, because I find that in this process, I can often discover where there's room for improvement.

Blogger said...

Did you know you can create short urls with Shortest and make cash for every visitor to your short links.