Why writing books isn’t a spectator sport

spectator sports


While reading books is the ultimate spectator sport, writing them is a horse of a different color.

I feel great empathy for anyone who has the nerve to sit at a keyboard and spill her guts out on a page.

There is no right or wrong way to accomplish such a task.

Arm chair quarterbacks need not apply.

Once an author’s work hits the global marketplace it is fair game for readers to analyze and make comments about it, to review it to their heart’s content.

But during the process of a book’s creation everyone is on his own.

And each author has her peculiar ritual.

Some work best in absolute silence, others like to sit at Starbucks in the midst of chaos and noise.

Who is to say whether one approach is better than another?

When it comes right down to it only the author knows how she must tell a story.  She can vet it to a hundred trusted colleagues, but the buck still stops with her.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe in the wisdom of an abundance of counselors, assuming those mentors know their stuff. There is much a writer can learn about her work in progress from other experienced authors and editors. She should give them a chance to weigh in and let her know what they think.

jeers from the crowd

More than likely the feedback on the same project will be something like this. Advice from trusted colleague 1: “I loved your descriptions, but your dialogue needs work.” Advice from trusted beta reader 2: “Your dialogue is spot on, but your descriptive technique needs work.” Advice from reader 3: “If you change chapter 3, the hero’s action in chapter 5 will make more sense.” Advice from editor 4: “You lost me in chapter 4.”

Now, mind you, each of these people is on the author’s side and is providing input for the sole purpose of helping the writer.

But the poor author faces the problem of writing a book by committee. There is no way to incorporate all these diverse views about what is right or wrong with the story.

I heard someone say once that “the perfect is the worst enemy of the good.”

Nowhere is that more true than in the process of writing a book.  If the author strives for perfection, she must suffer inevitable disappointment.

I don’t even know what a perfect book would look like.

What she hopes to do when composing a story is to write it the best she can.  When she writes the next one, she believes she will have learned from the one before and improved her craft.

But for the moment, when she is deep into a work in progress, all she can do is move forward to the finish line and trust her own instincts about what works and doesn’t work in that particular book.

The spectators will let her know later if her instincts need fine-tuning.



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