This weekend, in amongst all the writing and other things I’ve been doing, I finished reading what I consider a truly wonderful debut novel – The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff.  I loved this book.  It is beautifully and insightfully written, for one thing, with the sort of sentences that found their way, arrow straight, to my heart.  Lauren has that rare ability to capture the whole of humanity, with its jealousy and generosity, fatal flaws and capacity for greatness, all muddled up together, and she is able to write about this with great compassion.

The point of this post, however, is not to review the book, (but please do have a look at it here.) What I want to share is a reminder crucial to those of us who write: opinions may vary.  The book was given to me by a co-worker, who reads widely and well.  He dropped it on my desk and said, “maybe you’ll like it, I couldn’t get into it.”  He said he’d read the first 60 pages, didn’t care about the protagonist or her family, and didn’t see the point in reading further.  Based on this recommendation, I took the book home and left it lying around without even opening it.  Several nights later, David was out of one book and rather desperately in need of another, so I handed him this one.  After the first two chapters, he told me it was a wonderfully written book and he was loving it.  But toward the end, he said it had gotten “too convoluted” and he was a little bit bored.  My turn.  I picked the book up, and loved it from the opening sentence to the very last word.

As a writer, this experience is an important one, I believe.  When you complete a manuscript and hand it over to your readers, however sympathetic they may be, they simply aren’t always going to love what you’ve written.  The key point here, and the difficult one, is that they might be wrong.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but if two of my readers were to read something I’d written, and one said the beginning bored him, and the other one said he didn’t like the end, I might very well either tear the whole thing up or frenetically revise it, based on their opinions.  And, in doing this, I might be horribly, terribly, irreparably wrong.

I don’t have a solution to this dilemma, other than making sure that more than two readers give me feedback, and always, always thinking criticisms through before acting on them.  I suppose there’s also a tie-in with learning to trust the writing.  Or maybe it means I should never, ever let anybody read my manuscripts at all!! (just kidding).

At the moment, I’m reminded that nobody can disagree about what I’ve written until I get it written, so my current task is to actually get a few words in on Gatekeeper.

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