Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Remaining objective in a subjective world
Though I can't speak for others, I dare say my desire to write a book was to share something with others. To that end, writing a book becomes a very personal experience, which in turn, you give to the masses to be judged.
As the reviews for my book came in, it became clear readers are extremely subjective. I recall in the movie The Dead Poet's Society a scene that made quite the impact on me. It is as follows:
Basically, someone with a PhD. invented a way to rate if a poem was good or not. The teacher disagrees and has the students rip out that part of the book.
In some of the reviews I've read not only for my book, but others, I believe there are those who rate books in a similar manner. And to that, I say, I feel sorry for them. In my opinion, the written word isn't to be measured with a ruler. To the opposite point of view, I do believe certain rules should be followed as to not alienate or insult your reader.
So, as authors, how do we remain objective about our work when it is "graded" (for lack of a better term) subjectively?
For me, one of the best exercises I did was to look at the reviews and pull out common threads. I share them with you now:
**On the unique names I used in The Hidden Sun:
"[One] thing that I found distracting was the use of strange names. Although very creative and sometimes beautiful, I found that trying to pronounce most of them drew me out of the story and was, at times, frustrating."
"Some of the names took some getting used to. I worked at different pronunciations until I felt comfortable with them."
"Though there are many uncommon names, a few which are hard to pronounce, I was able to stay on task with the storyline without missing a beat."
"I am a big fan of unique names, so seeing so many of them in this book excited me."
**On how long it took people to "get into" the book.
"It took getting through about the first 50 pages for me to be interested, a bit slow of an opening for my tastes."
"I wasn’t really sure what to expect from The Hidden Sun, but it sucked me in from the very beginning."
"The opening scene really humanized [Eliana] and I immediately began to care, even more so as she develops feelings for Rinan, her personal royal guardian."
"The very first thing I noticed while reading The Hidden Sun was that J. Lloyd Morgan knows how to draw in his readers. It didn't take long for me to become emotionally attached to the characters."
"I fell in love with Eliana and Rinan right away."
**On how people defined the book:
"The Hidden Sun is a delicately crafted fairy tale that both adults and young adults will find charming and intriguing."
"This novel's mix of fantasy and romance drew me in and kept me."
"It sounded kind of like a fantasy since it was set in a medieval-style kingdom, but when the book arrived in the mail I found out it wasn't. Even worse, as I started to read it, it began to look like a romance. Ugh."
"This might seem like a fantasy but it isn't, there isn't any magic nor even any fantastical creatures. It might seem like a romance, but it isn't that either, it really isn't too lovey-dovey despite relationships, marriage and family being the prime arena of conflict."
"This was a political intrigue book with interesting and enjoyable characters."
"Even though it didn’t have any magic or dragons or wizards or whatever, it still had that magical spark to it. It was magical without the magic."
**On people's response to the cover:
"The only thing that bugs me about this book is the cover. They should have a created a cover that would entice YA to read it."
"The cover fits in perfectly to the setting of the novel and what I imagine places in it to look like."
"The cover is pretty typical fare for a fantasy novel involving knights and kingdoms."
"It was a clean, wholesome book with a beautiful cover."
From all this, what do I take away from it? While I continue to learn to improve at my craft, I need to stay true to who I am and why I'm writing. If I'm writing just for the praise of others, I'll never be successful.