Friday, December 28, 2012

The True Stars

And the award for best supporting role goes to… The Readers!

Writing may be the easiest part of a writer’s job.  Once your book is born the real work begins because now you need to raise, nourish and educate this child and even if you succeed to marry it into a good publishing family, your worries will never end. We seldom hesitate to consider what or who is behind our sweet taste of success. Forever the youngest in the family, I never believe anything I do is worthy of appreciation. I’m always looking for ways to find the reason behind what others may perceive as my success. Sometimes it’s hard to give credit where it’s due, but when it comes to writing I can see it clearly. We are writers because of all the readers out there. These are the people who make the dream become a reality, who support us when we lose faith and who give us hope. Little do they know how they help us to exhale the breath that for years we’ve been holding in.

I can’t begin to imagine what would become of us if there were no readers. True that the world would still have as much to say and there would be countless stories to tell, but in the absence of readers, how many of those stories would be written down? Would there be any books? Any libraries?

This line of thought fascinates me. We think we write because we have something that needs to come out, but how many of us would continue our work if there was absolutely no one to read our story? Would we suffice to make notes in our diaries? And if stories were only communicated verbally, would we still “show not tell?” Would there be any punctuation?

As I continue to make my rounds through local book clubs and book discussion groups, it gives me a chance to study readers with a whole new pair of eyes. Not only are most of them smarter than the writer, the mere fact that they read my work is a huge success. At my best, I write one book every few years, but they have thousands to choose from. So what makes them choose mine?

My observations brought me to the conclusion that most readers look for a piece of themselves in what they read and the books they like are often the ones where they find such a piece. The genre doesn’t seem to matter, nor does the length of the book, and the publicity surrounding it has a much smaller role than we think. When a reader curls up with a book, he or she is in search of a connection, something that “hooks” them. And that “thing” is often a part of who they are. That’s why you hear them say, “I was there, I became one with the main character, couldn’t put it down!”

So how do we know who these readers are and what they look for? To try and second-guess readers is the biggest mistake a writer can make. Writing “for the market” may work for a short time, but after a while the truth comes out because readers know more than you think. Regardless of genre, a writer must remain true to the word. A well-researched documentary can be as gripping as a real mystery and as profound as an emotional drama. You can’t “tell” a reader what to think, but rather, you portray an interesting character, create the scene, tell the story, and let them do their own thinking. And if you are lucky, someone out there will connect, which will ultimately bring you another reader, and then another. Before you know it, the number of readers has grown geometrically and you have met your success. Oh, but it’s as much the reader’s success as it is yours!

So the next time you want to give yourself a good pat in the back for having written that great American novel, find a reader and praise him or her for having made it possible and never forget, you’ll maintain the success only if you sustain the honesty that initially hooked them and that alone will “keep them hooked!”


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