As joyous as both the reading and writing experiences can be, they are individual and solitary pursuits. When I delve into a novel as a reader, I do so as a lone investigator, following the clues the writer has left for me to discover. I seldom think about what went through the author’s mind as he or she created the characters and the story they populate. Reading is something we do for our own pleasure and enjoyment, something that we internalize and interpret in our particular way.
While creating my own works of fiction, the prospective reader never enters my head. It’s already filled to capacity with character development and plotlines, so much so that whatever I’m currently working on spills over into the rest of my day, often causing me drive past my exit or put perishables in the dishwasher.
For centuries, the relationship between the reader and the writer had been a one-sided correspondence: the writers sitting in their own worlds producing books; the readers in theirs, enjoying (or not) the fruits of another’s labor, without any interaction between the two groups. The author and end-user would only get word of the book’s success through sales and reviews by a finite number of voices.
The advent of the Internet has brought these two sides of the symbiotic connection closer together. Or has it? Now, because of all the online venues for posting one’s wares and one’s opinions, the reader is not just a passive participant in the literary world. That very vocal group—of which I am a part of—can praise or dismiss the merits of the work in question, setting their opinions in cyberspace stone.
Authors can certainly take the pulse of their reading public now, though one must sometimes weed through assessments born of irritation and quick dismal, a byproduct of instantaneous access to a global mouthpiece. These rash criticisms can be misleading for both the writer and the potential reader.
As part of the latter, I look to reviews to give me a sense of what I can expect to find if I purchase the book in question. As a writer, I must sift through any derogatory comments to learn if the criticism is valid, or if it’s merely subjective—i.e., not their kind of book to start with.
If their assessment is correct, then I am grateful for the reviewer for bringing it to my attention. If it is result of mistaken identity—not what the reader had hoped to find—then it has the potential of poisoning the well for others. But like most things in life, this new tool cuts both ways. It is now up to all of us to wield it judiciously for the improved reading experience of others.
May all your reading experiences be uplifting, enlightening, or just plain fun!
Until next time,