THE WONDER OF WRITING: Sometimes You Connect With Readers, and Sometimes You Don’t
Writing fiction is a lonely undertaking, with no guarantee of affirmation or compensation. Yet, writers are undaunted by the odds because we have that itch, that calling, to create stories and populate them with people. We are an intrepid bunch; we undertake the impossible in hope that readers will connect with our characters and get lost in our stories.
This last week of January has been a dim, cold drag for me, working on a new plot for a mystery story, trying to channel the characters’ thoughts so I can create believable people on the page. It’s tedious work, but I don’t complain because I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time these days. Still, some days are harder than others.
Midway through this week, I was distracting myself from writing by checking my social media pages, watching Dr. Pimple Popper, and generally goofing around on the Internet. I started scrolling through my Amazon sales and spotted a new review for my novel “Beneath the Wild Blue.” Eagerly, I scrolled down to see what this new reviewer had to say, only to discover a measly two stars and a headline that said “Dull.” The review gave it to me straight: “Unfortunately it was so boring I didn’t make it through even half of it before trashing,”
To add to the insult, the reviewer had purchased a paperback, and the thought of my book in the trash gave me fever dreams. I saw “Blue” being dumped, along with the Brave Little Toaster, into the netherworld of cast-off objects, including my childhood teddy bear and the Misfit Toys. Then I started obsessing: if the reviewer didn’t want the book, she could have donated it to a library, or at least put in in a recycle bin…but what if the library didn’t want it? Or the recycling bin caught on fire? Shut up, Subconscious. I need my sleep…
The next day, I soothed my bruised ego by rereading the five-star reviews on my Amazon page, reminding myself that reading is a subjective experience. When you write a story, you invite people to follow its arc, to appreciate the characters, to immerse themselves in the world you created. Truth is, some will and some won’t. It’s that simple. I was grateful for the reviewer who took the time to say she didn’t connect. It reminded me that you can’t please all the people most of the time.
Today, the first of February, my phone rang early. I didn’t recognize the number, but picked up, thinking it was a reminder for an appointment or another robocall about credit card deals. “Hi,” said a familiar voice, “I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time, but I just finished your book and wanted to call and tell you how much I enjoyed it.”
It was a friend, a prominent woman in my community, who always emails and never calls. She’s got a full agenda, heading up the board of a local nonprofit, juggling a schedule of speaking engagements, meetings, and travel. This woman went on to say how much she liked my characters, how she couldn’t put the book down, and could see the book being made into a movie.
I was so choked up, I had a hard time swallowing my coffee. I expressed my thanks, tried to be humble, but my heart was bursting with gratitude.
It’s important to know when you miss the mark with readers, but it’s downright glorious when a reader takes time to tell you how much she enjoyed your story. That’s the wonder of writing: you write with the hope of connecting with readers. When a reader lets you know you made a connection, it’s pure magic..