Readers…from a writer’s point of view

Most amateur writers (and a lot of professionals) write because they like to write.  You just don’t get into the arena unless you enjoy it.  This especially goes for published writers, self-published or traditional.  It takes a lot of perseverance to get anywhere, so a writer either has something serious to say, or just loves the work.

However, included in the “loves the work” aspect are the readers.  Very few people write JUST to write, with no view to having their work read.  I know I don’t.  Writers love to have their stories read, to see people enjoying their hard work.  Nothing is more wonderful than having “fans” wanting to read more.

Unfortunately, the joy of writing for people can easily be ruined by those same people.  Writers spend hours, days, months, even years pouring effort into a story, trying to make it the best story they can.  When you sit down and think about it, that’s a lot of work.  And all the pride a writer feels in completing that story can be destroyed with just a few careless or nasty sentences from a reader.

Most readers can finish the average novel in a few days or a week, depending on how fast they read.  It rarely occurs to non-writers just how much time and how many tears go into a book.  (personal experience speaking here)  It’s strange how unbalanced the read-time to writing-time ratio is.  I’ve spent days writing and editing a short story, to hand it to a sister and have them bounce up ten minutes later, telling me what they thought.  Ouch.

Another part is criticism.  Constructive criticism is always useful, if only to illustrate the differences in readership.  Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, it’s tough not to take offense at even the most helpful and polite of criticism.  Most of us get over that, after we realize that taking the corrections and suggestions into account improves the book.  When we’ve already finished and published the book, the criticism is called reviewing.  While it’s nice to read and learn from reviews, all too often we need to ignore them, or else we’d be curled up in a little ball, shivering over our encounter with the less kindly side of the real world.

Reviews can be good or bad, but it only takes one bad review to destroy the glow we get from reading the ten good ones that came before it.  Writers are strange that way.  We can read tons of approving and congratulatory reviews, raving about our excellent writing, but that one crank letter can set us stewing in an emotional sewer.  Never fun.

Writers…learn from the good stuff and ignore the bad.  People are going to be people, some of them helpful and some of them jerks.  Write for the fans.  Ignore those who just want to cause trouble.

Readers…you wouldn’t walk up to a shopkeeper and inform him of all his business shortcomings in public, unless he was really rude or inept.  You wouldn’t insult a random stranger based on the magazine he reads or the statement his clothes make.  Try to keep that in mind when writing a review.  Even on the internet, there’s a person on the other end.


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