Sunday, May 4, 2014

Curse of the Writer/Reader

So I had a Goodreads Giveaway listing for Pale Moonlight, ended yesterday, and the winner ended up being a college student over in Great Britain, a fact that would have meant less if I hadn't already decided to give the winner, whoever they turned out to be, a copy of The Whole Bloody Affair as well.  Those of you have have read Yoshimi's adventures (Pat Dilloway) know they end in England.  So that means, if Goodreads Giveaway Winner reads The Whole Bloody Affair (much less Pale Moonlight), they will probably know better than anyone how much I screwed up that particular portion.

I was pretty gratified that some 800 people signed up for the giveaway (I didn't mention it here, or the free Kindle listings I had for a number of books yesterday because of reasons that escape me at the moment).  I had it open for more than a month, and I guess as it drew to a close there was a surge of interest, because last I knew the count was more around 300 (and it wasn't that long ago).  In the listing I made sure that all the important things to know about Pale Moonlight were clear, including caveats, so that means either all those people completely ignored them (ooh! free shiny thing!) or decided they were okay with my nonsense.  Now, I'm finally kind of getting over a certain incident (Pat Dilloway, I guess I will go ahead and apologize) involving the book from earlier in the year, but I'm feeling nervous again.  There's no way to know how Goodreads Giveaway Winner will feel about it, much less the possible mixed blessing of receiving another of my books along with it, or if Goodreads Giveaway Winner will even give feedback at all.

Recently I read Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, which slightly less recently won the Pulitzer.  I wasn't nearly as impressed with it as Pulitzer was, except for the opening act, which other reviewers have actually called on of its weaker elements.  Clearly different readers see different things, have different interests.  But it makes me wonder.  Tartt is a well-respected author, clearly, and one of those lucky writers to have had their talent evident and acknowledged early, so she's been able to live the life we bloggers only think we envy (David Foster Wallace).  Someone like me can come along, read her third book, and wonder if she's really worth the hype, and...all I end up thinking about is my own work.  It's the curse of the writer/reader.

A writer who also actively reads (I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to apparently read exclusively other indy material, which is what other bloggers seem to do, because that would send me into Insecure Overload) may sometimes find themselves in the position of criticizing someone else's work and then realizing, "Hey, who am I to talk?  What if my work is even more questionable?"  Wondering how another writer came to make the decisions they did is especially dicey ground for someone like me who made a thousand questionable decisions in Pale Moonlight, whose influences for believing they were anywhere near appropriate came from comic books rather than other novels.  And maybe for a reason?

I'm currently reading a book (Alif the Unseen) by a comic book writer, G. Willow Wilson, whom I absolutely adore.  And she seems to have made an easy transition between the two mediums.  Before Wilson and Tartt I read an indy book, Daniel Clausen's Ghosts of Nagasaki (honestly, people, some of this explains itself if you look at the bottom of the blog and take note of my Goodreads widget), which made me question my own talents for entirely different reasons.  That book was genius.  Made me a jealous panda.  Here's basically one of my direct competitors making it look like a stroll in the park.  Clausen should win a big prestigious award.

One thing all three have in common is that their narratives streams are pretty...streamlined.  That is not the case in Pale Moonlight.  I'm not bragging.  It never even occurred to me to do that.  Each of these other books allows the reader to fall into someone else's life, no matter what the journey ends up looking like.  My main character disappears for long stretches at a time.  Will my Goodreads Giveaway Winner feel engaged?  I'm irrationally consider them a barometer for the overall chances of reaching a wider audience (or any audience at all).

So I'm pulling out of the writer/reader paradox a little.  I'm not worrying if I think I'm better or worse or just plain writing differently (Wilson still has some pretty darn big ideas rattling around her story, but only occasionally lets it show).  I'm just worrying that I'll be one of those books tossed aside in frustration.  I've done that a few times this year myself.  I hate that feeling.

And what if Goodreads Giveaway Reader is a writer, too???


  1. And what if your Goodreads giveaway winner is an alien?
    You just have to ride it out and know there's a chance he won't like it. There's a chance he will. Writing is art and art is subjective. What appeals to one won't appeal to another. Some people are easy to please and some are super critical.
    In part, just rest on your own judgement about your work. How do you feel about it? I know I'll never knock it out of the park, but my books have all been best sellers, two have won awards, and I'm proud of my efforts as an author who didn't want to be.
    No matter what, it will be all right. You will survive.

    1. I felt better about it the more I tinkered with it at least.

  2. I don't think I've got much out of Goodreads giveaways. Mostly likely they give the book one star without a review. At least I haven't had to send one overseas, just to Alaska.

  3. Have fun shipping the books to England! I shipped one book to the Welsh vicinity, and it cost me an arm and a leg.

    I like to read all kinds of stuff. I have to mix in some big name authors with my indie reads. But I will say, I'm disappointed 50% of the time with my indie books. I don't finish them. The other half are fantastic, so it's still a gamble.

    1. I don't mean to knock indy writers. But for my tastes they rarely satisfy me. Thankfully sometimes they astound me (the right way).

  4. I agree with Alex that writing is an art and art is subjective. If I ever put a book out there, (and I am not sure I will), I think I would share your concern but only a bit. Being brutally honest, I am one of those very difficult to please readers. I don't care if the book is an awarded one, or comes from prestigious publishing house or it's indie. I might hate it or like it just the same, depending on how much it satisfies my analitic streak, plus other factors. And "I, writer" is not of the hook in the eyes of "I, reader" so at least I would be confident about my work at a very reasonable level.

    In any case, don't be worried about yours being one of those books that are tossed in frustration. I would dare to say there is not one single book written that hadn't suffered that fate, more than once.

    1. I'll be continuing this discussion tomorrow for IWSG.


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