One thing I cannot stress enough for writers is to have a reliable group of test readers who will tell you the unvarnished truth. And I don’t mean just one or two. Have as many as you can. (Of course, quality over quantity… make sure they’re good.)
Recently, I had one such reader go over my latest book. At least a dozen people had read the work or parts of it. So imagine my surprise when she mentioned something about the third chapter that no one else had. She made a comment about the actions of a pair of minor characters and I thought to myself, “Wow? How did she get that out of it? That’s not what I meant at all!” And since no one else had ever mentioned it, I was inclined to think she’d simply not read it carefully enough.
But in reading over those scenes later, I could see how she came to that conclusion. And since it was most certainly not what I wanted any reader to think, I had to make some changes… in the process of which, I came to realize I’d overlooked something significant that needed to be addressed… something that may have been part of what caused this reader to come to the conclusions she did.
The irony here is that this chapter was one of my favorites in the entire book, one that I regarded as being as solid as could be. The reason, though, is that I knew exactly what I meant. But no one else does, of course.
So have your cadre of readers. And take what they say seriously. They’re not always right. But then, neither are you.
Two neighbors of mine (a couple) are actors. Last night, I accompanied one of them to see her boyfriend in the opening night of a new play. After the show, the two of them, plus the leading man and lady (who are also a couple) came to my place for drinks and socializing. It was great fun. They’re really nice folks, all of them.
But as we were sitting around the table, I couldn’t help reflecting on the differences in our creative fields. To be an actor is to be a team player. In preparation for a play, you rehearse with the rest of the cast. You support them and they support you. For the period of time when you’re involved with that production, you have a second family, almost. You form relationships that may last the rest of your lives. It is an art for the gregarious.
Gosh, we’re happy!
But writing is an art for the introverted. To be a writer is to be solitary. In preparation for a book, you research, by yourself. Your supporting cast is test readers and editors, not a pseudo-family. Interactions with them are not social, but professional, typically not in-person and usually brief. Writing is, ultimately, a lonely gig.
Gosh, they look happy.
I don’t know if introversion is a universal attribute of the writer, but I suspect it’s far more common than not, just as I’d imagine there aren’t all that many introverted actors. For those writers, such as myself, who are at times too introverted, having some actors as friends can be a refreshing, balancing, social outlet. I highly recommend it.