Friday, December 7, 2012

"Please Like My Babies (I Mean…Books)": Sending Your Characters Out Into the Big, Wide World

(My apologies for the length of time between writing articles. This one is long overdue). 

When I first began writing, I frequently heard other writers refer to their books as their babies. While I probably wouldn't go that far, there's no way of getting around the fact that as an author goes through the process of writing a novel, her (or his) characters become…well…real to her.

Anyone who has written a book has cried over a character's losses, rejoiced over that character's successes and felt that character's fears. No, make that "lived" that character's fears. Because that's essentially what every author does. She puts herself right into the heads and hearts of her characters. She hurts when they hurt, laughs when they laugh. It's a bond like no other. But sooner or later, those babies (books) have to go out into the big wide world. If an author wants to be published, that is. And just as in life, the world won't always love our babies as much as we do. What's an author to do?

The answer will be different for each author, but here's what I do:

1. I remind myself that no book has ever pleased everyone. Not one. Never. Ever.

2. I do my best not to read reviews unless they're so fantastic that my friends or colleagues have sent me a copy. And even then, there's a danger. An author should never let good reviews go to her head. Or let success make her fear that she can never duplicate that success with future books.

3. I think of books that have been bestsellers but that haven't been my personal favorites (see #1). I remind myself that others love those books. Just because they're not my cup of tea simply means that the world and readers' preferences are diverse, and that's a very good thing. It means that there's a place, no matter how small, for every book and every reader.

4. I don't trash other people's books. Don't get me wrong. I believe that honest reviews can be helpful for readers, but I also believe that authors should not be the ones handing out negative reviews. It feels…self-serving.

5. I try to remember that readers' reactions to books often mirror life (not everyone will love your children, your dog, cat, parakeet, goldfish, cooking or anything else you take pride in). You need to be able to remind yourself that we all come from different places with different backgrounds and preferences. And it's okay if your book is only liked, not loved. It's even okay if some people really dislike your book. That's life. We all get to choose our favorites, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

6. Lastly, I never let any of those things stop me from imagining the next book, writing the next book or falling in love with the next group of characters.  Above all, I don't let those things stop me from sending my books out to face the world.  I hope that you won't either. 

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