Releasing a book has left me feeling a little like I did the first time my child drove themselves to work on their own. A little vulnerable. More than a bit scared. I got that breathless flutter in my stomach that screamed, “Are they going to be okay?”
With a book, that flutter says, “Did I catch all the mistakes? Did I make some repeated error that is going to make a reader’s Inner Grammar Nazi go berserk? Are people going to like the story?”
Friends usually like the story. At least, if they don’t, they have the decency to say so gently or not at all. The general public, however, doesn’t have the same sensitivity, and by publishing, I have deliberately placed myself in front of a potentially heartless firing squad.
Some constructive criticism is good. A gentle prompting to improve a manuscript never hurts. Tighten the story. Eliminate excess words. Rein in a sub-plot that tried to steal the show. Other criticism is like being smacked in the face with an electric cattle-prod.
I’ve been browsing some of the reader reviews on Amazon. For some books, they’re harsh. Although I have to admit, I laughed my head off at one reviewer—of someone else’s book, not mine!—who said, “This book’s only redeeming quality was its brevity.”
But a part of me did cringe for the author. I feel her pain. And I hope no one ever says something like that about my book.
Of course, not everyone is going to like my work. I recognize that. Not everyone enjoys reading the type of stories I’m sharing. Not everyone will love my style. But I can’t help hoping that the overall reviews will be positive.
When I am developing a story, I get to know the characters on a personal level. I know things about the characters in Dragon’s Fire that never made it into the book. But their past experiences that I did not share with the reader, and the personality traits woven into each individual, add up to bring that character to life in the action of the story, and make them likable or not, and hopefully, interesting and believable.
I hope that my characters will resonate with readers. I hope that someone will connect with a character as they might a good friend. One of my favorite parts of writing is creating a new character and taking the time to get to know him or her. They walk through my day with me, and gradually unfold who they are to me, long before they take on the form of words on a screen. Sometimes, the character can change my original plot for a story, just because of who they are. Sometimes, they even write the plot of a different book for me—but more on that in another blog!
And while they’re on my computer screen, developing and changing, growing and rearranging, becoming more and more a part of me while they take on a life of their own, they are safe. And so am I.
But turning them out to public scrutiny is like turning my new driver loose on the highway. I hope that the world will be kind to them and that they’ll meet with success in their venture. I am letting them go, in spite of my fears, and they are still very precious to me.
Stories were meant to be told, and the world is more vibrant for the millions of stories that have been shared over the ages, passed down by word-of-mouth or written on slate, parchment, even computer screens, in hundreds of different languages, in thousands of different ways.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to add my voice to all those storytellers, and I hope you are enjoying Dragon’s Fire. There’s more to come, for one of the first things we share as humans is the love of a good story.