January: On Reviews.

I’ve resolved to post on my blog once a month this year, despite the recklessly optimistic number of commitments I’ve made (see Events for a small sampling).  This month’s post is inspired by an IM my husband sent me just a few moments ago quoting a nice review of Borderline.  He’d forgotten, apparently, that I prefer not to read my reviews.  So I’m going to make my policy a matter of public record to avoid further confusion.

Good reviews go to my head, and bad reviews go to my heart.  Neither helps me become a better writer.  So I will be doing my best to avoid reading ANY of my reviews.

This also frees reviewers to say whatever they might think without fear of the Wrath of the Author descending (as so often seems to happen these days).  I don’t want to give even the fleeting impression that I think others’ opinions of my work belong to me.  My job is to write the best story I can, to the best of my current ability.  My promise to you: I will never rest on my laurels; I will always relentlessly pick my own work apart and try to find ways to make it better.  Each novel will only ever be one captured point on my learning curve.

Phantom Pains will be a better book than Borderline, when it’s all said and done.  But I won’t be completely satisfied with it, either; I’ll wish I’d done this differently, and that better.  I’ll write another book, and I’ll try again, hoping that this time I’ll nail it.  There’s nothing anyone else could say about my work that would (or should?) change the course of my slow, dogged self-education.  I’m capable of looking at the works of truly great authors and comparing them to mine and noticing the differences.  I’m capable of listening to my agent and editor.  I’m capable of making course-corrections myself, and will do so constantly.  But because of my own psychological peculiarities, I’m going to need to make these course-corrections without immersing myself in the sea of audience opinion.

That said:

I do care about you, the reader, as a person.  If there is something you want to say to me, if my work has personally hurt you, or inspired you, or changed the way you think about something, and it means enough to you that you feel a burning need to share it with me, then there is a way you can do that.

Write down your thoughts, and send them to me.  Not only will I read those thoughts, but I will respond to them.  (Eventually.)  Even if what you have to say is, “Your book made me want to kill myself,” I will write you a personal apology.  I want to make it clear that my review-avoidance isn’t about apathy, or a lack of appreciation for the potential connection between author and reader.  It’s about giving reviews their own space that doesn’t involve me.  A personal response to something I’ve said or done isn’t a review, in my mind, and I do care about my impact.

If your opinion isn’t something that you’re willing to address personally to me, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s not really any of my business.  Share it with your friends, your followers, whomever, 100% free of authorial oversight.

Hope that clears things up a little.

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