'That's an awfully big hammer for a little nail.'
Great quote, huh? My husband said it last night, when trying to explain the way he feels when reading overdone, overworked writing -- don't worry, he wasn't talking about mine :) And, as always, I totally agree with him, but it got me thinking:
When do dropped hints and planted seeds become too much for a reader to take? Where is the line between too much information and not enough?
I'm not sure I have an answer for this question. You've all read my opinions on what a reader wants in a book, and how I try to fulfill that in my writing at every turn. After finishing reading my last book, ARCANE, Jason loved it, which is the great news. He loved the skeleton of the story, the narrative voice I told it in, and the twists and turns I have in store for the reader. Amid all the praise, though, was a deep comment I wasn't expecting:
'How do you know what the reader wants?'
'Simple,' I answered him. 'I know what I like, and I am a great reader. I am my target audience.'
'That's not going to work out all the time,' he rebutted.
'But I detest reading all the back story for a character that doesn't have anything to do with the plot!'
'Sure, I can understand that. But, how many books have you read and hated that millions of other people loved?'
Silence in the car.
See, I knew I married him for a reason :) This conversation, in direct association with the opening quote up there, made the wheels on my head spin. I want my book to be a success, I want it to be loved by millions. I want to walk into a Barnes and Noble, see someone picking up a copy of *my* book and reading over the jacket with a smile, then tap them on the shoulder and say, 'I wrote that!'
JK Rowling once said in an interview that she doesn't ever write for her readers, she writes for herself. Wise or foolish? Hmmm... Steph Meyer all but panders to her audience, engaging them in conversations on her blog and message boards. Wise or foolish? Both women are great, in their own ways, and both have fierce stories to tell, if sales are factor into this equation.
So, who's right? Should I worry about pleasing a larger audience with my writing, or should I write the story that I want to write, without breaking off into tangents I don't enjoy as a reader myself?
A few weeks ago, I got an *extremely* detailed analysis of my book from a writer friend of mine who begged me at every opportunity to explain the back story of a particular character. When writing, I found neither the need nor opportunity for this conversation, so I didn't worry about it. But should I? Is this analysis more a temperature gauge of my potential readership than my own gut feeling?
So many questions, so few answers -- ironic, I know, since I spent the last few weeks doing nothing but that.
I think I know what to do. I am going to read my own book. Start to finish. On paper. I'm going to take notes in red pen. I'm going to make it work, and I'm going to make it better.
Doesn't mean it's not great now. But, if I have the opportunity to excel, why shouldn't I? As many have pointed out, it's not over until the pages are printed :)
..... In a side note, I'd like to issue a big thanks to Simon and Schuster for holding the BLOGFEST 2009 event on their blog, which I piggy-backed for the past 2 weeks :) Hope you all enjoyed my answers to the questions, and now know me a little better!
..... Oh, and check out my work blog (www.captivate.com/byte-sized) for my new interview with Michael Moore! I had the opportunity to check out his film 'Capitalism: A Love Story' in a pre-release screening last week, so come see my review!