I started this month’s theme which focused on readers with a guest post, “The Importance of Fiction,” on author M. Liz Boyle’s site, and decided to conclude with the importance of readers. The importance of readers to an author can’t be overstated or underestimated. In fact, it’s readers that turn a writer into an author.
We Begin as Writers
God made me a writer. I was born with a writer’s mind. If I never published any work, I’d still be a writer. But an author is different. I thought an author is someone who is paid for her writing. And I think that’s the popular definition. But a writer becomes an author when he writes for a reader and then shares that work with her. That ability to share takes both courage and generosity.
When I began writing as a kid, it was because I had to. Writing on odds bits of homework got me through some very boring, trying years in junior high and high school. When I began working on a novel, I had the attitude that this was a magnificent work of fiction and the whole world would fall in love with. I wrote to please myself. That’s fine if I never wanted to publish. Most writers would find it difficult to write fiction they hate or nonfiction they aren’t interested in. But if that’s a writer’s only attitude and publication is his goal, he will run into trouble.
Because I was so sure my first novel was fantastic, I didn’t think other people’s criticism was valid, so I had no need to make revisions unless I spotted problems. I knew what story I wanted to tell, and readers were going to enjoy it exactly as I did. I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that first novel was never published.
We May Become Authors
When I finally began to realize my writing needed major renovations to get published, I accepted advice more readily, and my writing improved. This is where the courage comes in. A writer has to have the courage to admit she doesn’t know everything about this art and needs to seek instruction.
My writing also improved when I kept future readers in mind, which in the beginning, I found overwhelming. I’m a small-town person. I like rural life and getting to know a few people well. When I do writing workshops, I like small groups rather than large ones. So the idea of writing for a large audience seemed impossible. I had to imagine my audience as just a few readers, such as my beta readers, who were friends.
As I wrote with these readers in mind, my storytelling improved because I was being generous. If I felt a reader wouldn’t understand a section, I’d work it until the meaning was crystal clear because I hate entering a scene and getting lost. I’d add a line or a confrontation because I hoped readers would enjoy it. I rewrote the ending of my novel three times because I wanted readers to be rewarded for making it to the climax of a newbie author’s first book.
When I had the opportunity to publish my fiction, I again had to have courage and generosity. The courage to let my work come under the judgement of strangers, and the generosity to allow those strangers to draw their own enjoyment or meaning from my work, not necessarily what I meant for them to find. Any time a writer does that, inviting the reader to complete the artistic process of writing, whether the work is published and bought by millions or shared with a few friends, he or she is an author.
Let me know what is the importance of readers to your writing.