Chapter 12 – “I don’t care about readers”

The other day I ran into a person advertising their blog which supposedly was following the development of their first novel. After a quick glance, the novel turned out to be an old, unfinished script they had done years ago. Better yet, it was a script with blatant grammar errors which someone else politely pointed out.

This pretty much led to a war that ended with the writer stating that they, as a writer, should not listen to anyone else and only care about their own opinion. In the same breath they stated they don’t care about readers or their opinions. I would like to think (=hope) that anyone serious about writing and publishing read that and immediately thought “Well, that’s just silly.”

Leave Comment to Trash
Picture by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

Now, I don’t know this writer and can’t say whether this is how they actually think or whether they just got embarrassed and defensive when their work got criticized. What I do know, even with my limited experience, is that a public attitude like that means bad stuff for your writing.

The story on the blog seemed alright. Not perfect but first drafts never are, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting unfinished stuff and asking for feedback. That’s one of the things that struck me as odd: the writer specifically asked for feedback but nothing was good enough for them. They either said they won’t fix the issue because they don’t think it’s that important, or they made up excuses for why it is that way and not even admit it was a mistake.

And also, the writer said the one comment that always makes me cringe: “I’m not forcing anyone to read it so if they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it.”

Okay, maybe it’s not the comment itself I resent so much. It’s the idea behind it. It’s the way this comment always finds its way to situations where someone is being criticized, usually in a just and constructive manner even. In those situations it’s basically a last resort for not fixing something that’s broken, and that’s what irritates me. Some people seem to think it’s the perfect way to end an argument and be the winner. But I digress.

In the end of the “war” the writer humbled a little, admitting the amount of grammatical errors, but still not fixing them. For me this whole debacle was enough to steer clear of their work. Even if they rewrote the text and listened to suggestions, maybe even wrote a completely different novel, I wouldn’t want to read it. People can change but if I ever started reading one of their works again, and I spotted a mistake, all I’d think about is “Did someone point this out but they ignored it?”

This made me wonder what other people think of this kind of behavior.

In my opinion, writers should always aim to develop themselves. Not listening to every single complaint and troll reviews is great. Not listening to constructive criticism is not. That’s just being arrogant.

Editing a page
Picture by Nic McPhee

I’ve heard a lot of talk about author’s own voice and following their own path, writing stories that make them happy, and I think that’s how it should be. At the same time though, I don’t think this in any way contradicts listening to suggestions and fixing things that seem to get a lot of attention. If one person says something, they might be wrong. If ten people say something, they might actually have a point. For me, feedback is the best way to learn and develop myself.

When I write, I don’t think about the reader too much. That comes later when I’m editing and want to make sure the text is clear and the plot is understandable, but during the actual writing process I’m writing for myself.

Still, I care about readers. If my stories stay in my drawer (=computer folder) and no one ever gets to read them, the quality doesn’t matter. If I let even one friend read it, I want to make sure it’s in the very least free of obvious typing mistakes. As the possible number of readers grows, I put more effort into making the text flawless and something readers can enjoy. When I publish something, it’s not just for me anymore; it’s for everyone who might read it. I think fixing errors, especially the ones pointed out to you, in a text you’re going to publish is just good manners.

But what do you think about this? Would you feel the writer is not respecting you as a reader if you know they’re not fixing obvious mistakes? If you came across a novel excerpt, and in the comments section the writer was listing excuses for why the text has errors (age, hurry, old text, not a big mistake…), what would you think? Have you ran into stories, maybe even published books, that seem to suffer from this sort of writer’s “arrogance”?

And remember: Jsut bceusae poeple mgiht unedrtsand what yuo’re wrtinig eevn if it has errros, it deons’t maen you should laeve it taht wya. (And if you’re wondering what sort of typo-monster attacked me there, check this article on Wikipedia.)

NaNo word count for November 8: 12,149 (target 13,333)


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