My wife is my first beta reader. Writers are often advised not to count on the opinions of friends and family for feedback on our work. However, as any married man can attest, a wife will always be more than willing to point out your shortcomings (husbands, on the other hand, tend to say whatever will make our wives the happiest…our opinion is not to be trusted).
So the other night when she stayed up late reading her Kindle, I began to wonder what had her so fully engrossed. We’re pretty predictable when it comes to our nighttime rituals. Usually the lights are off and Kindles tucked away by 10 pm. This night, however, her Kindle light kept me awake until almost 11. Unheard of on a work night.
Finally, she shut off her Kindle quietly and slipped off to the bathroom. When she crawled back into bed, she was crying. Mind you, I never know what she’s reading. She tends to juggle several books at a time. As it turns out, she’d just finished Scorpion Summer, my first middle-grade novel. After confirming that she was not despondent over my many spelling errors or use of disposable diapers in my 1968 setting, I was overjoyed to hear her continued sobs.
A bit cruel, perhaps, but a crying reader is one of the greatest compliments a writer can receive.
There’s a saying tossed around in writing circles: no emotions in the writer, no emotions in the reader. And this is true. I also cried at the end of Scorpion Summer as I typed the last words of the first draft. And laughing at other points in the book. Growing angry in places. Feeling victorious in others. You see, when a writer is creating a story, it all becomes very real to us. Just as a good story becomes very real to a reader.
And this is something a writer cannot take lightly. Every reader is coming into your story with a different backstory of her own. Her emotions may or may not match the emotions the writer felt, or his characters felt, as he wrote the words. This is the beauty of writing. No story is ever seen the same way twice. That is why it is a bit of a leap of faith and confidence that a writer must take when releasing his baby to the world.
Scorpion Summer is not sitting in the hands of my agent. It has been released to the world. Of course, a publisher will eventually send back many edit changes, but the emotional impact will not suffer.
Thanks for stopping by. Now go read something to make you cry.