Truth and Lies: When is a book good?

SMOKE AND MIRRORS (The Gifted, Book 1)

When someone else says it is, apparently!

I’ve noticed something in myself I don’t really like. Most writers, I think, feel validated by the approval of their readers, editors, reviewers etc, and I’m no different. I think it’s natural. On the other hand, I’ve just realized that I actually seem to change my opinion because of someone else’s!

Here’s my most recent example. Some time ago, probably the best part of a year ago, I wrote a story I called TRUTH AND LIES as the third part of my Gifted series. Something about it didn’t feel quite right, so I sat on it while I worked on other things. Periodically, I’d go back to it, revise a little, and decide it still wasn’t good enough. Finally, after making sweeping changes and then reverting to the original, in desperation I sent it to my agent for a second opinion. To be honest, I fully expected to be advised to leave this one and to move on. But the other day, my agent came back to me with approval and cheers!  And as I was making a few minor recommended changes, I found myself thinking, “You know, this is really quite good!”

Eh? Only two weeks ago, I’d been thinking, “Bin it. It’s crap.” Now, while I might not be entering it for the Booker prize, I’m smugly pleased with it. And it’s the same book! Would I be so easily influenced if it was someone else’s work I disliked and a friend said to me “Oh no, you’re wrong, this is a great book”?

Um….No, I don’t think I would. With my own work, I suspect the problem is always that I’m afraid it’s no good, which makes it harder for me to judge it dispassionately. I don’t work with critique partners or beta readers, so by the time my agent or my editor reads it, I really have no idea how others will respond to my characters and the situations I’ve put them in. There’s a balance I don’t seem to have found yet between, on one side, making sure a book as good as it can be before I involve anyone else, and, on the other, wasting time just because I’m afraid it isn’t!

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>