If you are a writer who’s ever pitched a novel, or simply googled insight into the publishing industry, chances are you’ve heard this before.
I know I’ve heard it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve even accepted it. But it wasn’t until this past week I truly understood it. The following experience gave me a different view on those words.
About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to judge the first round of a writing contest. It was a simple “answer these questions, see if you qualify, and you can judge” sort of thing, but I was still looking forward to it. I couldn’t wait to see what the contest process was like from the other side! I opened the entries with excitement, read through them, made notes, and instantly attached to a certain story. A week later I reread my samples, focusing on the technicalities and quality of writing. I carefully considered, tried to provide helpful feedback, and sent my judged files back to the contest coordinator with a sense of satisfaction. My judgments were fair. Every score I gave could be justified (at least by me!).
But here’s the crazy thing-
I didn’t give my favorite story the highest score.
Why? Because technically, it wasn’t the best. The highest scoring story flowed better. The sample was flawless. There were no mistakes, no awkward phrasing, and no grammatical errors (that I picked up on). It was simply well written.
However, something about the second ranking sample spoke to me. The characters grabbed me, and the story drew me in. I wanted to read it.
What’s really puzzling is if I were to summarize the story lines, the highest ranking book had a better plot. More happened. It moved at a quick pace. But there was something about the second place book I loved. I don’t know what it was. I can’t explain it. It simply connected with me.
As I ponder this experience I’m blasted with an understanding I thought I previously grasped, but obviously didn’t.
The love of a book is subjective.
My judging experience opened
my eyes to a new side of things. I’ll probably need to reread this post in the future to remind myself, but I finally understand. If I were an agent, I wouldn’t have requested a full for an arguably well written book, simply because it didn’t speak to me.
This taught me how important it is to find people who connect with your work. If my writing is good, and I constantly strive to improve my craft, eventually I will find the right people to help me get my book out there. A big part of success is commitment.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.
Until then, I’ll keep writing
Long ago when I was trying to submit my debut, I had sent it to my dream agent. You know the one you’d give your arm for? Of course, I knew it was on a lark, but hey, sometimes what’s the worst that could happen? They say no? At least you had the guts to try. At the time, I also had submitted it to a bunch of other publishing houses. In the time that it took the agent to get back to me, I had five contract offers. So what did she say? She rejected it because she “didn’t think she could sell it to a publishing house.” LOL. I learned then that, yes, find someone who connects with you and your work, and, yes, the publishing world is a subjective, fickle world. Just think, 12 publishers rejected Harry Potter. 😉
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I wrote a blog post about this same concept last year when I came to the realization that no matter how much I hone my craft and produce what I hope will be a great book, there will be people who absolutely think what I’ve written is not good. Some may even think it’s garbage. As such, I’ve tried to steel myself against it by remembering just as you’ve said here: that it’s all subjective. As a kid I loved movies and books that were, by nearly all measures, terrible. I still loved them for whatever reason. I don’t plan on writing a bad book, quite the opposite. But it helps a bit to know that there will be those that adore what I do, even if there are some who will not.
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