Many (most?) writers I know have a little voice in the back of their heads, pestering them with questions, nagging them with doubts. Is the novel good enough? Will an editor like it? Will readers like it? Will your spouse like it? You call yourself a writer?
It’s not the muse talking; it’s the muse’s crazy uncle who got dropped on his head as a child.
Sometimes the questions seem valid, rational. Is the pacing good? Have you portrayed the protagonist as a sympathetic, multi-layered individual whom people would like to spend some time with? Are you sure you want the sidekick to say that?
Other times, the questions are of the extreme sort: What if you only sell eight copies? What if nobody shows up at your launch party except the old lady who shows up at every book event for the free refreshments? What if they arrest you for wanton and heinous destruction of trees?
Usually, I just tell the voice to shut the heck up. (Like my children, sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn’t.)
Obviously, if I trusted my judgment more, the “voice” wouldn’t be raising so many questions in the first place. I might add that, at least for me, the uneasiness grows at certain points in the writing process. It’s definitely heightened when a manuscript has been submitted somewhere, or during the time right before a book’s release when the reviews start trickling in.
As anybody who’s ever read a book or gone to a movie knows, “good” is subjective. One person’s good is another person’s “meh.” But it’s still a question that hangs around my neck like a turkey vulture.
Are my books any good?
My wife thinks so (usually). My mother thinks so (often). My critique partners offer their suggestions/ideas/criticisms (and excellent ones they are), but they don’t give an overall stamp of approval (too caught up in the nitty-gritty, I suppose. I mean, they’ve seen all the warts and blemishes along the way—and who could possibly put all that ugliness out of their mind?)
After a book’s acceptance, my editor thinks it’s good (I hope).
But still, I’m not swayed. All those people know me personally and/or have a horse in the race.
I don’t think I’m fully convinced (check that—I’m never fully convinced), something I’ve written is any good until a completely impartial person weighs in. Actually, I don’t think I feel at ease until a dozen impartial reviewers declare that my book doesn’t stink.
That’s why I was heartened by the first impartial review of KILLER ROUTINE, from Kirkus Reviews. The pullquote:
“Orloff generates considerable suspense en route to a conclusion most readers won’t see coming. Good-hearted characters…make this premiere of the Last Laff series a winner.”
So, that’s one down. Eleven more to go.
And you, in the back, SHUT UP!
ALSO, I had the good fortune to be asked to participate in an awareness/advertising campaign for The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. My picture is appearing on Metrobus ads, and I’m having a Where’s Alan? book giveaway contest involving DC mass transit, a camera, and my face. Check out my blog here for details and a peek at the ads.