Dear Reader: What Is In My Name Is Me

Having your pre-publication manuscript edited by someone else, and also having several trusted people proofread it (whether you are a traditional author or an indie), are certainly good ideas.

My manuscripts get pre-publication reviews by several people – at most 3 or 4 – and that is where I stop.

[Screen capture of Instagram, February 18, 2020.]

Other writers, however, seem to believe that many more people should have tangible input into your fiction:

[Screen capture of Instagram, February 18, 2020.]

I almost offered a comment to all of that, but I “passed.” I like that author generally. She is free of course to write on her Insta what she feels “the best writers” do.

That said, I guess I must be a “lousy” writer then, because I don’t agree with most of that. I feel a writer needs to know where to draw the line in asking around for “feedback,” for there is a real creative danger of being beset by “too many” opinions. Novel writing – to me – is above all an individual writer’s art and personal means of expression.

The way a novel of mine is written is – I believe (and I was also told by my now late uncle, who was a traditionally-published crime novelist) – entirely on me as the writer.

Only my name is on the cover.

If I for some reason (maybe I was drunk) decide to listen to poor advice and include such in MY novel, the person who offered it does not face the critique, I do.

[Back cover of Passports, on my ad hoc holiday cottage desk. Photo by me, 2014.]

I have long believed some writers are getting far too carried away in looking to take on board the views of so-called “beta readers.” Passing a manuscript around widely pre-publication through the net amongst so-called “beta reader” strangers is also seriously problematic: I NEVER do that. We should not be naive with our treasured manuscript: there are thieves out there, as well as “competing” writers who may deliberately give us misleading “feedback.”

We also need to be honest with ourselves as writers. Are we seeking reassurances from all and sundry pre-publication because we are insecure about our writing? If so, we are probably in the wrong craft because even if “20 betas” declare it is good, someone else out there will *always* find a reason to knock it down and declare why we should find another outlet for our artistic expression.

And now we are changing something(s) major post-publication based on “reader feedback?” That is called perhaps a “2nd edition” and, true, it is any author’s prerogative. Yet suppose other readers don’t like that revision?

Fenimore Cooper’s wife Susan was his primary proofreader and even took dictation from him of several Last of the Mohicans (1826) chapters when for a time he was too sick to write. My wife – an avid reader – over the years has been one of my proofreaders. If Cooper’s wife was his main proofer, mine is certainly more than good enough for me.

My manuscripts receive small contributions as well from other uncredited and trusted third parties close to me – and those contributions involve mostly editing, grammar and spelling. (Such as how one proofreader – an English woman friend – noticed in my first book’s manuscript that I was inadvertently mixing British-English and American-English spellings in the narrator. It was a dopey inconsistency I rectified afterwards by consciously choosing “American” as the “language” overall.) That is my line: novel-writing is not, for me, some sort of group project, and I will NOT pretend I think otherwise.

However much I like you all, you as readers do not write my books. Certainly so-called “beta readers” random people found on the internet get no input. My novels are written by me. Period.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Dear Reader: What Is In My Name Is Me

  1. Thanks for this post. It validates my thinking on writing fiction. It is ultimately the writer’s fault. And we must bear condemnation with the alacrity with which we deposit the meager royalties in the bank. Kudos!

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  2. Revisions? Good grief, I’ll be grateful to get the first edition out! 😁 I never reread the small pieces I’ve had published, and I’ve always been able to relate to actors who claim to have never seen their own movies. I have enough trouble with my own desire to “make it better.” As far as beta readers are concerned, I definitely don’t need anyone else chiming in! 🙅‍♀️

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    1. I always second-guess myself. Being a writer is also about courage: you have to, at some point, just say: FINISHED. We could spend YEARS asking for others’ opinions… and get little but unsettling or useless suggestions. (“He should be a troll.” or “You should write the whole book in the first person.”) A book is MINE for better or worse. If I’m going to be drawn and quartered over something in it, what that is will be MINE at least, not some “feedback” from a stranger I included because she is a writer too and thinks it needed it… and she then walked off into the sunset. I can’t then say, “But Suzy Writer had thought that was a great idea.”

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