Yes, this is a repost. But it is timely because I am smack in the middle of the process of trusting the reader yet again. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am almost ALWAYS in the middle of that process. And not just with my readers. With my family, with my friends, with my editor, with my agent, with the booksellers who will (maybe) stock my book, with reviewers… it is so critical to remember that we are only half (and sometimes less than half) of the whole. And that we need to make space---offer it gracefully---for others to add their energy and beliefs and effort into the equation.
That's when magic happens.
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I love this quote. And I believe it deeply:
A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.
Samuel Johnson is credited with saying that. Here is another way to put it:
|From BookBrowse's FB page|
How does a writer create the kind of book that asks for that kind of engagement? I have been thinking endlessly about this as I have revised my last WIP. My last blog post delves into this too. The answer lies, in large part, with the space we writers have to leave...in the story and on the page. I have preached this for years. Ask my friends. I have been obsessed with it. The partnership between the reader and the writer. Louise Rosenblatt's Reader Response Theory. (The reader is a necessary part of completing the book.) Scooting over on the bench to make room for the reader. All that and more. But it has been tough to put my pen where my mouth is.
I made a break though though this time around. Part of what made it possible was that I had been away from the text for a while. (Give your self space from your WIP in order to make space for the reader!) I was ruthless about cutting. Not just excess adjectives or favorite phrases, but whole ideas. I took myself out of the manuscript and left the characters there to fend without me. I trusted---for the first time---that the reader would be there to take care of them. My characters.
I created space, and in creating space I created trust.
Or as Chuck Wendig says, as only he can say it:
The reader wants to work. The reader doesn't know this, of course, so don't tell him. SHHH. But the reader wants to fill in the details. He wants to be invested in the novel and to make his own decisions and reach his own conclusions. You don't need to write everything. You can leave pieces (of plot, description, dialogue) out. The reader will get in the game. His imagination matters as much as yours. Make that f#$%&@ dance for his dinner.
I am going to continue to ponder this. And work on it. I would love to hear your ideas about it too.
Gratefully yours (and apologies for posting a week late! But it was worth it to spend more time with Megan Morrison's wonderful interview about her debut GROUNDED!)