Cruel, Cruel Wife
A writer’s life can be full of anguish and pain – like those moments when inspiration fails to strike or you realise you’ve completely cocked up a plot line.
But even after years of writing I still find one of the most hardest things to do is hand my finely-crafted words over to another person and say ‘what do you think?’.
You hope they’ll say positive things, of course. But whether it’s family, friends or fellow writers, you want an honest response. You need to know if it makes them smile, laugh, cry, raise their eyebrows or – heaven forbid – leaves them cold. I mean, sometimes we just write for the sheer pleasure of writing but we also write for the pleasure of being read.
Which is why – even when it’s painful to take – constructive criticism is important. Another pair of eyes can see beyond our personal blinkers and point out potential flaws, whether to do with characters, the plot or just the fact we’ve got carried away with the purple prose and need to get back to the action.
Beta readers – those people who check out our work before we unleash it on the public – are very important. I know some authors have big networks of beta readers. I’ve only got a select few and the most important is my wife.
Using your nearest and dearest for feedback might seem like playing it way too safe. But with Carolyn – love her though I do – I’m not under any illusions that she’ll spare my feelings if she doesn’t like what I’ve written. In particular, she loves tautly plotted dramas and is very good at telling me when I’m losing her attention.
Her honesty can be a little painful at times. Like with my last book, Pagan’s Sphinx. Now, adventure stories about archaeological expeditions and lost statues aren’t really her thing so I understood that it didn’t grip her in the same way as some of my other efforts. (I know it’s different which is why I used a pen name for this one.)
However, all my books have a love story going on somewhere in them and in the past I’ve got high marks for this from Carolyn. So I did think it was a bit harsh when she described the romance in Pagan’s Sphinx as ‘a bit Danielle Steele’!
Cruel words, I thought. But then I remembered that Danielle Steele did sell quite a lot of books… and if you look at the reviews on Amazon – so far anyway – it looks like I might have the last laugh!
She’s a tough critic, my wife, but that’s why she’s such a good one.