Writers, Readers & the Power of Community (Post by Anna)
Are you a writer or a reader? Must you choose one or the other? Too often, writers and readers self-segregate into separate communities, with writers denigrating readers who post bad reviews of their books and readers denigrating writers whose style doesn’t appeal to them. Instead of waging a Writers vs. Readers battle, we ought to stop and ask ourselves the question I posed at the start of this post. Must we pick a side, writer or reader?
First of all, writers should be readers too. I’ve met an awful lot of newbie writers who have never read anything in the genre they want to write, or they’ve read only books by one author (a bestseller with a multi-decade career under her belt). These writers may spout a variety of excuses for not reading much, but the most common one is that reading contaminates their brains. They might absorb the styles of the authors they read and, without thinking, alter their own style to match.
If you’re that malleable, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer. I don’t say this to be mean, but if you really want a career as a writer, then you must develop your own style and a thick skin to go along with it. Reading is an essential part of writing, so if you can’t read other people’s books without changing yourself to resemble those other writers, you’ve got a problem. When I read other writers’ books, I look for things I would’ve done differently and things I liked. Never ever have I sat down to write and realized I’m channeling Kresley Cole or Karen Marie Moning. Never.
Don’t be afraid to be a writer AND a reader.
In the end, readers are our best friends and greatest cheerleaders. You can’t please every reader, and you shouldn’t try to do so. Attempting to please everyone waters down your writing, diluting what makes you unique. If a reader posts a bad review, all the writer can and should do is suck on that proverbial grain of salt. Maybe the reader made a good point. Maybe they were totally obnoxious. Either way, it’s their opinion—not an absolute fact—that your book stinks.
To readers, I would offer a bit of advice as well. Remember, when you write a review or post a tweet disparaging a book, you’re not just criticizing words. You’re criticizing a human being who spent many, many hours slaving away to create those words and who probably is not a millionaire. Yes, absolutely share your honest opinion of the book. But also strive to do so in a respectful and kind manner.
Most readers are good people. Most reviews are helpful, even if they aren’t five stars. Most writers are good people too. Imagine how amazing it would be if readers and writers joined together in a single community. If each side viewed things from the other’s point of view, we’d realize how much common ground we share. We all love books.
Let’s share the passion!