Claire King


What I wrote & what you read.

Posted on: December 29th, 2012 by Claire - 7 Comments

I wrote a blog post a while ago about the intention in what we write – how we choose the palette for our story, the setting and the small details to send messages for the reader to pick up on.

But intention is a funny thing, because things are sometimes not interpreted the way we intended. This is the source of a lot of arguments. Any of these phrases seem familiar?

“That’s not what I meant!

“You are inferring that from what I said.”

“You were implying that when you said…”

“I could see by your expression that…”

“It’s not what you said, it’s the way that you said it!”

Well, anyway, in November Waterstones ran a draw for people to receive review copies of The Night Rainbow, and December the books went out. So although there’s still a month until it starts shipping ‘for real’, reviews are now coming in, and I get to see if what I intended to say came across to *actual* readers in the way I hoped. Or not.

This, in a way, is the end of one writing journey that started back in 2009 and which I’ve been blogging about for almost 3 years. So I thought I’d share my first thoughts on being read, and reviewed.

I’d thought about book reviews before in terms of the rating, the number of stars. What does a one star review mean? How would I feel the first time I got one? It’s easy to say that rationally there is going to be some kind of bell curve. You can’t please all the people all the time. And a five star review is the flip side of the coin. You really hit a nerve with a reader, but it doesn’t mean you’re a literary genius.

Actually, now I’ve started to read the reviews, what matters much more is the words. Readers have taken the time to write at some length about how they experienced the story, how it made them feel as they read it, and their conclusions at the end. It’s such a privilege to read these insights, and to see if what I hoped I wrote matched up with what people actually read. It seems so far, so good!

I’m going to try not to get obsessed with reading reviews (seriously, I am!), mostly because I have written a new book that I am revising now and I have to turn the internet off most of the time to do that. But the appearance of these reviews is a timely reminder that I am writing for readers, and that I have to get it right. That ‘good enough’ isn’t really good enough, unless I want to face ‘good enough’ reviews on my next novel in 2 years time. And that’s not my intention.

So to the book reviewers out there who are taking the time to write these considered, detailed reviews – A Big Thank You!

And I wish all readers of this blog a very happy new year. Good health, peace and happiness to you and yours in 2013.

7 Responses

  1. So much of this resonates, Claire! But when it comes to intention, you’re on dodgy ground, perhaps. I always think of – who? Edmund Wilson? telling Henry James that just because he hadn’t intended any sexual undertones in The Turn of the Screw didn’t mean they weren’t there. And Lawrence’s famous dictum: “Never trust the teller, trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.” Ha! That said, I look forward v much to reading The Night Rainbow when it’s out. I wish it well.

    • Claire says:

      Hi Adrian,
      Oh I agree that it’s the story that’s to be trusted. The magic of stories is that so much of it depends on what the reader brings to it. It’s a wonderful kind of alchemy. I wished I belonged to a reading group, because I do think there is so much richness to be had in discussions on different interpretations and experiences of the same novel, short story or poem. I think an authors intention can only go so far. For example I would be disappointed, I expect, if a reviewer found The Night Rainbow to be a depressing read, because that’s not what I intended for readers. Anyway, what’s done is done now! Thanks for the well wishes!

  2. Just read the three (at the moment) reviews – and am impressed with how much the readers really engaged with the book. Being one small step ahead in terms of a whole year of my book’s exposure to the gaze of the reader, I can say that I never fail to be grateful for the time readers give to the novel.
    The one thing to ready yourself for is the well-meaning reader who thinks reviewing is to tell the story again… complete with plot spoilers! Then all you can do is hope that not many people read their retelling…aaagh.

  3. Claire says:

    Hi Vanessa!
    Yes, I have to say I am crossing my fingers tight that that lovely well-meaning reader doesn’t pop up for quite a while yet! So far the reviewers have been super-considerate in their phrasing of the plot 🙂
    Aren’t readers great?!

  4. Sherri says:

    Claire, I’ve just seen your book trailer and it is so beautiful, I can hardly wait to read the book.

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