Having finally finished the ‘difficult second book’, I gave it to my partner to read. It had taken eighteen months to write, she was eager to read it.
To my delight, she texted, “I’d pay good money for your book.” Given that’s why we write – to sell and delight – could I ask for more?
No. And, well – yes. My partner pointed out mistakes with some names – I would keep getting Margaret and Dorothy mixed up in the early stages – and gave me some thoughts about hypnotic language.
She was encouraging, enthusiastic, complimentary and genuinely happy to have read my book. But somehow, after the initial euphoria fell away, I began to say I would send out to other, more critical readers, and frankly, that started a bit of a row in our house.
“Do you think I’m just being kind? Why don’t you believe that if it had been crap, I would tell you?” she asked, exasperated.
Initially, I didn’t have an answer. Now I’ve thought about it, I think it’s because we trust the people we love not to hurt us. Even had my partner hated the book, the feedback would have been careful, gentle, at the very least.
I’ve asked other people to look at the book with more of an editorial viewpoint, people who will spot if I’ve padded some bits, if the language in the first section is too florid (something my partner also pointed out, to be fair), if the plot becomes hackneyed, if the characters don’t ring true.
And let’s face it, the people poking holes in our work are much more likely to capture our attention. But it strikes me as sad that, having had a great review from someone I know and love, I’m now discounting it as ‘too nice’. As if they know nothing about writing and books. But now I recognise that’s rubbish.
My partner reads and can tell a good book from a bad one as well as anyone else, regardless of our relationship. So bring it on, I say. Bring on the next great review. I can take it. I can believe it.