A rave about reading and writing
I hate beets.
It’s a shame really, because they’re such a lovely color.
And yet that burgundy hue seems somehow inappropriate for food. Perfect for a dress, a lipstick or, better yet, a pair of shoes.
But, to eat? No, thank you.
You remember that GWTW scene when Scarlett manages to dig up some vegetables the Yanks missed? She eats them, raw and dirty, and immediately vomits. Well, in my memory, the vegetables Miz Scarlett dug up were beets (though I looked it up and the online consensus is either radishes or potatoes).
As God is my witness, unless I were starving, if it were beets or nothing, I’d be hungry again. And you can be darned sure I wouldn’t lie, cheat or steal for them, no matter how pretty they look on a plate.
So maybe you love beets; I’m sure there’s some other food you detest. Confess. Is it broccoli? Whipped cream? Watermelon? Brussels sprouts?
No one likes every food. It’s part of what makes us unique.
And how about clothing? Have you ever admired an outfit, knowing it’s something you’d never wear yourself? Or, worse, wondered, “What on earth was she thinking to wear such an utterly tasteless <insert clothing article here> ?”
Yet, when that person donned those clothes, she probably wasn’t thinking, “Hmm … what truly unattractive clothing can I wear today?”
Nope. She likely believed she looked pretty fine or, at the very least, presentable enough to appear in public.
It’s all a matter of taste.
Reading preferences are the same. Or, more accurately, they are similarly varied from person to person.
In my new job, I spend select books for the homebound population of my county. This is both challenging and interesting because of the vast differences in reading preferences from one library member to the next.
Many of these readers like books I would never read. Correction: I wouldn’t read their favorites if there were anything else available and that includes recipes, my daughter’s homework or even cereal boxes.
That’s okay because most of my patrons would feel equally negatively about the books I adore.
I would go so far as to say there is no one book that everyone loves. Not even To Kill a Mockingbird (or as one patron called it, How to Kill a Mockingbird). I’m sure at one point or another in my library life, some kid has said to me, “You know, it may be a classic, but I really hated that book.”
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of what constitutes a good read.
This point was recently hammered home when a friend of mine – a fellow writer – emailed about a book we had both purchased at a conference. My friend hated it – literally could not see any redeeming value within its pages. She disliked the heroine, didn’t care for the plot, and was less than enthralled by the author’s writing.
Me? I kind of liked the book, though I was embarrassed to admit it.
Still, this is good news for us writers because I have to believe that editors and agents have similarly varied, albeit probably more discriminating, taste.
Thus, if an editor or agent rejects my story by saying isn’t for them, what they really mean is my story isn’t for them. And if they take the time to comment favorably on some aspect of my writing, well, that’s high praise indeed because these people read a lot of books.
If we take this concept a little further, it becomes part of our job as a writer to find that editor and agent who like – preferably love – our writing.
So what if it’s a long shot – every query we write, every pitch we make and every tale we tell raises the odds a little in our favor.
And eventually it will come down to a matter of taste.
OK, I know I’m late to the game (I’m behind on my RSS feeds) but this is a really good post. My writers’ group is always talking about how the publishing industry is so subjective, and how is it possible to critique and revise a novel when there are such matters of taste involved? It’s not easy, but I do think there are certain characteristics of a solid novel. Ultimately, though, the review is going to come down to who reads it and why.