Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why do I write?

There’s a distinct possibility that I’m talking to myself here, but it’s very early days yet so I’ll work on the premise that things can only get better and plough on regardless.

Writing is a strange and lonely pastime. For me it is particularly so because, living in a non-English-speaking country, I don’t have anyone easily available to talk to about my writing, show examples to or just bounce ideas off. I’m not part of an expat community (I’ll talk a bit about where I live in a later blog) and live exclusively among German people. I have always wanted to write, I have dabbled in it in the past, but it is only now that I have a bit of time to do so and the opportunity, through the internet, of reaching an audience quickly and easily.

I said above that I may be talking to myself. I hope I’m not. I hope people find this blog and find it interesting. I hope they tell me if they do, tell me what they find interesting and readable about it, and also tell me where I’m going wrong so I can get it better. I can’t give people what they want unless they tell me what it is, can I? So if you feel you have something to say, please say it. All constructive comments will be taken on board and, if possible, acted on. Just don’t ask me to write science fiction or emulate some other writer, because I’m me and I write the way I write.

A writer’s ego is a fragile thing in need of feeding and nurturing. I write because I want to, and I’ll carry on writing and trying to improve what I write, but feedback is important. When I received my first review for my first book, I was over the moon. Five stars! And a review that told me that the reader had enjoyed reading my book and why. That’s the kind of review I’m aiming for. Realistically, I don’t expect all the reviews to be five star ones, because not everyone reacts in the same way to any product – and a book is after all a product. Just as I wouldn’t give a steak to a vegetarian, I wouldn’t expect a reader who doesn’t like romantic novels to enjoy my books. Shakespeare has endured through centuries, but still not everyone likes his work. But a five star review that merely say ‘Hey, I loved this book,’ but doesn’t explain why doesn’t tell other readers what there is to like about the book, nor does it tell me where I went right so I can follow it up next time. A one or two star review that doesn’t look as if the reader has read the book (eg, ‘This book is rubbish, don’t buy it’) doesn’t help me to know what I’ve done wrong. I’m not begging for one or two star reviews, of course, but if you think that is all my book is worth, I want to know why. Maybe it’s because the reader picked up a book he or she wouldn’t normally read and it reminded them of why they don’t read that sort of book. I can’t do anything about that. But if you think my characters are unsympathetic, or my plot too thin, then I’d rather hear that than see a negative review with no hint of what I have done wrong. By the way I never have asked, and I never will ask, friends or relatives to give my books great reviews. If they read them and want to review them, it’s up to them. But I don’t cheat. I don’t ask anyone to bump my books ratings up by posting unrealistic reviews. It isn’t fair to my potential audience. 

Writing is a bug. It helps, if you have the bug, to be able to articulate yourself in a way that makes people want to read what you write. I have been told over the years, by teachers, university lecturers (a backhanded compliment I once received, on handing in a sub-standard essay, was that I could get away with it because I could write. I managed an acceptable mark for the essay) and others who have been subjected to my work, that I can write. The answer to the question I posed in the title is that I want to write, I have ideas filling my head and fighting to be put onto paper – or at least into my computer and via that onto the web – I find it therapeutic and, let’s be brutally honest about this, I would really like to be able to make at least a modest amount of money doing something I enjoy doing and feel compelled to do. What could be better making a living from something you really want to do?

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