On Being a Magician
Writing novels is like being a magician. You’re creating this illusion to suck others in, but no matter how real you want to make it for your audience, you worry that they may catch on to something. Like when I re-read my earlier stuff, I can see the seams. I see places where I should have worded something differently, where I could have strengthened a plot point or a character reaction, something that would have made the story more real to the readers. And I’m so paranoid about that.
But, I know if I waited to write and publish the perfect book, I wouldn’t have a career. You just have to do the best you can and then let the readers decide if it was good enough. Then I read other authors’ books… and MOST of the time (though not always… some authors are just brilliant!!), I can see their seams. And then I look at how much their readers love them and think they are awesome and I sort of let out this big sigh like… Oh, okay, I can see their seams, but the regular readers don’t seem to, so maybe my seams don’t show too badly. Maybe it’s okay.
I’m sure many magicians can look at the illusions of their peers and see a lot of the structure of how it works and how it tricks the eye of the audience, how they make the audience believe for that period of time that they really are magic. I want my readers to believe that when I release a book. But I know I have seams.
Don’t misunderstand, I am NOT for mediocrity. I’m not like: “Well, most people won’t notice or care so I’ll just throw something together.” I pretty much obsess and angst and worry right before releasing a book. Is it the best I can do? Is it good enough? Will my readers like it? Though I stay away from random opinion/reviews of my books… the FANS… the people who buy and devour it in the first few days after release… I do care what they think. Those are my core people and I want them to be happy if at all possible.
But when I read other authors and see the seams, I realize… this is just part of this job… the way you overanalyze and see the structure behind the work and how it all hangs together. I also can see major plot points coming a mile away in most stories (though… I still enjoy seeing them play out). So I’m often surprised when someone doesn’t see a plot point of mine coming. (Though… I will say that the ending of Save My Soul, I DID expect that to be a surprise to most readers. That’s the only time I’ve willfully done a “surprise twist” at the end. It was just too “right” for that story, not to. Even though I fought that ending for 3/4ths of the book’s writing.)
I’ve just finished the reread for Life Cycle, that’s Cain and Tam’s book… coming next! And WOW can I see seams. But… at least what I see, I can fix, so that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s good to have a bit of a mess to untangle, because it allows you to just jump in and start working on edits without angsting over it too much. On cleaner books I’m always afraid of messing them up. On messier books I’m like “Well, it can’t get worse and I see about 10 things that I know exactly how to fix.