From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, November 7, 2011

So someone I know is going to read this?

As I get closer and closer to finishing my book, I've been thinking about this more and more. The goal is to get your work published, right? That means out there for everybody to see. And that everybody includes your friends and family.

Mostly, that's just fine. There's just a couple things that worry me about that. One that worries me a little, and one that worries me sort of a lot.

When you read something, you can't help but make judgments about or connections to the author and the authors life. So when people read our work, they make assumptions about us and our lives. Whether they are correct (which they probably aren't) is beside the point. And you know, that's all ok, that sort of comes with the territory of being an artist. Of course people are going to judge you and your work, but only we know where it all came from, and even that's a little iffy. It's a little more complicated when the readers know you personally. When they know your life a little more intimately, and they make connections or judgments or think that you're making certain points or using certain details based on your life and who they know you to be. Does that make sense? Basically what I'm trying to say is that by letting people in your life read your work, its a bit like letting them in to your head, and whether what they see is accurate or to the point, it can't help but shift/change/alter, even if its only slightly, the way they see you as a person, or the way they've seen you up to that point. And I kind of don't want it to change anything. I'm still me, I'm still the person I've presented to them, but now they know a little more. Or they think they do.

But all that is okay. I can deal with that. It's expected. The bigger deal for me, related, but not an aspect of this issue I've fully thought about until recently, is this: People in my life who read my work will not only make assumptions and judgments about me, but perhaps also about the other people in my life. Say I write about a father, a mother, a sister. Can that be kept separate from real life to people who read it and know my actual father and mother and sisters? Even on a more general scale. Say I address certain issues or topics: Does that mean people are going to make judgments about my family as a whole and the way I was raised or something like that?

It seems like those kinds of connections and judgments are inevitable. What bothers me most is that if this type of judgment is passed, which it will be, then I've dragged the people in my life into something they did not ask to be dragged in to. That seems a little bit presumptuous to me.

This is where I come to those of you with more experience then myself. Obviously this is something every writer and every artist has to address, somehow. How did you deal with this? Is it best to just be true to your own inner-artist, move forward, and trust the support of the people that matter most? I'm thinking that's the only thing you can do, if you're going to be honest and truthful with yourself and not compromise your inner artist. And you know, even if the people who matter most don't quite understand, which they might not, they still love you and support you. Sometimes it's scary to rely on that, but that's why they are the people that matter most.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you write without shaking up too badly your own real life world?

Sarah Allen


  1. I have one girl in paticular who reads all my WIP, chapter by Chapter. She is honestly the reason I finish sometimes. I get frustrated with the book but she says "ok, lets talk about it." So we discuss and she guides me sometimes.
    You need to trust someone and another thing they ahve to be is a crazy book reading fantasy understanding wierdo like you. Or they will just wonder why you are putting all your effort into writing about people who arent real (Expect for my characters, I am convinced they are real!)

  2. Interesting post. Maybe it's just me but I don't *think* I make assumptions about authors when I read their books. (If I do it's more so with contemporary than fantasy etc. But even then the author isn't 16. (or 86))

    Another example:
    I know for me, when I watch TV, I KNOW Matt Smith isn't really the Doctor. He's not a timelord from Gallifrey who regenerates. BUT he plays him. He gets to weave in these parts of himself into his characters. The same is true for us.

    Obviously there IS some part of us that we weave into our characters--something we wish we were more like or something we dealt with. I think that's what makes them connectable. I would try not to be so caught up in the way they're going to perceive you or your family member after reading because you could just be building up this anxiety where there needn't be any.

    I don't know if that's helpful or not. It can be VERY nervewracking to share what you've been pouring your heart into for a period of time. But like the other person who commented said, CPs are godsends. They know when things are working and aren't and have this ability to make you think about it. It's a good process. :)

    Best of luck!!

  3. I'm not published yet but will be taking the Indie route. I know how you feel. However, I do go to a live critique group and sometimes I get a very critical review. It's usually one person. Always the same person but that's what happens when you put your stuff out there.

    Right now, I've got snippets from the novel and chapter one along with My Critter's Favorite Lines @
    My best suggestion is to have fun no matter what comes your way. Some people will like you stuff and some won't. ***shrugs***

  4. Well, I'm not more experienced (I'm also 22), but I have similar fears. It was like pulling teeth, telling my family I had written a book and was trying to publish it. Since mine is YA, they were like "Oh, so you want to be a teenager forever?" Um, no. I just began writing it when I was that age and those issues are interesting to me. *sighs* I think the closer the person is to you, the less they'll understand (initially, at least) that there IS distance between you and your work. I try to explain it like this: writing a book is like finishing a puzzle, not diving into some silly fantasy because I hate my life, etc.

    Good luck finishing your book!! Keep us posted. :-)

  5. I guess it depends on what you are writing. I have read a lot of books. Fantasy, sci-fi, Star Wars, Twilight, Harry Potter, Cussler, Barker, Brown etc etc etc. Aside from Cussler who says he has a garage full of cars like his main character. I haven't ever said to myself. Timothy Zhan obviously has the hots for girls with red hair, because of Mara Jade.

    Now if I read a book recommended by Oprah that was about some boy from china who grew up to be the wife of re-fried bean king, then yeah, I can see how one might be concerned that their book reflects on them or the people around them.

    As for how I deal with this for my own two books? I guess I really don't worry about it at all. I write fiction, obvious fiction filled with adventure, magic, and steampunk. If someone thinks that wish I could fly because one of my characters can, or I hate my parents because the main character's parents abandoned him. I would tell them I guess JK Rowling has a fetish for wands because every character 'swish and flicks' one.

  6. Sarah,

    I'm going through the same thing. I write because I love it. I'm publishing because, well, I wrote a book. What else am I going to do with it? Yeah, I feel like slapping a big disclaimer on the front: My family is NOT as dysfunctional as my character's family.

  7. I completely understand this feeling. I don't mind complete strangers reading the things I write, but when people I know want to read it, I hesitate. I don't want them making any assumption about me because of my characters.

  8. I write for myself (and my audience) and worry about what my dad is going to think of my paranormal romance later, lol. Life's too short to worry about that, when my family should just be happy that I've finally published a novel.

  9. Meh. I'm okay with people judging me. People have been judging me all of my life.

  10. I'll admit it, I feel a little strange knowing my kids will read the sex scenes. I write them anyway, but I feel strange.

  11. I've written about some pretty messed-up characters, and no one has ever assumed that they reflect my family.

  12. Yes, some people who read your work will judge you, and some will also make assumptions about your own relationships with others. It's just inevitable. I think, while people must "write what they know," they shouldn't draw too literally from real life because their closeness often clouds their objectivity. As for the judgments of others, there's just nothing we can do about that. I think writers simply have to do their very best work and then let the chips fall where they may. One of the things writers can never control is the subjective interpretations of their readers, so I don't think they should worry about those interpretations. Writing does make an author feel a bit "exposed," though. It takes a tough skin to be a writer, but the love of the writing will win out most any day. Good luck! :)

  13. I'm a little relieved that few people I deeply care for will read my work. Those that will, will like it - all except my grandmother, who is just to sweet to turn down the opportunity to see what the boy put together. Sorry for the transgender witches and cannibals, grandma.

  14. Hi Sarah. :) Followed a link here from your comment on the Book Smugglers' Bellwether post. :) I guess that's how the blog network is supposed to work?

    You are right on all counts, I think. All you can do is be truthful about yourself. The writing and the publishing process push you, in many cases, to being more truthful -- that or they make you crazy. ;) But as you may have seen especially in the genre community, there are frequently discussions about the subtext of a book and what's coming out regardless of whether the author intends it. The best way to navigate these situations tends to be through openness and listening, especially when the topics are hard.

    But in the long run hopefully this also makes us better artists, and better people. The unexamined life, eh?

  15. I write memoir and poetry, and post a blog including both. It's work that's all drawn from my life because I do write what I know, and I reach my very human readers because of it. I was a sensitive artist in my twenties, productive but reclusive with my work in my thirties, and publishing work in my forties. Then my memoirs were born and I was out, so to speak. Not worried in the least bit about being judged, just worry from time to time that I keep the honesty that I have given an implied promise to myself and my readers.


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