I’m up to my eyeballs in books and manuscripts I’m judging for contests, which is great. There’s nothing like contest season to reinforce the things you know as a writer and help you remember things you don’t want to do in your own books. I want every book or manuscript I pick up to be a gem, a masterpiece, a work of startling genius. Every book or manuscript is not, but some are, and that’s what brings me to the blog today.
I just finished a book or manuscript I can’t tell you anything about. One of the rules of contest judging (written or unwritten) is that you don’t yammer in public about the books and manuscripts you’ve judged. Contrary to the apparent opinions of some people, online qualifies as public, so I won’t share any details that might allow you to think you’ve figured it out–not even the contest it’s entered into.
What I can tell you is that there was absolutely nothing about the book or manuscript that appealed to me in any way at first glance. Not the title. Not the cover (if there was one). Not the genre. Nevertheless, I picked it up and started reading because that’s what I promised to do, and I did everything I could to approach it with an open mind, because that’s another thing I promised to do.
That’s when I discovered that I wasn’t even particularly fond of the point-of-view the author had chosen. It’s not that I dislike the style, it’s just not my favorite. ‘Nuff said.
But by the end of page three, I was hooked. Completely. The writer grabbed me and carried me through from beginning to end despite every strike I might have been able to make up against the entry. And as I read, I kept thinking, this is what I’ve been telling people for years. It’s all about the reader.
Not every reader will set aside their personal preferences and prejudices to give every book a fair shake, but if you can get them to take a look and give your book a try, make sure it’s the best boo you’re capable of writing at that moment in time. Don’t wimp out. Don’t cut corners. Don’t put what’s easiest for you above what’s in it for the reader. If you have to tackle tough subjects, tackle them with honesty and real emotion. Don’t avoid the risks. Don’t shy away from the difficult parts.
I don’t know if this particular author can or will deliver another book that would make me stay up well into the wee hours of the morning to find out what happened, but I can tell you this: I would be willing to plunk down a chunk of change to find out. Assuming, of course that I knew who he or she was.
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