Friday, June 14, 2013

The Reader Is Always Right

I received my editor's notes on SURVIVAL COLONY NINE yesterday.

She suggested a number of major changes concerning chronology, world-building, character relationships, narrative arc, plot developments, and more. My eyes nearly popped out of my head.

But the thing is, she's right about everything.

Which leads to the point of this post: the reader is always right.

I tell my students this when we're peer editing. I would say the same to any writer who's received a comment they didn't like from a critique partner or beta reader. I'd say the same to any writer, anywhere, any time.

The reader is always right.

Now, let's be clear about this. I'm not saying readers are always smarter than writers, or writers always have to listen to their readers. You're the writer, so you should, hopefully, be pretty smart and know your book pretty well. And if you don't like your reader's suggestions, don't follow them. The fact that the reader is always right does not obligate the writer always to follow the reader's advice.

In my case, of course, I'm going to follow the reader's advice. She's my editor. I'm trying to get a book published. I have one question for her concerning her comments, but once she clarifies that one point, I'm going to do as she says.

The way I'm going to do as she says is, of course, my own business. No one's telling me exactly how to make the changes I need to make.

She's just telling me I have to make them. And I will.

I think this is important advice for writers to learn. Many writers--students and otherwise--get all hot under the collar when anyone dares suggest there's something that could be improved about their brilliant prose. They storm, they pout, they sulk. And then they retaliate by not doing what their reader tells them to do. Or, worse, they refuse to show their work to readers at all, and they go ahead and self-publish something that's nowhere near ready. So there!

Yeah, that'll really show 'em.

As writers, I think we'd do ourselves a great service if we just remembered that the reader is always right. If we'd remember that, then we could focus on what we're supposed to do as writers. Not storm, pout, sulk, or retaliate. Not lash out at our readers. Not curl up into a little ball and hide from the reality of the writing life.

But listen to our readers.

And then write.


  1. I sent THE PROPHECY out to agents thinking I had it as well done as it could get. One agent took the time to dissect my work,really challenging my thinking on it, and I am forever grateful. Based on that feedback, I reworked the whole story and got a contract. Everything has room for improvement. :)

    1. Yes--readers are absolutely indispensable to writers (and not only, or even primarily, because they buy our books!).