An Unsatisfied Reader

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My aunt has been a longtime fan of Danielle Steel. I think she’s read every one of her books.

While she was reading her latest pick, Magic, she told me it was a real page turner. She suggested I read it, basically to see how such powerful buildup is done. I didn’t hesitate. I’d never read a Danielle Steel novel before, but I was looking forward to it. I knew there was something to be learned from such a successful author. I anticipated a great story and great writing. You don’t always get both in a book, but with acclaimed authors, you certainly expect both.

Now, I’m not a particularly picky reader. I like lots of different genres: sci-fi, young adult, crime fiction, historical fiction. I even read a Western once and I loved it. Yes, I do tend to stick with general fiction with themes of family, love, and overcoming hardship, but even when I venture away from my “usual,” I am rarely disappointed.

But I was disappointed with Steel’s Magic. While the story was ok, the writing was not. It seemed to have been written by an amateur and edited by someone with even less experience. Words were often unnecessarily repeated within a given sentence, and the flow of the narrative was sometimes discordant. The characters, while clear enough to be realistic, did not stay with me.

As I found myself delving further into disappointment, I started to wonder what was wrong with me. This is an author who has sold hundreds of millions of books. She’s probably won awards. Why wasn’t I enjoying her book when so many people loved her writing?

The answer came to me in the form of a rating for one of my own novels shortly after I’d finished reading Magic. The reader—who had a very strange username like Lmnopwxyjz—gave my book a one star rating with no review. I’d like to believe that this is a mistake, that  some little kid was playing with her mom’s tablet and through a series of random clicks managed to sign up to Goodreads using that anomalous name, land on my book and highlight one star. I mean, my kids have done similar things…it could happen! I know, I know…not likely. The truth is that it was probably a legitimate reader who simply didn’t enjoy my book.

And that’s totally fine.

While writers (and artists of any kind, actually) hope that our work will resonate with everyone, the truth is that that notion is the fastest route to feeling like a failure. Each and every person has his or her own likes and dislikes, and there is no way you can cater to them all. Not everyone likes caviar. Not everyone likes mangoes. Not everyone likes chocolate. I know! THAT sounds outrageous! I mean…chocolate?!

But that’s the truth: not everyone likes chocolate. And not everyone likes Danielle Steel books. And not everyone will like mine. That’s the way taste works.

So, I keep writing for my intended audience, and hope that they remain intrigued. And if some readers from outside of my audience happen to enjoy my work, well then that’s a wonderfully surprising win.

But what about me disliking Steel’s book? What does that say about me?

It says that I, too, have my own taste, and don’t mind one bit if I differ from her hundreds of millions of fans.

Being in the minority makes me unique; it does not invalidate my opinion.

 

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