November 21, 2011


I recently finished writing a novelette that I asked 6 friends to critique. I don’t usually bother my friends with my work. I hire an editor. But this wasn’t a hefty piece and I wanted reactions from people who weren’t editors but liked to read. To my surprise, everyone I approached seemed delighted to help — something I hadn’t expected. These are busy, busy people. And I have to say, they took their task seriously and made wonderful observations. 

What surprised me is the difference in the kind of comments they made. One person offered suggestions about the details of a character, another wondered if my technology references were up-to-date, still another made a good catch on the sequence of events.

One friend warned me that trying to “write by committee” in an effort to please everyone had its danger. There’s much truth to that, of course. But I found the experiment fascinating because it underscored my understanding that readers come to a work with different priorities. This is a daunting realization for an author. Still each point of view proved to be a vital one.


Like lighthouses signaling to a boat at sea from different points along the coast, each guided me to a better story, one that would provide a smoother journey for future readers. The experience was humbling and I am grateful for the attention my work received.

A writer creates to express himself but the audience is always the purpose. An ego, therefore, is a luxury an author cannot afford. Only the reader can confirm whether or not the message got through. To be told the truth in a helpful way it is a great compliment and requires trust between the parties. But that’s true for any lasting relationship isn’t it?