Writing only becomes significant when it is read. If I write a masterpiece, but I do it in a language that only I can read, I’ve failed. I’ve failed to use my words to entertain or enlighten. I’ve failed to take anyone on an emotional journey. So that brilliant story written in my special code is an utter failure.
What is important is how people read a text.
I am the first to make fun of 50 Shades of Grey. Truly that book is… yeah. However, it is successful, and not because of the money. Okay, not only because of the money. Face it, that book convinced women to open their minds and explore their own sexuality. That is powerful. And the power doesn’t come from the act of writing—all the power comes from the reading.
I never intended the message of Fettered to be that SSC is wrong. I meant to show that it’s not the only philosophy out there, and by putting Guard in the plot, I hoped to show that everyone had to find their own dynamic. Guard would be the better partner for most subs, just not for Dylan. However, the reader who takes it as an attack on SSC isn’t wrong because that is the interpretation they took from the book, and I can even see where it came from.
My intent is not the ruling factor in understanding my books.
It’s like C.S. Lewis who didn’t intend to write an analogy of Christ, but his children’s book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, is exactly that. His intent doesn’t matter as much as the message the reader takes.
But that leaves writers in a difficult situation, especially since for some authors, the line between author and work is dangerously narrow. We all put ourselves in our novels, even when we claim we don’t. So when readers seem to look at our book through a different lens (not wrong, just different), it’s hard to stand back and let that happen.
I know that some authors avoid the review sites because they don’t want to see how others are taking their work. They want to hold onto their own pure image of the text and the tangle of conflicting interpretations strangles their muse.
I’m not so good at avoiding reviews, though, so I have to go into every new review remembering that my books aren’t me. Readers, reviewers and even my friends have a right to dislike my work. Given that I range from action to scifi to contemporary to paranormal, there’s a good change that any given friend will dislike at least one thing I’ve written. Add in fanfic, and I’ve run the range from rape recovery fic to pony play to bukkake. Yeah, don’t judge. It was for kink bingo, and I actually made it about the woman-power.
But the point is that someone is going to dislike a story. It doesn’t mean they dislike me. I had a creative writing professor who put it this way—you have to put your kid on the bus and let other people call him ugly. If you don’t, that story will never grow up and find his way into the world.
Great advice, but not that easy to take. I think I’ve had it easy because I came up through fanfic. Say what you want, but fanfic is a playground in more ways than one. Sure, you make sandcastles out of other people’s stories, but you also learn about the playground rules. And trust me, there are some nasty playground fights in fanfic.
If you can’t learn to enjoy fandom and shut off some of the nastier comments, you’re going to get driven right back out.
So it’s easier for me to put my kids on that bus. It’s easier for me to have other people call them ugly. It’s easier for me to separate myself from my stories and to step back when someone calls my kids ugly. Sometimes, I’m even willing to admit that I’ve birthed a few ugly children.