Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Challenge Authors Face

I've noticed that fiction authors face a disadvantage to our craft which other creative folk don't share. My husband is a saxophone player and my twelve-year-old daughter is a budding artist. Here is an observation I've made. It's harder for fiction authors to share with others what we've created.

An artist may paint a gorgeous landscape or mold a sculpture, and people take one glance and say, "Wow, look at that. You have such a lovely talent."

A musician may play a few bars of a song, and they say, "That's wonderful. You have the power to really move people."

But when a novelist completes a longstanding project and it's finally published and delivered, people say, "Hopefully I'll find enough time to read it one day but my life's pretty hectic at the moment. The blurb sounds interesting. Good on you for giving it a go."

They might go so far as to tell others, "My friend here writes novels," but when we ask down the track, "Have you read any yet?" they pull sheepish faces and say, "The last one you gave me is still in the pile on my shelf."

Unlike the artist or musician, we can't just present our work in front of peoples' eyes or ears. A little effort is required from their end too. They need to choose to set aside a block of time to actually open up our books and read them. A good two thirds of well-wishers may find this difficult to do. This is the problem which makes authors unique from other creative types.

Apart from the tremendous achievement of writing our books, we need to come up with catchy one-liners to convince people that they may like to read our work. And sometimes we find ourselves thanking friends or acquaintances profusely when they've done us the favor of reading our books and giving us feedback, forgetting that we've also done them a favor, by providing them a heart-touching, potentially life-changing story to whisk them away from their mundane duties for awhile.

How do we handle the frustration of this aspect of our work? By frequently reminding ourselves to focus on the larger picture. We need to zoom out our vision to consider places and hearts our books may have penetrated which we have no idea about. Sometimes God gives us a glimpse, like a wink from heaven. My niece saw somebody reading my novel, "Best Forgotten" in the lunch room at work. They told her they'd bought it from a Christian bookshop and it was a really great story.

We think of the future and how the work we do is still making fresh impact on others years after we've finished a project. I love receiving the occasional email telling me how an older book such as, "A Design of Gold" or "The Risky Way Home" or one my fantasy adventures has impacted somebody's heart as they've related to a character they've found similar. I love to know that the work my novels were designed to do is still taking place, and may be fifty, eighty, even one hundred years down the track.

Let's not focus on short term lack of feedback, as if this is all our work is designed for. We won't ever know the full impact it has made, or even the impact it may be having now, until we get to heaven.

Paula Vince is a homeschooling mother and award winning fiction author who lives in South Australia's beautiful Adelaide Hills with her husband and three children. She likes to work at her computer with the sound of the washing machine and dishwasher in the background, as it gives her the illusion she is multi-tasking.


  1. You are soooo right! It's even more frustrating when it's your best friend and they couldn't take the time to read your book. The whole, 'oh I have so many books to get through'. Stinkers. But it is always lovely to get an encouragement from far far away by someone you don't even know. Let us definitely remember why we write - because God wills it...

  2. That's so true. I just had lunch with a friend today. She's an architect and told me about her latest project: I drove past it on the way home. She's right, it's lovely. I told her about my latest book and suggested she might like to read it - her eyes glazed over. She said she might come to my next play though - at least there'll be free drinks!

  3. And even the ones who do read it and like it don't think of telling anyone else how much they enjoyed it or posting a review on Amazon unless they are also writers. But on how precious it is when a stranger tells you your book made a difference. It takes a lot of faith to be a writer.

  4. Paula, great post! I appreciate the people in my life who are supportive of my writing, and I'm growing a thicker skin to deal with the others... Thanks for your honest and encouraging post :)

  5. I think it is amazing how at the right time , just when we need it God encourages us in a way that speaks so personally to our hearts.
    Jennifer Ann

  6. Thanks ladies,
    I knew fellow authors would know what I'm talking about :)

  7. So true! Thanks for sharing this encouraging post. As a side note, I really like your bio bit on multi-tasking. :) Blessings to you.

  8. Again, I so agree, Paula. I've been amazed since I started publishing how many of my friends and acquaintences tell me they don't really read much. I can't imagine a life without a constant book by my bedside. And then there's the ones who say they only read non-fiction, or magasine's or a certain kind of fiction. They might still be very encouraging and say 'well done' or 'good on you, you're so clever', but there's nothing like the wonderful people in our lives who wait for our next novel and then read it quickly and ring to tell us they've thoroughly enjoyed it. Better still are those who find a place to give us a review or tell others they must get our book. These are our angels and I thank God for them. They really give us the motivation to keep going.

  9. I'm with Carol. I can't imagine not having a pile of books to read nearby and yes, those ones who do read and buy and talk about or review our books are such an encouragement. Makes up a little for those who don't realise the work that goes on and the fact of putting yourself out there. Thanks for the post Paula.