They don’t mean to do it. They don’t even know that they’re doing it. They will deny they did it when confronted.
I’m talking about readers who frustrate the hell out of writers with nit-picks, corrections and ‘helpful’ suggestions on how the plot of the next book should go. Now, make no mistake, I am not implying that reader feedback is a bad thing by any means. It is a fact that we writers crave it and will go out of our way to solicit thoughtful (hopefully positive) critique of our body of work.
What we do not covet are demands to change the plot, change the character’s name or motive, change the period, venue or title.
We know you readers are a demanding bunch, and we always steer with one eye toward the horizon of public acceptance. But the fact of the matter is that you are just passengers on this ship and we, the writers, are the captain, crew and harbor masters.
So, here is how not to frustrate a writer:
Be willing to suspend your belief.
- Just because you have a degree in the history of the invention of the match and candle wick, and you know that they were not widely used until March of 1607, yet the character is shown striking a match in February of that year, is no reason to stop reading and write a long and nasty letter to the author for not getting that bit right. The character struck a match. . . move on.
Don’t read a work of fiction for absolute historical accuracy.
- That’s what historians are for. Believe it or not, sometimes fiction writers invent places, and people who do things that never happened. This is why it is called fiction.
Don’t assume it is the author’s responsibility to change a story to be the way you want it to be because you have access to on-line petitions and FaceBook groups demanding you re-write something.
- Generally, the author writes a body of work to please exactly one reader – the author. We writers don’t expect everyone to like everything we write. But chances are if we enjoy the story, a few others will too.
- Take the opportunity to be inspired and write your own story! It may turn out to be a best seller, and we’ll be happy for you.
Don’t send us suggestions for plot points, re-writes, sequels ect. . . unless we ask for them.
- Nothing kills the creative process quicker than trying to force a story into someone else’s shape of how it should go.
Don’t assume we are flattered by your fan fiction based on our work.
- Yes, I acknowledge that fan fiction does exist, and there are many people who think of it as the highest tribute one could pay to their favorite authors. It really isn’t. Most authors do not want their ‘children’ stolen. I do encourage you to take your creativity and write something all your own. For that matter, write all the fan fiction you want, just do not make it public.
Please don’t write a review condemning (or praising for that matter) a book if you have not actually read it.
- This should be a no-brainer, yet I feel compelled to mention it. Hollow praise, and ‘it’s good, you’ll like it’ sort of reviews do not help us grow. Conversely, condemnation of our body of work based solely on the fact you don’t like our politics or religious overtones does little but demonstrate your own biases.
Please don’t ask us to teach you everything we know about writing so you can write like we do.
- It is flattering, but honestly, we learned from reading other people’s works. You can to.
And the most important way to avoid frustrating a writer is to read. READ READ READ their work, comment thoughtfully. If you do not enjoy the work, it is still possible to comment respectfully.