The Power of Reader Reviews

As a writer, you realize pretty quickly that not everyone is going to like your stories or your prose.  And when I say quickly, I mean in a nanosecond.  I have plenty of friends that responded to my debut, “Yeah, I’m not into thrillers.  I don’t read spy stuff.”  Fair.  I don’t venture much into Sci Fi or Fantasy, so who am I to judge?

So you learn to pay attention to your tribe.  As a new writer, you pay almost ALL your attention to FINDING your tribe.

In the few short weeks that the novel has been out, I’d say about 75% have commented on the gun rights issue in their reviews of A Spy Came Home.  This affirms that I’m on to a hot button issue that should be more fully explored in fiction – on both sides. (NRA, that’s called a double dog dare.)

But this week a new review literally inspired me.  First, the reader added an editorial about gun rights, with which I whole heartedly agree.  Second, he understood the novel’s intent when he wrote that the ‘only way this story could have been better is if it was based on real events.’  Can I get a WHOOP WHOOP?  From your mouth via Amazon to fate’s ears, my friend.

Finally – perhaps unknowingly, perhaps fully intentionally –  he buttressed my still tender, new writer’s bravado by suggesting that the protagonist’s “flaws make her interesting and human.”  Oh how many hours do writers spend trying to make their characters interesting and human?

I.  Appreciate.  Every.  Single.  Reader.

Maybe someday I’ll get old and jaded and not care about the audience.

But until then, reader reviews have powerful sway over my confidence.  And that’s just the way it should be.  Because why else do we write?


Great News: Feminist Movements Lower Violence

There’s a very solid Op Ed in the NY Times today titled To Stop Violence, Start at Home that gives me a nice hit of hope today, despite the horrible winter weather outside.

Two big take aways for me:

1.  Domestic violence is a huge indicator (that’s my non-science speak) for larger scale violence later in life, including mass shootings.

2.  Citing a 2012 study, the authors argue that “the mobilization of strong, independent feminist movements was a more important force in reducing violence” than any number of alternatives.  And they’re talking globally.

I know something about political and social science studies: this seems like a compelling finding.  More importantly, I know this *feels* right.

Domestic violence is about impotence and rage being turned on the vulnerable and less powerful.  Feminism is about empowering the vulnerable and changing power dynamics.  What this study says is we can address the first through the second.  That’s a blueprint, my peeps.  And that’s great news.