writer, podcaster, paddleboarder

Is Anything Any Good?

Well if I’ve learned one thing over the past couple of days, it’s that people’s opinions can really vary! It’s been fascinating watching comments and votes come in for Hollywoodland‘s cover, particularly how the favourite in one round dropped heavily in the next. I personally love all those that I shortlisted, so at this stage it really comes down to how it comes across to potential readers.

One interesting thing that’s emerged very definitely is that men – on the whole – prefer the version without a woman on the front. Not exclusively, but as a trend. Which is slightly odd, as I’m pretty confident I’ve read plenty of books with men on the cover, and I know I have definitely read a lot of books with men as the protagonist.

This isn’t a rant about how it’s considered a good thing for girls to like ‘boy stuff’ but not vice versa (let’s face it, I will post that rant someday, but not today 😉 )

Instead, it’s got me thinking about who this book is for. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this of course, but it’s all become a bit real this week as it stops being abstract and I start making choices that *could* risk alienating potential readers if I get it wrong. But then that’s the thing: is my story going to appeal to the kind of dude who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a book with a woman on the cover?

Probably not.

So I can’t worry too much about him.

At the same time though, it’s not chick lit (nothing against chick lit – though I don’t love the term, I read it by the barrow-load). There is some friendship and romance, but there’s just as much murder and ambition and wheeling and dealing (I mean you knew that, it’s me for heaven’s sake!). I’ve been talking about Downton Abbey meets Entourage, but I realised today that The Great Gatsby meets Entourage is way closer.

The other thing that this week has thrown up for me anew, is just how subjective all of this is. What appeals to one person is exactly what puts another off — and vice versa! There’s no way to please everyone.

I got to thinking about this some more last night when I went along to another meeting of the Glasgow Writers’ Group. After the feedback session, I got chatting to a wee guy who is brand new to writing, who’d been a bit taken aback by some of the tougher critiques. I was trying to explain how critiques on early drafts are both supportive and necessary, and don’t necessarily mean that the reader hated it. In fact, sometimes I’m hardest on stuff I love because I want it to reach its full potential.

But also, even if somebody does hate your work doesn’t mean that it’s bad, or that somebody else might not love it. Of course the reverse can also be true – hello 50 Shades of Grey!! 😂

When I first started, I remember desperately searching for some kind of objective verdict on whether or not I was any good. For a long time, I was sure that if I ever got paid, I’d know I was “good” – but then the first thing I got paid for, I didn’t actually think was that good!

Gradually I realised that while yeah, there is maybe a kind of basic standard that marks someone out as a writer – the vast majority of which is craft which can be taught to anyone willing to learn – when it comes to whether or not you’re any “good” you’ll never know. In fact, you’re not supposed to know. You’re supposed to learn that it doesn’t matter.

Am I chatting total nonsense? Tell me what you think!

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