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In the Lion’s Den

Novelists are a sensitive bunch on the whole. So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to face a library book club on a cold, wet Monday afternoon, to hear their comments on my novel The Butterfly Collector. One of the things a writer fears most is criticism. You’ve spent hours labouring over your magnum opus and expect the world to sing its praises. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. But I did learn three valuable things:

  1. The customer is always right. No matter how convincing your argument in favour of your plot/characters etc, your reader’s summing-up is final. Always be gracious in hearing these views and don’t take any criticism personally.
  2. Listen and learn. Your readers can help you improve as a writer. Make notes of any flaws that may have been highlighted and attempt to improve upon them in your next novel.
  3. Enjoy the experience. Whatever the outcome, you’ve written a book that’s been read and reviewed by a bunch of people! Use the event as publicity and practise your communication skills for the next time.

The relationship between writer and reader is, at best, amorphous. When we do meet in person there is a natural curiosity on either side and a desire to ask questions. But, perhaps, the onus is on the writer to be the ideal host, to learn as much as he can about the likes and dislikes of his target audience and, most importantly, to keep writing.

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