Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reviews, Sex and Writing

There’s a debate that seems to lurk around writers, about whether they write for themselves or for their readers. I suspect there’s a balance in between, but boy, some of us come down hard on one side or the other.

I’m not a huge fan of reviews, unless I can learn from them. Regardless of whether or not I’m interested in--or will ever pick up--the book, at least I’ve learned something. Walter Kirn of the NY Times has outdone himself this time, comparing sex and writing.

All novels end, but not all novels climax. That’s fine. Here’s to subtlety and uncertainty. But there is another type of ending that delivers pure humiliation by letting the author climax but not the reader. That’s partly because such endings are predictable but mostly because the foreplay leading up to them is so prolonged, insensitive and strenuous that most readers will feel too drained to spasm by the time the writer needs them to.

Or maybe I just like comparing art and sex. Spent a good part of my time in conservatory comparing music and sex, LOL.

I’ll have to take a gander at the book, but Kirn’s point is definitely something to keep in mind while writing. And there’s another check on the "for the reader" side of the debate.

What do you think? And which side of the debate do you come down on?

8 bonus scribbles:

Erica Orloff 9/09/2007 12:07:00 PM  

Hmmm . . . I think they're impossible to separate. I write for me--in other words, I write something I am passionate about and characters I adore--but I am mindful that it will be read and I can't ramble on or not deliver. However, my internal editor has been honed over twenty years or whatever, so I don't know that I ever THINK about that process. It just happens.

spyscribbler 9/09/2007 12:41:00 PM  

Oh, Erica, I believe that's so important! I've always felt that we need to learn something so that we can think about it, then so we don't have to think about it, then (again) so we can think about it, and then so it just unthinkingly happens, while we're free to focus our energies on the emotional artistry.

Edie 9/09/2007 01:49:00 PM  

I write for both. If I did this just for the reader, I would have given up by now. But I'm also do things like showing instead of telling, and making the words compelling so people will read on.

spyscribbler 9/09/2007 02:19:00 PM  

That sounds like a logical and balanced motivation, Edie! Why shouldn't you enjoy your labor as much as your readers?

Jennifer McK 9/10/2007 06:00:00 AM  

As a reader and an author, I come down plunk in the middle.
As a reader, I don't like being messed with. Don't write a series, get me attached to characters and then kill them off. Don't create elaborate world building that I fall in love with and then drag me into some OTHER world building I never liked. *cough cough* Terry Brooks *cough cough*
As an author, I can force myself to write another book in a series but it would be forced and shallow. I wonder if rock groups feel this way? Like when some really drunk person yells at Led Zepplin "Play "Stairway to Heaven" man!!!"

Bernita 9/10/2007 07:37:00 AM  

Now me, as a reader, I like the sensation to go on and on...
As a writer I want the reader to have satisfaction - but want more. No one-night stands.

spyscribbler 9/10/2007 11:47:00 AM  

Jennifer, I remember Rachmaninov referred to his most popular piece as "it" with disgust. It was one of the first pieces he composed for piano, and yet he was forced to play it at nearly every concert for the rest of his life. He hated it! The middle sounds like a good place to be.

Bernita, I like your analogy! No one-night stands. I like that! I do prefer series, lately.

StarvingWriteNow 9/10/2007 01:55:00 PM  

I think either he's been reading too many... or not enough!!