Greetings from Melbourne.
I’m secretly quite pleased to be twelve thousand miles from home. Book proofs went out last week.
Aside from finishing the first draft, sending out proofs has to be the most nerve-wracking moment of book writing. Most writers are hysterically attuned to faint praise, to silence, to equivocation, to the absence of genuine enthusiasm.
Which means that if you want to tell someone you don’t like his/her book, there’s no need to spell it out. Any of the following will do:
- What an amazing effort!
- I don’t know where you get your ideas!
- You have such an unusual voice!
- I love the beginning!
- You’re so lucky to be a writer!
Any writer with half a brain and the requisite overabundance of paranoia knows that none of this is positive feedback. In addition, I, personally, am suspicious of positive feedback from any member of my publishing team, including editor, agent and PR. My ‘usual’ fans (people who seem peculiarly supportive of my writing as a matter of policy) fail to reassure, no matter how enthusiastic their praise. ‘Of course they like it,’ I think. ‘They’re terribly loyal.’
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned my family. That’s because my 13-year-old makes a policy of not reading my books; my husband (the most supportive of readers in early drafts) becomes pathologically negative as we inch towards a final book, and my mother (despite the fact that mothers are traditionally considered reliable fans) does not hesitate to tell me which books have the wrong title and definitely will not sell.
The portents, however, don’t seem too bad. Although the reporting sample is still small, it appears to be enthusiastic. My child read it without the threat of economic sanctions. Spontaneous appreciation has come in from a freelance proofreader. A literary critic with excellent taste texted applause.
OK. It’s a start.
Back in the dark ages when I worked in advertising, a wise guy I worked with used to say “it ain’t funny till everyone laughs.”
I’m a long way from home, and now waiting patiently for the laughs.