At Beth’s Bookstore, I slipped a paperback from the shelf. I read the first line. That’s how I chose a book: the first line, then the first paragraph. Sometimes if I’m unsure, I continue further down the page. Then I either buy the book or I put it back.
I’ve been burned using this method—occasionally, a book doesn’t live up to the opening—but not often. This time, “The Revolution of Little Girls,” by Blanche Mccrary Boyd, proved to be a very funny, poignant read.
After I finished reading, I went on-line to learn more about the author and the book. Because the book was published in 1991—pre-on-line dominance—the Amazon reviews were sparse. Of the 9, 3 were negative. On Goodreads, the majority were 3 or below. The novel received enthusiastic reviews when it was released; it won awards. Many on-line commenters, however, did not like its “Southernism,” its structure (“jumps around too much”), its resolution. To me, the major flaw of the novel occurred about 2/3s of the way through, when it actually became too linear, after the author had taught us to expect discreet, non-linear chapters. Still, I thought it wonderful, as so many did not.
I am so glad I had this experience. As a woman on the verge of hiring an editor to get my Southern novel into the marketplace, I needed to see the negative reviews of a novel I thought was hilarious. Earlier, in the course of evaluating potential editors, I’d looked at Amazon reviews on work they’d edited. One author in particular had screechingly negative reviews. I thought that relevant. Now I’m not so sure.
More importantly, this experience has made me comfortable with something I knew intellectually but now embrace: some will like my novel, many will not.
The main thing, therefore, is for ME to like it.
So, in choosing an editor, the determinative question is, which one will help me create a novel I love more than Christmas? Which editor can take this work—which many will not care for—and make it the best the work can be? If I accomplish that, wedging my work into the cadre of writers whom I love, appealing to the readers who like what I like, then I will have been successful.
here’s to creative synthesis . . .