A site for readers and writers

My little brain devil

brain devilI wonder if there’s a novelist out there somewhere who doesn’t occasionally (or more than occasionally) suffer for their craft?

It’s so easy being a reader. You just read. Of course, if you have the energy, you can do a bit of thinking too, have a bash at guessing the denouement, working out ‘who dunnit’, or appreciating the writer’s subtle humour.

But what about literary critics, you may ask. Surely they do more than that? And yes, of course they do. Critics and reviewers not only read, they assess, analyse, compare and ultimately judge. Their challenge is in understanding that different readers have different tastes. There is no point judging a Harlequin romance, for example, by the standard of the Man Booker Prize. Likewise most romance lovers would take a pretty dim view if they bought what they thought was going to be bodice-ripping tear-jerker and found they were reading Wolf Hall.

The best critics know that it is not about value judgements, it’s about readers. If the target readership of a particular genre is satisfied, then, whatever the reviewer might privately think of the content, style or choice of language, the book must be considered a success.

But even standing back, trying to be impartial and writing a useful review is pretty easy work compared with writing a novel.

A reader only sees what is written on the page. Nobody (except perhaps the writer’s close friends, partner or children) can possibly know what has gone on before those words get there. All the painful decisions the writer has had to make – about concept, theme, structure, character, point of view, setting, period, time scale, humour, length. Let alone which actual words to use.

Even a top notch reviewer can’t know what the writer has been through over the preceding months, possibly years. Most of the writers I know possess some kind of internal demon, a nasty (often nocturnal) character who delights in questioning those stylistic and structural decisions, and who enjoys nothing more than pointing out the flaws in yesterday’s plot twist, or casting doubt over tomorrow’s planned character development.

So why do we put ourselves through it? Fame? Fortune? Possibly. For me, the pain and the struggle and the constant niggle of worry is mostly outweighed by the pleasure that comes from exactly the same thing that a good reviewer will judge – the feeling that I have succeeded in writing what I set out to write, and have therefore satisfied myself, and hopefully my target readers.

Yes, I love getting emails, Tweets and Facebook messages from my fans. Who wouldn’t? The only slight problem is that as well as letting me know that they have enjoyed my latest novel, they inevitably start pleading for the sequel. And that means more research, more planning, more decisions, and my little brain devil immediately starts rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of another year of sleepless nights.

Helen Carey’s next novel, LONDON CALLING, will be published by Headline Books  in February 2016

Single Post Navigation

9 thoughts on “My little brain devil

  1. Pingback: St Helena and other news – an update from Helen Carey (and an outstanding opportunity) | themarcistagenda

  2. June R Mordey on said:

    Hi Helen I so admire your honesty in your blogs,I think most folk cannot know what it takes to write a book/books, its a gigantic commitment of time and isolation to a point,not something you can do if/when you are in the mood.However you have the talent,and strength to always finish the task,and when its finished the joy of accomplishment and the pleasure your book will give to those who wait patiently,/impatiently to read it.
    So tell that little Devil to do his best but remind him he has always failed before,and he wont succeed this time.
    M J.

  3. yvonne carter on said:

    Just think Helen, how much pleasure you give to all your readers though!

  4. Janet Bridger on said:

    Do you agree we have to go through the worst personal pain to capture the emotion to its truest form and sore to the heights of euphoria to know how to build a climax in our work?
    I often go through emotional turmoil normally about my next chapter or trying to save the world’s troubles as I lay in bed at three o’clock in the morning. I cry in the quietness or am so excited I have to make notes in my journal. Life is rich with diversity.
    Grateful though, that I am able to dedicate most of my working day to writing. I feel sorry for those authors, who suffer the their little brain devil’s visits-before having to face the pressure of getting the children ready for school and then having to go to work in a forced working environment themselves. I love my life through my writing. JB

  5. This is great

  6. Love hearing from readers but oh the requests f0r a quick sequel! I enjoyed the leisurely writing of a first book but now feel like I’m in a marathon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: