How Do You React When Strangers Read Your Work?

by Jami Gold on August 4, 2011

in Writing Stuff

Silhouette of person in front of window

I have a strange confession for you all: It freaks me out when strangers read my work.

I’m not talking about how I’m surprised that any of you read my blog.  I mean, I am still surprised by that, but we talk on Twitter, we comment on each other’s blogs, we Google Friend Connect each other, and I feel a sense of connection to most of you.

No, I’m talking about real strangers.  People I know nothing about.  Questions like “How did they find me?” enter my thoughts, making me sound a tad paranoid.

When I’m published, I’ll have lots of strangers reading my work (assuming I’m successful at all).  Heck, I’ll need strangers to do so if I want to sell loads of books. Published authors talk about how it’s odd when they see a stranger reading their book in the wild, so I don’t think I’m completely crazy to feel this way.  *smile*

Two recent events triggered this thought.  One, my posts analyzing the plot and characters of the Green Lantern movie went viral this week among the comic book crowd.  I had as much traffic yesterday as I usually do over a full week.

At first I considered it an interesting quirk to my site statistics, but then it dawned on me that those visitors had no idea who I was.  How bizarre of an impression would someone have of me if they read only those posts?  Concerned, I double checked that those posts didn’t out me as a serial killer or anything.  (Rational, my brain is not.  *shrug*)

The second event prompting this worry happened when a good online friend volunteered to beta read my latest work-in-progress (WIP) once it’s complete.  Great!  Except this beta reader is male, and my latest WIP is paranormal romance rather than urban fantasy.  In other words, it’s a kissing book.  *snicker*  When I remembered some of the more, um, explicit scenes in the story, I wondered if I would die of embarrassment if he read them.

Many romance authors struggle with this “what will my mother think?” issue.  Forget that.  I’m more likely to worry about “what will my dad think?” when it comes to my romance-heavy stories.  He reads thrillers and history books, and has no basis for what’s normal in romances.

Writers have an interesting dilemma.  We get so comfortable in our secure world of online friends and fellow writers that we almost imagine them in front of us as we tell our stories in our blog posts and books.  That technique can help us find our genuine voice, the one we use in real life as we talk to our friends.

But that mode can also throw us for a loop when strangers read our work.  If we have a preconceived idea of who our readers are, when someone outside our target audience finds us, we wonder if our message will still resonate with them.  We might even worry that we were too comfortable in sharing information.

So we walk a tightrope.  We can’t think about those non-target-market readers while we’re writing.  If we do, we risk strangling our voice.  Yet to break out, our work must have the potential to appeal beyond our intended readers.  How do we balance that?

All I know is, no matter what, I cannot think of my dad while I’m writing.

How do you react when strangers read your work (blog posts/books/whatever)?  Do you imagine yourself telling a story to someone while you write?  Do you ever worry what your readers will think about you because of your work?  Have you ever had problems with your voice because of that concern?  What unusual readers have you had that surprised you?

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90 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Ava Jae August 4, 2011 at 6:06 am

I used to feel this way every time I got a new follower on Twitter. I know it’s not quite the same thing, but I’d look at them and wonder how they found me (especially so when they weren’t following any of my current followers).

As for strangers reading my work…it hasn’t happened yet, but the thought makes me nervous, so you’re not alone. I’m a perfectionist, so I mostly worry that people will read it and find a million and two errors or weak plot points or think it’s ridiculous or something horrible like that (GAH! Insecurities!). It’s a big part of the reason I hesitate to jump into self-publishing. What if what I put out there isn’t good enough? It’s a question many of us face, I think. Or maybe not. I don’t know.

Anyway, regardless I don’t think about it at all when I’m writing. It becomes more of a focus while I’m editing. But before then, I ignore the possibility.

So don’t worry! You’re definitely not alone (or insane, as I see you’ve tagged this post). At the very least there’s me. :)

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:25 am

Hi Ava,

Yes, when I first started Twitter, I wondered the same thing (“Who are you and why are you following me?”). :) I think this is probably a normal reaction to a new experience, and the novelty eventually wears off just in time for some new aspect to freak us out. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Karen Tavares August 5, 2011 at 5:13 am

First, I just want to say what a cool name Ava Jae is and second I totally agree with you. Every new Twitter follower makes me nervous. Will I bore them? Will I wake up one day and have only my sister following me. It is a scary thing. As for writing, my manuscript is with my beta readers and I am scared to death. I think it is a very normal reaction although I am not sure it will ever go away lol Happy writing Ava and Jami!

@karenvtavares

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 8:12 am

Hi Karen,

Trust me, if you ever wake up to have only your sister following you, it means only that you were hit with the Twitter unfollow bug. :) (For those not on Twitter, this is a bug that randomly makes you unfollow people, or has other people unfollow you – it’s very annoying. I’ve purposely unfollowed a whole TWO people during my year and a half on Twitter, and they weren’t any of you. But I’ve caught Twitter unhelpfully unfollowing about a dozen people for me. *grr*) Good luck with your beta readers and thanks for the comment!

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Dean K Miller August 4, 2011 at 6:54 am

There are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met yet.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:27 am

Hi Dean,

Absolutely! :) And many of the comic book readers have been leaving nice comments on those posts, so apparently they did find the post relatable. Yay! :) Thanks for the comment!

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Michelle Mason August 4, 2011 at 6:57 am

I think I’m more concerned about people I know reading my work because then whether they like it or not might affect how they view me. That’s one reason I could never write romance. I love to read it, but the most I’m going to write is a pretty chaste scene. Of course, I’m writing middle grade so that works.

As for strangers reading it, I’m sure I’ll think about that more when I get closer to being published. I used to be afraid to let anyone read my work, but when I started taking it seriously, I felt excited and challenged when critique partners or industry professionals gave me feedback. After all, the whole point is for strangers to read it, right?

Great post!

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:35 am

Hi Michelle,

LOL! Great, now I have something new to be paranoid about. (Just kidding. :) I was already there.)

And when I first started writing, I thought I’d never write a hot scene either. My characters had other ideas. ;) Thanks for the comment!

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Raelyn Barclay August 4, 2011 at 8:07 am

Your posts are always thought provoking :)

Like Dean said, “There are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met yet.” I enjoy meeting new people on Twitter, FB, and my blog. I think I’ll get a thrill seeing someone reading something of mine “in the wild.”

I’m a perfectionist and want to put out the best work I can. So I’m plagued with, “What if what I put out there isn’t good enough?” Strangers haven’t read my work yet and I’m a little nervous just getting closer to putting it out to critique partners, who I hope won’t be complete strangers :)

I have to say worrying about my mother or father reading my work hasn’t occurred to me, perhaps because we talk about everything. It would have been a different story ten years ago though.

Excellent post Jami!

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:38 am

Hi Raelyn,

Exactly! We might feel nervous when we send work off to critiquers or beta readers, but we know that they’ll understand if they find mistakes – that’s what they’re for. :) But once our work is released into the wild, people will judge us for what’s there, not for what it could become. Thanks for the comment!

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Sarah Pearson August 4, 2011 at 8:24 am

The only way I can write is by imagining that nobody will ever read my work. Of course, nobody has yet, but you get the idea :)

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hi Sarah,

LOL! Yes, I understand that. Luckily, I have a very supportive family who wants to read my work, so they eased the way to critique partners and beta readers for me. Thanks for the comment!

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Cherie August 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

I am actually more worried about people who knew me reading my work as opposed to strangers reading it. The opinions of strangers don’t hold much weight with me; after all, if they hated it, they don’t know me as me-the-person-behind-the-writing. It’s nothing personal. And I can live with that since we all know we can’t please everyone.

But. The notion of my immediate family and friends reading my work and realizing for the first time that they didn’t know me very well after all (I like to write fantasy with a dark bent). I worry that they would start thinking, “Who is this person? I thought I knew her.” It’s psycho, I know. But their opinions hold more weight because I have a relationship with them. If that makes sense. :)

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:42 am

Hi Cherie,

Yes, my parents were rather surprised to read my dark urban fantasy and see all the stuff going on in my brain. My dad looked at me like I’d grown two heads. :) But both my immediate family and my parents have been very supportive, so that helps. Thanks for the comment!

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Amber August 4, 2011 at 8:38 am

I am far less scared of strangers than people I know. I can handle the idea of some random judging me based on some words they read.

People who know me (or think they know me) reading my work makes me a little queasy.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

Hi Amber,

I guess I’m backwards. I’ve always been a black sheep, so I dismiss the opinions of those who “think they know me.” :) On the other hand, I haven’t told most of my extended family (aunts/uncles, cousins) anything about my writing, so maybe I’m just in denial. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Diane Henders August 4, 2011 at 8:47 am

I’m not the least concerned about strangers reading my work. But I start to get squirmy when I think about my business colleagues reading it.

I’ve had my own business for 8 years, and I’ve developed a lot of business contacts. None of them have ever heard me say anything worse than “crap”. My books are, um, unrestrained. Not quite sure how they’ll react to the ripe language and sex.

I think I’ll include a warning label when I mention my books to them.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:51 am

Hi Diane,

Ooo, yes, that I understand. I don’t speak about my writing to my real life acquaintances, so I’m hoping they’ll never ask to read it. :) Color me pathetic. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Paul Anthony Shortt August 4, 2011 at 8:55 am

I have no idea how I’ll react to strangers reading my book. I get nervous whenever anyone reads my work for the first time. As times goes on and they see what my style is like, I get more comfortable, but that edge of insecurity and excitement never leaves.

And like you, I can’t think about my parents when writing. It just doesn’t happen!

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:58 am

Hi Paul,

I’m sure I’ll get used to it. It’s just that this was the first time I was inundated with so many strangers at my blog, and it threw me for a loop. :)

In general, I’m fine with critiques and rejections, and I was even fine when I got my first blog troll comment earlier this morning. So I don’t actually know what I’m worried about, it’s more the novelty than anything, I think. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Lisa Gail Green August 4, 2011 at 9:11 am

Umm, it’s NERVE WRACKING for sure. But also exciting! I always wonder what people I do know think of me when they read my stuff. Like ‘wow that was in her head?’ LOL. But it’s part of the deal, so I guess that’s it!

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hi Lisa,

As I have a tag called “Jami is insane,” I don’t worry about people’s shock at seeing how weird my writing can be. :) I guess I should figure out what I am worried about, huh? LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Kristin Nador August 4, 2011 at 10:43 am

I think I’ll always be a bit nervous when I think of others reading my work, whether they are strangers or friends and family. Every time I share something I’ve written, I feel a little bit stronger, because even though I know I have something I want to speak and share with the world, my natural inclination is withdrawal.

I am curing myself of this strange duality by sharing short stories in critique groups. Not too long ago, I wrote a short story and shared it with the group, prefacing it that it was supposed to be ‘a funny little story’. It was a story about trying to save a wounded duckling. A woman piped up and said, “Excuse me, but I don’t find this humorous, in fact, I find this offensive.”I bit my tongue, took the criticism and lived through it. I know that even though it may feel uncomfortable to put your stuff out there, if you want to be a writer, that’s what you have to be willing to do.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

Hi Kristin,

Exactly! If we want readers, we have to…well, let people read it. :)

Sorry the woman in your group was so harsh. *hugs* I’m glad you feel stronger each time you live through it. And honestly, that’s what a lot of this comes down to – it freaks us out the first time, but we realize it didn’t kill us, so we learn and move on. :) Thanks for the comment!

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David Dean August 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

Hey Jaime. I was the one that actually posted your Green Lantern blog on reddit.com yesterday. Here’s the link: http://www.reddit.com/r/comicbooks/comments/j73cj/the_green_lantern_movie_how_not_to_plot_a_story/

It was also pretty fresh since the sequel was announced yesterday.

It’s a clunky title, but you have to do that to get their attention sometimes. The subreddit gets 5000-10000 hits a day.

Honestly, I don’t know how I found you. I put you in my RSS feed because I like what I saw. I may have just googled tips on writing or something.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

Hi David,

Yay! You rock, seriously. Thank you so much for posting it on reddit!

I hope you didn’t take today’s post as a complaint at all. Sometimes being freaked out is good. :) And see? Now we aren’t strangers anymore. :) Thanks for the comment and letting me know!

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Roxanne Skelly August 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I suspect I’ve developed a pretty thick skin. My mom’s a pshrink, and has a tendency to psychoanalyze when she shouldn’t. Were I to worry about what she thought about my every decision and thought, I’d go crazy.

Still, I’ve not yet put my writing out in front of random strangers.
The first person to read it was my partner, of course. The second set of people, a collection of successful urban fantasy/fantasy authors.

Needless to say, I was nervous. But I survived, so I’m pretty confident I’ll survive when I get my stuff out in front of the general public, and I will, dammit.

Oh, and getting up on stage and bellydancing in front of random folk has also thickened my skin.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Hi Roxanne,

*sputter* Yes, bellydancing in front of strangers would grow that thick skin. Yikes! :) I’m sure you’ll be fine with your writing.

I have the tendency to freak out and then say, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad. What was I worried about?” Nothing so far has really bothered me, so I figure I’ll be fine too. Thanks for the comment!

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Brooke Johnson August 4, 2011 at 1:31 pm

It bothered me once upon a time, but I got over it. Most of that was “what if they steal my ideas!?” but I soon realized that was just stupid.

In fact, I just shared my first five pages and my query/pitch for my wip over on my blog, as well as in the WriteOnCon forums. It really just doesn’t bother me anymore. Truthfully, I think it’s cool that people I don’t know have an interest in what I have to say or in my writing. I’m not shouting to the wind. ;)

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Hi Brooke,

You’re not the only one I’ve heard that concern from. Unfortunately, with blog and book pirates, if we let this worry get to us, we’d never put anything out there. *sigh* And it is cool that others are listening to us, isn’t it? :) Thanks for the comment!

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Lani Wendt Young August 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I am Samoan and in our culture, no one is an individual.(well not really anyway.) We are representatives/pieces of a whole that includes: our parents, siblings, extended family, village…and the families and villages of our parents…and so on. This can have a paralyzing effect on my writing IF I LET IT. I can get caught up in freaking out abt how my work will make my parents look, my family etc and end up not writing anything at all. I was stuck in that quagmire for a long time. BLogging has really helped to shake me loose. And whn my first book was published a year ago, I couldnt bear to look strangers in the eye, in case they hated my book and also hated me as a result. Now, Im reconciled that – I will never please everyone with my writing. (esp not everyone in my family. Heck, my father had 23 siblings so i have a VERY large extended family.) Whats important is that I love what im doing. And hopefully, there will b readers out there who love it too.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Hi Lani,

Oh how interesting! And yes, I can see that cultural norm making it very difficult to take risks. I’m happy that you’ve found a comfortable place to do what you love. :) Thank you so much for sharing and commenting!

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Tamara LeBlanc August 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

My mom reads all of my stuff even before publication, so that’s a given. And I’m not too worried about her reading my sex scenes. My dad though…yikes, I was really nervous. I had initially told him not to read my book. But he’s a big reader (not romance mind u but everything else he can get his hands on) and he insisted that he was going to read his eldest daughter’s first publication. And that’s exactly what he did.
And he loved it! So it really wasn’t so bad. Granted, I wasn’t there with him while he flipped through the love scene (thank GOD for that) but it wasn’t so weird. And I’m proud of the story so it’s all good.
I’ve also had the complete stranger thing happen too. I was in a church waiting for my daughter’s choir to sing, got there early and barely anyone was sitting in the pews, and low and behold, the woman sitting infront of me had a Nook and was reading my book…MY BOOK!! It was amazing. And she said she was almost finished and loved it. Plus, she asked when my next was coming out, so it was doubly cool. (forgive me if I already told you this story…I just can’t help re-telling it. It makes me sooo happy:)
I’m so thrilled to hear you had so much traffic on your blog, Jami. That just goes to show ya that you’ve got some great things to say and people wanna listen!
May loads more traffic filter your way, and have a great afternoon!
Tamara

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Hi Tamara,

*whew* I’m glad it wasn’t a big deal with your dad. :) And I’m sure it won’t be an issue with my dad either. This is probably one of those things that the worrying is worse than reality. But I still don’t want to think about it while I’m writing. LOL!

Oh! And thanks for sharing the story about the stranger who was reading your story on her Nook. That is SO cool! *hugs* Thanks for the comment!

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Melinda Collins August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I’m the opposite of this. I worry more about what my husband, mother, father…GRANDMOTHER will think when/if they read my writing. LOL I can handle a stranger reading my work, but I do still have those questions running through my head about ‘How did they find me?’ or ‘Since they don’t know me, will it hit home for them like it did for me and my best friend?’.

There’s definitely a fine line there when we’re writing. We can’t think about who’s going to read it and what they’re going to think. When I’m writing the first draft of a new story, I always keep telling myself that it’s for my eyes *only*. That way, I’m keeping my husband, family and friends out of my brain so I can pull the best work and voice possible out of myself during that critical creation process.

Another great post, Jami!!! :o)

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Hi Melinda,

I get that worry too. Not so much about my immediate family because their support is awesome, but when we start talking about extended family (or my dad)…well, that’s a different story. Maybe I just worry about everything. LOL! Note to self: Stop worrying! :) Thanks for the comment!

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David August 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I know how that feels. Mainly I feel really nervous in the sense of “is it good enough?” I’m hypercritical of my work and am always second-guessing myself. It’s an ongoing struggle while I write. So when someone completely new, who’s never read anything of mine, reads my work…I can feel my heart pounding in my throat.
Also, the “what will my mother think” mindset…well, you’re totally correct. You have to completely abandon all sense of holding yourself back in consideration of a certain audience. I grew up having a strong respect for my parents in that I would never – and still don’t – swear around them (the major ones, of course). But in my writing I try to capture realistic dialog where appropriate, which entails swearing.
If I thought “what would my parents think” every time I were writing, it’d stifle that desire to make characters genuine. Admittedly, I do not get nervous about a first-time reader misinterpreting my work or it not fitting into their preferred genre…more that I’m nervous they won’t think it’s industry-skill-level in quality.
Good post.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hi David,

I hear you about being a perfectionist. I can always find something to improve.

And yes, I swear only a handful of times a year, but in my writing I write what my characters need me to. Some swear, some don’t. Some are mild, some are *cough* fluent. And some have taught me how to swear in a different language. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Kerry Meacham August 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm

LOL – when you DM’ed me, I didn’t know what to think Jami. I’m like, “What the hell did she say?” No worries. I think it’s hilarious that you would get nervous about me reading a “hot” scene. I was embarrassed when you read my work, but that was because I knew it wasn’t anywhere close to publish ready. I don’t get nervous about “what” I write, but I do get nervous about “how” I write it. I’m a grammar goober (opposite of a grammar Nazi), so I know I’m constantly doing thing incorrectly. I am reading the books you recommended on grammar and trying to improve on my craft.

I will make one exception on my nervousness regarding the “what” I write, and that’s if my mother reads something with bad language. She’ll stop flat in a book if it has bad language, so I’m not sure how I’m going to get around that one.

Anyway, no worries on the romance scenes Jami. I’m still your beta buddy. ;-)

Kerry

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Hi Kerry,

LOL! Yes, everyone, Kerry here was the innocent victim in my “uh-oh, what would a male beta reader think?” freak out.

Hmm, you might have give her a “mom-edit” version. You could print out your work with all the language cleaned up and tell her that you wanted her to have an advanced copy. Maybe she’d never see the real version. :) Oh, but then what happens when her friends read the real thing and start talking to her about it? Back to the drawing board… :)

Thanks for the comment and being such a great friend!

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Stacy Green August 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I actually do okay when strangers read my work. I get tied up in knots when members of my family or close friends read it. I waffled for a while about advertising my blog on my FB page because I was afraid of their reaction, but I finally sucked it up and started posting.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Hi Stacy,

I understand. And maybe that’s why the strangers thing hit me so hard – because I don’t tell my extended family about my work. Come to think of it, I haven’t given my parents this blog address either. *whistles innocently* It must have slipped my mind. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Susan Sipal August 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Such an interesting question, Jami. I think I worry more about the people I know reading my work than strangers, and in that sense can sometimes curtail what I’m writing because of that worry.

It IS always interesting to me to see what a stranger thinks, though. And I learn so much about POV from their responses, because someone else will see it so totally different than another or than from me. I’ll put myself into their perspective, see what they mean, and learn a lot about how important POV is. :-)

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Hi Susan,

Oh! I can claim that I didn’t tell my extended family about my writing because I wanted to have a solid voice first. Can’t have them curtailing my writing. :) So… Maybe it was all part of my plan. Yeah, that’s it. *cough*

As far as the POV issue, I learn so much from how my beta readers and critiquers interpret my writing. Not just POV, but also characterization and plot points. I appreciate my betas and critique partners for everything, really. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Murphy August 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Hi Jami!

I write for me and have no problem with anyone reading my stuff. I’m not sure that’s a good thing though, because you do grow-up fast when you put yourself out there.

Murphy

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Hi Murphy,

That’s a good point. The more we put ourselves out there, the thicker skin we need – and hopefully get. :) Thanks for the comment!

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J. M. Dow August 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm

For me, it’s more “what will my grandparents think.” They totally support me, but….ha ha.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Hi J.M.,

That’s one I don’t worry about. I’m probably already out of my grandmother’s will as it is. #BlackSheep :) Good luck with yours and thanks for the comment!

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Darcy Peal August 4, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I know that by the time wy WIP is finally finished it will have been edited, rewritten, reworked etc. so that the final product will indeed be something that many people will enjoy.
I know very well that some people will hate it, others will point out mistakes, and some will call it garbage but since I have done my very best there will be more that like it than don’t.
Yes I have confidence in myself, probably because some of my previous works have been published and I know what to expect–to a small degree anyways.

Let the strangers in!
I Welcome them.

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Hi Darcy,

Woo hoo! *fist bump* Good for you. :)

And yes, even though I’m a perfectionist, I’ve learned that all I can do is my best (otherwise I’d never hit “publish” on a blog post!). So if we’ve done everything we can, and more – by using beta readers and editors – then we know we’ve done our best. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Sonia Lal August 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm

The idea of strangers reading my work is nerve wrecking. I went through that the first time I posted a flash on my blog. I still do everytime, but it is a lot better now. My family – I worry so much about their reaction that none of then even know about the blog. And there is nothing offensive on the blog, where the wip might be (my mc has some serious issues)

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Jami Gold August 4, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Hi Sonia,

I understand. When I entered an online contest a while back, I felt sufficiently “anonymous” because my entry was one of 89 comments. But when I won, my work was on the front page of the blog. Only the fact that I’d won kept me from freaking out about everyone reading it. :) I don’t know how I’d do it without that reassurance. Thanks for the comment!

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Irene Vernardis August 5, 2011 at 1:13 am

So, I’m a stranger huh? Okkkkkkkk. Not going to let you know of my weirdnesses again…:P

Now, about a man reading something we write: I’m very interested in seeing what men think about my writing. I’ve asked male friends of mine to read chapters or stories to have their opinion. Why? Because my rationale is simple: if a man likes it then definitely at least ten women will like it too, for that. No, it’s not a sexist statement. It has to do with nature and brain function which is different between the two sexes.

So, romance genre targets women readers, because generally this genre is liked by women, the same as action is liked by men. It doesn’t mean that men are not or can not be romantic. After all, for each scene the male counterpart is needed, otherwise there is no scene! :D.
But, in general, men are not interested in reading romance. Consequently, if a man likes a romance book, which normally he would not like to read, then it’s a solid confirmation that it is good.

What better to have than confirmation from the opposite side which is already prejudiced against it?

And there is another thing, men think differently than women and vice versa. It’s the balancing way of nature and universe. Both sides are needed to have a whole. So, both opinions are needed for something to tend towards perfection.
:D

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 8:03 am

Hi Irene,

LOL! Nope, you’re a stranger without the second “r.” :) Just kidding, my friend. I adore your weirdness – it’s such a good match for mine. :)

Ooo, I love your rationale, and I agree for another reason: I want a male to double check that my male characters are believable. Men do think differently, and flowery language doesn’t belong in their POV (for the most part). My “alpha” reader is male, and he checks my writing before it goes to anyone else, for this issue as well as a general “sanity check.” But he hasn’t seen any of these *ahem* intense scenes yet either. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Irene Vernardis August 5, 2011 at 11:42 am

“But he hasn’t seen any of these *ahem* intense scenes yet either.” Why? Did it occur to you that when the book is published everyone will be able to read those scenes? :P

Anyway, obviously you are not uncomfortable with those scenes (and you should not be), otherwise you wouldn’t have written them. So, no reason to hide them from others’ eyes :D

Now, that I think of it, I haven’t read any such scene either. Gimme gimme gimme :D

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm

LOL! Ah, but I have a very simple answer for you. No one has seen those scenes yet because the story isn’t done. :)

I don’t like sending work out a chapter at a time as I finish them. I discover themes and need to add subplots as I’m writing, so I don’t have anyone read it until the initial draft is complete. When the time comes, I’ll send it out. :)

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Taurean Watkins April 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Well, not all men are “Alphas.”

That doesn’t mean we (Yes, I include me here) are spineless wimps. We just don’t use what aggression we have to strong arm people, and I mean that figuratively, not just in the literal sense.

It’s no different than women who are tough-minded without being a self-righteous jerk toward all men, and I’m speaking generally, no one here is being outed specifically, okay?

So, try to get feedback from non-alpha males, we do exist, there are more than 5 of us per continent, and we aren’t pushovers, we just don’t treat people like Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen, are we clear, Jami?

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Taurean Watkins April 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Oy, replied in the wrong place. Sorry…

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Jami Gold April 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm

No worries, Taurean! I figured it out (I think). :)

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Jami Gold April 29, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi Taurean,

LOL! Sorry, I’m not laughing at you–I’m laughing at the crossed signals. :)

When I said my “alpha” reader, I meant my first reader–as in “sees my work even before my beta readers.” Yes, my alpha reader just happens to be male, but the phrase “alpha reader” is unrelated to that. Sorry for the confusion. :)

I know very well the benefits of non-alpha-males. In fact, I’ve occasionally been told that my heroes need to be “more alpha.” *shrug* Sometimes that fits the character and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not a fan of the self-righteous jerk heroes so prevalent in some stories (especially many romances) today. I’m more likely to call them alpha-holes. ;)

The hero in my last WIP was more beta than alpha in many ways. He’s strong when he needs to be, but he doesn’t push people around by any means. I hope he’ll find fans as he is. And that’s an entirely different blog post I hope to write eventually. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp August 5, 2011 at 3:15 am

I will admit that it makes me nervous to have my work read by strangers. Sometimes even by friends (guess that gives me a newbie point but I’m okay with it). It isn’t a worry about what the reader will think about me, however. It is matter of “is this ready to be read”. I always hear the old Ernest and Julio Gallo commercials in my head when it comes to that moment: “We will serve no wine before its time” (insert book, manuscript).

By the way, the “how did this person find me” question is one I ask all the time, especially when it comes to Twitter followers.

Great post, Jami :)

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hi Gene,

I like the Gallo quote. :) For me and my perfectionist tendencies, I send stuff out to beta readers when I’ve improved it as much as *I* can. To get past that point, I admit I need help. That attitude keeps me from being disappointed when they find things to fix too. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Eleanor Gwyn - Jones August 5, 2011 at 5:43 am

I’ve performed on stage, but never experienced stage fright like I do when reading my own work. It’s far more personal than spouting Shakespeare. It’s Invasive. The audience aren’t just judging the words and images created, but they are analyzing what this says about you, the writer!
Or maybe I’m just a smidgen paranoid.
This week on my blogette I uploaded the first chapter of my second novel, BigamE. I sat on the private Youtube and malingered for days, unsure if I should really make it public or not. I was frightened silly, not because the story is not up to snuff, not because I lack the dramatic vocal gymastics of Renee Zellweger, but because this was my psyche laid bare and defenseless.
I can tell my readers that the Brit heroine is not me until I am blue in the face, they still attribute her thoughts and feelings to me.
Maybe I’ll just have to make my next protagonist a rugged Brazilian army renegade fighting a highly-evolved species of invisible, land-living killer Pirahna. That might do it!

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 8:36 am

Hi Eleanor,

Ooo, “invasive,” good word. Yes, our writing comes from someplace very personal. It doesn’t matter that it’s not a memoir, or that our main character is nothing like us, or that we’ve never experienced anything we’re writing about. We still had to dig those situations and words out from the depths of our mind with begging, a sledgehammer, tweezers, and human sacrifice (of our own life – or sleep and eating habits anyway). :)

I admit that I like my villains (that’s how I know they’re three dimensional), and that means I understand where they’re coming from. I sympathize with their goals, however misguided they might be. We have to be able to get inside the head of every character to make them real. We’re like those government serial killer profilers that way. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Eleanor Gwyn - Jones August 5, 2011 at 5:48 am

And by ‘gymastics’ that’s just the less-highly-evolved English version–so we use ‘u’s, but this Brit, apparently, misses ‘n’s!

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

LOL! Maybe the ‘n’ was doing gymnastics and landed upside-down. Then your brain took it away as one of those unnecessary “u”s. :)

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Carradee August 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

I’ve been getting the “Wait, what?” reaction, myself, with some fans I never expected to pick up: adult guys. I write YA-intended fantasy with female narrators who are… not quite right. (But then, I believe nobody is entirely “right” upstairs, but that’s another topic.)

I mean, one of my books has purple fire on the cover, and it’s still getting guy readers and fans. I put a call out on Twitter for a beta for a (sweet) paranormal romance short I’d written, and a guy answered.

I honestly find it confusing, because it’s not the demographic I’ve expected to reach. Am I targeting the wrong market, somewhere? Or do I just have wider appeal than I realize?

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 9:46 am

Hi Carradee,

Honestly, I think guys get a bad rap because so many of them don’t read much or read only non-fiction. But the guys who do read fiction enjoy good stories just as much as women. If it’s a well-written story with decent characters and interesting plot, they’ll read it in many cases. And purple fire is much less intimidating to them than the half-naked guys of romance books. :) At least, that’s been my experience. Thanks for the comment!

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Carradee August 5, 2011 at 10:06 am

*glad she put her water down before she read “half-naked guys”*

Oh, I know guys read. My own brother (an adult) loves spy thrillers and comic books. I just don’t know any guys in person who would admit to reading what I write, thus where my “Huh?” reaction’s coming from. ^_^

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

LOL! Sorry, I should have warned you first. :)

I get what you’re saying. Many of the guys we know online tend to be writers as well, so maybe that helps them appreciate good writing of all genres. :)

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J. M. Dow August 5, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I like characters. I don’t care about age, race, gender, I just want to care about them. I want to watch them grow, change, and become better from their adventures–whether that adventure is the wrong boyfriend, a demon invasion, or the wrong demonic boyfriend. :D

Maureen Johnson argues that there aren’t “guy” or “girl” stories, simply stories. I tend to agree with her.

And now I’ll have to check out your books. :)

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, J.M.! And that’s exactly what I was trying to say. It’s good to hear it from a guy’s mouth though. Male or female, everyone needs to watch out for the wrong demonic boyfriend. :)

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Carradee August 8, 2011 at 5:57 am

*reads: Male or female, everyone needs to watch out for the wrong demonic boyfriend*

*glad she put down her morning tea before reading that* I like your sense of humor.

J.M., thanks for chiming in. :D

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Mary Kate Leahy August 5, 2011 at 10:21 am

I actually don’t freak out over the idea of strangers reading my work, but I do freak out a bit when friends or family read it. I want to know everything they thought,and get really detailed feedback, which isn’t their role. I’ve struggled to get rid of that, and I have gotten a lot better about not bothering friends who are reading my work. Really interesting post topic :)

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

Hi Mary Kate,

Yes, my parents like to read my work, but their feedback tends to be less detailed than I like. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Michele Shaw August 5, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I get nervous when ANYONE reads my work, friend or stranger. I just try not to think about it and wait for whatever may come. I tend to brace for the worst, thinking it will be that or bad, or if I’m lucky, better:)

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Jami Gold August 5, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Hi Michele,

Yes, the “expect the worst” approach. I’ve done that before. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Annette Gendler August 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Jami – I must say it freaks me out when people I know read my work, not family members, I’m used to that and I usually have my husband and my daughter proofread my work, and I love when strangers comment on my work, but when a good friend of my husband’s approaches me about my writing, that’s when I get embarrassed!

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Jami Gold August 6, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Hi Annette,

Oh yes, that’s understandable. Sometimes those in-betweeners, like acquaintances, can be tricky. They’re not close enough to know how hard you’ve worked, but they’re close enough to think that they “know” you. Thanks for the comment!

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Joe H August 9, 2011 at 4:59 am

I’m not published yet and don’t tweet or facebook much, so that’s not much cause for concern, but every time I’d turn in any work at school, whether they were essays, stories, or poems, I prayed that my teachers thought they were as good as I thought they were. Mostly because I believe myself to be pretty humble, but also I think that I do have some talent, so I’m mostly looking for some confirmation that I’m not deluding myself into believing I’m not some talentless egotistical jerk. lol

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Jami Gold August 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

Hi Joe,

Well, your comment was well-written, so that automatically makes you better than the spammers. :) All kidding aside, I know what you mean. We hear so many stories – either about agent rejection piles or self-published books – that implies 50% or more of the writing effort out there is total crap. And we want to make sure we’re in that other percentage, the non-delusional one. :) Best of luck to you and thanks for the comment!

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Kyla August 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Actually, strangers reading my work has never bothered me much. I started posting my work online anonymously at the age of 13. It always excited me when they read my work and left comments or reviews. I didn’t worry what they thought, because I doubted I’d ever meet a single one of those people outside the virtual world (and even if we did meet, it was doubtful we’d recognize each other).

But people I know, people I’m sitting in front of, watching them read my work with excruciating slowness, THAT never fails to make me squirm in my seat with terror.

I love my parents, but if I saw them reading my work, I’d probably run the other way. Of course, I’d run back a few minutes later to yell questions of what they thought. Strangers on the other hand…well, who cares? They don’t know me from Adam (or should I say Eve?), and can do no damage beyond the internet.

Great article, and I hope you have a great day! Happy writing!

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Jami Gold August 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Hi Kyla,

Oh yes, watching someone read my writing drives me crazy. Slooow. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Jenny Hansen August 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I totally feel the same way, Jami, kinda even for the people I know. My girlfriend begged me to put a very personal poem I’d written for my mother’s funeral on the program for HER mom’s service. I could not bring myself to include my name. How silly is that??

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Jami Gold August 22, 2011 at 6:21 am

Hi Jenny,

Wow, I understand. I don’t know if I could have agreed to let her use the poem if it was that personal. I know the song we used for my grandmother’s service causes me to burst into tears 20-some years later – and it wasn’t personal at all. You’re a good friend. *hugs* Thanks for sharing!

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Joseph Devon September 16, 2011 at 9:22 am

I’ve never had anything go especially viral, but I do get random strangers emailing me about my books. It starts to normalize after awhile. Sort of. 90% of the time I’m aware that someone who I’ll never meet is out there reading my work and forming opinions on it and I’m okay with that. Then 10% of the time I freak-out entirely when this thought occurs and die of shame at all the sentences that my brain remembers as being embarrassingly written.
I’m not sure much changes over time but those percentages. :)

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Jami Gold September 16, 2011 at 9:37 am

Hi Joseph,

LOL! Yep, I can relate to those percentages (and the freak-out). :) Thanks for sharing and for the comment!

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Okelly October 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm

great topic, Me personally I get tense. I sometimes explore aspects of characters or life that do not necessarily reflect my own view. I like to explore the possible changes or outcomes in a given situation. instead of sticking with what would be considered acceptable in everyday life.

There are times I do hold back because of what the reader might think. like the short story I wrote about a serial killer, that was very disturbing. but to be honest until last year I rarely let anyone read the things I had written.

then I got inspired and wrote a seven hundred page story, and talked myself into posting it online. since then, well lots of strangers have read it LOL and I still worry they might think Im a freak or a have a tiny car stuffed with floppy shoe wearing thugs in the garage.

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Jami Gold October 12, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Hi Okelly,

I understand. My characters definitely are not me–from the way they think, the choices they make, and the profanity they use. :)

I try not to hold back though. I need to be true to the characters, plot, and my muse. I often wonder what people will think about me, if they’ll try to guess my beliefs from my stories. Ha! I say good luck to that. :) The themes I explore are interesting and important to me, but my characters often take opposing sides to me and/or to each other on various issues. So don’t worry–I don’t suspect you have a tiny car with floppy shoe wearing thugs in your garage. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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