Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why My Husband Is Not My Ideal Reader

For the most part, my husband is supportive of my writing aspirations. I know he hates the time writing takes away from the family, but he bought me my writing desk (aka laptop) and it’s been my faithful companion since. He may be one of my biggest cheerleaders, but he will never be my ideal reader—the person I write for.
I first learned the term “Ideal Reader” from Stephen King’s On Writing. In it, he says:
“He or she [ideal reader] is going to be in your writing room all the time: in the flesh once you open the door and let the world back in to shine on the bubble of your dream, in spirit during the sometimes troubling and often exhilarating days of the first draft, when the door is closed.” 
"I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working. This is perhaps the best way of all to make sure you stick to story, a way of playing to the audience even while there's no audience there and you're totally in charge."
I have two great friends who I strive to make wince, laugh, or cry as I write. I love those girls, but I don’t want them to know too much about my w.i.p. until I’m finished. So, the only option to bounce ideas off is my husband. The trouble is he doesn’t like reading. He’s a doer not a sitter. He grows impatient with idleness.
I’ve been stuck trying to finish my project from NaNoWriMo, so I thought maybe he could help.
“Can I run some ideas by you?” I bit my lip and glanced over to the TV. My husband was watching ESPN highlights or lowlights, I’m not sure, but he looked a bit tense.
“About your book?” 
The lack of interest oozed from his pores, but he managed a half smile.
“Yeah, but if you’re busy.”
He turned off the TV and faced me. “Sure, go ahead just fast forward to the parts with boobs.”
I withheld my eye roll. “I don’t write those kinds of stories.”
“No boobs?”
Perhaps, I was pressing my luck by continuing, but I needed help. The goof in front of me was my only option. I rambled on about my story, and he stared back at me nodding. He looked genuinely interested. Wow, he was really listening. Excitement slithered through my body. I’ve been stuck for days and now, I just may be able to get back into it.
“So what do you think? Should I keep going in this direction or is it not suspenseful enough?”
“Well”—he sat upright and scratched his head—“you lost me somewhere between the cabin and the policeman.”
“Cabin? There isn’t a cabin in my story, and I’m not sure if I said anything about a policeman.”
“A shack, I mean,” he said.
“The shack was in my last novel.”
“Oh, I liked the shack. You could bring in another shack.”
I didn’t know what to say; I just stared.
“So, no shack. Okay, what if you have Courtney—”
“Yeah, Chelsea . . . you could have Chelsea turn evil in the end. That would be a surprise.”
“That would.” I'm not sure if he realized the cause of my flat expression. I reached to the ottoman, grabbed the remote, and clicked on his game. “Thanks for the help.” I stood and inched past him. He patted my butt on my way by and smiled. I turned around wondering if he thought he was actually helpful or if he just played me. Either way, he just got out of any future plotting sessions and I’m more stuck than before.

Do you have an ideal reader? Is your spouse or significant other yours?


Anonymous said...

Oh my..... I shake my head as I read this because this sounds all too familiar. However, I am a little envious.- My hubster rarely turns off the TV to hear a story of mine.

Luke Raftl said...

Haha great post!

I have always thought that your ideal reader - the number one fan that you should write for above all else - should always be yourself. Use others for feedback and to bounce ideas off, but if you like what you see then there will be others out there that love it too.

If you write for yourself there is also a good chance that the friends you keep company with will be of similar minds and so you can say you are writing for them as well. The book I have just about completed was written for myself but with an eye towards a couple of friends I knew would get a kick out of it as well!


Al said...

Poor you:-(

My other half will listen and occasionally offer suggestions. I just can't push it too hard

Austin James said...

I usually don't let anyone read anything I write. I might start soon, but not yet.

Trisha Leaver said...

Thanks for the laugh. My husband doesn't read any of my stuff. In fact, he didn't even know I wrote at all until I was agented. I have four, long-term CP's who are also writers so they understand the subtleties of fleshing out characters and plots. I also have a close, non-writer friend who reads everything I write from a reader's perspective. She is not interested in grammar or proper formatting, just reads for waning interest level and character inconsistencies.

Heather said...

Funny story! I have a writing buddy that reads the same genre that I do, and we are both writing for this genre as if SHE likes it, I know I'm doing something right!

My husband is definitely NOT my ideal. Don't get me wrong, he is VERY supportive. TOO supportive if there is a such thing. I bounce ideas off of him all the time and he helps me talk thru things. The other day I emailed him a chapter at work. A chapter that needs to be polished of course, but my writing buddy was blown away by it so I was VERY proud. He came home that night and said how much he loved it, but he had basically re-written it. I was LIVID to say the least. What I realized is he wrote it how he'd write it, or more specifically how he'd want to read it. I explained (yelled) that I am writing for young adults. He writes/reads more "adult" books - the kind that take 7 pages to describe the sunset in words you have to stop and look up. I told him if he didn't understand something that it was fine to ask. It's likely I won't show him anything else until it's done.

Thanks again for sharing.

Elaine AM Smith said...

I have an IR but not my partner. He passes - while I'm writing the first draft - and says "hanging clause" periodically ;)

Kristina Fugate said...

Ahhh, this made me smile. It reminds me of my idea bouncing sessions with my boyfriend. He's sweet and very supportive, but sometimes I'm pretty sure I'm boring him half to death. And I know there are times when he's just NOT listening. ("Hm? Oh, yeah, yeah, go on. You said the main girl character was going to uh...add some conflict...or something?" Exact quote.)

Awesome post!

Katie Mills said...

bwahaha! My husband hasn't read my books and he listens about as well as yours too. Great post!

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

I LOVE this. You had me laughing so hard when I read the part about the cabin/shack. Sooo hilarious.

I hope the perfect wrap-up ideas will come your way. I know it's going to be awesome. I just can't wait to read it.

mi3centsworth said...

My boogie, will turn the T.V. down, but not off. He listens intently, but only because he doesn't wanna make me upset. LOL I try not to bother him too often though.

Emily Gray Clawson said...

Ha! This is awesome. I have yet to really find my I.R. It's a constant search. Everyone I've tried either likes EVERYTHING I write, or nothing. Neither is accurate so what's a girl to do? I've just found some new friends to be critique partners with. Hopefully that will change things.

Ann said...

Your husband sounds like my husband’s twin. Not a reader and no help when stuck. My heartfelt sympathy.

KrisseeV said...

Loved the fast forward bit! Made me laugh! Really good brainstorming partners can be so hard to come by! One of these days we'll have to give it a try!

Susan Kane said...

My husband is a faithful reader, but only recently. He used to smile, nod, and read, but not with enthusiasm. My grown children will read my stuff now, but I don't think they view my writing a relevant. I tend to examine, and try to see a greater meaning in small events. They see that as boring, since nothing ever really happens (now, World of WarCraft, they'd read my stuff if I threw in some mages, or fairies). Susan

The Survival Mama said...

HAHA! Glad it's not just mine!! I do secretly hope he'll read it one day and honestly love it...
I think they're also smart enough to know this is similar to "do I look fat in these pants"

Fellow crusader, Following you back, thanks for swinging by my blog.
The Survival Mama

Jordan McCollum said...

My husband isn't my ideal reader, but he's not a bad one, though it took me almost two years to finally break down and seriously ask my husband to read my MS. I'd held off because he was afraid he wouldn't like it (it was romantic suspense and he's, you know, a guy). Luckily, he liked it.

I try to bounce ideas off him, but I forget to explain about half of the stuff in my head, so it doesn't always work out, LOL.

Leetah East said...

I actually enjoy "bounce sessions" with my husband. He doesn't often come up with the answer to my problem, but he sure does get talking which gets my wheels spinning. Since he works out of town we sometimes spend an hour or two on the phone talking about ideas for my storyline or whatnot.

Susan- Send your children my way! lol, I have a WoW based cooking blog they might enjoy reading!

Leetah East

Tracy said...

Non-readers are the worst to try to have a plot conversation with. Sorry you had to learn the hard way! lol

Believe it or not, my ideal reader (as horribly narcissitic as this may sound) is ME. I try to write the kind of story *I* would want to read. I keep in mind what would put me through the emotional ringer as a reader? Because I'm picky, and if I can appease MY inner reader, than I'll probably make most others who read it happy with the finished product.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, I had to laugh at this. It's such a relief to not be alone. HWMNBNOTI (he who must not be named on the internet) doesn't actually beliieve in fiction... he figures reality is plenty good, and that's what he wants to read. Like the newspaper. If I wrote for a newspaper, he'd read my stuff daily... probably even have some insight... fiction? erm... yeahno... I count on my online friends.

Kari Marie said...

Oh-I can relate. In the 20 years I've known my husband, I've never seen him pick up anything to read other than an email. He hates it. He Owns books, he doesn't read them. I'm pretty sure any book he might consider reading need a republican and a pair of boobs (preferably two pairs in the same scene). I write paranormal stuff. Not exactly his cup of tea although he'll see any movie I want regardless of genre. I don't know anyone who would be my IR except for some new writing buddies.

RosieC said...

Oh, man. No, my husband is NOT my reader. He loves reading, but he's a literature PhD, and I don't write literary fiction. Actually, his sister is my reader. And she's always great about telling me when the emotion doesn't strike her. It's great.

Thanks for the Twitter follow. Always nice to meet another writer :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Love the way you told this! Even if it didn't quite work out in the end... Still - he turned off the TV?? Hmm, I wonder if I should try that...

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thanks for joining me, Diana, lovely to see you there. Carole.

E.J. Wesley said...

S.K.'s On Writing is my writing Bible. I've read it so many times ... It's funny, because I don't know that he intended it to be inspirational, but it is certainly that for me.

Susan Oloier said...

I loved this post! It definitely made me laugh. My husband is not my ideal writer either. He loves to read, but not the genres I write. Unfortunately, I do not have a reader at all anymore. I have not yet found my ideal writer (a good balance between love of the genre and helpful critique). I usually get the "I liked it" response.
Thanks for the post!

Susan Kane said...

So true, and so funny. Maybe someday we will all gain respect for our literary efforts. Like, maybe, when we make more royalties than Danielle Steele. Thanks for your supporting words. Susan

Susan Kane said...

Why are guys usually so in denial about reading something robustly written? Heck, when I was writing a romance novel (which is in a file waiting for something...), he read it, and then I was pregnant. Susan

Susan Kane said...

Letah, thank you for your comments. My grown children probably would love a cooking blog, as they are all much more active in the kitchen. I loved your latest blog, with the house. Susan

Faith said...

Hahaha... oh dear... mine isn't this bad, but his suggestions often make me scratch my head, wondering why I'd bothered asking for his help at all.