The Reader is King

Dr. John Horne again joins us with this rebuttal to my earlier article. He has much to learn.

 

I’d like to dedicate this post to by brother,

Alan, without you, my intended reader, this post would not exist. You are in every thought.
You are in every word. If this post is any good, it is because you made it good.


About eight years ago I was in Perth, Australia, attending a conference. I had never been to Perth before, so I set apart some time to explore the city. My wanderings took me to a mall, where I found a Sci-fi/Fantasy bookshop. It was a delightful store—small in terms of square footage but stacked floor-to-ceiling with SFF books.

I liked the store so much, I decided to buy something. I followed the author names alphabetically until I found Orson Scott Card, and Ender’s Game. The book had been on my reading list for a while, and now seemed like a good time to purchase one of the most venerated Sci-fi stories of all time.

Later, on an airplane somewhere between Perth and Brisbane, I opened the book and read the introduction. In it, Card talks about the many fans who have written him over the years, expressing how the story had spoken to them in profound and idiosyncratic ways.

Says Card: “The truth of the story was not truth in general, but their truth.”

He then goes on to describe how the book has meant different things to different people.

One group of 13-15-year-olds related to it because they were intellectually gifted children, just like the characters in the story. To them it was their story and they found themselves defined in it.

An army helicopter pilot related to Ender’s Game because it reminded him of his own military training.

“All these readings of the book are correct,” says Card. “For all these readers have placed themselves inside this story not as spectators, but as participants…

“This is the essence of the transaction between storyteller and audience. The true story is not the one that exists in my mind; it is certainly not the written words on the bound paper that you hold in your hands. The story in my mind is nothing but a hope; the text of the story is the tool I created in order to try to make that hope a reality. The story itself, the true story, is the one that the audience members create in their minds, guided and shaped by my text, but then transformed, elucidated, expanded, edited, and clarified by their own experience, their own hopes and fears.”

I find it interesting that an author like Orson Scott Card is unwilling to take credit for the effect his story has on his readers. To him, the “true story” is what the reader brings with him, not what the author supplies.

Ever since I read this I’ve been intrigued by the idea that the reader could be as important, or even more important, in the storytelling process than the writer. And, after years of pondering, I am convinced that Orson Scott Card is right.

Importantly, I do not feel that this diminishes the writer’s role in the story. But it does invite further meditation on the relationship between writer and reader.

What then, should the writer be trying to accomplish? What is the writer’s game?

An Analogy

The writer stands to learn a lot from other art forms—the crafts may differ but the principles among art forms are shared in common. In my last post I talked a little bit about a painting (Rafael’s Transfiguration of Jesus Christ) but this time I will be talking about dancing.

Yes, dancing.

Both stories and dances start with an invitation.

In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott offers a useful story structure. The acronym is A. B. D. C. E. (Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending).

The Action, a.k.a. the hook, is nothing more than an invitation to the reader.

In the book, The Davinci Code, the hook is the blood-splattered dead body lying in the Louvre, with a mysterious message inked on the floor.

This is the author, Dan Brown, asking the reader: “May I have this dance?”

“… and the message says: Oh draconian devil, Oh lame saint.” [Dan Brown trying to woo the reader]
Writing coach Larry Brooks explains, in his book Story Engineering, why the first part of a story is “the most important.”

In a nutshell, the first part is the most important because if done well the reader will move onto the second part.

But if you botch the first part, the reader will put the book down, and never take it up again.

This is akin to a woman declining an invitation to dance. Maybe his breath smelled bad. Maybe his shirt was covered in food stains. Maybe he came on too strong, or too weak. Or Maybe he was just no different from all the other losers in this dance hall. Whatever the case, she has no obligation to dance with him.

In the moment of invitation the author is at the reader’s mercy.

Readers are a lot like women (even if they are not actual women), some are extremely picky, stuck up, or fickle. But most are nice enough to give you the courtesy of one dance… at least until a more handsome fellow cuts in.

But once the couple are on the floor, they dance, and the author leads. He is in charge now. She is along for the ride. There is rising action. There is falling action. And the whole dance progresses towards the final dip. This is the B, D, C, and E.

The final dip... until the next one.
The final dip… until the next one.

To keep the interest of his dance partner, the author needs skill, of course, but skill will only get him so far. An artist is more than just a technician mechanically going through the motions.

What else does the dancer need to do? What is his objective?

I once knew a Venezuelan guy who was a master at dancing in several Latin styles, and he taught me the secret to being a good dancer.

Said he: “In the dance, the man’s only purpose is to make the woman feel beautiful.”

He thinks:
Him thinking: “Yes! Feel the beauty!”

Absorb that for a minute, because it is quite profound.

The dance is not about him. Even though he initiated it, even though he leads it, the dance is about her.

This is not unlike the concept that Orson Scott Card was trying to convey. The writer initiates the story, and he leads it, but he does not actually own it. He may have a copyright on the text, but the text is just a tool… it is a mere template for something that is ultimately more nuanced and meaningful.

Whatever experience the reader has with the story, good or bad, she owns it. It is hers alone and no one else’s. And it cannot be invalidated.

The man who thinks that the dance is all about himself is not a great dancer—he is a peacock.

Similarly, the writer who wants to rule the story like a despot, who expects the reader to conform her experience to his intentions, who complains about being misunderstood, is not an artist. At best, he is a builder who knows how to make a story structurally sound. But it is a monument only to himself, and there is no beauty in it.

As Brandon Sanderson once put it, in one of his novels: “A story teller’s job is not to tell you how to think but to give you questions to think on.”

Ever get the feeling that an author is trying to tell you how to think, or preach to you through his story? That is the writer putting himself first, trying to steal the experience from you.

Like the dancer, the writer too must learn to let the story be for someone else. He must be like Orson Scott Card, who said that he wrote Ender’s Game because he wanted to do for other people what Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series did for him. From the beginning his motives were outwardly oriented, towards the reader.

And herein lies a paradox. The dancer, by focusing on his partner’s experience only makes himself look good in the process. And it is no different for the writer.

Now, does this have anything to do with the writer’s topic or subject matter? Not really. The writer must listen to the music inside of himself and determine if the dance is to be a waltz, a tango, lindy hop, the cha cha cha, or something else.

The writer gets to decide all the moves, and combinations of moves. But if he designs the experience only for himself, he runs the risk of creating something that is self-indulgent. And a self-indulgent piece of writing rarely results in a meaningful experience for the reader.

Why Authors Dedicate Books

Most authors write for the people that they care about. The writing process is also hugely gratifying for themselves, but in the back of their minds there is always that special reader that they hope the book will please. Look no further than a book’s dedication to see who the author was thinking of.

Sure, every once in a while some jackass will dedicate his book to himself, but most often the writer writes the story as a gift to someone else.

Dedications to individuals

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather,

C.S. Lewis


The Red House Mystery

To John Vine Milne:

My Dear Father,

Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So after all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you is to write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.

A.A.M.


A Storm of Swords

for Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in.

George R.R. Martin
                                       
I like this example, because it shows what an important influence a reader can have on a book. Martin’s reader essentially told him: “Spin me this way. Dip me that way.”

Dedications to fans and readers in general

The Secret Adversary

To all those who lead monotonous lives, in the hope that they may experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure.

Agatha Christie


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The dedication of this book is split in seven ways: to Jessica, to David, to Kenzie, to Di, to Anne, and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end.

J.K. Rowling

I can only imagine how rewarding it would be to have readers that are loyal to a series. If I am ever lucky enough to have such readers, I will love them with my whole soul. I think that authors with followings even a thousandth, a millionth, the size of J.K. Rowling’s can’t help but write for their fans.

And that is the way it should be.

Dedications to enemies

My Shit Life so Far

To all my enemies, I will destroy you.

Frankie Boyle

I have a hard time taking this dedication seriously, but if we accept it at face value, then we must suppose that one’s hatred for others can be the inspiration for a book.

The irony of it, however, is that you end up indebted to the people you hate, because they made you into the writer that you are. Without them, you’re nothing.

But ask yourself this question: Why dedicate a book at all? What does the author owe to these individuals? It was the author who did all the hard work. It was the author who agonized over every syllable for years on end.

The reason why books are dedicated is obvious: Most authors are not forces unto themselves. They receive help from other people, in the form of emotional support, love, feedback, and inspiration.

At the end of the day, books owe much of their value to the readers for whom they were written. One might even go as far as to say that a writer is the substance of their relationship with readers.

The Dual Nature of the Writer

While working on a piece, every so often the writer takes off his writer’s hat and puts on his reader’s hat. He does this because only as a reader can he assess the quality of his work.

I call it the reader’s hat but you might just as well call it the editor’s hat, because without this hat no revising can be done.

And so, the writing process itself becomes an interaction between the inner writer and the inner reader. The artist to which both of these personalities belong has to figure out how to dance with himself, and thus the story is born out of an awkward choreography performed in front of a mirror.

The inner writer is the creative force behind the project, but it is the inner reader that governs the process. And the artist must find ways to distance himself from the inner writer in order to tap into the power of his reader self.

For example, it might seem like a waste of time to set a story aside for weeks, months, or even years, but this is exactly what writers do. Why? because the artist must separate himself from the writing of the piece in order to see his own work as an objective reader.

The inner writer is actually quite easy to please. He is happy to just write whatever comes to him. And if the writer was king then nobody would ever rewrite anything. But stories get rewritten again, and again, and again, because inside each writer is also a reader, and she will kick the writer until everything is rewritten to the satisfaction of her experience.

And, to quote William Zinsser’s wonderful book, On Writing Well:

“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost.”

The Reader’s Experience Trumps All

When I was three years old, back in 1984, I used to love the cartoon, Spiderman and his Amazing Friends. I used to play with my older sister, Briony, and my cousin, Gary, while it was on. We’d jump on my parent’s bed, and watch the TV.

I was Spiderman. Briony was Firestar. And Gary was Iceman.

It was great fun.

Recently, I found the old show on Netflix, for my daughter. And as soon as I saw it again I was shocked to find out that the writing was horrible.

But did that turn me off to it?

Not at all.

No matter how bad the writing, or the animation, I could not make myself dislike it. Even though the show was far from clever, and came nowhere close to my high standards of entertainment, I enjoyed watching it… every minute of it.

Why was I able to ignore the bad writing? It wasn’t just because the show was narrated by Stan Lee, although that was part of it. The real reason is because it made me feel something. Never mind that these feelings were prompted by childhood memories, the show made me happy.

The reader, the viewer, or any other consumer of art, will forgive a lot in exchange for feeling something. She’ll forgive bad writing, she’ll forgive long drawn-out book series with huge waiting periods between each installment, she’ll even forgive lackluster sequels. But what she won’t forgive is an author who fails to deliver a positive experience for her.

The writer cannot afford to be nonchalant towards the reader’s experience, because, in the end, the reader’s experience trumps all other aspects of a story. True, every reader is a different person, but they are all looking for the same thing, and Orson Scott Card tells us what that is in his introduction to Ender’s Game:

They want to feel that the story is about them. They want to be a participant rather than an observer. And, like the female dancer that needs to feel beautiful, the reader needs the story to make them feel good about themselves.

7 thoughts on “The Reader is King

  1. Consider the following logic:

    1. Your position is that the reader is king.

    2. For this post, I am the reader (and decisively so, since the post was dedicated to me).

    3. My position is contrary to the theme of the post, therefore, I declare the post to be false.

    What you have is a paradox: the reader is supposedly king, but he endorses in the Writer is King principle. Yet, as king, he cannot be wrong.

    And thus we see “The Reader is King” fallacy for what it truly is: a walking contradiction, untrue no matter the context.

    Check. Mate.

    But, as conclusive as that result is, it is not very interesting. And I have more to say on the subject, so I will proceed.

    To begin with, I have a lot of fun on this blog. I quip, I quarrel, and have a lighthearted approach to sharing my thoughts. But when it comes to dispensing advice on writing, I do my best to give my visitors something practical. For if they come to me, then they come not to be mystified, but to be helped.

    That is the heart of my blog: practicality, as it applies to writing.

    As such, you will understand how disappointed I was by the unusefulness of your current post. The thrust of your “What Writing Means to Me” essay was entirely unpractical. Abstract to the point of being empty, it does not live up to the standard to which I hold myself.

    Which is NOT to say you are a bad writer, John. In fact, you are rather good. You are, however, an inexperienced and immature writer, and this post was a shining example of that.

    Experienced writers know not to stretch a metaphor across sentences, much less paragraphs and pages. Doing so causes the metaphor to lose its power, and it also takes the reader away from whatever central idea you were trying to convey. It becomes like butter smeared over too much bread.

    Furthermore, when metaphor is used, it must be appropriate to the subject. Consider the following quote:

    Beware of the metaphor. It is the spirit of good prose. It gives the reader a picture, a glimpse of what the subject really looks like to the writer. But it is dangerous, can easily get tangled and insistent, and more so when it almost works: don’t have a violent explosion pave the way for a new growth.

    SHERIDAN BAKER

    Now let us consider what you tried to do: you attempted to compare writing to dance. Dance is a highly dynamic art form. It requires constant adjustment. If the female partner changes her rhythm, whether accidentally or intentionally, the male partner must adapt his movements to continually synchronize and complement.

    Can a book do the same? Not at all. By the time the book falls into the reader’s hands, it is a finalized product. It cannot change its text to harmonize with the reader’s motions. For your metaphor to be complete, you would have to amend it so that the act of reading is like a dance, where one partner is human and the other is a statue.

    dancing with a mannequin

    Granted, statuary art can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, but it cannot interpret its way out of being statuary art—a thing which is solid and motionless.

    So your metaphor is flawed, and those flaws were exacerbated by your attempts to prolong and extend the metaphor across your entire argument. This is the kind of rookie mistake that betrays your lack of discipline. You have so much potential, yet you refuse to leave the kiddie pool. I try to build you a kingdom, and you trade it for a dance. Or I might say you sacrifice it for a mess of pottage, since Esau, too, was a childish man, and likewise suffered from a similar shortsightedness.

    Furthermore, you disappoint me, John. In an email, you promised me that you would support your arguments with the words of established authors: J.K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson, C.S. Lewis, etc. I knew you would never find a word from any of them stating that the “Reader is King”, or that he should in any way be given sovereignty over the writer. Still, I was curious as to what your approach would be, since you insisted that these people would support your position.

    Imagine how underwhelmed I was when I discovered that your “proof” was nothing more than pointing out that their books had dedications in them—the idea being that dedicating a book is somehow an abdication on the part of the writer, and therefore an acknowledgement that the reader is, somehow, king.

    That you are unaware of the nature of book dedications leaves no doubt that you have not taken up the proper study of this art. Book dedications are a holdover tradition from the Renaissance, when writers were saddled with the unfortunate need for patronage. They served as a kind of ancient mode of advertising, and were purchased with the money of lords and ladies. They linger today merely for tradition’s sake, as well as to serve as a PR tool, humanizing the author to endear him to the public. They are not “proof” of anything.

    Overall, I’d say that your post was absolutely perfect, in that it is the perfect example of all the things I’ve tried to warn you away from. From now on, you will need to commit yourself to truly understanding the art and craft of writing, even if it means setting aside your personal preconceptions about what writing feels like it should be, and instead accepting it for what it is.

    This is has been an excellent session. I feel like we are finally making progress toward your eventual understanding of the subject. Keep studying, and don’t even attempt to write anything until you have the confidence to write from your own self, and not what you perceive to be in others.

    Good luck.

  2. So, you think book dedications are nothing more than relics of a bygone era that are kept up for traditions sake? You say that a book dedication is a PR tool, penned glibly by the author with no real meaning behind it? I don’t think you really believe that.

    Even in antiquity, book dedications to financial backers were not merely formalities, but also expressions of bona fide gratitude. In my scientific publications I consistently acknowledge funding agencies, not because I have to, but because without them the research would not have been possible. It is deserved.

    The weakness of your argument, Alan, is that it rests on defrauding all author dedications ever written. Good luck with that.

    How can you doubt the sincerity of an author’s dedication? In doing so you call them liars. I guess that shows your respect for professional writers.

    Tell me, Alan. What was CS Lewis really thinking when he wrote the dedication of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Give me the real version of it. Reveal to me his true intent.

    On second hand, don’t. Not only would it be an insult to CS Lewis’s memory but it would be impossible to verify. And, given the impossibility of verification, I don’t see how we can take CS Lewis’s dedication to mean anything other than what it says. And it says that the book was written for a reader. Against that you have no argument.

    Book dedications are genuine expressions of feeling by the author. Compare that to writing advice dished out here and there by the author in passing interviews. Which source of information do you think is more reliable?

    As for the practicality of reader-is-king, I would argue that it is very practical. Have you ever heard of Emma Coats? She’s a director for Pixar and she’s behind the circulating “22 Rules of Storytelling from Pixar.”

    Here is rule number 2:

    “You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.”

    Sounds practical enough to me.

    And since you like quotes so much, here is another one, this time from William Zinsser:

    “You can solve most of your writing problems if you stop after every sentence and ask: What does the reader need to know next?”

    That sounds practical too.

    But wait, didn’t Zinsser also say:

    “You are writing for yourself… above all else. every reader is a different person.”

    So tell me, how can you write for yourself but think of the reader in every sentence? And which reader do you think about after every sentence? Isn’t every reader a different?

    I think I know how CS Lewis would have resolved that conundrum. He probably would have said that the reader he thinks of after every sentence is Lucy. But that he enjoys writing for her so much that it is like writing for himself.

    Finally, writing may not be dynamic, but reading is, just like dancing (the metaphor was spot on). If you don’t believe me, read the same book twice and tell me if your experience was exactly the same both times.

    It won’t be, because you’ll pick up more on the second round than the first. And you’ll be in a different time in your life too, and that context will color your experience with the story.

    A story needs a reader to give it life, to make it dance and move and be more that just words on a page. I don’t know why that is so hard for you to accept.

    You are a good writer, Alan. In fact, when it comes to the technical aspect of writing I can’t think of anybody better. But can you connect with a reader?

    I know you follow those writing quotes on Twitter, do not overlook this one:

    “Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” MOLIÈRE

    Have you ever written for friends (i.e. a reader)? You say that I am an inexperienced and immature writer, but where do you fall on this scale of writer maturity? I think you’re still writing for love, for yourself, stage one.

    1. Yes, John. Book dedications do not change the nature of the work itself.

      Consider the King James Bible. It has one of the most famous dedications in all of history. And it is among the most meaningless of the lot. It is all flattery and flowers. As if ownership of this universal book could be given to one man, just because somebody thought to scratch his name onto the front page.

      Let me guess, you think that James is not only the king of England, but of the Bible, as well. He is “the reader” after all. All the prophets and translators going back to the beginning of recorded history were merely trying to please him.

      So yes, a book’s dedication is merely a tool of its author, to get patronage, to appease one person or another.

      Do you know what happened to little Lucy, to whom C.S. Lewis dedicated his book? She’s dead. Yet the book continues to be read. How odd. Surely, there is no purpose for a book once its King Reader has passed on. Why, it’s almost as if you could tear the dedicatory page out of the book, and have the work not be diminished one whit by its absence.

      Because I’m sure that people would be heartbroken if they couldn’t read the book’s dedication. I’m sure no readers out there deliberately skip that page to get to the actual story.

      And those poor books that have no dedications! Poor Beowulf. Poor Gilgamesh. I hate to tell them such bad news, but it seems as if Dr. John Horne has decided that they lack literary significance because they lack dedications. I don’t think they shall get over his disapproval.

      Honestly, John, it’s time for you to grow up. You take one look at book dedications and decide that the entire literary world is turned inside out. You’re obviously not ready to play outside the sandbox. Yet you are unteachable. You refuse to grow, all because you have some demented need to be better than me. So therefore you cannot possibly take any of my advice, even when it’s solid and dependable.

      I can’t give you what you want, John. I’ve already found my own voice. That it offends you so is your own doing. Granted, it’s adorable, watching you flail so hard in the mud. But I’ve got bigger and better things to do.

      If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, then seek no more to attack me. You will find such a campaign to be fruitless. And though I give you certain allowances for being my brother, you are a troll, John. And it’s only a matter of time before I fumigate you from my good graces.

      Finally, a quote from Harlan Ellison:

      Don’t start an argument with somebody who has a microphone when you don’t. They’ll make you look like chopped liver.

      HARLAN ELLISON

  3. Again, you think that personal attacks on me will some how prove your point. That is moronic.

    Lucy is dead, so is CS Lewis. And if you can ignore the dedication you can also ignore the name of the author on the cover. Would the story be diminished without the name of the author to grace it?

    No.

    Why? Because the reader can still enjoy a story without knowing, or wondering, who wrote it.

    Because the story is for the reader. We are all Lucy.

    1. Attack on you? John, this is my blog. You’re the one who came here looking for a fight. I am merely cleaning house.

      Yes, C.S. Lewis is as dead a Lucy. When the writer is dead, no one can authoritatively rewrite the book. This is logical, because the writer is the book’s sovereign.

      However, if we try to say the opposite—if we try to say that once the designated reader is dead, the book cannot be authoritatively reread by anyone, then we have espoused absurdity. The reader, designated or not, does not own the book, and their passing does not keep others from reading it.

      Honestly, you might spare some forethought before making a comment. There’s so much you have yet to learn that it’s scary, but not as scary as the idea that you refuse to learn the fundamentals of writing before declaring yourself to have already mastered the art.

      For your own sake, take my earlier advice: find a writer, or someone who knows the business, who lives in you area. There must be at least a few in Halifax. Find them, and do whatever it takes to arrange a meeting with them. Buy them lunch, if you must. And then talk to them. Learn instruction at their feet. Let them teach you the things that you refuse to learn from my hand.

      Above all else, get over yourself, John. You may read this blog, but you are not its only reader. The next time you demand I make any kind of alteration or retraction, I will be perfectly within my rights to block you permanently from accessing this site. And you will howl, and say I have no right to do it, and try to sue me, I’m sure. Having lived in academia so long, it’s only natural that you think you can whine and cry your way to success. I hate what it’s done to you, but ultimately it is no business of mine.

      You have emptied all your accounts in the bank of my goodwill. If you want to destroy your own writing, then have fun. I’ve done all I can to save you from yourself. But you must promise me one thing: when you hit rock bottom, don’t say I never tried to help you, because that’s the kind of thing I would expect you to do, and I won’t play along.

  4. You know what I just realized? Lucy isn’t dead. She lives on, immortalized as one of the characters in the Chronicles of Narnia––the youngest of the Pevensie children, and the first to pass through the wardrobe.

    The character Lucy Pevensie is almost certainly based on Lucy Barfield, CS Lewis’s goddaughter:
    http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5583

    Touchingly, children used to write her letters, wanting her to tell them more about Narnia.

    Face it Alan, it is her story as much as CS Lewis’s, if not more. And that means that the dedication is far from the PR fluff that you claim it is. And––connect the dots, if you would––that means the book was written for her. For the reader.

    But even though it was written for her, in a way we are all Lucy when we read that book. We are all meant to stumble into Narnia through the wardrobe. The experience is meant for us, designed for us, by the author, who after every sentence thought: What will happen to Lucy next?

    I would further argue that the tender dedication makes the book much more special than it would be if CS Lewis had written it for purely selfish reasons.

    Maybe you should take your own advice and invite an established writer to lunch. Ask them if the dedication in their book was a mere PR device with no real meaning behind it. Tell me what they say.

    So, ban me from your blog, if you feel you must, if you think I’ve made you look bad. But I have demanded no alteration, or retraction, except, perhaps, for the libelous insults that you have flung my way. You have called me a child. You have accused me of being unfit to write a single word. You have told me to stop writing. And all because I have opinions and philosophies that differ from yours… You also called be a bigot, but how that makes sense I have no idea.

    Telling somebody not to write is the worst writing advice of all. Even you, Alan, would not dare defend it. And if that is the kind of help you offer others then I would count myself wise to ignore all your suggestions in the future.

    Alan, I hope that you get where you want to go in your writing career. I completely understand if your way works for you. But do not rob me of my own way. I take full responsibility for that way, and its results. And I might add that I have dedicated no small amount of scholarship to it.

    Some of your other readers may find my way helpful. Why not let them read the blog and make up their own minds about things? They are THE READER after all. Would you deny your reader the opportunity to disagree with you?

    1. John,

      You are a child. That is obvious now more than ever.

      As a child, you sought to seize control of a blog that was not your own.

      As a child, you continue to whine spurious arguments into what could have been an intelligent discussion.

      As a child, you ignore and cherrypick from everything I have told you.

      “You have told me to stop writing. And all because I have opinions and philosophies that differ from yours.”

      I told you to stop writing because you were hurting yourself. You still are. When a person writes not to serve their own self expression but as a genuflection to some phantom “reader”, it is the same as slitting the wrists of your creative self.

      I have eaten lunch with authors. I have sat across the same table as them and asked them questions, up close and personal. That’s how I vacation, John. Where most people save up their money and vacation time to go to Hawaii or the Super Bowl, I save up my time and money to attend events where writers gather, where I can ask them questions, and hear them speak and give advice. So I am afraid your suggestion has already been fulfilled, and trust me when I say you have no idea what you’re doing.

      “So, ban me from your blog, if you feel you must, if you think I’ve made you look bad.”

      People get banned from blogs for being trolls, John. Or, in other words, for being children. Anyone who spends all their free time attacking a blog is likely to meet the same fate. If you were to bring the same level of disrespect you have shown to any other blog, they would have blocked you after the first comment you dropped. The internet has its own etiquette, John. That you have no idea how that works is testament to your immaturity.

      I have presented the Writer is King principle using all the facts and reason at my disposal, which you then tried to counter with the simpering sentiment imaginable.

      The reader is king because the writer dedicates their book to someone? I dare say most writers would fight tooth and nail if anyone proposed that a book’s rights become property of the name on the dedication page. Furthermore, some people with books dedicated to them never read the book. How many books have been dedicated to people who are already dead at the time of publication? To dead mothers and fathers, mentors and grandparents?

      You’ve obviously run out of ammunition in your ill-starred attempt to disprove me. Even now, your will try to attack the reasoning within this comment by saying, “But it doesn’t FEEL that way.” I would like to see you try that in a meeting with an potential publisher.

      I have tried dispensing all the prudent a practical advice that I have learned by mingling with authors and studying the industry, and you have immediately rebuffed all of it without a second glance. Because you’re so wise that you do not need to even attempt to learn from others in this matter, apparently. Yet still not wise enough to heed Mr. Ellison’s advice about attacking someone with a microphone.

      I have the microphone, John. If you don’t want to listen, you are free to leave, but you don’t get to attack me without getting getting pummeled in return.

      I don’t enjoy watching you spin your wheels. I don’t like it when you hurt yourself. But you won’t let me impart even the most fundamental and universally accepted writing advice to you. As such, I can only watch as you fail…over and over and over again.

      I’m sorry for failing to reach you, John. I don’t know where I went wrong. But I refuse to help you beat yourself down.

      I am closing comments on this blog post.

      I am revoking your post publishing rights for the blog.

      I am revoking your comment publishing rights for the blog.

      If you try to post as a guest, I will block all the IP addresses you use, and possibly start deleting content you have created for my website.

      Sorry, John, but you broke the rules. I hope you enjoy your childhood—it looks like it’s going to last forever.

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