Yesterday was the last day for the first chapter of Michael Drayton, Detective Guy to be open for comment and rating at the First Chapters contest at Gather.com, so now the waiting game really begins. I have no idea what my rating is or what comments were made. I don't really care. I never expected to win the popularity contest--I'd have to be a radically different kind of person to do that.
And while some people may think that reading the comments could be helpful, I really, truly doubt that. The thing about reading the comments is that they are irrelevant to what I do. The good, the bad, the indifferent, it makes no difference. Those comments are a discussion among readers--just as any reviews would be--and are none of my business.
My job is to write the thing as best I know how, which is what I did. I'm happy with it. Chapter One of Drayton accomplishes exactly what I wanted it to in the manner in which I wanted to do it. The prose is first-rate, and the exposition is laid out with a minimum of pain. Seeds are planted that won't bear fruit for many chapters to come. The folks who are reading it are reading one chapter out of 18 and 2,000 words out of over 40,000. They're judging a symphony on the basis of the first phrase, which is not the basis to go on.
It has been my experience that if you ask people what is wrong with something they will tell you whether there's something wrong with it or not. Their comments are meaningless because they are driven by the feeling that they ought to say something, preferably something negative because that can demonstrate their supposed insight. It's the mentality of a focus group, which is exactly the reason why our TV shows are so dreadful and our movies so cookie-cutter and lame. Listening to the comments is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
As you can tell from the length of this post, this is a complicated subject. I've only so far skimmed the surface. And as far as this contest goes, the only criterion that anyone should be applying to any of the entries is this: If you checked this book out from the library and read through Chapter One, would you go on to Chapter Two? And if so, how eagerly would you turn the page?
However, that is all now neither here nor there. There are five slots out of 20 in the next round that are picked by the Gather.com staff. Maybe I'll make that cut, maybe I won't. Either way, life will go on and so will Michael Drayton, Detective Guy.