There is a lot of hubbub right now about the publishing of Go Set a Watchman. I honestly didn’t know too much about Go Set, it seemed to be spun as a follow up of the first book but after reading some articles I feel doubtful about that. And as reviews came trickling in it became clear that our beloved Atticus is now a racists and Scout is a bitter woman telling the story, something many of us don’t want to see.
A friend sent me an article to read that cleared up some questions for me. I was fully unaware that Go Set was actually a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. The author of the article uses what Harper Lee did (the rewriting of her fully finished novel into a wholly different story) as a lesson to authors about checking your ego at the door and trusting your editor/readers.
It is no joke when we write, we are opening our veins and bleeding out onto paper (or laptops). We LOVE our book, we adore our characters and we desperately want everyone to feel the same we do. So when constructive criticism or a less than favorable review comes, we clutch our hearts and stagger to the ground in a weeping mass or we brandish our swords and spar back. I’ve seen authors responding to Goodreads reviews, angry and insulting and quite frankly, looking like total idiots.
Will I read Watchman? No. It doesn’t seem to be the story the author intended. But have I learned something from this? Yes! I need to work at opening myself up to critique and make sure I don’t fly to defend the stories I write. By doing so I may miss important feedback that could rework the story into something magnificent. Harper Lee’s book was rejected at first, with her editor’s direction she wrote a beloved American classic. Will my books become classics, doubtful. But will having an open mind and taking to heart the feedback of readers and editors make my book a better book? Absolutely.