Letting Go by Rick R. Reed

RickRReedAuthorPhotoIt takes two to tango. And it takes at least two to make a book. Just like a play needs an audience to fully come alive, a book needs a reader for precisely the same reason.

One thing I have to constantly remind myself as a writer is that, once I have written the words, ‘the end’ to a story is that I must let go. As much as I labored over the book, dreamed about it, had conversations with myself about it, agonized over word choice, character hair color, continuity, repetitive words and phrasing, the time comes when the book meets the public which signals that it’s time for me to step aside.

A book is a conspiracy between a reader and a writer. The reader has to bring it to life through his or her imagination. The wonderful thing about that whole process is that my story can become so many different stories when filtered through each reader’s unique frame of reference. I have no doubt that no matter the care I take in describing characters and setting, each reader sees them differently because each of them come to the table with different experiences, biases, and memories. All of those things have a bearing on the triggers my words pull in a reader’s mind.

It’s really quite a lovely process when you think about it. And maybe the readers out there reading this column never really considered the vital work they play in every book’s success or failure. Writers provide a roadmap, signposts, but it’s really up to the reader to run with it, to make of it something real, a mind movie for one.

What’s my point? I guess it’s to share with you a little of what motivates me as a writer and what, for me is both a blessing and a curse. See, when I am working on a book, which is almost always, I am alone with those characters, immersed in their little world, consumed by their passions, their fears, their desires, their comedies of errors. I have never been one for sharing much of my unfinished work with anyone else. That would somehow be wrong, at least for me. In order to create, I need to be able to slip into a world inhabited only by my characters and me. It’s always a bittersweet moment when I write the words, ‘the end’ and know I am moving on. Sure, there will be editing, the thrill of seeing the cover design, the agony of trying to help craft the blurb, but once you type ‘the end’ it means just that. You’re giving your characters and their world away.

I think it’s very difficult for some writers to realize that once they’ve ‘given birth’ to a book that it really no longer belongs to them. It belongs to the readers, the reviewers, the world. If you create with publishing in mind, it’s a harsh reality to accept—your book no longer belongs to you alone, but it’s gone off into the world, much like a child finally moving out of the house. Once you let go, you also must let go of trying to control what happens (same for books, same for kids).

And that’s hard. You hate to see your book suffer at the hands of people who don’t understand it, you celebrate it when someone ‘gets’ what you were trying to say.

But you must let go. The book is a piece of the world now and takes on a life of its own. Remember what I said earlier? A book is a conspiracy between a writer and a reader and the reader, each in his or her own way, makes the story his or her own.

I guess what prompted all this was a discussion recently at one of my publishers’ forums wherein authors were discussing, once again, how to respond to negative reviews and downright nasty ones, and the prevailing wisdom, at least to my mind, was with silence. I agree.

It’s harsh but true: writers must let go. Your stories are no longer your stories. If you’re very, very lucky, they are many people’s. Take comfort in that.


Rick’s latest experiment in reader/writer collaboration is Hungry for Love, releasing September 13 from Dreamspinner Press.


Nate Tippie and Brandon Wilde are gay, single, and both hoping to meet that special man, even though fate has not yet delivered him to their doorstep. Nate’s sister, Hannah, and her kooky best friend, Marilyn, are about to help fate with that task by creating a profile on the gay dating site, OpenHeartOpenMind. The two women are only exploring, but when they need a face and body for the persona they create, they use Nate as the model.

When Brandon comes across the false profile, he falls for the guy he sees online. Keeping up the charade, Hannah begins corresponding with him, posing as Nate. Real complications begin when Brandon wants to meet Nate, but Nate doesn’t even know he’s being used in the online dating ruse. Hannah and Marilyn concoct another story and send Nate out to let the guy down gently. But when Nate and Brandon meet, the two men feel an instant and powerful pull toward each other. Cupid seems to have shot his bow, but how do Nate and Brandon climb out from under a mountain of deceit without letting go of their chance at love?

Hungry for Love is available for pre-order at the links below:


Rick R. Reed’s Contact Information:

Visit Rick’s website at http://www.rickrreed.com
or follow his blog at http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/.
You can also like Rick on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
or on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/rickrreed


  • “Night Film” by Marisha Pessl was ripped apart by The New York Times (Amazon cleverly edits the review) but received heaps of praise from Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post and tons of others.

    I can only imagine, given the head-spinning range of reviews a book gets, that an author has to divorce himself or herself from reviews at a certain point or risk going insane. 😕 :explode:

  • Awesome post! When I read, it’s like a movie in my head so I may borrow “mind movie” – a fabulous & shorter expression! As much as you love it when a reader “gets it”, I love hearing from an author that I “got it” in my review.

  • What surprised me the most when I finished writing my first book years ago, was that those characters stopped being a presence in my mind. They stopped talking to me, since their story was done. They now had the freedom to live in other people’s minds, once the book was being read, so they had existence of their own and didn’t need to be in my head anymore. Of course, others had already started yelling at me, jockeying for the right to be the focus of my next book. I had real trouble when my editor wanted me to totally rewrite the first chapter of my second book, because I had to cajole those characters to talk to me again, to help me rewrite their scenes. They sulked for a while, but eventually helped me out.

    When I try to explain the process of “listening” as I type, non-writers sometimes give me odd looks, and my husband tells me others are going to think I need professional help. Maybe I do. But the act of writing keeps the noise in my head at a respectable level. And I try to explain it sometimes, since movie and stage directors always talk about bringing to life their “vision” of how the action should play out, that they are doing what I do: imagining how scenes play out, how characters interact, only they’re using other people’s characters, and I’m creating my own. And when I’m subbing in high schools and students suddenly look interested in what I’m saying, I encourage them to begin writing, and to never stop. Those are the future writers, who perhaps never thought of themselves that way before.

    • What a great perspective! And I am totally with you regarding the “listening.” Sometimes I feel as though I am just transcribing what my characters tell me. Thanks for inspiring and encouraging young writers!

  • You said something that finally gives me a term for what I feel when I read some books. It’s like I’m seeing at the same time I’m reading – mind movie is absolutely perfect!
    Thank you.


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I am never sleepless in Seattle, because there's always another book to read or another book to write.
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