Here’s what all-round YA hero Chris Wooding has to say about writing really difficult books – this snippet in relation to his excellent Storm Thief: “As usual, while writing it I got to a point where I wished I’d never started, and I wanted to run my hard drive over an electromagnet…” Wooding admits. “And also as usual, I got through it, and when it was finally done and I got the bound copies I decided that I loved it again.”
I’ve been thinking about my relationship with Lifers a lot recently. Partly because I’ve been listening to actors reading it in preparation for an audio version – a thrilling experience – and partly because of a conversation I was having with some more interesting, funny, insightful children’s authors; Niel Bushnell, Dan Smith and Chris Callaghan.
Here’s the thing about reviews, I was saying. Pretty much everything, over time, ends up at 3.9. Using Goodreads, a site I love, to verify the theory finds this: The Great Gatsby’s two-million plus reviews even out at 3.9. A Midsummer Night’s Dream? 3.9. King Lear? Macbeth? Henry V? 3.9 apiece. The author Margaret Atwood gets an overall rating of 3.9. Current zombie favourite The Girl With All the Gifts scores 3.9, as does my last read, King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams. What about the novel most claim is the finest ever written, George Eliot’s Middlemarch? You guessed it.
(Before I get irritating, let’s be serious for a moment. I’m patently not trying to argue that everything gets a 3.9, or in my opinion deserves a 3.9. There were plenty of searches that just missed the mark. I was gutted to find Hamlet comes out at 4.0, for example. And Wuthering Heights gets a 3.8, though Bronte can comfort herself knowing she’s out-performed Great Expectations by 0.1; Dickens’ novel comes in at a mystifying 3.7.)
Anyway. I s’pose what I’m trying to say is this – write what you want, and try your best to love what you write. Because if and when it’s published, this is what will happen: some people will like it, some people won’t, and you’ll most likely end up with a 3.9.
So if, like Wooding, you’re battling with a project that feels so doomed you’re planning on running your hard-drive over an electro-magnet…. Don’t. Keep going. Out there are people who are going to love it – and one of them is likely your future self.
Oh, and one more thing. What about Wooding’s Storm Thief itself? What did that score?
Well, as luck would have it…