Many have described, and I agree, that being an author is largely a solitary endeavor. Collaboration may occur in the fact finding and research stages and certainly there’s much human interaction in the editorial/publishing process. But in the main, where the rubber meets the road – and the fingers the keyboard, it’s a solitary existence.
…from the outside, that is.
For my part, and this may just be my own psychosis; me alone in a room, never happens. My characters are a constant presence. In fact, I’m not in a room at all, I am in a desert tent with a nomadic tribesman or on 7th Avenue with a cop practicing street diplomacy. At 35,000 feet in Air Force One when an unfamiliar noise pricks the pilot’s ear, 600 feet below the Polar Ice Cap dreading the Emergency Action Message just received. In the next second, I’m alongside a kindergartener with sticky finger-paint hands.
…Until the phone rings, then in true special effects dazzle, everything around me is sucked back into the laptop upon the ‘save’ command.
It’s a “robo” call. Good time to get an ice tea, check on the cat. See if anybody called with earth shattering news, if not, then back to my other world. A place where I am always right. I am always perfect and my writing is the stuff of Gods. Perfect prose, revealing pithy dialog, situations, locations and scenes that are sure not to be consciously read but to bubble up from inside anyone reading this masterpiece of literary greatness.
Thank god for my beta readers. The necessary fall from grace all artists must endure to get better at their art and craft, is delivered by these guardians of my overreaching ego. Thoughtful people who see my work with a different eye, not being swayed or carried along by my internal momentum or having seen the mindscape of my ideas, concepts and structure, which may not have made it to the page.
You heard it here first; I am not a natural, a genius-born author who writes once and the book is perfect – don’t change a word. (see: Lee Child) or under the influence of a controlled substance when I commit literary fabrication, (also see: Lee Child) I am a mere mortal, Lee is a God. As the legend has it, editors can’t touch his work. “That’s the way it happened!” is what he once told an editor who suggested moving one sequence before another. – (We all want to be Lee…sigh)
Anyway, so the beta reader comes back and says, “I liked it, but…”
Four pages of notes later, you ask yourself how you could have missed something so stupid and so elementary as _______, or I didn’t fully till your field here when ________, or I never tied-out this character.
I call all of these, First Draft Errors. Useful advice: only pick beta-readers who can get over the fact that you actually sat and wrote 85,000 words, who are not in awe of that feat alone so they feel they can’t say anything bad, disturbing or off-putting.
If you find folks who genuinely understand you want to make your book better, and to that end, offer unvarnished reactions to your work, then you will be as lucky as me.