In the absence of knowledge, we assume. Such assumptions can be erroneous and lead to fallacious thinking which can create problems for us. This is particularly so in publishing a book.
Once the author has completed a work and committed it to the public, nothing remains but to await the court of public opinion. Yet often that verdict is unclear, which leads to guesses or assumptions on the part of the author. Trouble comes when decisions are made based upon these guesses or assumptions.
The second novel in my Zack Tolliver FBI series is fully one and a half times longer than the first. It is different in a number of other ways. It takes place in a large city, not the southwest deserts. The plot is more complex. There are more characters and subplots. In general, I would characterize it as more challenging and difficult to follow than the first.
The first novel, on the other hand, received many strong reviews right from the start. People reported finishing it quickly, with one person claiming to read it cover to cover in one sitting, with just two hours out for sleep.
Not so the second novel. To date, it has but five reviews with Amazon. There has been little feedback beyond those five reviews. In the absence of facts, I have made assumptions.
The problems that can arise from this came home to me while engaged in a casual discussion with my neighbor. He has read both of the books. From earlier discussions I knew he enjoyed the first book in the series. I saw my opportunity to learn how he felt about the second, compared to the first.
When I asked the question, he hesitated. He seemed reluctant to respond. Finally he said, “No offense, but…” Here it comes, I thought. He went on. “No offense, but I found the second book to be more entertaining.”
He went on to explain that while he enjoyed the tempo and mystery and ambiance of the first story, he found the characters, their interplay, and the clue gathering intrigue and suspense of the second more entertaining.
I was surprised, gratified, puzzled. I had assumed that the greater length and complexity of the second work put people off, and they were putting it aside before finishing it, finding it too much effort for the reward. I had steeled myself to accept it did not measure up to the first. But apparently I was wrong.
Meanwhile, I have begun my third novel in the series. Taking what I assumed was a lesson from my second work, I moved away from the complexity of plot, the multiple subplots, and, in fact, the bustling city and all its distractions. My protagonist and I moved back to the simplicity of country life.
I based that decision on an assumption made in the absence of knowledge. Had I been a glass half full sort of person, I might actually have taken Zack into an even bigger city in a novel jam packed with new characters and intrigue. But I’m not, and I didn’t.
Is there a lesson to be gleaned in all of this? The importance of patience, I suppose. Or maybe there’s really no lesson at all. Maybe I would have made the change regardless. It could be – it just could be – that I made that decision because it’s what I wanted to do in the first place. Just say-in’.