I went to a horse show recently with my appaloosa gelding, Nick. I showed a number of classes, but one class in particular was Showmanship. Showmanship is a class where you show your horse in-hand and take them through a defined pattern, and it is a class both Nick and I are well trained in.
I ran my showmanship pattern at this show, and I knew I had done well. I hit the points I was supposed to hit, Nick stayed with me and went through the maneuvers as he should, and I was smiling as I left the ring. My coach even gave me a “good job” as I exited. Out of five participants in the class, I received 5th, 3rd, and 1st, one from each of three judges. I realized had no idea how to interpret that. One judge thought I did the best of the class and another thought I did the worst?
And so, of course, it made me think about book reviews, (of course!). While I don’t have any books of my own out there to be reviewed yet, I have read plenty of book reviews for other books. I’ve read plenty of reviews for books I haven’t read, but I have also gone back to read reviews for books that I have read. I have seen one star reviews on books that have literally changed my life for the better, and five star reviews on books that I thought were just horribly written.
The reminder here is that judging anything is so subjective. Different people put different weight on different things based on their experiences, skill/knowledge, and even current mood. Even on something as short as my two minute showmanship pattern, it’s possible that one of the judges saw Nick step out of line, or thought he was crooked, or not engaging his back. Another was impressed by a beautiful stop or a well done haunch turn. It’s possible that it was a matter of them looked down or up at different times.
After I thought about it, it just brought to light how little control I have over other people’s opinions. Even my favorite authors have people who don’t like their books. I will have my own book out there one day and I will likely get more of the same. People who laud my writing as something that spoke to them, and others who curse my name to the depths of hell.
While it is much harder for an entire book to be all good or all bad, if I can get such varying results from a two minute showmanship pattern, then it’s not surprising to get varying results from a 100k word novel. It just shone a little more light on the fact that I’d better like the book I produce, because I’m putting in far more time than anyone who reads it, and I have no control over how anyone likes it.