The importance of rereadability

I feel frustrated with the writing advice I’ve been consuming on WordPress.com. It’s not that the advice is bad. The writers I’ve met have mostly been experienced and genuinely interested in the craft.

But it’s all too practical. By that, I mean that most of it is centred around the real world. Build an online platform to let people know you exist; invest in a good-looking cover to entice shoppers; write a gripping first chapter so that they’ll buy it.

Too many articles I’ve read want to rush writers from platform to publisher, then from publisher to bestseller list, as if writing fiction was an obstacle course. But I don’t want to appease the world. It’s actually quite the opposite: I read and write stories because I like turning my back on reality.

I know that WordPress.com writers mean well. Many authors here have achieved more than I ever have, and they want to help others to do the same. Despite this, I feel stifled. Even worse, I feel as though I’m losing sight of the passion which made me decide to write a novel in the first place.

My discontent made me think about rereadability. Rereadability is not a quality which is immediately useful to a writer attempting to boost book sales, since readers don’t buy the same book twice to reread it.

However, it is highly sought after by readers. Every bookworm longs to discover a book he’ll read again and again—a book to make a lifelong companion out of. Very few readers are looking for books they’ll finish and shelve forever.

I don’t mind reading a book which I won’t return to, in the same way that I find it acceptable to eat food that I’ll only digest once. But by nature, I am a reader who wants to reread books, and that means I’m a writer who wants to write rereadable books. In fact, it is the rereadable novels in my life which inspired me to start creating my own. Single-read books don’t bring out the urge to write in me.

So what have I learnt from this episode of introspection?

What I don’t want:

  • I don’t want to become a bestselling author. Caring about numbers and social influence was never what made me take up writing.
  • I don’t want to reach number one on any list. I don’t want to reach the top five, or ten, of any list.
  • Strangely enough, I don’t want to win any literary prizes, although I probably wouldn’t mind stumbling into one.

What I want:

  • I want to listen to my readers telling each other why they love my characters.
  • I’m in my mid-twenties, and I want a readership that will still remember the books I write now when I’m an old woman.
  • I want to enjoy reading my books over and over again.
  • I want to write novels that I like so much that I’d be glad that someone had written them even if it hadn’t been me.

I don’t think about my native language often, but there is a word in it that I believe is important for any artist. The word ‘chosim’ in Korean means ‘original intention’ or ‘initial resolution’. It is to that first creative impulse that I will have to return to for guidance whenever I stray from my passion for writing.

7 thoughts on “The importance of rereadability

  1. Well said! As an author of English books in a non-English speaking country (Switzerland), I find that many of the well-meaning tips online simply can’t be applied in my situation; nor do I want to apply them. I have a life in the real world, and don’t see the added value in pursuing numbers through Twitter & co. Having said that, I also write blogs; when I write about writing, however, I share from experience, and practical ways to hone writing skills – not results in numbers.
    Like you, I want to write books that I love to read – even if I’ve read them a hundred times as the writer, they’re still stories I would pick up to read as a reader!
    I often get positive feedback from readers either face-to-face, on email, or messages – I can encourage the proverbial horse to water (i.e. writing a good review on Amazon, Facebook, etc.), but I can’t make them take the step and upload what they like about the books. Sigh.
    Keep writing! Enjoy the process, and may success find us anyway. ;-)

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    • Hello, and welcome to my website!

      I don’t own a Twitter account. I’ve thought of making one many times before, as I know it’s a good way to meet people with similar interests, but I could never bring myself to take the final plunge. It’s too crowded for me, and I love words too much to settle for a 140-character limit. Like you though, I enjoy writing about writing, and I wouldn’t give up sharing ideas and tips with people online now that I’ve started.

      I think lack of in-depth feedback from readers is what makes writers’ groups so popular. Every writer feels the need for constructive criticism, so writers seek out fellow writers who empathise. Taking up writing has actually made me feel guilty of my past attitude as a reader. I was one of those horrible people who read and gave nothing—other than money.

      Thank you for following me! I hope you enjoy your time here.

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      • If one can find a writers’ group that gives constructive criticism, that’s wonderful; I’ve only found one group so far here in Switzerland, and it was rather one full of Schadenfreud, sadly. Fortunately I hadn’t joined the group (I was just invited as a guest speaker), but I was interested in finding a potential group – after that I was back to square one…
        By the way, you might be interested in the books I’ve written: In your “About” you say why you used to like fantasy fiction – bending the rules, etc. – but I agree with you on that point! My fantasy fiction sticks to the rules my world created! “The Cardinal” is a two-part fantasy/science fiction set in the Viking era of Scotland and Norway, and in modern Scotland, three stories woven to come together in the end. The other two are part of an 18th C. historical fiction trilogy set in England – I’m working on the third book now. Those two have been compared to both Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, for which I’m humbly grateful, and aware of the quality of standards I need to maintain for their sakes!!
        I would like to follow your blog in my wordpress reader, but couldn’t find out where to do so on your blog; I don’t follow blogs on my email, as I’m not often on the computer in our house that has the account. Could you perhaps tell me where, or add the widget and let me know? In the meantime, you’re welcome to come on over and join our group! :-)

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    • I’m so sorry; I mistook you for someone who started following me at almost the exact moment that you left your comment! I don’t know how I could have been so stupid!

      I’ve added the widget, but please don’t feel pressured to follow me. Your comments are more than enough.

      You seem to have written quite a few books! I’ll look at your author’s page on Amazon, and if I see something I like I’ll pick it up. If I do read one of your books, I promise I’ll give you feedback. Reading without commenting is a terrible habit which I need to fix as soon as possible.

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      • I would like to follow you in the Reader! It would be great if you read my books, even better if you enjoy them, and even greater if you leave positive feedback! :-) I have several readers (who I know of) who’ve read the books multiple times, but only one has left feedback… :-\

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  2. Honestly, you’re right. Too many sites try to help writers reach popularity, but they don’t provide advice on improving their craft or making time for readers. Sadly, I feel like thanks to the internet, all we care about is popularity.

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    • The internet is a double-edged sword, and it needs to be used sparingly. I’m just worried because I’ve heard stories about people who started doing something because they were passionate about it but ended up caring more about wealth or fame. I hope I never wake up one day and realise that I’ve become one of them!

      In the end, it’s my job to stay focused on writing and writing well.

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