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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Think I Like My Own Novels (Maybe) by James L. Rubart

Do you like your own novels?

I'm not sure how I feel about mine.

My novel, The Chair was Christian Retailing’s TOP PICK for September 2011, was nominated for a Christy, is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and I’ve received many reader e-mails about how much they loved the book.

But my reaction to all that has been: Really? You’re serious? Are we talking about the same book?

I’m not trying to be self-deprecating. It’s truly how I felt.

Why felt and not feel?

Because recently I recorded the audio version of The Chair (after being away from the book for more than a year) and as I read through the novel I caught myself thinking, “Hmmm, I guess that part isn’t completely horrible,” and “Hey, that works okay.”

Can you relate? Yes, I see that hand, and yes you in the back, I see yours as well, thank you.

A few weeks ago my son Taylor and his girlfriend, Mara, read my next novel, Soul’s Gate (releases this November). When I asked how they liked it, both said it’s their favorite out of the four I’ve written. Again, my reaction is, “Really?”

Help me. Why do we do that?

Maybe it’s because a novelist’s concentration as well as their editor’s is on what’s wrong with the book and where it needs to improve rather than on what’s working well. That of course has to be the focus, but I wonder if it skews my thinking after the novel is finished. You?

How long does it take for you to be away from something you’re written to get back and see there are elements that work well?

Do you don’t ever go back and read what you’ve written. If not, why not? And why is it easier for others to love our work more than we do?

James L. Rubart is the best-selling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. His fourth novel, SOUL'S GATE hits shelves in early November.

During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at


  1. I don't have the perspective of reading mine in book form, yet. But I do have beta readers, and when they like what I've done, it's exciting. My beta readers truly love me and tell me if they don't like one of my stories, which they've done before. So when they do like the finished manuscript, I feel like I CAN do this!! So sure, I can see how recording an audio book would make you feel that way, Jim. Besides, you don't need to know how good they are. WE know!! :)

  2. I was the one waving my hand from the back of the room. I do this with all my manuscripts and with published short stories and articles and even with blog posts.


    I think it is that when I am working and re-working a thing over and over, the characters don't feel real. I'm manipulating them. I'm moving them around. I'm making them bump into things, I'm beating them up until they give me the response I need. I know they aren't real and their story isn't real, so it all feels phony and contrived.

    Even with words on a blog post, I lose sight of the way the sentences will feel fresh, because I've moved and molded them so much (sometimes--other times I just throw something up).

    Another reason I have a hard time believing people who say they like my stuff, is that inevitably someone will reject it or give a negative critique along the way. And one negative response is always way louder in my head than ten positive responses.

    Happily, I often read my stuff later and think, "Hmm. This isn't as horrid as I thought it was."

    I've not yet tried your books, so I can't tell you whether I like them or not. Sorry. Which one would you suggest I start with?

  3. Yup I had my hand up too. When my second novel was released in April people started telling me they liked it even more than the first one and I was shocked. "Really? Are you just saying that or are you for real?" was what I said in my head.
    Guess it's just the way we are and maybe it's not such a bad thing. Better than believing every word we write is genius! ;0

  4. I understand. I go between love and hate of what I write. And I'm excited to hear that your new book will be here soon!

  5. I think it can be a good thing and an indication that we're maturing as writers. Also, it could be our emotional state at the moment we go back and re-read. I find my work can be good, then bad, then good again. If I find something consistent that bugs me – then there’s a flaw. Sometimes when I place well in literary contests, depending upon my emotional state, I may think – great or I may think that the judges were drunk at the time. I think some of us are better storytellers than actual wordsmiths, which it not a bad thing, but the flaws stand out as our craft improves. I think much of it is our own expectation. On a gut level I see my writing as mediocre with flashes of brilliance. It’s always my hope that the brilliance makes up for the flaws. And then again, do my stories continue to ring true? They did at the time of my writing them. When I go back and read them only to find that I’m shaking my head it’s because I’ve moved on. Nice question. Thanks.


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