The Most Talented Young Writer I’ve Ever Known Failed Her Readers
Like many young aspiring novelists, college was when I first began to truly consider the marketability and professionalism of my writing. I realized that if I wanted to make it, then I would need to be good at it. So, I joined a critique site and started sharing my work. Along the way, I met the most talented writer that I have ever known. Her writing was incredible, her stories were unique and interesting, and her success seemed inevitable.
But, it didn’t quite work out that way.
An Agented Author
Critique sites are a great way to meet other writers — and they are also an incredible way to hone your craft. As a young writer, I had a lot to learn, so seeing a girl my age writing such incredible works was fairly intimidating, but it was also really inspiring. When she announced that she landed an agent on the site, I was so excited for her.
This, I thought. This is what I’m working for.
Seeing a young woman writing fantasy — amazing fantasy — and having it work out was a big win for all of us in a way. Our little community rejoiced in her success, urging her on to chase down her own greatness. One day, she was going to be a huge name and we would be the cool group that got to see the book before it was even published.
A Published Author
Just like we all expected, a publisher picked up her book. Her excitement was resonating everywhere. You could feel it in every interaction with her and see it in every message she posted on the forums. She was alive, thrilled to see her success finally pay off.
But, something strange became clear.
This girl, for the majority of her time on the site, had been working on a fantasy novel. When I say it was incredible, I mean I’m sad that it’s no longer available because I would love to reread it. It was that good, which is why we all assumed it was that book that she was publishing. But, it wasn’t.
Her publishing announcement was actually for another one of her books, a newer one. It was a different genre. It was rough and a little awkward to read. The book lacked the polish and finesse of her other works — and it just didn’t feel like her.
But hey, that’s what editors are for, right?
The book itself was a controversy waiting to happen in retrospect, but it didn’t quite click until after it was published. Like many authors, she chose to write someone else’s story. In this case, her work was focused on a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It was not her story and not her experience, and she wrote about it in the careless way people often do.
While she supported the community, it just wasn’t her story to tell and it was riddled with poor assumptions and a flurry of insensitivities.
The internet did what it does.
Initial parts of the growing outrage became visible on Goodreads. People weren’t just mad, they were livid. Every new comment added more gravity to the reality of what she had done and how many people she hurt with her story.
What she crafted wasn’t a book. I read her books and they were exceptional. This one was the one I couldn’t even finish reading. Every page was filled with tropes. The dialogue was awkward and clunky. It was one of those books that you would put down immediately because it just wasn’t there. Every reader was unhappy with it for their own reason.
But, it also handled a topic that wasn’t really widespread in publishing at the time — a difficult topic that is now a major and much-needed discussion in society — which likely contributed to it being published. It was a topic that members of the LGBTQ+ community wanted to read about, and you could feel the pain of it in their reviews.
It was written by someone with an unrealized lack of education and the results were harmful whether she meant for them to be or not.
These readers were excited to see their story. What they found was a book that was more focused on using them than catering to them. Their pain wasn’t only justified — it was palpable.
And hey, some readers just weren’t impressed with it.
The book did not perform well and had a generally low rating, which makes publishing another book that much harder.
What Came Next
The end of this story is not very dramatic — and it is still being written.
This author, while talented, made the biggest mistake that a creator can make. She chose to write a story that wasn’t truly hers. It wasn’t just her decision to write someone else’s experience. Plenty of authors do this successfully, but she betrayed everyone involved with this one book, including herself.
Her readers wanted to see themselves and instead saw someone’s insensitive fantasy about their experience, and they aren’t the only readers that she let down either.
In short, the book wasn’t good. It didn’t sound like her. It didn’t feel like her. Compared to her other books, this one just didn’t fit. Out of every story that deserved publication, this one wasn’t it — and now it is likely the only one that she will be remembered by — if she is remembered at all.
The author in this story still writes, but her works come with restricted access that keeps them hidden from the world. Even the novel itself has seemingly vanished from the internet, only to be found in traces that are tucked away online.
When I was younger, I thought she made it.
Now, I’m just glad that my career is only beginning.