Is it considered a sin if the author gives out too much information about his/her book in its introduction? Information on what the book is about or as to what the readers should expect from it. Is it not better to let the readers find out on their own?
Readers are anything but stupid. At no point in my writing of a book should I act smart, or belittle the reader, or outwit him/her. At no place in my writing should I be dishonest. If I am fake or rather if my writing is based on lies, and it is not authentic and it does not come from my heart, the reader will find out. And I don’t want that to happen no matter what. I don’t want to lose the reader’s trust. Because without that trust, without his/her belief in me as a writer I cease to be one.
I remember once during a creative writing workshop, when I finished reading my story aloud, the writer conducting the workshop asked me, “How did that happen? Why did you end it the way you did? Why that ending?”
My answer was, “I ran out of time. I wrapped up my story, so I won’t be late for my class.”
His advice: “Don’t ever do that again. You have a nice story, but the ending is not plausible. You don’t end stories just like that.”
When I was in high school I had an extraordinary English teacher. His first advice to us was, “When you hold a book in your hand it is totally yours to read and think and analyze in the way only you can understand and interpret the book. And remember never to read the introduction to any book, until you finish reading it.” So you can imagine my surprise when years ago I read Michael Pollan’s confessions in Writer’s Digest (2006).
Michael Pollan thinks that his sin as a writer was keeping his readers in the dark. That he failed to write an introduction to his second book A Place of My Own. He thought it would be elegant to launch straight into narrative and let the themes unfold.
Isn’t this how it is supposed to be? Isn’t this what every writer should do with his/her story or book? To let the reader find his/her way through the narrative? Well not according to Michael. He thinks that not having an introduction was a big mistake on his part. Since his reviewers came up with the oddest notions of what the book was trying to accomplish, and the reason why it didn’t sell. Michael Pollan goes on to say that he has corrected this mistake by writing a careful introduction to any book he has written ever since.
I personally think the biggest mistake a reader makes is to try and analyze the author’s intention. A book should be read for its content, and not what the author had in mind while writing it. A book is not supposed to tell the reader what the author wants to accomplish or do through his/her work. The author’s first and foremost purpose or intention for writing is to tell a story, period. Any book, any novel should never be about the author. And no writer should put down the reader.
As a writer do you think that writing a careful introduction to your book is necessary? Do you think you should tell your readers what your book is about, what it’s trying to do, or what it’s not trying to do? Or do you think that you should go straight to the story and let the reader be the judge?