I think most of us, when we sit down to write a story, aren't thinking, "How can I come up with words that affect people in ways I've never dreamed?"
It's more likely we're thinking things like, "What is going to be my protagonist's main obstacle?" and "How am I going to make this plot twist work?" and "OMG-this-is-the-coolest-world-I've-ever-ever-come-up-with!" And if you're me, you're thinking, every day during the drafting, "I hate drafting."
But then the draft is done, and the notes come back, and the edits begin. And after a while, after however many rounds it takes to get it right, you've got a polished novel.
And then someone reads it--someone, perhaps, who has never read one of your novels before--and it sets his heart on fire.
And you get an email that's time-stamped 2:00 AM, with a subject line that says, in all caps, MY HEART IS GOING TO EXPLODE.
And the reader is exclaiming (with many exclamation points) that he just finished, that he read it in 3 days, and that it's one of the best stories he's ever read.
It's not just about a great story or a captivating world ("I was thrown into the world and never wanted to leave," this reader said), though. It's about deep-heart issues that resonated more completely and more profoundly than you thought possible. A level of relating to the protagonist beyond what this writer dreamed possible. An overflowing thankfulness for how my story spoke to significant issues and situations in this person's life.
I have read this email at least six times. Pretty sure I'm going to keep reading it, too.
What makes this even more exciting--mind-blowing, even--is that this was a "sensitivity read". The reader was my, well, "sensitive reader". I never expected a response like the one I received. I never expected my words to go THAT DEEP.
The first time I read the email, it was with one hand pressed against my wide-open mouth. Honestly. I could hardly breathe.
That, my friends, is the unexpected reward for our labor. We've worked hard to get everything right--the pacing, the arc, the world, the characters. But in the midst of all that work, we really don't know--can't possibly know--how our words will affect someone. And when they do, it's hard to describe the feeling.
It goes beyond making people cry (5 of my readers this time around cried). Or making them happy or angry or invested in our characters. It's something we could never plan, and rarely anticipate.
And I think it's the best part.
Never doubt that you have the ability to touch people with your words. Indeed, it's your greatest power, and it will come only after you've put in all the time and sweat and angst and WORK it takes to create a novel. I've been writing novels for 12 years (yikes), and there was no way those early works were going to touch anyone on a deep level. Not even a wee prick. So there's something to be said for honing your craft over time as well.
But don't doubt that it's possible. I'm telling you that it is. And that it's humbling and magnificent and beyond any experience you're bound to have as a writer.
I have no words for my thankfulness. And blown-away-ness.
Keep writing, lovelies. I'm beginning to believe that the possibilities are infinite.