My Views on Authorial Intent

In my video reading poems from Inside a Writer’s Head, one of the poems prompted me to think of the authorial intent vs readers’ interpretation debate. This tends to be primarily in the realm of written work, but it could also apply to shows, movies, and other media.

In this post, I’m going to focus on my views as it relates to my own work, as that is the main application for me.

My take is a middle-ground, mixed perspective. There is support for both sides, and historically which side prevails has flip-flopped. For a long time before the recent rise of fanfiction authorial intent was king and readers’ interpretation was of lesser importance or didn’t matter at all. What the author meant by their work was what mattered, not how you or I interpreted the work to mean or convey.

I don’t think there is a dichotomy or that we have to pick one.

Both what the author intends and what the readers interpret in a given work matter. They’re both important and give insight into the work.

For example, if I employ heavy color-driven symbolism in a work to speak to characters’ emotional states or journeys, that’s my intent. If you read that story and don’t pick up on the symbolism, you’ll interpret the story based on what you did pick up on, possibly including other symbols I didn’t intend. Someone else could pick up the color symbolism and interpret it differently than I intended. There is support for all of these. None of these is “right” and the others “wrong” per se.

Everyone has different experiences, different perspectives that they bring to a work. What I bring as the author is not the same as what any of my readers bring.

Because of this, there will be different interpretations of a work. What speaks to me in a book may not speak to you. What I think is the most important part of my story may not be the most important part to you. I can hinge the plot on it, but there could be subtle elements that give a reader argument for something else being more of a driving factor.

My main point in that is art is not cut and dry or straightforward. It speaks to people in different ways based on the influences in their lives that change their perspective.

When I was twelve I got into fanfiction, both reading and writing it. That has undoubtedly influenced my perspective on this debate.

I’ve read fanfics in which I really enjoyed an unconventional take of a character and fanfics in which I really hated it. It adds so much depth to a work to see the characters in different contexts or interpreted differently or in situations they didn’t experience in canon.

Additionally, it gives writers practice maintaining consistent characters of all stripes. It is largely an outpouring of love for a given work, and it’s hard work. Sometimes fanfiction is harder to write than original work, becuase of the confines of the existing work. Keeping characters to bounds set by someone else is difficult.

Lastly, I’ve come to see fanfiction as comparable to free advertising. I have found new books, shows, and other work because of fanfiction. I’ve read fanfiction that was not obviously branded as such by the title that was fantastic and sparked interest in the characters and where they came from. And it was done for free. No one paid that writer to spend their time and effort on fanfiction. They chose to do it because they love the characters and the original work.

I can see and understand both sides of this debate in large part because I’ve written and interacted with original and derivative works.

As far as my own work goes, it’s open to interpretation. I have what I intended, but you have what you bring to my work and may take away something else. I’d love to hear about that. I want to be open about what I intend as well as open to readers’ interpretations.

[Authorial Present] Dream Investments (Poem)

This is a poem from Inside a Writer’s Head. Read more from and about the collection here.

What if I begin

to write once again?

To refine my craft

each day with time?

I’ll find myself,

one day, with such a store

of experience and writings,

Oh! such galore!

I’ll not regret that time well-spent

My investment in

my authorial present.

For a writer’s not born

with talent and skill,

but honed and created

through the daily toil.

Choosing a Self-Publishing Service

This post is not sponsored by the Alliance of Independent Authors, BookBaby, Medium, or Marcin Wichary. All information is based on my research for this post and while I was at this step of the self-publishing process for Inside a Writer’s Head.

I have a few recent posts about preparing a poetry collection for self-publishing. This post is more general and can be used for finding the right self-publishing service for any project.

There are a huge number of self-publishing services available nowadays. I couldn’t possibly investigate and review all of them. What I can do is discuss some qualities to look for when choosing a self-publishing service. When you find a service you like, you may want to review this page by the Alliance of Independent Authors rating self-publishing services to see what they have to say about that service.

Your Goals

Before you can find the right self-publishing service, figure out what your goals are. Do you want to give your writing to family and friends? Do you want to sell it? Do you want it to be something you giveaway to your audience, possibly as a free ebook download or a Patreon reward or in some other way? Do you want an ebook, physical book, or both? Are you going to design the cover or have someone who will? If a physical book, do you want a hardcover (dust jacket?) or softcover book?

Ask questions and really understand what you hope to accomplish.

I wanted to sell my writing to the most people possible, but also have the option of giving it away.

Cost vs Reward

Think about what the service costs, what you can afford, and what is being promised for a certain price.

Keep in mind what your goals are. If a service is really cheap but won’t check all your boxes for what you hope to accomplish, it may not be a good fit. On the flip side, if it’s way outside your price range but has everything you could ever want, it’s also not a good fit. As a side note, if the promised quality doesn’t match up with the price point, do some more research.

When I chose BookBaby I knew it was higher than I had anticipated. I thought about what they were promising for that price and did research on them and other services before deciding. For what I paid I’m getting 25 copies of my poetry collection, an ebook available on all platforms from Amazon to Apple’s iBooks, print on demand, and distribution of my book to catalogs for major retailers, and Amazon. I also got a free book review, which I shared on my Published Work page.

Ease of Use

You will also want a service that is uncomplicated and clear about the steps. Some services may have old or clunky software or process for uploading your writing and cover. There may be other advantages to a service that do make it a good choice even if the uploading process is harder or more time consuming.

The Finished Product

Find other authors who used the service(s) you’re looking at. What do they have to say about the service and their finished ebook or physical book? Is their review positive or negative? Why?

If they have a bad experience with the self-publishing process with a given service, see if that is common. If their negative review is with the end result, evaluate what they hoped to accomplish and if what they received aligns with your goals. Do the same for a good experience and a positive review of the end result.

While researching options, I found an article on Medium comparing the quality of four self-publishing services for printing 15 copies of a hard cover book. Marcin Wichary shows images of the books he received, discusses his goals and what he liked and disliked about all parts of each service. If you want physical books, definitely check out his article, even if you’re doing soft cover books. He shows the pages, the type quality, and the interfaces used.

 

These are the three main things to consider when choosing a self-publishing service, your goals, the cost vs reward, and the finished product. They all intersect, and the services that excell in all three areas are the services to choose from for your project.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Interview with Debut Author Seven Jane

I recently encountered Seven Jane on Twitter and learned she is releasing her debut novel on October 9th. Her novel, The Isle of Gold is historical fiction set in 1716 on a pirate ship. Check out the full description here.

The Isle of Gold sounds really exciting and the summary on your website piques my interest. How did you come to this idea and the premise of the story?
“I have always loved pirate stories and being out on the sea. The idea for this story came in a dream, and the characters largely determined the rest themselves.”
What was your favorite part of writing The Isle of Gold?
“Writing this story required a lot of research, which was absolutely amazing! I love sailing, but of course have never sailed a wooden ship nor eaten pirate fare, so learning about these elements was fascinating. I was even able to tour some recreation wooden sailing vessels, which was an incredible experience—to put to sea with creaking boards underneath like a sailor might in the 17th century.”
What was the hardest part of the writing process for you?
“Mixing fantasy with fact is always hard, as well as staying true to original folklore without repeating the same old story. I tried to do this the best I could, while weaving an entirely new tale.”
Was there any aspect of writing a novel that you hadn’t expected or heard about from other authors? If so, what was it?
“I think the biggest surprise in writing a historical fiction piece was how many details would come up requiring research. It’s not the same in fiction (although it certainly can be). Along the way I had to research everything from how to caulk a ship to trim a cigar, and finding answers to some of my more unusual questions certainly took more time than I expected, though it was all certainly worth it in the end!”