As a writer, I’ve learned a lot of things about myself, both things I’m proud of, and things I’m not, and one of my biggest disappointments had nothing to do with query letters, learning more about publishing that I at times REALLY didn’t want to know, or even hearing the word “Platform.”
I stopped loving to read.
I know. I became a writer BECAUSE I learned to love reading.
But here’s the thing, when you go from being a lay reader who just wanted a book to entertain (and some times inform you), to a writer, where the realities of the market demand the most error-free manuscript possible just to get READ, never mind an agent or get published, a lot of that love sadly flies out the window.
Sure, I still read as I learned the ins and outs of writing, but I was so focused on the technical aspects of writing that the notion of “Writer’s Playtime” was Greek to me. How could I care about characters or story when what’s getting picked apart in critiques are things like-
- You don’t stay in one POV throughout
- You’re digressing too much in this scene.
- You write too “Complex” for your intended readers
- Your prose is too “On the Nose. No real person would say that.”
- Why don’t you show this conflict instead of
- This is just too long for X age readers. Period.
The list goes on, but I’ll stop there.
My point is this, how can writers re-engage with reading without putting the needs to study their craft by the wayside?
Some writers say this is just part of the deal and just to live with it. But I can’t accept that. How can I, in good conscience, continue my journey as a writer, when I no longer can read the books I’m TRYING to write in the first place?
That would be like accountant who can’t use decimals points correctly or can calculate percentages. Or firefighters who were never trained to fight fires, or handle other types of emergency scenarios.
How can writers no longer can read what they love, which is what made me want write in the first place, without being a hypocrite?
The books and authors I’m now being annoyingly compared to were once my friends. My escape from the pain at home, and at school (I didn’t start writing until I was 16), and kept me focused on something that was fully in my control, unlike jumping hoops to get my GED after high school didn’t work out, if I didn’t write that day, it’s on me, not a mismanaged and broken system.
(I’m talking about the education system, NOT publishing, but it’s got its own share of problems that aren’t SOLELY the fault of authors, but that’s another blog post…)
Now those friends are my rivals.
Many writers think we have no competition and that we’re better off just to keep writing.
I’m not sure that’s an option anymore.
Whether we like it or not, part of writing is playing this comparison game, and I’m speaking from the business side, not the writer side, and for those of us who don’t have a PhD in marketing, this is the part of the process that hurts even more than form letter rejections.
While I just don’t see books as products like toothpaste or makeup, like those products, books need to face a lot of scrutiny before we ever get to the desired reader at the end, and this “There’s no competition” mentality a lot of writers,even those I admire and respect, is blind to the fact that when we go from writing to SELLING our writing, that mindset has to change, and for those of us who can’t afford to self-publish right, we HAVE to face this hurdle at some point.
Thankfully, great writers think alike when facing difficulties in their lives and stories. Last year, I had an interesting round of correspondence with author, Janice Hardy, who I first met many years ago on a forum for writers, and while we had our ups and downs, I now consider her a friend, and a solid example of a writer who really practices what she preaches in regards to art and business of writing.
I’ll talk more about what I learned from Janice tomorrow.
What do you think?
Why are some stories able to outshine the writing of them, and others are held back because of the writing?
Is publishing out of touch with this discrepancy?
Are we asking too much of writers in this regard, or not enough?