Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Whoa. Let's All Just Take a Deep Breath

With The New York Times reporting that best-selling authors are now being told to publish more than one book a year, and a breezy analysis from Forbes which basically says that anyone with a good brand can become a successful author, Libby Fischer Hellman sees cause for concern:
Forbes is basically saying, if you can sell it, you’re a writer.

Well, no. You’re not.

Just because you can write doesn’t mean you should. Writers need to grow their craft. They need to understand point of view. They need to understand suspense. Develop three-dimensional characters. And they need to hone their prose. Strip out dangling participles. Eliminate TV dialogue. Deliver conflict on every page. Just because a writer has finished a manuscript doesn’t mean it’s ready. I know. I wrote four books before I was published.

Which, in a round-about way, brings me back to the NY Times article. There’s an old story in the mystery community about a woman with a full time job who, nonetheless, wrote a novel in a year. Then she decided to go part-time, thinking she could write one in six months. It still took a year. Then she quit her job altogether. It still took a year.

The point is that great novels, whether genre or literary, can take time—whether it’s research, editing, or just figuring out what the story is really about. The pressure of writing more than one book a year isn’t good for any author who cares about their craft. Most of the authors I know are always pushing themselves, trying new things, working to deliver fresh, dynamic stories and characters. The need to crank out more in less time threatens that drive and can lead to works of lesser quality. It’s a self-perpetuating danger which no writer, especially a best-selling author, should have to face.

But they are, mainly because other e-writers are putting out an enormous amount of product. Some writers release e-books at the rate of one a month. I’m sorry, but with a few exceptions, those are not books I am going to rush out and buy. I know they’re not going to be at the same level as a new Daniel Silva or a new Mo Hayder. I don’t care how much “branding” an author does. I can tell within two or three paragraphs whether I’m going to like a book, and that depends on the writer’s mastery of craft. If it’s not there, it’s not for me.
Read the complete post on Libby's blog, Say The Word. Healthy market or surge toward hackery? Some strong feelings on the subject, no doubt. Just remember that while comment is free, courtesy also costs nothing...

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