Big deal – so what?
If you put your mind to it, anyone can. What you have to ask yourself is whether or not more than a dozen people will actually want to read it? Reality dictates that invariably the answer will be probably not. So what do you as a writer seriously need to consider before writing word one?
Firstly If writing is merely a hobby with you, read no further… Secondly, find out which of the genres is currently popular? Thirdly, is it the genre for you, and more to the point, can you write in it? Fourthly and most important of all, is your standard of writing of sufficient quality? In other words does it meet acceptable standards? A lot of what is currently on offer fail miserably when it comes to the fourth in my list. I mentioned this in today’s previous post when I said that Amazon’s virtual book shelves are littered with millions of books no one other than the author’s family and friends want to read.
Despite its subject, not to mention the appallingly bad way in which it was written, the glaring example of what is considered to be a page turner these days is still E.L James’ first novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Purely from a literary point of view it was a poorly edited absolute shocker. Yet millions of people across the world bought, read and praised it, which just goes to show that there is no accounting for taste. Hollywood saw it as a money maker and turned it into a movie. Despite receiving generally unfavorable reviews, it was an immediate box office success, breaking numerous records and earning over US$571 million worldwide. What does this say about the general public’s literary taste? Not very much! To be frank they wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them in the backside! I’ll tell you what it says about today’s crop of books – when it comes to what constitutes a page turner, the answer is entirely in the lap of the gods!
So what can we deduce from the above example? That when considering what the reading public believe is a book worthy of their time, there are no guarantees. All any of us can hope to do is write our hearts out, even though the number of writers who can honestly say that they can make a living from participating in our calling are few and far between.
While your friends may love what you have written, unless at the very least it sells multiples of a hundred thousand copies, it is just another instantly forgettable book. I’m sorry but there it is. As fiction writer’s we’re lucky if one of our titles makes the grade.
Should all I have just said put you off wanting to write? Absolutely not. Your safe until you take a deep breath and decide to publish. By publish I’m not talking about posting a short story on your blog. Instead I’m talking about taking the deliberate step to expose your work to often cruel, not to say downright hostile criticism. Sadly the latter is the only gauge you have to let you know if you have what it takes to be a full time writer? Participating in writing workshops or reading groups is no indicator as to whether or not you are made of stern stuff. In both cases from the driven writer’s point of view participation in either is a waste of time. Take it from me, when I say that our calling is not for the faint hearted or the starry-eyed dreamer or the get rich quick fraternity. It is not to be entered into lightly. Why? Because it is one of the harshest working environments known to man.
PS – one last thought, many of today’s editors and small press publishers started out as starry-eyed writers who quit when the going got tough, unable to handle all the flack that inevitably comes our way when we publish. I’ve said the following on more than one occasion in the past – to be a writer you need the hide of a rhinoceros and a determination to succeed despite the critics…