Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Harold Shipman of the publishing world

This is a post I did on the news section of my website that I thought I'd reproduce here where it will be more available to fellow blogging authors who may be interested in my ramblings ...

Huh! And harrumph! That's me being CROSS!
I refer to the Observer's review section of last week. There's a section called 'Book Doctor' for writers wanting advice on their ... erm ... writing. Anyway, someone wrote in saying they were writing a book but had received advice from several people telling him/her to 'only bother' writing the first four chapters and then send them off to agents/publishers. That way, if it gets rejected, they won't have 'wasted all that time writing the whole book'!
Which would be bad enough, but the advice from the not-so-good doctor was 'Absolutely right!' So in other words, value can only be measured in monetary terms. If you're not going to make £££ from your writing, don't bloody bother. And since everyone knows making any money (let alone a living) from writing requires little short of a miracle these days, no one should ever bother writing at all!
So - don't write just because you feel a need (or compulsion) to tell a story.
Don't write just because it gives you an outlet for your creativity.
Don't write just because it gives you pleasure.
Don't write just because it feels like part of your identity.
Don't write just because you find it therapetic.
Don't write just because you feel you have something to say that maybe, just maybe, someone else would like to hear.
In fact, don't bother bloody writing at all. Leave the literary world to the likes of Dan Brown and the Chick Literati who have already 'made it' ie their books are on the 3 for 2 tables at Waterstones.
What a hideous comment on the state of the publishing world. With book selling dominated by the huge chains with their central buyers, independant bookshops being squeezed to within a millimetre of their lives, getting that elusive deal becoming harder and harder - not only for first timers but also for the dreaded mid-listers, what advice does the industry (as represented by the Book Doctor) give?
S/he might as well have said straight out that the only valid reason for writing is to make money - and since you won't, don't bother.
Well I may not be medically qualified, but this is MY advice to that would-be writer:
Write and enjoy. If you do get a deal, consider that to be particularly scrummy icing on the cake, but don't consider it to be the only possible validation that what you are doing is worthwhile and has intrinsic value. And if you don't get a deal, you will have had the pleasure and huge sense of achievement of having created something from nothing.
In my not-so-humble opinion, people who write simply in order to be published will probably be writing stilted formulae that have less chance of being picked up anyway. Whereas if you write because you genuinely want/need to, what you produce will be more likely to be fresh and interesting.
So fuck the Book Doctor! Find yourself a good local writers' group (or start one yourself if necessary). You'll get good feedback, a ready made audience for your work and the motivation to carry on past those first four chapters. Alternative medicine!
Good luck!

posted by Debi at 9:39 AM


Anonymous said...

Sound advice, Debi. Fuck the book doctor, indeed :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, throughly agree with you. How are authors supposed to get published with that advice? Anyway aren't there enough novels about the glamorous young things in advertising. Not all want to read about that!

Debi said...

Hi, Kath. Glad you've made it. Basically I write the kind of books I like to read and I'd imagine that's true of most authors.
So it's horses for courses ... one person's meat ... and various other cliches - all of which should create an argument for MORE diversity, not less.
The Book Quack's argument would certainly not contribute to that ...