Friday, 31 May 2013

Why write?

There are a lot of blog posts out there which give out lots of info on how to write, how to write successfully, how publish, market and sell your books.  No doubt much of it is received wisdom from those who've had some success and want to pass on the good news. Sometimes my cynical side rises and I ask myself why authors who have had some success would pass on their secrets to others. If the others sell more successfully, surely the sales of the original author will go down?

Maybe not. Perhaps the market expands to embrace all writers who  have a good story. Let's hope so. But I think frantically reading How To blog posts can be a bad thing when it comes to writing a book. So much is down to a bloody good idea - which we don't all have, or the luck to select just the right agent and have your ms on her desk at just the right time on the day when she is aching for a good historical read, in a good mood and it's been some times since she last splurged on a saleable book.

Writing is a strange thing. Playing with words, trying to get ideas on paper in a way that is clear, concise, graceful and entertaining all at the same time. You need a decent plot with enough twists and turns to keep people reading, and has a dash of originality. I have heard that it isn't the basic plot that matters, but how you write it. I think I disagree with this. By the time I was 25 I'd read so many books on Mary Queen of Scots that I really can't face reading another. I either disagree with the author's theories of why she did what she did, or I find I'm reading the same old arguments, and the writing itself isn't going to encourage me to plod through stuff I already know. So why would I read the same basic plot over and over again?

An intriguing, well written book isn't something that can be pulled off in three months flat, though come to think of it I have heard some  authors say they have a contract for four titles (75k words)  a year. That seems like a bit like being the donkey on the treadmill to me. When do you live, with that hanging over your head? Maybe prolific and successful writers can do it, since we all agree that practice makes things easier. But after the 75th title I begin to doubt that the plots are not rehashes and mix n' matches of plots that have gone before.

Still, the love of writing must be there if they continue with the 76th book. (Or they love the fame, the money, the lifestyle! There I go, being cynical again!) Personally I like the idea of the writing room in the garden so there's perfect peace and concentration, with no outside worries to interfere with the process. By then, of course, I'd be as successful as some well known romance authors, and could hire people to cook for me, and clean the house and keep things shipshape while I swan in and out of my writing room and decide how to shape the next chapter. Yep, I like that idea.

1 comment:

Dean Crawford said...

The bottom line, Jen, is that writing is a business and like any business can only accommodate a certain number of "big-hitters". All markets are the same: a few high earners at the top, a lot of low earners further down and many, many wannabees working to join their ranks.

Most successfully published authors genuinely like sharing their hard-won methods, perhaps because they know so few people will be able to emulate them well. The fact is that technical skill is only one side of the job, the other being creative genius, as you pointed out. One, without the other, isn't going to get an author very far.

All any of us can do, published or not, is to write the best book possible in order to shift the odds as much as possible in our favour. It's never been harder to get noticed and it's only going to get even harder as the digital book age looms ever closer. Just remind yourself of the same thing I did in the 17 years it took me to go from aspiring author to best-seller: You're not in competition with 1,000,000 other authors, you're in competition with yourself.