Oooh, more advice

First off, sorry for the delay posting. The last few weeks have been interesting in the proverbial sense and it all culminated with me being up all night writing, something I haven’t done in a very long time. There simply isn’t enough coffee anymore to help this battered body of mine continue going after no sleep for more than 36 hours. So, a nap and shower was needed before I could make any sense this morning. The good news is that I finished Nocturnal Challenge. It now gets to sit on the back burner for a few weeks. Then I will go back and do the final edits before releasing it into the wild. The better news is that it means I can finally get back to work on Honor from Ashes.

And that leads us into the basis for this post.

Yesterday, on one of my few forays onto Facebook, I saw several authors debating the so-called wisdom of an article posted in the Huffington Post. The article is basically a warning for self-published authors not to write four books a year.

Yep, you read that correctly. The headline for the article implores indie authors not to write — not publish — but write four books a year.

Oh, there is a qualifier. The author of the article says, “Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books.” Hmm, could the author be talking about literature? Then I found myself wondering if she had read many traditionally published books recently. I have and most of them, the vast majority of them, do not come anywhere close to meeting this standard and these authors aren’t writing four books a year. Could it be that they need to slow down as well?

But let’s continue and see what else the author has to say.

If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you. But most can’t. I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.

So, according to the author, no one can write four good books in a year. Note here, she does not qualify it as an indie author can’t write four good books in a year but a traditionally published author can. So, by this comment, it is probably safe to say that the article’s author doesn’t think Nora Roberts or James Patterson or any number of other traditionally published authors are good authors because they write at least four books a year.

Let’s see, she thinks there is a glut of books in the marketplace already — gee, then why are indie and small press books taking more and more of the market if it is in a glut — and many of those books are dreck. Wow, let’s insult not only the authors but the readers as well. Why am I starting to feel like there is college literature lecture about to begin.

It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again. And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there), isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?

Okay, I agree writing involves learned skills. But unhurried imagination? Someone tell my imagination that. As for the fastidious drafting, I have visions of someone sitting at their desk, the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary at hand, pondering over every word they write instead of worrying about the flow of the prose. Yes, you need to use the right word in the right context (oops, that should be correct. Bad me) but you also have to worry about the flow. If your prose is so stuffy that you bore your reader, you aren’t doing your job.

Oooh, reading the next paragraph proves I was correct above when I wondered if the author of the post was talking literature. She is. She praises the work of Donna Tarrt who took 11 years to deliver her Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Goldfinch. There is mention of Anthony Doerr and Harper Lee.

Now, the author tries to turn it around and make the working author seem less of a real “author” or “artist” than the literary giants of our time. She asks such questions as Why are you here, what is your purpose, your goal as a writer? What do you hope to achieve? Is it fame and fortune at any cost, quality be damned? Or is it about finely crafted work?

And therein lies my issue with this article and the author. She assumes that quality only comes with the length of time it takes to write a book. There is a very definite snob factor in her article. You can almost see her sneering down her nose at the working author. Also note that, up to this point, the only time she has mentioned self-published authors is in the headline. Now, she does get back to them later. However, everything she has said so far could be applied to traditionally published authors as well.

If you want nothing but literary works.

Her issue comes from something she read from — gasp — a self-published author. This interloper dared say that you should write and publish a lot. Our article’s author hates that advice. She hates the publishing a lot and she hates that it was the first piece of advice given. Sorry, but it is good advice. Maybe not the four books a year — not everyone can do that. But the more work you have out there, the more likely it is that you will find someone to read it and they will, in turn, tell someone else about it and your sales will begin to grown.

So here we start getting to the nitty gritty of the article. It seems our author has self-published a book that took her years and years to write. In her own words, she wanted it to be “a work of art, a book of depth and merit, one that would not only tell a compelling story but would meet standards of publishing that authors of the highest regard are held to.” Okay. That’s a great goal. Now here’s the catch, she chose to self-publish when the book had been finished and not picked up by a traditional publisher. Hmm, so she disses indie authors even though she is one.

Let’s keep reading.

According to her, by self-publishing, we are in the “second-tier club”. You see, in her wisdom, she views traditional publishing as the first tier, the better tier, and indie publishing as the snake oil salesmen of the publishing world. We write too fast, we don’t care about quality, we sell too cheaply. I could go on but I’ll let you read the post for yourself. Oh, one last thing, unless we do it her way, any awards, sales rankings, monies made aren’t done the right way because we didn’t sell our creative soul in the process.

Well, that’s all well and good but I’m a working novelist. I write fast — usually — and I write for my reader. My reward is seeing them read and enjoy my work. I don’t sip from the cup of traditional publishing (Baen excluded) that would have us believe that publishing lives and dies only with the traditional houses. I see what makes the best seller lists and I know what the profit statements say. So, for me, I’ll continue to be a hack. I will write and continue to work on my craft but, if that means I write four or more books a year, I will.

As long as they continue to live up to the standard my readers have set for me.

204 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING, WRITING: CRAFT

204 responses to “Oooh, more advice

  1. My Evil Alter Blogger, H. Smiggy McStudge, naturally approves of this advice, as you can read here:

    http://bondwine.com/2015/09/15/advice-on-writing-great-literature/

    If the McStudge and the Hostington Puff agree on something, you may be sure that it is very wrong indeed

  2. As a reader I don’t want “finely crafted work” or “brilliant prose” or any of that. I want characters I can care about in a story I can get lost in for a time.

    As a writer, then, that’s what I try to produce.

    I’m not a particularly fast writer, partly because of this whole day job and family thing. Other people are and they produce the kind of books I want to read. Those, for me, are “good books”.

    • As a reader, I want the well-crafted phrase, and the prose that can be read aloud with pleasure: the mind-pictures created by someone who can put the language through its paces like a Lipizzaner on parade. AND I want a decent plot, protagonists, and if you don’t mind: be sure to throw in a world view that is at least well-thought out, but is unobtrusive otherwise.

      I’m just greedy that way.

      The thing I’ve noticed from observing master craftsmen from different fields: woodworking, cartooning, cooking, sewing; is that not only are they far more skillful than the novices and journey-men, but much, much swifter at the tasks involved in making their art.

      Like most leftiists, her essay takes a mildly plausible theory; runs with it using some nice rhetorical flourishes, without anyone’s (least of all our essayist) bothering to notice the utter disconnect from observed reality.

      • Synova

        In other words… Doing something a lot is how you learn to do it well.

      • Well-crafted prose is necessary for a good book — and by that I mean a book that entertains, holds your attention and makes you care about the characters, their situation and their world. But when the prose gets in the way of the rest of it, eh. That, unfortunately, is what I’ve seen too often from folks who demand “quality” over quantity to the point they anguish over every word.

      • As a reader, I want the well-crafted phrase, and the prose that can be read aloud with pleasure: the mind-pictures created by someone who can put the language through its paces like a Lipizzaner on parade.

        Ah, but what makes the “well-crafted phrase” but the picture they paint? Words are the tools, the brush with which the artist paints pictures in the mind. Does one care that the artist used a #2 sable rather than a #4 camel hair brush? No, it’s the image, it’s vividness, it’s color, it’s chiaroscuro. Consider what I think of as one of the most poignant bits of prose ever penned, from The Scottish Play:

        “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
        Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
        The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
        Making the green one red.”

        What makes that passage great isn’t the mellifluous language, but the striking imagery, the vision of one washing one’s hand in the sea, and rather than the hands becoming clean, red spreads across the waters until the entire sea, from shore to horizon as far as the eye can see, is blood.

        While the words are pretty enough, it’s that image that still sends shivers down my spine.

        That’s what makes for great prose: vivid, emotional imagery.

    • David, I agree. I want fiction to entertain me. I want to care about the characters and the story they are in. Yes, you can do that and make me think. But if you write fiction in such a way that the prose distracts me from the story, you are doing both of us a disservice and I will think twice before buying another book by you. That is something I try to keep in mind when I write.

      My writing is more fits and starts. Once I get into a story, I tend to write very fast. But the beginnings usually kill me. I just hope I’m writing the sort of books people want to read and then go look for the next book in the series to buy.

  3. If my readers are entertained and want more, than I am satisfied.

  4. The First Rule of Consulting “Advice is only worth exactly as much as you pay for it.”

    The Second Rule of Consulting “If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

    • “Advice is only worth exactly as much as you pay for it.”

      And since HuffPo authors are paid nothing for their articles….

      (Yeah, not one cent of payment. I was surprised at that, too.)

    • And considering this is HuffPo, the pay was nothing. You can take it from there.

    • MarkM

      Third Rule of Consulting: “Good, fast, cheap – pick any 2.” Otherwise known as the project management triangle, the Triple Constraint or the Iron Triangle.
      You can get a project done good and fast, but it won’t be cheap.
      You can get a project done good and cheap, but it won’t be fast.
      You can get a project done fast and cheap, but it won’t be good.

      I suspect this applies to the writing/editing process as well, however.

      • Laura M

        In terms of actually bringing the product to market, I’m way too slow. I have only published one book per year so far. It’s all that fixing, checking, editing, and getting of a cover that takes time.

        • You do get quicker at those things with experience. For my first book, it was all that fixing, checking, editing, and getting of a cover that took the time. For the next three books, it was a concussion, a spinal injury, an ugly legal battle within the family, a duodenal ulcer, and several episodes of burnout and depression. For the fifth book, it’s been the deaths of both my parents, which will probably slow anybody down.

          Hang in there, and may your life run smoother than mine!

      • …And here I was thinking we were going to start talking about the Rules of Acquisition.

  5. So, according to the author, no one can write four good books in a year.

    Which explains why no one still reads the works of Isaac Asimov, Max Brand, or Walter Gibson. At their peak these poor, deluded, writers were turning out twelve books a year. (Well, Asimov only did it once, his average was more like nine or ten, but the others did it for years.)

    • Which explains why no one still reads the works of

      There’s your mistake. You’re thinking that people reading books means they’re any good.

      Yes, they really do think like that, where “popular” almost but not quite exactly unlike “quality”.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Edgar Wallace once wrote 18 books in a single year, 1926. Of course, there’s no guarantee they were *good* books, but still . . .

    • Well, you notice we never did get a solid definition of what “good” is. We got examples — almost all of them either considered “classics” or award winners. As I said in my post, literary. It was a slap in the face of all those readers who buy and read books just as it was a slap in the face of authors who write multiple books a year.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        “Good is whatever I like. Bad is whatever I dislike.” [End Sarcasm]

        • Don’t be silly. ‘Good is whatever I can impress my friends by pretending to like.’ And still more, ‘Good is whatever the Great and Noble Lords, to whom I am industriously sucking up, pretend to like; and if I pretend to like it too, maybe they will be friends with me and I can be a Great and Noble Lord myself!’

          Note to those who try: This never works. The Great and Noble Lords’ magic works entirely by exclusion. They cannot admit you to their little club, for then it would be no longer exclusive, and people would stop wanting to join. They don’t want you to join them; they only dangle that carrot before you, always just out of reach, to manipulate you into giving them power.

  6. I find it amusing that she published her “advice” on a website that made it’s original owner rich by paying people in “exposure”. Not real money, but exposure.

  7. Four a year … m’kay. Honestly, I did a first draft of my first book in three months flat, and my last one in about the same time, but one was done full-time, full-out, and the other is shorter and is six different short adventures. The second three were spread out over two years – one humongous book divided into three. I’d prefer to bring out one book every year, but take two years each on the writing and research, which usually means that I have two cooking at the same time, but staggered. To each one’s own, I guess … but taking ten or twelve years for one book sounds more like a dilettante and part-timer to me.

    • B. Durbin

      Heck, *I* wrote a book as a part-time dilettante and it took me less than a year. (The revisions “took” a year, but that was mostly sitting on it and rethinking things, not active work.) If you’re actually actively working on something and it takes you years of time, you started on it too soon and should have let it percolate longer. In my opinion, of course.

      • (Background) I’m in a Nursing home due to a back injury (80-90% paraplegic) and have about 2-3 hours/day that I can spend writing. (That’s _before_ having to wait to have my brief changed.) and I managed _three_ cookbooks (hopefully on Amazon in two weeks), _and_ I had a “microstroke” in the right retina, leaving me with 40-80% vision in the right eye. It’s taken me a ~11 months, to put the cookbooks (Recipes For Single/Handicapped) together, and ready for printing. I’m also working on 1 children’s story (illustrated, all but illo’s done), a short story, a Novella(?), *and* getting comments on a book about the difficulties of being Handicapped (Title: “I’m Handicapped Not Incompetent.”). The vision in the right eye problem is forcing me to move to Dragon Speaking, (because, after 33 years in the computer/Internet/writing world, I’m still a “6-8 finger, hunt and peck typist.”), and I have trouble reading faded/worn off letters on a *~2 1/2 YO _Lenovo_* laptop. 😛
        I’d love to spend “12 years” writing a book, but that’s too slow. Although it took me _40 years_ to acquire the “material” to write as much as I have. 🙂 After all, it only took Sarah A, Hoyte 20+ years to become an author, and who knows how long for Amanda. LoL.

        • I wish my mother had your moxie, Walter — she fell and crushed some essential vertebrae in her back the week after last Thanksgiving; basically now in a wheelchair in a nursing home with limited mobility– and doesn’t seem to be wanting to do much of anything, except wait for God.
          I know — everything that she loved about life — home, garden, pets, social life in the place that was hers and my late father’s home — all taken away in the space of the time it took her to fall.
          But she was always so energetic and creative in her particular art. All of our hearts are broken that she just doesn’t want much more than to lie there …

    • Reality Observer

      Well, she is: take a look at her bio. Musician, theater arts, then she decided to take a whirl at “literature.” (Nothing wrong with someone doing those – I seem to remember a very famous author who was very much involved in those areas and in writing. But it is obvious that she was not spending years honing the “literary craft.”)

      I do think that some dastardly incompetent at Huffington must have copy-edited her “months” to “years,” however. Considering that her first novel was published in May 2014, and her second one March 2015 – it’s obvious she must have meant that “real literature” takes ten months.

    • AFGM was written in a week, revised/cleaned up in another.

    • I can tell she never read Michael Moorcock on writing a novel in 3 days.

      Then again, we all know he’s a hack no one reads.

      • Chris Nelson

        I read Moorcock when I was very young and ignorant. And found out what a colossal prick he was when he played political games against other authors at cons back in the ’90s. (1997? maybe?)

        • *shrugs*

          I still read him as do other people.

          You don’t get all of your convoluted multi-series series in reprinted in hardback and trades in the 90s then again as trades in the 10s because no one is reading you.

          The fact is people:

          1. Read their existing Moorcock to death and need reprints
          2. Discover him used and want to collect the rest
          3. Want to turn other people on to him without giving up their books

          30+ years after he ended his most productive period…most Elric, all Hawkmoon, all Corum, all Nomad of the Time Streams, all VonBeck are from over 30 years ago. Yet all are continually being reprinted and wind up on shelves in B&N. The author of this column will probably be forgotten in 3 years while a principle example of a hack, in her worldview, has survived over 30+ with no sign of slowing down even when revealed to be a prick (then again, so was Asimov…they both understood what Scalzi doesn’t: have enough of a body of good work before revealing you’re a prick so the momentum carries readers past your personality). Then again, despite being a prick he pretty much wrote a sad puppies intro to the WW edition of the Hawkmoon books 20 or so years ago.

          As far as I’m concerned that’s a sufficient counter example right there.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever said someone writes too slowly — except when I’m waiting for the next book in a series to come out. However, if it is taking you more than a decade to write a single FICTION work, I have to wonder why. I tend to think of those as folks who are in love with calling themselves an author instead someone taking the leap into becoming a working writer.

  8. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I favor ‘writing is a manufacturing process’. I tend to evaluate a manufacturing process on grounds other than how loudly the salesman can shout ‘artisanal, artisanal, artisanal’, ‘handcrafted, handcrafted, handcrafted’ or even ‘quality, quality, quality’. In manufacturing, saying ‘quality’ is easy, doing it is harder, and often has little to do with saying.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      With books, there’s also the question of “what is Quality?”.

      Especially a definition of “Quality” that both readers and writers can agree on.

  9. Anachronda

    it all culminated with me being up all night writing … I finished Nocturnal Challenge.
    You finished Nocturnal Challenge with a nocturnal challenge?

  10. Max

    My response to her would have to be “Deal with it.”

    Writing is work. If you work hard, you can get a lot of quality work done and publish four books a year. Especially if you know what you’re doing.

    Also, does she quantify what she means by four books? I’m on track to have 740,000 words of fiction published by the end of the year … I think that’s excellent for me and my readers. But it’s only three books … so does that mean I automatically qualify over someone who writes and sells 4 40,000 word novellas?

    This sounds like advice that can be safely, immediately, discarded. She’s talking to hear herself talk.

    • She is also regurgitating what so many editors and publishers have been saying to everyone except their best sellers. Traditional publishers have only so many slots per month/year for new books. They will give those slots over first to their best sellers. If those best sellers can give them multiple books a year, they are happy. That means for the mid-list and new authors, there are fewer and fewer slots available. So how do you convince them that they should stay with your publishing house and not go with someone else or — gasp — go indie? You tell them that good books can’t be written quickly and that even the best authors needs the services only a traditional publisher can offer (without noting that all those services can and are found by indie authors).

  11. Amanda, I strongly recommend that you totally ignore this kind of blather henceforth. It cuts into your writing time, it raises your blood pressure, and to judge by the utter absence of disagreement in the comments, you’re “preaching to the choir.”

  12. We started the year with a goal of four books.
    Then came medical complications.
    We’ll make three books this year.

    To us, the most important judges of all are the readers who pay us their beer money, who choose a Peter Grant book over netflix or whatever else they could have done with their evening. And those judges would be happier, it seems, with five books a year. Or six. Or twelve…

    Fortunately, they’ll hang in there when we can only do three.

    • Draven

      Well, Dorothy, I bought Take The Star Road on the sale the other week…

      and the next three books when i finished it.

    • I started with the goal of four this year. It will probably be only three but I might be able to eek out four. But I won’t put out something I’m not proud of and that I don’t think my readers will enjoy. After all, the readers are the ultimate judges of whether we are writing enough or too much.

  13. “But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea -”
    What about paying the mortgage and buying cat food? That doesn’t even enter her column ONCE.
    And that, to me, speaks volumes (more than four volumes a year, in fact). If you can afford to lounge on silk pillows and crank out a novel every 11 years, then good for you. You might even write a wonderful book (I will never know about HER book because it’s not on KU). ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a wonderful book because it tells a wonderful story, and it MIGHT be possible that there is a class of writers who only have one story to tell. Seems like in an ancient Book of Lists I have somewhere there is a category of one-hit wonders, writers who only wrote one thing. Isn’t ‘A Canticle For Leibowitz’ one of those? Seems like I remember Walter Miller had a second book published posthumously…here, let me Google that for you: Yup, ‘Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.’ (Haven’t read it. It’s not on KU.)
    Is what she really saying valid to anybody (other than the people who don’t need to be supported by their work)? I think not.
    And, from the perspective of a reader: Y’ALL DON’T TAKE THIS ADVICE! I NEED YOUR NEW BOOKS, LOTS OF THEM, BECAUSE I AM PRETTY MUCH FINISHED WITH YOUR OLD BOOKS! (At least those which are on KU.)

    • Absolutely, Pat. I would rather be a working hack, making readers like you and your lovely bride happy, than lounging on silk pillows (for one thing, the cats would snag them) and eating bonbons while putting out one book every ten years.

  14. Not to mention that some authors may publish more novels in a year than they write. I’m starting my steps toward self-publishing, looking half a year and more down the line. When I do start publishing I want to have multiple stories ready to go in quick succession. Some of them may be things I’ve already written but have yet to polish, or reworked pieces that I’ve already done the plotting on.

  15. Jeff Duntemann

    This is yet another example of the ongoing schism in fiction writing, by which art (if you can call it that) is sundered from entertainment. She clearly wants to be a tradpub literary type. I’d rather drink used brake fluid.

    There are reasons not to write four books a year, but none of them have anything to do with quality writing. Good stories come out of a life lived richly. Living (richly or otherwise) takes a certain amount of time, especially if you have kids and/or a lively social circle. Guys like me who write starship stories also have to keep up on certain things, like the composition of asteroids, which takes time. It can be useful to know that gallium melts at 86 degrees F. (I insulted someone long ago, by saying in an APA: “Gallium wouldn’t melt in her mouth.”) Building immersive worlds requires understanding the pieces, which is true wherever in time or space those worlds happen to be.

    I’d write four novels a year if I could. Youngsters like Sarah can do the research and write the books. The rest of us will just write what we like as fast as we can, and let the readers vote with their wallets.

  16. My experience is that if I write more, I write better, and if i write less, I write worse. One must achieve a sustainable habit of writing on a regular basis. If that produces as many books as Louis L’Amour or Barbara Cartland, you’ll produce higher quality prose than if you try to throttle back to a Truman Capote rate of non-production.

    • The same here, Steve. If I step away from the writing for any length of time, I can tell the difference. Then there is also the whole issue of training myself to get back into the habit of writing.

    • Tim McDonald

      And you know, I read every Louis L’Amour book he ever published….and enjoyed every one. And don’t tell anyone, but the summer I was 15 I read all the Barbara Cartland and Emile Loring books as well…I couldn’t drive yet and I had read the World Book Encyclopedis the previous summer.

  17. VERY different premises, VERY different paradigms. Been thinking about this a lot lately.

    In the HuffPo writer’s head, writing is like making jewelry. Each gem is carefully selected, carefully placed. You work in details. You work slowly, and attempt to create a masterpiece – something that tries to approach your own sense of aesthetic ideals. Yes, some function comes into play, it has to fit around a finger or neck, the clasp needs to work correctly, etc, but the focus is on decoration. Each piece is expensive to make and should be expensive to purchase.

    In my head, and I think for most working authors, writing is more like blacksmithing. The focus is on using good metal, and making something that is functional. Yes, aesthetics come into play, but the end goal isn’t something for decoration, it’s a working tool or implement. “It’s a nice looking plow, but does it cut a good furrow?”

    So, in her head, she’s working as a jeweler. She doesn’t understand the blacksmith approach. She sees the output – a book, and thinks “They churned that out way too fast. There’s no way it could be a good book because they took next to no time crafting the words and polishing the dialogue.” There’s an obvious disconnect.

    I worry that in my own head, I’ve been too focused on the blacksmith approach, and have discounted the jeweler’s view. I see the output – a book – and think “Wow, they took way too long to put that out, and it doesn’t perform the purpose for which I purchased it (sense of wonder, emotional catharsis, entertainment).” There’s a disconnect there too.

    Both viewpoints have merit, but their focus is completely different. And though the output in both cases is a book, the purpose to which that book can be put – the reasons you buy it – are also completely different. I really think that’s one of the big disconnects here. They Do Not Understand.

    • Well said. Of course, I’d rather be the workman, pushing each day to put out the best product I can and knowing I have to meet a deadline (even a self-imposed one) than the artist who dallies at it as the “muse” hits.

  18. Laura M

    I don’t know, it took me a couple of years to write my first book. It took me 6 weeks to draft my third. Guess which one sells better.

  19. Albert

    As someone who is working up to 12k words a week precisely so that in 2016 I can kick off my professional career at 4 books a year, while supporting myself on a full-time job that doesn’t pay shit, Ms. Wilke can kiss my sass and sensibility.

  20. Angus Trim

    Well, I’m obviously one of her villains. I wrote seven novels last year, the first five of the same series. They averaged 75k words each. The last two are beginnings of series, and a bit shorter {45k}. The first five were published this summer. I intend to publish five more before the end of the year.

    Full time job running a lathe. Part time job making swords {somewhat creative and time consuming venture}. Part time writer.

    This year, I’m going to fall way short of seven novels. With the move, some distraction I allowed to keep me away from the computer in the evenings, and the publishing this summer, I expect to finish four this year. My goal is six next year.

    I guess I’ll never be a true author……….*grin*

  21. Depends on the book and on life. I’d love to have more time to write, but I also need to be teaching (and doing teacher stuff. Like grading. And remembering to turn grades in.) When the muse hits, she hits white hot and all I can do is get out of the way. If that’s a short story in two hours, or a novel in three weeks, hey! If I try and stop her, bad things happen.

    Some people write slowly, some people write quickly. I research slowly and write quickly. *shrug* Write good stuff, edit well, put onto market, and stand back. It’ll take however long it takes.

    • Reality Observer

      When The Muse gets all excited, I feel like I’m running full tilt behind her, desperately trying to catch the words as she throws them over her shoulder.

      I dread hearing the words “Ooooh, shiny!” (Yes, yes, I do hear those from The Muse.)

    • Yep, and that is something the author of the post seemed to have forgotten. She placed it all on the quality of the work being diminished by how fast a person writes. Not so. You have to take into account real life and just how loud and demanding the muse is.

  22. If you had asked a literature critic in the mid 19th Century who would be considered “literature” and still read a hundred years from then, chances are you’d have heard them mention names like Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Rufus Wilmot Griswold – but not Charles Dickens or Edgar Allan Poe.

    When you deliberately set to write “literature”, you tend to write for the literary and cultural tastes of the elites of your day, but not for the masses of readers who will be the ultimate judges of whether your work is worthwhile or not. Writers like Lorraine Devon Wilke write for a narrow, transient audience; they may have a success or two at some point in their careers, but that success rarely translates to any kind of lasting impression, and is usually forgotten in very short order.

    Writers like Agatha Christie and Stephen King will still be read and enjoyed centuries after she and her literary heroes have been forgotten. Sorry, Ms. Wilke, but your way is a dead end.

    • Well said and a lesson we should all remember. Of course, it is also one most of us here already believe. It’s those like Wilke who need to read it, think about it and learn it.

  23. This is nothing more than a snob defending other, greater, first-tier snobs in the vain hope that the said greater snobs will notice her and give her book a chance. She is, in essence, self-promoting in the world of SJW publishing. Criticize the hoi polloi enough and just maybe the gatekeepers will let her in and accept that she is one of them.

    But this isn’t even the greatest failing here. She has this impression that too many books is somehow a great wrong which needs to be remedied. Scratch the skin and see the totalitarian tyrant underneath. One gets the impression that, perhaps, she wishes the other books didn’t exist at all. You can’t burn books in the Kindle era, but I suppose you can burn authors, metaphorically speaking, by preemptively dissuading them from writing.

    Worse, this woman regards her own work as passing, and only the work of other to be deficient. There’s a certain arrogance in this, a strange sort of narcissism, the literary equivalent of a person obsessed with selfies. Look at me, says the narcissist, I’m special and you’re not!

    She is an emotionally stunted fool who, in all probability, overestimates her own talent and underestimates everyone else. Maybe by appealing to the gatekeepers with this sort of aristocratic disdain actually works sometimes, but it does not magically transform an arrogant asshat into a competent author.

    Or, to put it more simply, I’m an author, and I’ll write as many books as I damn well please. I’ll allow the public be the judge of their worthiness. Not some half-baked HuffPo writer with an ax to grind.

    • TRX

      Too late, she has “indie” cooties now.

      She should have held on to that manuscript and found a garret to starve in; The Right People wouldn’t touch her with a stick now.

    • It always amazes me when I see someone, especially someone who calls herself an author, claim there are too many books. Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. How in the world can there be too many books? Okay, there are some pieces of dreck out there. But some of those come from traditional publishers, not just indie authors. As a reader, I have the responsibility of determining if I want to read something or not. I don’t need a gatekeeper. As an author, I will write as many books as I please and keep striving to improve my craft so my readers keep buying my work.

  24. Stephen H.

    I would hate to put a number on the ability of any author to produce a great number of books in a year. However, I would like to point out that Patterson cranked out 12+ books in 2015 and only two of them were not collaborations. This does not mean that collaborating is wrong, or that good work does not come out of it, but merely, the question how much work does Patterson actually do? Probably a lot, you don’t get to that level of success without putting a lot of work into it. It makes you wonder though, that when certain authors get to a point in their career they can hire ghost writers or collaborators and provide the outline and edit. Not that this doesn’t involve creativity or work, but it does put suspicions in the reader’s mind. You wonder, “Well is it Patterson or is it some else who deserves the credit?”

    For instance, I just read David Weber’s “Empire of Man” series with John Ringo. Tremendous, enjoyed it a lot. But when I was at the library looking over the three full shelves of Weber’s books almost all of them were collaborations and it made me hesitate. When someone collaborates so much it just makes you wonder. I knew I enjoyed John Ringo having just finished reading “Black Tide Rising”, which I think I found out about through madgenius or perhaps Hoyt, so I chose “Empire” to start with. I think I had heard of Weber before and had gone to look at the collection at the library 6 months ago, but had baulked when I saw two of his books that we not collaborations. This was a little judgmental of me I realize, but when I had a stack of books in my bag already by various esteemed authors who contribute to madgenius or were part of sad puppies, it seemed to be a good reason to pass Weber by for another time.

    I suppose as long as I enjoyed a book, I should not complain about how it got written. Another author I used to read a lot Clive Cussler, really went downhill once he started collaborating and now he won’t publish any books on his own. Perhaps it is because he was a one trick pony and after reading his first fifteen books or so, I got tired of the mercenary soldier/archeologist/treasure hunter narratives.

    Perhaps I am out of line. I am not creative enough nor patient enough to write stories and I won’t claim to understand the process or labor of love that goes into it.

    Thanks for the time you all put into your different blogs and your books.

    • With Weber you are seeing the results of Jim Baen’s practice of teaming up a lesser known/newer author with a more established one to get them started. Also most of Webers works are his work alone in his Honorverse (16 books), War God series (5 books), Safehold (8th book coming out soon), Empire from the Ashes (was 4 small novels) and some stand alones such as The Apocalypse Troll.

    • Synova

      Part of that is marketing. No one knows who Newsom Newby is but lots of people will buy everything that Bob Bigname puts out. Ringo has been top billing on books too.

    • Joe in PNG

      What of Niven/Pournelle, the Gin & Tonic of SF?

    • Good points. With regard to Weber and the Baen collabs, a lot of that was to help introduce new authors to the readership. But Weber, like Ringo and Drake, still have a huge number of single author books to their credit. You also have to remember that Baen does operate under a limitation of how many titles it can publish each month, in print at least. Every traditional publisher operates under this system. That is why Weber and some of the others are also published by other houses or have also gone indie.

  25. amiegibbons15

    The big issue I have here is she says you should take your time and make a work of art then equates that to literary stuff. I’m sorry, but I see anything like Pulitzer Prize winning or modern classic and my eyes glaze over before I’m done reading the title. If literary is the art we all should strive for then I’m happy to be a lowly worker cranking out quantity over quality 🙂

    • Prizes are great but they don’t pay the rent and don’t put food on the table. They also don’t send fan letters. That is why, even though winning a prize would be cool, it doesn’t come close to the top of my list. Supporting myself and my family, making my readers happy and improving my craft all come above winning prizes.

  26. It’s simple, she’s a Leftist, and applying the communist “Labor Theory of Value”. i.e. that the value of a thing is purely related to the amount of labor put into it.

    Which sounds damned smart to Marxists, but a Practical person would value a fast food burger more than an agonizingly finely polished turd.

    • You know, I didn’t think of that, but it is the easiest explanation.

      • The Other Sean

        That could make sense. It reminds me of those (often lazy) union members who tell their coworkers not to work so hard, because it makes them (the union members) look bad by comparison.

        • Chris Nelson

          Had that problem when I was the sole tech on 3rd shift in a semiconductor test lab. Ended up being replaced by four when I left for greener pastures.

  27. I suspect she’s miffed at the company she’s finding herself keeping. I mean, how dare this mountain of dreck obscure her beautiful prose? She want the competition to go away, or better yet, to be the next celebrity “Discovered from the Indies” and proving that cream rises to the top. Except, from her seller’s ranks, it ain’t cream.

    • I was curious as to what her actual book was.

      And it sounds like she hasn’t given any thought as to what her NEXT book is going to be.

    • Reality Observer

      I don’t remember exactly now (it was all the way this morning) – but wasn’t her most recent (of two whole novels) something below #38,000 in the not all that big niche of “romantic – comedy?” Somewhere around #1,500,000 in all books.

      Cream? I would call that milk from a sickly goat.

      She’s apparently good at rounding up reviewers, though – just about all (26) of them five stars. I particularly like the one from a woman, praising her for getting the inner feelings of a man in love while being a woman author. Yep, real good recommendation there…

      • Overall 1.5 mil? Even I have never sunk that low!

      • William Underhill

        I particularly like the one from a woman, praising her for getting the inner feelings of a man in love while being a woman author.

        And yet, if a male author has the temerity to write female characters, there is, from certain corners, a shriek not unlike that of steel-tipped fingernails on slate and the shrill, harsh caw of “male colonialism!”

        Oops. Did I say that on the upper-deck circuit? How careless of me.

    • Well, after reading part of her sample, I could say the same thing, but with the roles reversed. But that’s just me. Shrug.

  28. Synova

    I think that someone should examine all the ways this philosophy builds roadblocks for marginalized voices and preserves upper middle class white woman privilege.

  29. Synova

    And I’m actually not joking.

    • Joe in PNG

      Pretty much the “Wealthy Wife Boutique” of writing advice.
      If you look at is as writing advice for the well off middle class lady with literary pretensions, it fits pretty well.

  30. Gahh, I *want* to write 4 books a year. Considering that practice makes perfect, can you imagine how finely crafted my books would be after just one year?

    • Laura M

      I think the writer sets up a false dichotomy. I think you are more likely to write well if you have some speed to your writing. 100 words a day isn’t a fluid state. How do you remember the mood, the plan, what happens next? Is it all about the outline?

      I’ve always had to write a lot in my day job. The more I wrote the faster and better I got. I have observed this in others as well. Those who treat writing as a wee bit terrifying, an agony to be endured, aren’t that clear in their expression. The ones who’ve figured out the way to organize their argument, to use active voice, and to say what they mean and no more than that can just sit down and do it without a lot of procrastinating and carrying on. Eventually. After a few years. It’s hard not to confuse related but different concepts. Those who have practice at it become better at keeping things that are different separate from each other. It’s hard to be logical. Those who’ve done it a lot learn to structure things and not tell stories out of chronological order and other goofy devices that seemed like a good idea at the time.

      Also, and this will be hard to articulate, but if you write a lot you get used to thinking in words. Wittgenstein says that, of course, we think in words; it’s not like we have some inchoate thought and then translate it into words. But I think one can develop a qualitative difference in thought by writing. At times we don’t think in a nice linear construct, but in sort of a haze of words. (At least, I do.) Getting the words on paper forces us to line them up, to put them to work, and it forces us to understand what we mean. So, regardless of whether W was right or not, writing offers a next step in bringing order to thought. (All this internet writing has to be justified, somehow.)

      If you think in words, you get better at writing, and then, God forbid, you get faster.

      I want to write four books a year.

      • You had me at Wittgenstein…

        • Laura M

          I majored in philosophy. It still haunts me. I think that seminar got through all of eight pages of Wittgenstein’s Blue Book, but I clearly remember the point of those eight pages. Or, at least, I think I do. Could be wrong. And I’m not going to check.

      • There’s an anecdote I remember, well, half remember. Some artsy-fartsy writer (don’t remember the one) stopped at a cafe for lunch. The waiter asked him if he’d been working hard. Oh, yes. The writer had been hard at work all morning. The waiter asked him what he did.

        “I added a comma.”

        After lunch, the writer returned home. That evening, he came back to the cafe for dinner. The same waiter was still working and the writer volunteered that he had been working all afternoon as well. The waiter asked if he’d added another comma.

        “Oh, no. I took out the one I added this morning.”

        And that is how you take ten years to write a book that has to be made mandatory school reading to get people to actually read it.

      • What I get from your mention of Wittington is that Newspeak could indeed be a thing. Control the language, control the thought process. After all, who could oppose Social Justice, right?

      • Wittgenstein says that, of course, we think in words; it’s not like we have some inchoate thought and then translate it into words.

        This is exactly wrong.

        Look, here’s what generally slows me down when writing: I have AN IMAGE in my head. I am not, at this point, thinking in words, but in visuals. I have a character who is in location X, and he is doing Y, and he is going through steps Z1, Z2, Z3 to do it. Now what I have to do is translate that thought into words, which are not its native language. And I have to translate it into effective enough words so that the reader can reconstruct the original thought (or something close enough for jazz), and few enough words that it does not hold up the flow of the story. This process cannot be skipped or skimped, because the action in the image is the story at that point. The language is merely a delivery system. The action is the payload. (Or as I have elsewhere said, ‘Style is the rocket.

        Fie on Wittgenstein.

        • My son and husband are sure I’m lying about thinking in words. They think in images. Older son swears he thinks in sounds. Eh.

          • Sounds? Umm, doesn’t everybody? Cause I do pretty much too.

          • The fact is, everybody thinks in all of the above; but most people have an especial tendency to favour one mode over the others. You are primarily a verbal thinker, but when somebody has a gravy stain on his shirt, you don’t think, ‘Oh, the stain is 4.8 centimetres to the left and 8.5 centimetres below the third buttonhole’; you see the stain, and parse directly in spatial terms that it is right there.

            For the record, I am largely a verbal thinker myself, by preference; but when I am working on fiction, I deliberately choose to step back and think in images whenever possible, because I don’t want to write action scenes in which the actions are physically impossible. But then I have to translate the actions back into words, as discussed above. The key distinction is that the actions are conceived in terms of image and motion, and not in words ab initio. And when Wittgenstein says that all thinking is verbal, he is flat out incorrect.

            • Laura M

              And then there’s the unconscious thinking that clearly happens, where the back brain works something out without you being involved until you go, ah,hah!

          • My father once asked me how I visualized stuff that I wrote about … Is it like a movie in your head? is what he said, and I had to say — sort of. I used to build miniatures — you know, that 1:12 scale kind of thing, only expanded to world-scope.
            Yes – I build the whole thing in my head; the room, and what you can see out of the windows, or the outdoors and the sky, what the weather is like … and then I imagine what the people in it are doing and saying, where they are looking and what they can see, if the rain is falling, and how cold or warm it might be. Visualize, see, and describe … Dad was a very literal, and I don’t think terribly imaginative man, although I loved him dearly and he was a wonderful technical expert in all sorts of arcana. Still not certain he really understood, actually.

      • That sound you hear is me applauding. Well said, Laura.

  31. Funny, after she started getting a number of critical comments and after other bloggers started commenting on her post, she added a “clarification”. Even more funny, 60 odd comments disappeared at that point. Anyway, here’s her “clarification”

    CLARIFICATION- Because the last thing I want is to insult a fellow author, let me clarify, because it seems to be needed: This is NOT a screed against authors who CHOOSE to publish multiple titles annually (according to many, I’m faulty in assessing that that’s difficult to do well!), nor is it a suggestion that there is only “one way” to do things. In fact, it’s the opposite. The whole point is choice rather than mandate. When the mandate to publish in volume becomes the most prescribed way to reach success, it leaves many authors feeling pressured to publish more quickly and more often than they’d prefer, with some left feeling as though taking the time to craft a book is devalued. Neither should be true. I’m simply championing choice, the personal decisions every author makes about how they’ll reach success. For those who enjoy publishing in volume, who do it well and find it successful, that formula works. But for those who don’t, I’m suggesting forging your own way unshackled from the mandate. That is all. Best with your writing!

    For someone who didn’t want to insult anyone, she sure spent a lot of words doing just that. And, despite what she now says, she did write that the only way not to sell out our creative souls was to write slow. Now she just seems like someone who can’t take the heat. If her message had been not to feel pressured into writing fast, she could have said so from the beginning instead of doing all the “great literature” talk.

  32. I’ve already published 4 books this year (and have three more planned to be out before the years end).
    I would have written at least one (maybe two) more, but family issues made it almost impossible for me to get any work done for three months.

    My goal for next year is 8, but hopefully I’ll be able to surpass that, if I can stop reading all of Sarah’s column’s, MGC’s Columns, and Larry’s, and Brads, and Mikes, and… I spend way too much time on line! 😛

  33. Arwen

    Well, if everyone followed that advice, I might actually get caught up on my to-read list. 😛

  34. The person being fisked reminds me of this other article I saw recently “nine signs you’re really a writer.”

    Apparently, sitting down and writing isn’t one of them. @_@

    http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14328/9-signs-youre-really-a-writer-no-matter-what-your-day-job-is.html

    • Draven

      wow… um… not even ‘you’ve been writing since you were five’ or something like that…. yet another suggestion list for dilletante writers.

      • Well, of course. The target audience is people who say, ‘Gosh, I wish I were a writer. Now if only I could discover that I’ve been one all along, and not have to do any work to become one!’

        • B. Durbin

          I promised myself when I was in second grade that I would never write voluntarily, because writing things out was a complete and total pain and I hated it.

          I remember that promise.

          Not all promises were meant to be kept. 🙂

        • People who are more interested in the Bohemian lifestyle of “Being” a writer, not actually writing.

  35. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Doing something once can help one the next time one does it.

    Furthermore, the income from an occupation directly relates to how long a person can afford to practice it.

    Ten year, year, and quarter year book making rates mean 8, 80, or 320 books over a eighty year period.

    When picking a surgeon or a lawyer, one probably wants one that has successfully carried out tens or hundreds of similar jobs.

  36. ChuckC

    My take on it is:
    1. Her post is an infomercial for her book, trying to sell it to HuffPo readers, whom she assumes are literati.
    2. She was offended by the advice she read, because it implied she wasted her time spending years polishing and re-polishing her … output. She needed a trigger warning before hearing that.

  37. I write for my own vanity. It took me some time to admit just that.

    And technically I could say that I have ‘self-published’ four ‘works’ this year. One fantasy novel (90k words), and then three collections of hundred poems a piece (around 9k~ words each), And you can read it all, for free, though you might have to resort to online readers for the fantasy novel.

    Anyhow, for me, writing a single poem that has some extend of rhyming to it takes about the same time as writing 500 words. Thus for the time spent, were it not for my goal of writing 1000 poems one a day, I think I could have shoved out around 2.5 novels by now. And that is while still being in the university and doing those extra jobs for added income. So yeah, writing four books a year doesn’t sound so difficult… especially if it is the only thing you are doing.

    And lets face it, when it comes to self-publishing and being a literary nobody; you got about a minute until your works gets shoved down from the front page of the new releases. It won’t be found unless someone is in the bussiness of checking the new releases for every single day…

    So yeah, to publish as much as you can, is a sound advice. It just increases the probability that someone will stumble on your works.

  38. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » YES IT’S WHAT WE NEED FROM THE GLITTERATI: Oooh, more advice….

  39. Reblogged this on The Worlds of Tarien Cole and commented:
    Advice from literature snobs invariably involves how *not* to make money through writing. If it wasn’t for the fact CHORFS grow in University ‘Humanities’ Departments, where disdain for profit is assumed, one might think they garner their admiration of Collectivism through their complete inability to make a living by writing.

    • An old quote of mine that seems relevant:
      “From Each according to his Abilities, To Each according to his Needs” is a pretty sweet deal, if you’re a needy incompetent, but it makes a slave of the capable and independent. Advocating such a position says an awful lot about the individual who does so, and which side of the equation he expects to be on.
      — Richard Chandler (10/15/04)

    • Thanks for the reblog.

  40. Pingback: Moe Lane » Quote of the Day, Write Because You Must, Publish Because SHOW ME THE MONEY edition.

  41. Pingback: A Piece of Bad Advice | The Chrishanger

  42. pst314

    “I have visions of someone sitting at their desk, the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary at hand, pondering over every word they write instead of worrying about the flow of the prose.”

    There is an old story, perhaps apocryphal, about one such fastidious arteest:
    His friend asked, “what did you write yesterday?”
    “I added a comma.”
    “And today?”
    “I removed the comma.”

    I’ve probably mangled the story pretty badly. If anybody has the correct version, and who it was about, I’d enjoy reading a correction.

    • This example brings up something I wanted to mention. The writer who spends a whole day adding a comma, and then another whole day removing it, is indescribably lazy (and also damnably pretentious to describe it as work). On the other hand, this is a perfectly plausible exchange:

      ‘What did you write yesterday?’
      ‘A 2,000-word action scene, brim-full of fisticuffs, gunplay, and a last-minute escape, with a side helping of sizzling buxom gypsies.’
      ‘And today?’
      ‘I scrapped the scene, because I came up with a better idea.’

      Now, you may hold, as I do, that there are not many ideas that can rank above sizzling buxom gypsies; but if our hypothetical friend came up with such an idea, and that is all he has to show for a whole day’s work, my hat is nevertheless off to him, and I await the replacement scene with bated breath.

    • According to goodreads, it’s either Oscar Wilde or Gustave Flaubert. The funny thing is that they seem to have almost exactly the same quote attributed to both of them.

  43. “What is your purpose, your goal as a writer?” I thought it was to get paid.

  44. The nail that sticks out gets hammered? Or perhaps you prefer the tall poppies syndrome? The idea that anyone who excels, who does more than just satisficing (just enough to get by, that’s all anybody should do! How dare those gold prize winners do so much more!) should be chopped down, forced out, manacled…

    Remember Harrison Bergeron!

    …. I did it my way!

  45. Pingback: On Ego Trips and Publishing Pace