Every writer has an idea in their head of what it is to be successful, whether it is buying a supervillain level lair, with its own helicopter pad, or to write books like Xs who inspired me and helped me survive adolescence.
The one thing I will tell you is that you have to aim for something. I’m not the first one to compare a writing career to a voyage in various ways. All careers, in fact, are voyages, I think. And as with any travel, you can take the scenic route, but if you don’t have an aim, you’ll never get anywhere.
So, what’s with the seven principles of highly confused writers? I’ll tell you.This morning Amanda chose to share this with me: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Author Fonda Lee Criticizes Barnes & Noble Stocking J.R.R. Tolkien & Robert Jordan Books: ‘We Are Competing With Dead Guys’.
I don’t know why Amanda shares these things with me. My theory is that she’s trying to kill me of a heart attack because the berserker tries to activate and I can’t let it.
When I was done hitting my head on the wall (poor wall, now thoroughly dented) I had no clue what to even say about this. Look, no, seriously… the poor child above actually thinks this is a valid complaint:
There are too many things wrong with this to dissect them all here, which means this post will continue at According to Hoyt with “What part of product and demand with you fail to understand.”
For here I’ll concentrate on two things that are wrong:
1- This is the mentality engendered by traditional publishing. I.e. people are taught to see the ability to sell — to anyone — as a limited thing. Writers are widgets, shelf space is scarce. Publication and even someone knowing your book exists is a privilege extended to the few.
Since there are — and with Indie we have proof — about a hundred more good writers per writer that gets published, and since out of every writer who gets published there’s one in a hundred who gets even minimal support from his/her publisher, it’s a scrum for a very tiny and artificially restricted market.
So, anyone who takes that space away from you is an enemy, or at least a rival. You’ll fight them tooth and nail in any way possible for that exposure.
2- This poor child has bought into the idea that the future is all that is relevant, and that nothing that happened in the past mattered.
She also has absolutely no concept of how long people have been writing before she was born.
Look, child, every writer who comes, mewling and groping for writing materials out of her mother’s womb is stuck competing for readers with Homer, with Shakespeare, with Jane Austen. More importantly, we all compete, in our genres with giants. Not just Tolkien and Jordan, but Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Rowling….
Someone that young, born into the digital world should be aware that she’s not just competing on shelves. In Gutenberg there are hundreds upon hundreds of very good authors… free. We compete with them too.
So, how do you not panic, pack it in and decide you can’t hold your own?
First, past writers will sell less. No, seriously. There is some not inconsiderable portion of readers who doesn’t want to make the effort to deal with a world with no cell phones, or with something that we thought would work that way in the fifties.
More importantly, wording and ways of expression age. I love Shakespeare, but I know he’s difficult for many people.
So as time goes on, the past of writing “thins” — there are fewer and fewer writers who are even remembered, much less read — and you have less competition. Of course, the competition you have is the very, very, very good.
My question to anyone worried about this is: why are you writing? What do you want to achieve from this?
If it’s merely (ah!) to make a living, rest assured that super readers will read everything that’s out there and ask for more. The dead writers aren’t in the way of your path to success. Write and publish and if you’re passable, you’ll find your audience. You might have to write a lot to make a living, but this was never easy, nor do you have the right to demand it be.
If it’s to be great and shine and be remembered… then you probably still want to be read when you are dead. Otherwise, why all the effort?
And if you want to shine and be remembered, you have to get as good as the people who are remembered, the deep history of your field.
You can — tons of people do. The scientific name for them is “idiots” — stand on the shoulders of giants and piss down, but be aware that your piss hurts them not at all. You are a gnat stinging titans. The more you try to diminish the past, the more you diminish yourself, and the more people know how small you are.
Or you can choose to work really hard and up your game. And while most of us know we’ll never get there, there’s always the chance you’ll become so good, such an incredible craftsman, such an inspired artist, that the giants unbend and give you a hand up, and you get to stand beside them, as generations yet unborn view you as the benchmark to achieve.
Yeah, for people like me it is highly unlikely. But it’s a dream worth working for.