Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Taking it Seriously

When I first told my mother I was trying to write a novel, she was pretty excited. She was a former teacher, and a big-time reader (voracious doesn't begin to cover it) and had been telling me for years I should try to be an author. Or a lawyer. One of those things that deals with words.

Yeah, I know. I shoulda gone for the law degree and I'd be better off financially. But here we are.

And I love being a writer. I love calling myself a writer. I love talking to people about writing.

So, that first year she knew, my mom started sending me articles and books about writing. Her MO was to rip pages out of magazines and articles out of newspapers, stuffing them into envelopes on her desk with my name on it. Oh, she had envelopes for her other two girls as well. One sister is a farmer and one sister is a chef, so we all had our "things" she could rip out and stuff in there. When the envelope was full, she'd send it to us. With or without a sticky note to say hi, but we all knew who sent the jumble of articles every few weeks.

One Sunday the Savannah newspaper must have run an article about books on writing, because instead of tearing and stuffing, she called right away. "Have you read any of these books?" Of the six she mentioned, I'd only read one.

The other 5 arrived in the mail 3 days later.

One of the books was Stephen King's ON WRITING: A Memoir of the Craft. I quote it to people all the time, and I think I need to reread it this summer. If you haven't read it yet, go find a copy. Maybe some loving relative sent it to you at some point when you confessed to a writing obsession?

I've added the link to it on Amazon, but the Kindle is $12.99, so may as well order the paperback for less than a dollar more. That way you can dog-ear the pages and add stickies.

Why do I bring this up? In the last week, I've downloaded and started at least 5 books on my ereader that broke so many rules I couldn't get past the first chapter. The sixth book I read through to the end cringing the entire way. With the advent of being able to self-publish anything you want to, that's just what people are doing. And many of them aren't taking the process or the craft seriously.

I figure if you're here reading my Wednesday blog where I rant about writing, you're one of the people trying to take this job seriously. It's a job, people. It may not pay very well, but it serves an important function in society - keeping us literate and sane. Throwing sex on the page without knowing how to use commas is not writing.

I'm going to quote Stephen King here, and then leave it at that. Go forth and write, my friends, and remember to take yourself seriously.

From ON WRITING, by Stephen King:

"I'm not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I'm not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner, If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe."






18 comments:

  1. Great post, Katie, and so true. I've read 'On Writing' and found Stephen King's words very helpful. I'm currently reading 'Write Naked' by Jennifer Probst. It's a great book on writing as well. I highly recommend it.

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    1. I'm gong to look for that book now, CB. Thanks!

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  2. Heavens, the number of books I've started and given up on is astounding. It doesn't matter that they were "only" $.99 or $1.99, all those pennies add up. To say nothing of the time I wasted trying really hard to like the book. But our time IS money so after two chapters those books get tossed aside. Unfortunately, along with the ease of publishing comes a glut of people calling themselves editors. But that a whole 'nother can of worms.

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    1. It never fails to amaze me how some of these books can get so many 4 and 5 star reviews. Who is reading these adn enjoying them that much?

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    2. I agree, Katie. I just finished one, just barely because the writing was awful, but on Amazon she got 5s. Friends? Family? Paid?

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  3. You're preaching to the choir, of course, but doing it beautifully. Good post.

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  4. I SO agree with you, Katie. Just because you can figure out how to upload a Word document to Amazon, it doesn't make you a writer. If you want to be a writer, learn something about craft. And grammar. Amen.

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    1. (don't get me started on grammar! A post for another day!)

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  5. The ones that drive me crazy (there are many) are when the publish the first four chapters at 99 cents, then say to be continued. The author would have been better off selling the entire book for 2.99 because the writing was so bad, I'd never, ever buy the next part. Seems like a scam to me.

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    1. Scam, maybe. Seems to be a trend started on those fan fic sites, of writing "serial" books - a few chapters at a time. I dont' like it either.

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  6. Yes! Yes! Yes! On Writing is one of my favorite books...on writing. He's brilliant. I've also wasted a lot of money and time attempting to read "Amazon bestsellers" that are atrocious. I've actually downloaded ones by reputable publishers and felt the same way. Typos, awful prose, ridiculous plots...

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    1. Then again, I just had a reviewer tell me one of my plots was ridiculous, and too much going on. I think different readers like different things, but hey, we all like to be able to read grammatically correct, well punctuated, well formatted, well written books...

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  7. I totally agree with all you've said, Katie, as well as the comments. I haven't done Stephen King's book, but back in the day, before the Internet, I did Struck, Swain, T. Cheney, and Oakley Hall and a bunch of others. Still have the books, too, and still refer to them when need to. I have about 6 to 7 books started on my Kindle, too, that I can't seem to keep reading. Hmmmm, could there be a pattern here? How about free lance editors who use the wrong punctuation? I have issues with that. I have to go consult my old writing books or Allison Byer's chat about punctuation, to get me back to the correct way. Sigh. It's really ridiculous out there nowadays. Was horrible when we were all slaves to New York publishers, but today, has its own challenges, too. Too many wannabe writers. Just found out another lady who does support stuff like free lance edit and makes memes has started writing a book. Oh, well. And big congratulations to you, too, Katie. I read that book, the one that's nominated, all the way through, too!!!

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  8. I love Stephen King's book On Writing!

    Most of the books I have on my Kindle were free on Amazon, and I have to say, you get what you pay for. I'm appalled at the dearth of formatting, grammar, and spelling mistakes I see. The story has to be really good for me to put up with it to the end and I've often thought of contacting the author to offer my editing services.

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  9. Love your post, and what a wonderful quote! I agree with everything you said. No matter how much you might want to like a book, it makes it impossible to get through when it's filled with errors.

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  10. Life is too short to read bad books. And I've stopped reading a lot of them along the way. You're right, if you're going to write, then take it seriously and do a good job at it. Otherwise, what's the point?

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  11. I've blogged about this very same thing. It makes me a little crazy that just because people can publish, they do without learning the craft, without putting the time necessary to produce the best possible product. It's hard to write a novel and it's not for those who don't take the time to learn the craft.

    I had a self-pubbed author say to me he refused to send his book to NY because they would make him cut it down and the reader needs to know all this information. It was a 900 page thriller. Uh, no, pal, the reader probably doesn't need half of what's in that book. Sorry.

    Those that clog the channels self-pubbing without learning craft, editing, cover design (saw another self-pubbed without the book title on the spine) etc, make self-publishing look bad for those that do the hard work.

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