Monday, April 15, 2013

This is a NO CRAP manifesto for fiction writers

Most aspiring fiction authors spend so much time and energy complaining about publishers and agents and so forth that I wonder about how truthful they are being with themselves when they dismiss publishers and agents in the next breath as irrelevant. It is no coincidence, I think, that most of what these writers put out there on Amazon is terrible. They are focused on something other than quality.

Technology may have liberated us as writers, but it has also given us a responsibility not to launch waves of crap upon the world.

I feel like there needs to be a no-more-crap manifesto.

I am not publishing my novel until I start getting actual confirmation from large numbers of beta readers that it is worth publishing. Why? Because I refuse to publish crap fiction. Even though it is easy to do so.

So: Who is with me?

The great unspoken truth here is that people who complain about how difficult it is to get a new novel to a wide audience generally do not yet have a novel worth reading. I don't want to be one of those people.

They post and sell "novels" that are just plain not ready for the light of day. My accountability partner +L. T. Dalin , on the other hand, has logged over a million words on a trilogy that she knows is not yet ready for prime time.  (It's a lot closer than she thinks, though.) Bless her and her caution. Most people don't have her discipline. She is a great role model.

In any branding initiative, there is an obligation to maintain a certain standard of quality connecting to the consumer's experience.

For authors of fiction, especially, I think that obligation means not publishing your @#$%^ first or second draft.  We are already drowning in a sea of terrible fiction. Agents cower in terror at the size of the tidal wave of our crap. They basically close up shop from Thanksgiving to New Year's because of the tsunami of crap fiction that descend on them after #NaNoWriMo. I love NaNoWriMo and want to do it again, but DAMN people: it is for generating a FIRST DRAFT.

I'm not (just) talking about hiring a copy-editor for your novel. I'm talking about not publishing your novel before the people you send a sample chapter are saying, "Where's the rest? I want more." And then, when they finish the thing, they go out and tell their friends about this great book.

Just reaching my 50,000th word means nothing.

There was a kid I taught in fourth grade who wrote every essay as a straight stream of text. He was Mister Get This Done. No paragraph breaks. No stopping. No second thoughts. He was amazing. He would start at the upper left hand corner of the page and continue until he filled the page. Then he would leap out of his seat and hand the sheet in to me.

Near the end of the school year, I heard one of the other kids in class say to him, "Have you EVER erased ANYTHING?"

It's a good question.

For most of us working on fiction projects -- and I definitely include myself here -- the big problem is not that the publishing model has changed. The big problem is that we are not holding ourselves to a high enough standard as writers.

The real challenge for us now isn't publishing our stuff, it's having the guts NOT to publish our stuff until it's drawing real, live, no-bullshit rave reviews from beta-readers (like +Ksenia Anske 's work is).

If you are willing to make that kind of personal commitment, sign on to the NO CRAP MANIFESTO!