Life As A Pariah


(Gonna rant here.  Consider yourself forewarned.)

The book’s not even out yet and it’s already begun.

The remarks.  The innuendo.  The exclusions.

“You can’t be a real writer if you’re self-published.” 

(Published or not, real writers WRITE.  It’s the name of the game.  If you manage to get paid for it as well, that’s a bonus, but the fact remains that writers write.)

“If you were any good, a real agent/publisher would want you.” 

(Oh?  There are plenty of writers out there — hell, plenty of artists of every stripe — who bust their humps trying to get noticed.  There are a lot of good people who have gotten attention, yes, but don’t fool yourselves into thinking that all of them do.  There are limited resources and — seemingly — an unlimited amount of competition.  So what’s a person to do?  Let the work die?  If you’re an artist of any sort, you know that’s impossible.  Do that, and a part of your soul will die right along with it.)

“Do you realize how lucky you’ are?  Most people never get published at all.  Many who do don’t get published more than once.  What makes you think you deserve it?”

(I know I’m lucky, but I’m also greedy.  I want more.  I’m a storyteller, pure and simple.  I want my words out there for people to read and think about and discuss.  Do I deserve it?  Damn straight I do!  That’s not ego talking; I’m definitely not overburdened by self-confidence.  But I’m a good writer, that I do know.  Maybe not the best there ever was, but certainly not the worst.  The things strangers have passed along to me after having read one of my stories, the ways in which I’ve touched them and moved them, tell me that.  SOMEONE has to believe in me.  Know what?  It better be ME.)

“I’m sorry.  I don’t review self-published books.” 

(Doesn’t do me a lick of good to stress that my prior work was published in the standard manner.  THIS work was not and that’s all that matters.  Still . . . I understand where this is coming from and it’s a legitimate complaint.   I can’t fault the reviewers.  An awful lot of self-published work stinks like dead fish at low tide.)

And that’s what really pisses me off — the self-published writers who don’t give a rat’s ass about the craft, they just get off on seeing their name in print, on being able to say “I wrote a book.”

Whoop-de-effin-do.

You bastards give the rest of us a bad name.  There are good solid writers out here struggling to have their voices heard and your lack of interest in being a craftsperson, in learning basic sentence structure or narrative form, serves to raise the tide against them.

(True Story:  I was at a meeting of a local writers group when an older gentleman was being touted for finally self-publishing his book.  During the coffee break, I went over to congratulate him and he gleefully said, “And starting tomorrow I begin editing!”

What?   I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right and I definitely didn’t understood.   “You mean you didn’t edit it before you published it?”

“Well, yeah,” he said in an off-hand way.  “But there’s a bunch of errors I need to re-edit.”)

You see why I’m crazy?

Why did that man chose to not fully edit the first time around?  Why did he not do draft after draft after draft?  Why did he not make sure the manuscript was as close to perfect as he could make it before he spent the money to have it published?

Because he doesn’t care.

Writing is hard work and serious writers work hard at what they do.  To have the craft of writing belittled in such a way is not just an insult to the work, but to your audience and to other writers.

Give a damn, people!  A writer’s job is to care about the work.  The craft demands tears and blood; sweat and sleepless nights.  It demands commitment.

It is a holy chore.

 

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About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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8 Responses to Life As A Pariah

  1. Wen Spencer says:

    Hey, wow, I remember getting first draft of first chapter of Weathercock. You always spoke with such passion about the things that inspired you to write it. I’m really glad its getting its time in the sun! Someday I’ll have to pull out the novel I wrote when we were in a writer’s group together and polish it. I was just learning how to write a novel and gave up ever trying to fix that one enough that even you guys could follow it. 😀

    • Hey Wen! So glad at least one of us made it long-term with the big guns! And so glad you’ve kept writing all these years since we lost touch. You were always good, always willing to learn and grow as a writer. Thanks for remembering “Weathercock.” It’s definitely NOT the story it was (which is good) and I’m very proud of it.

  2. Melissa says:

    Thanks, Eva. I know you are!

  3. Rant Away!!!! Yes, I am trying to be supportive.

  4. John says:

    I love your blog, Melissa, because your voice jumps off the page and into the mind and gives us all something to ponder…

  5. Your viewpoint on self-publishing is engaging and you’ve helped me understand what some of the challenges are. How did you self-publish? Lulu.com or some other method?

    Interesting food for thought,
    D

    • Thank you, D, and thanks for visiting my blog.
      The decision to self-publish came slowly and not without difficulty. By and large, I’m (was?) pretty old school when it came to publishing. You wrote, found an agent, who found a publisher. Back when I began all this, things were a little simpler (for example, they didn’t have all these “categories” — steam punk, urban fantasy, etc. I like what Ursula K. LeGuin said about her books — “Left to myself, I should call them novels.”)
      At any rate, I had a story I believed in, but could not get the time of day from an agent. (In my more sour moments, it’s difficult not to believe that if I’d only put in vampires or zombies, I’d have had it made.) I have no problem with realizing that a story isn’t good — we all write them and they all sit in drawers — but WEATHERCOCK wasn’t one of them. And so, at last, I decided that for good or naught, I was not going to go to my grave without this story having seen the light.
      Foolishness? Who can say? There are a lot of fine authors out there who began by self-publishing. I will hope for the best — and work my ass off in the process. The work doesn’t stop with the end of the story. It’s only begun!

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