Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This Has Been Bugging The Crap Out Of Me (Internet Novelist Edition)

I have recently run into, over and over again, the internet phenomenon known as the "real" novelist.

I do not know when the "real" novelist has any time to write. It seems like they are always on their LiveJournals, typing out lengthy diatribes against the most popular fiction of the time. They do not like anything. Here are their complaints:

  1. "[insert book here] is a piece of crap. My novel, written during NaNoWriMo last year, is far superior to it. I do not understand how that got published and mine didn't!"
  2. "[insert author here] is a hack who has had no formal training. I majored in creative writing in college and have read [insert astronomically long list of craft manuals here]. Why are they published and I am not?"
  3. "[insert popular fiction here] is horrible. I don't see why people want to read it!"
  4. "I have been writing my novel for two years now, and it is nowhere near the level of perfection I expect from myself. Perhaps if [insert fiction writer, or all writers of one specific genre, or all writers in general here] took more care and time with their art, [insert work of fiction writer, or the offerings of an entire genre, or all books in general here] wouldn't be such low quality."
  5. "Oh, [insert title here]? That's just fine, if you like [insert derogatory romance, science fiction/fantasy, urban fantasy comment here]. But I read "real" books."

Notice how EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE COMMENTS smacks of elitist bitterness? Yeah, I did, too. But the people who make them are somehow not cognizant of how stupid they sound when they say this stuff. And they always, always, ALWAYS have a novel that they are working on, themselves.

Now, I'm not ragging on people who are trying to get published and honestly do the leg work to achieve their goal. I'm ragging on people who participated in NaNoWriMo one time and are uber-pissed that the world has yet to recognize their literary genius. For them, I have the following answers:

  1. Since this comment is inevitably made during a discussion about Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, I take now this opportunity to say, "NOW YOU KNOW HOW ALL WORKING WRITERS FEEL ABOUT HARRY FUCKING POTTER." Someone else succeeded and you haven't. It's not the end of the world, so get over yourself. Whining and being a bitter hag about it isn't going to get you published. Yeah, everyone needs to vent sometimes, but if all you're doing is venting about how much everyone else sucks in comparison to the awesomeness of yourself, you're not going to win friends and influence people.
  2. Guess what, numb nuts? You don't have to have "formal training" to be a writer. Good for you, that you've read those books and understand the theory of writing. I understand musical theory, that doesn't make me Beethoven. Theory is theory, and practice is practice. If you want to really improve your writing, put down the damn book and write something, and don't worry about making yourself out to be smarter than everyone else. Running around proclaiming your awesome intelligence only makes it look like you're tooting your own horn because no one else will.
  3. People like to read what they like to read, and reading habits do not define the worth of a person. Just because person A reads cozy mysteries and person B reads only New York Times Notable Books, that doesn't mean person B is the be all and end all of human achievement. Read what you want, and don't worry about what other people are reading, unless you're in marketing research for a major publisher.
  4. That's great, that you're working so hard on perfecting your novel. But guess what? Working writers, who have no other income but their writing, cannot afford to go years and years between releases. They have to get on a serious schedule, and that might mean handing in something less than perfect to their publisher that they have to correct during the revisions process. That doesn't meant they don't care about their "art". In fact, a working writer isn't an "artist", they're a business person. If you're committed to your work as "art", you're going to get a really rude awakening in the business. No one is going to care if your book speaks to the perfectionist in your soul. They're going to care if it makes them money. Writing is a business, plain and simple. That's not romantic, but it's the truth.
  5. You are a real tool.

This is one of those subjects that I'm so, so sensitive about. Before I was published, I worked hard to learn what I needed to learn to get my work off the ground. I learned to take criticism, and I learned that I am not the be-all-and-end-all of super important writers. I cannot understand why someone would want to scream to the hills that they are OMGZ A REAL WRITER (tm) without being knowledgeable in the slightest about the industry. Published authors are not like unicorns or leprechauns. They actually exist, and they are actually reading what people are saying on the internet. They're not hard to find, and they're usually more than willing to answer questions about what the business is like and how to break into it. Why not go to one of these people and say, "Hey, I need to know how to get my work published" or what have you, rather than just sitting in front of your computer, bitching about how you know more about writing than any published author out there, and being super bitter because a contract hasn't fallen into your lap?

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