Saturday, August 4, 2012

Warm, But Not Fuzzy

I have a confession to make.

I live in constant, pulsating terror that somebody, somewhere Might Not Like Me.  I avoid confrontation like the hantavirus and My Little Pony fandom.

But even with my pathological drive towards Niceness At All Costs, I'm not sure I agree with this article here.  The thrust of it, sure: it's chiefly about self-published authors getting ragged on by those on the legacy track, and I absolutely agree that going to war over which end of the egg to break makes us all look like a bunch of slap-fighting Lilliputians.  But this part here:

Writers should be sticking together, not bashing each other.

And this part here:

The bottom line is we are all writers. We all dreamed the same dream. We all labor over words, agonizing when the writing is not going well and rejoicing when the words are flowing. I used to love and respect trade-published writers. I still do. In fact, I love all writers. No matter how they are published.

--give me pause, because I don't have anywhere near Ms. Shireman's vast platonic love for writerdom.   Not by half.  Why should I?  I mean, there's a reason why, if I told somebody I was self-published, their first thought would not be, "boy, I bet that's a stellar, top-notch professional piece of work you got there!"  There's a reason why, if I turned in an 800-page manuscript, the agent or editor's first thought would not be, "by Jove, this surely is a lean and stunningly taut epic odyssey - it must be mine!"

These people were not born prejudiced.  They got that way because other writers before me went and peed in the pool.  Not always deliberately, not always as serial offenders, but nevertheless, the failure of their quality-control sphincters costs us all.  In the fantasy section, for example, many readers have sworn off starting a series before it's complete, because so many series have met protracted, unsatisfying, or simply nonexistent ends.  Their reluctance is both understandable and a sure-fire way to strangle the market - because if readers aren't willing to spend money on a newly-released Book One, publishers sure as hell aren't going to lose more money putting out a Book Two, and where does that leave me with my thirteen-volume LegendSword of the Elf-Castle Prophecy saga?

So, okay.  Nobody is pretending that terrible books and terrible writers don't exist.  Thanks to the magic of the Internet, readers can brand such works with the Single Star of Infamy.  Meanwhile, the advice for writers is to comport oneself as an adult at the Thanksgiving table: don't ask about Uncle Jimmy's parole hearing or point when Grandma puts her sleeve in the gravy, but stick to safe subjects and keep things positive.

So, given that classy, successful people generally don't get that way by crowing "I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I", does criticism have any place in a writer's public persona?  Do we decry harmful trends but keep careful not to name names?  Can we criticize a book while scrupulously avoiding any dig at the author?  Is it ever acceptable to slam books like this, or do we just talk over their noise by loudly praising better ones?

I dunno - what do you think?

There's a dark side to the paradise of the pool.  A yellow evil that lurks in the warm spots created by the pee-terrorist known only as... The Urinator.


  1. I think I want a genie to just make my book magically appear. That would be cool:)
    Ultimately, I'd love to be published traditionally, but at this point, I'm not willing to wait any longer for that to happen. Tick tock and all that. I want to move on and I think I can put out a pretty nice product by myself. (With a wonderful editor, of course!)

  2. Okay, let's make a pact: first one to the book-publishing genie lets the other have one of the three wishes, and the last one we'll raffle off at workshop. A foolproof plan!

    I hear you on the ticking of the bioliterary clock, though, and I KNOW you will put out a hell of a product!