1. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The tragedy of publishing focus

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by w176, Oct 27, 2010.

    Just ranting, and reflecting, but mostly just ranting.

    I read to many threads here and else where where I gotten the impression that for many many many wanna be writers the focus is the dream of becoming a best selling author rather then writing. Everything is meant to be published and that the main point of writing -anything-. People focusing on how to sell the book long before its even written. People freaking out and getting a writing block because of the fear that what they write, wont get published or a best seller, even if it the first thing they ever going to write in their life.

    The insanity is Taking away focus from the necessary of practicing, of experimenting, of writing for writing sake or for telling a story. Bah. I hate it.

    I admire the blogging culture, who write to communicate with the readers, to write down a message our just their daily life, writes for the fun of it of because they are passionate about what they write about. Of course there are attitude problems among bloggers to, but hopefully not as tragic as the total focus at publishing and becoming a bestseller there is among newbie writers.
     
  2. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    Absolutely.

    There's a great quote from the beginning of "The Study of Counterpoint" that says:

    Aloys - Perhaps the hope of future riches and posessions induces you choose this life? If this is the case, believe me you must change your mind; not Plutus but Apollo rules Parnassus. Whoever wants riches must take another path.

    Joseph - No, certainly not. Please be sure that i have no toher object than to pursue my love of music, without any thought of gain.

    If you want to be a good writer - write!
     
  3. iambrad
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    iambrad Member

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    If you are including my thread in those that you are speaking about, then rest assured that I have hundreds of writings that no one will likely see. In the future I may post some of those, but only because they are not worth trying to publish.

    I will only ever post questions about refining writings I feel are worth publishing. Why would anyone attempt to publish anything they don't feel will be a best seller? Why would you set a goal lower than that for yourself? Do people really look at their work that they feel may be sub par and say "eh, it'll do"?

    I think anyone seriously trying to get anything published should approach it as if it is the awesomest thing ever written, and they will have throngs of adoring fans because of it. Otherwise we just pump out mediocre crap hoping that someone will pick it up.
     
  4. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Many apologies, but that's absolute bollocks. You'll never get published if that's your attitude. You need to be realistic about your writing and about where you're submitting. If you constantly think that you're writing the greatest thing ever then you'll never have an incentive to improve, and then you will be pumping out mediocre crap in the hope someone will pick it up.

    I'm not knocking ambition. It's good that you - and many others - have it. And I'd love to be a bestseller, but I'm also realistic. Being a bestseller isn't about writing something of exceptional quality, it's about being lucky as much as it's about the hard work.
     
  5. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that's what she meant, I think she was actually saying the opposite. A lot of people say "well, I really want to right about this, but I think some people might find it too controversial, so should I just cut it out in order to better my chances at getting published?" That, at least from what I understand, is what the OP is getting at. You should write what you feel needs written.
     
  6. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    Lol funny that you mention this. I love writing and other than posting a few faniction stories on the net somewhere I had never even thought or considered publishing my work (still don't). I joined this forum just to help me improve my writing skills and talk with others about this great hobby. (at least it is a hobby to me)

    But what struck me as odd was a welcome message and reactions on my newby post with a (well meant) warning not to post too much of my stories or they would be ruined for publishing. lol

    But I guess you're right, I even heard 'real life' friends, who have never wrote even a paragraph in their lives, talking about writing a book because they needed money... :/

    I guess everybody wants to make lots of money fast and preferably the easy way these days, and too many (especially people who have never written anything before) seem to think writing is easy, and they can be the next JK Rowling.
     
  7. iambrad
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    iambrad Member

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    i apologize for the way i came off before. I wasn't trying to say that w176 is wrong. It's absolutely right that people shouldn't start writing with the expectation to be published. There is a lot of work, luck, and love involved. Of course every item shouldn't be approached as if it were going to be published in the same way that a marathon runner doesn't make every daily jog into a marathon. Sometimes it's exercise, and sometimes it is for fun.

    No matter what you do in life, I feel that when you reach that point where you feel something is good enough to submit for approval, it should be something that you are proud of. It should be something that you feel is as good as anything out there, and work to make it even better. To approach it any other way is to accept mediocrity in yourself, and that is as much a handicap as being overly confident. Both breed complacency.

    Confidence goes a long way, and when you believe something is good and you are proud of it you tend to try to make it the best thing you can. You have that motivation to do so. If you feel that something is just good enough, you tend to lose that passion and desire to make it any better than it needs to be.

    I'm sorry if anyone took offense at what I said. I can certainly see how I came off abrasively. That was not my intention.
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    iambrad: Well, I owe you an apologize, your post set my mind of in direction it wandred many times before but was no way directed at you.

    Even is it was a part of the pattern when people want to write something but considering not writing it because of publication reasons. And thats a ****ty reason unless you already are a publish writer and writing is you income and having stuff to eat is important to you.

    Before that I think the answer to any "I want to write..."-question always should be, "WRITE! GO WRITE WRITE NOW! NO EXCUSE! WRIIIIITE!" unless there is a really rare extreme reason not to. Because thats what a writer do, no matter what level.
     
  9. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    A monkey can splash paint on canvas and produce a masterpiece of modern art, but to write well write well requires a fair degree of intellectual ability.
    Being published is an affirmation that you have something to say and the ability to say it.

    An artist can shrug off a rejected painting as due merely to differing tastes between the artist and audience, but a writer may feel the rejection of a manuscript as a rejection of his intellect, internal thoughts and emotional outpourings. It is a little more personal.
    The illness of desiring to be published before actually writing may therefore stem from an individuals need to be approved of, not just as a writer, but as a person.

    It seems to me the obsession with needing to be published, or write a best seller, is more a reflection of insecurity than ambition.

    But I'm probably completely wrong!
     
  10. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are wrong about the art thing. For most part. I admit that you might be onto something in some extreme modern art moments but that same can be true when it comes to some kinds of poetry.

    A normal professorial artist, lets say a concept artist or a industrial designer spend can easily spend 60 hours a week working sketching, drawing, painting, coming up with designs, endlessly. While most professorial writers don't come close to this workload. There are more differences, but saying something like you just said is just ignorant.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ask any well-known/successful novelist in today's world [and the shades of those 'over there'] if they wrote their first books simply for the joy of it, or to be published...

    i think you'll find they had their mind set on people buying their book, not just doing it to scratch a creative itch... i know for a fact that all the famous authors i knew in my old write-for-money life sure did it to be published...
     
  12. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Having it as a motivation is one thing, and well, its a good motivation. Focusing on publication rather then the work process all over is just sad and ineffective.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    When I joined, I had absolutely no interest in getting published. I only wanted to improve my ability. Things change.

    But face it. If you are looking to improve your writing, the yardstick is readability and publishability. If you are only "writing for yourself", write whatever you damn well please.

    But be honest about it. You almost certainly want your writing to be read by someone else, and impress that someone else. That someone else will evaluate it relative to published writing.

    Publishers aren't fat-asses making up rules for nothing. They are professionals who know what the public will accept, and what they won't. What they expect in return is a little professionalism from the writer.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sadly, your post makes me think of the rants that I intermitently post to the blogging forum that I frequent. Most everyone there is focused on ad clicks and SEO and affiliate sales, and sometimes I can't take it any more.

    But that doesn't really undermine what you say about the blogging culture. Most bloggers are still writing for the joy of it - it's just that the ones who are focused on a (usually hopeless) quest for cash tend to dominate the forums. My guess is that this is because they're all desperate for advice about why they aren't making any money.

    The result is that there's hardly anywhere to talk about blogging as blogging, as opposed to blogging as moneymaking. I suspect that most bloggers are quite content to express themselves in their blog, and that I'm in a minority in my desire to talk about the blogging process, without talking about money.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why would anyone go running if they don't think they can make the Olympics and get a gold? Why would anyone bake a batch of cookies if they don't think they'll get a prime-time show on the Food Channel? Why would anyone buy a sewing machine if they don't think that they'll be a world-class designer, or at the very least, win Project Runway?

    Because they derive joy from it. A joy that can only be realized by winning fame and fortune and beating out everyone else is a pretty chancy way to seek happiness.

    Ah, but who says I'm setting a lower goal? "Being a best seller" isn't the highest pinnacle of writing accomplishment. It's presumably the most profitable, but that's a different scale.

    I'm not saying that a best seller doesn't have to be quite good, or that I can be that good, much less better, or that I wouldn't be over-the-top delighted to be the author of a best-seller. But that's not the dream that catches my imagination.

    What does? Well, I remember exactly where Rumer Godden's books were at the library when I was a child. If the library hadn't been remodeled, I could still walk there - last aisle toward the window in the children's room, almost all the way down the aisle, on the right, either the second or the third shelf from the floor. That's how often I went to get those books. What catches my imagination is the idea of writing books that someone loves that much.

    And that's an extraordinarily arrogant dream. Comparing myself, however theoretically, with Rumer Godden? Aspiring to a best seller is modest by comparison.

    But right now, my goal is to be a better writer, and to enjoy myself in the process. I can't count how many things I need to learn, just to get to the next level of skill that I'm envisioning. So I'm not even thinking about publishing, except in the sense that I consider whether my publishing-unfriendly writing habits (like a great fondness for semicolons, in the United States) are habits that I'm willing to give up, in preparation for a future when I might try to be published.

    ChickenFreak
     
  16. iambrad
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    iambrad Member

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    You misunderstood. I said "why would you try to publish something you don't feel is good enough to be a best seller?". Writing for enjoyment is another matter entirely.

    Of course, runners run for fun at times, but they don't enter the Olympics if they don't plan to try and win. The same is true with anything you do. If it is a hobby, or a personal joy that's great. I just can't fathom trying to get something published that you don't honestly feel is the best out there, or at the very least will stand up as well as anything else. Likewise I can't fathom a baker entering a cook-off not expecting to do well.
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well said. However, there are numerous roadblocks along the way, including the age at which they are willing to consider a writer's work. For someone like me, in his late 50s with little in the way of publishing credits, the chances are almost nonexistent, as I don't bring a pre-existing market to the table.

    Which is not to say that I won't keep trying (stubborn Irishman that I am). But I keep my expectations realistic.
     
  18. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    I agree that the "cynical" view is more accurate -- that most people who say they want to write, don't really want that. They want to have written, to get the checks and get fanmail and have their name all shiny and glitter-new on a hardback.

    But by coming to a place like the Writing Forums, those people aren't just exposing themselves to writing tips. They're participating in a place whose members have published books, published in pro 'zines, sent articles to non-fiction specialty magazines, completed NaNoWriMo, grown and strived and gotten rejections and sent our work back out again the next day, disappointed but still hopeful.

    Some of the people who want to be writers will hopefully see all that and get bitten by the writing bug themselves. Others will move on, after a few weeks or months, moving toward whatever they will ultimately find pleasure doing -- whether it's cooking, yardwork, crocheting, dog breeding, whatever.

    As SF author John Scalzi says, that's okay. It's perfectly fine to admire writers, to want to be one of them, and to not actually become a writer. It's no "worse" than those of us who admire musicians, or actors, or paintors, but who don't take the time to practice the violin or to practice delivering monologues. It's okay.

    In the meantime, folks who really want to write, who come here with story-specific questions and useful advice, have access to resources that can really help. It's not a perfect system, maybe, but the writing writers and the waffling want-to-be-writers both benefit, for however long they choose to stick around.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote a long response, but I'm going to stop here to ask: What, exactly, are you saying?

    It sounds like you're saying that you should not pursue any profession unless you're pretty darn sure that you're going to achieve the very top of that profession. It also sounds like you're saying that you should not compete in any contest that you're not pretty sure of winning.

    This philosophy, as I understand it - and I hope I'm just fundamentally misunderstanding you - would mark small newspapers, and minor league sports, and regional theaters, and indie bands, and, of course, minor authors, as worthless.

    Is that what you're saying? If not, can you clarify?

    ChickenFreak
     
  20. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I see what you're getting at. Something like "Aim for the stars, and you will reach the treetops." Set your goals unrealistically high, to spur yourself. Right?

    I don't see it that way. Even among those who write to be published, there are different goals. For some, being published and earning recognition among people whose opinions they care about, may be more important than having a bestseller. For others, being published with the novel they really wanted to write, may be worth more than having a bestseller with a watered-down version. For others still, merely being published and read by a few thousand people, may be the only attainable goal, given their talent and the amount of time they're willing to spend, and it may be good enough for them. Only a few writers will ever have bestsellers.
     
  21. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    Being accepted for publishing is an affirmation that what you write has commercial potential - not a value judgement on whether you have anything to say or not.

    I'm quite lucky in that, because of my work, i get to talk to publishers and writers (i'm a sound engineer - mostly work with bands but also record audiobooks - it's that which has brought me back into the writers fold), also through contacts i know one of Random House's lawyers - so, to a certain degree i'm party to some of the thought processes that are going on behind the scenes now.

    Publishing is not the be all and end all of art. It's the be all and end all of literary commerce. There is an enormous difference.

    If you want to write for a publisher you may as well write cookie cutter plots that fit into narrow genres with little emotional depth. Aim your sites firmly into Dan Brown territory in that case but be prepared that the market is already saturated.

    I take the zen view that you strive to be as best as you can at your chosen task. When you are doing your task you simply do your task to the best of your ability with no thought about anything else other than the task.
     
  22. iambrad
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    iambrad Member

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    More or less, yes. If I enter a race, I want to win. My skill and talent may not allow it, but I am going to run as hard as I can, and I am going to approach it with the attitude that I will win if I try hard enough. It doesn't matter if I have a real chance at it or not. Similarly, I am approaching writings that I feel are worth publishing as if those are the ones that will break through.

    You are right, different people have different goals. I chose one that represents the overall win condition when it comes to novel writing. If you are writing scientific or medical literature, perhaps your goal is to be published in a prestigious journal. If you are writing for your own satisfaction, then maybe your goal is just to simply prove you can be published. Those are both great goals.

    Your idea of a fantastic story and my idea of a fantastic story may differ greatly. I will never understand why people think Stephen King is so great, and you may absolutely love him. I may write something that I feel is fantastic, but the rest of the world finds it mediocre at best. That's fine. I can learn from that and be proud knowing I presented something that represented my best effort. Next time will be better.

    Not meeting a goal is not a mark of failure, but if your dreams never exceed your grasp, your reach will never exceed your expectations.
     
  23. ojduffelworth
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    You are wrong about the art thing.
    Perhaps, but your explanation failed to demonstrate why. Work load and time spent are beside the point. Once again, visual arts are less intellectual than writing—that is not to say they are lesser forms of ‘art’.
    Funnily enough, Banghi the Chimp had paintings mistaken for the works of Ernst Nay, and Peter the chimp had his works mistakenly hung in galleries as Pierre Brassau—and I doubt either primate spent 60 hours a week working on technique.
    And I don’t think the writings of any chimp has ever managed to fool an editor!

    To return to my point, writing highlights a writers intellect, internal thoughts and emotional outpourings in a manner that other forms of art may fail to do, and yet still captivate an audience. So again, perhaps some new writers are motivated towards publication success out of fear of their inner/personal/intellectual /emotional world being rejected. It is an over reaction: “I want to write a best seller to prove my inner merit”. I don’t think a visual artist would be similarly motivated to the same extent.
    Again, I might be wrong—I’m merely throwing ideas around—but I don’t think the suggestion is ignorant.

    So why do you think “people freak out and get a writing block because of the fear that what they write, wont get published or a best seller” ?

    Being accepted for publishing is an affirmation that what you write has commercial potential - not a value judgement on whether you have anything to say or not.
    Sure but dont they go somewhat hand-in-hand? I agree being published is an affirmation that what you write has commercial potential, but if you don’t have something interesting to say, and the ability to say it, I think your writing will struggle for commercial potential.
     
  24. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    A painting can be just as personal and an emotional outpouring - it's just read in a different way. It's still as much a work of creativity and intellect. People still draw and paint in ways beyond splashing on a canvas - it's not like from the moment someone went postmodern with the splatters that was it for all art. There are amazing artists to this day producing new works of incredible depth and deep story for those who take the time to read them. And, like with any art form, the classics are still there to be read too. Just because it only takes a few seconds to skim over a painting and take in what it looks like, versus even skim-reading super-fast a few hours to get through a book doesn't mean that that glance is all it takes to absorb a painting. An artist will feel all the same pressures as a writer. As will a band making music, as will anyone doing anything creatively in the public sphere.

    I see the publishing focus as just another part of writing too much for the audience and not enough for yourself. After all, the publishers are only filtering out what they think everyone wants to read, and therefore when you write for them, you're still just looking to a potential market. To whoever you're looking up at with nervous glances as you write, I say stop it.
     
  25. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    Maybe. But looking at a list of recent best selling authors doesn't reflect that reality.

    pat cornwell, martina coles, karin slaughter, james patterson, jeffrey deaver.

    All highly commercial, but hardly imparting anything new or interesting. (maybe being a bit unfair to these guys but they do more or less regurgitate the same plot in each book).

    It's quite possible that what you have to say has no commercial appeal, even if it could have artistic merit. It would be interesting to see what would have happened if writers like Nabokov, Burroughs, Joyce or Wolfe had tried to release those early books today - would they have even been picked up?

    Editor to burroughs: This is complete nonsense, bugs that talk out of their a**eholes, exterminators, mugwumps - come back when you've knocked up something like that nice Raymond Chandler chap.

    Editor to James Joyce: Ah yes, i can see you're going for the booker prize - all well and good but Sam in marketing thinks that it'll have more appeal if you maybe took some of the mast**bation and swearing out. Maybe lose some of the references to a greek myth - research says that most adults between 18-35 don't get the reference. Church references will have to go - don't want another incident like with Ecce Homo now, god, no. Nitzche proclaiming himself the anti-christ. That didn't go down well with our elderly christian readers. Oh and instead of it being about one day in Daedalus's life, how about we make him a crime fighting single woman struggling in a mans world who has to solve a murder despite the incompetency of the men around her. Oh and she's so beautiful that all men instantly fall in love with her.
     

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