When I started the Pritchett, Farlow, & Smith Publishing family of blogs, my main goal was to create a space for writers and readers to share their ideas together. I wanted to create a different kind of publishing blog, one that focused on all aspects of the writing life - reading, publishing, and writing. And a few weeks ago, I realized that writing prompts and grammar guides don't really equate to writing.
So, here's my latest addition to the PFS Writing Workshop: Writing Craft, a series of essays on writing. It's not much, but it's a start, just like writing the first word on a page past that damn blinking cursor.
In our inaugural entry, I want to talk about why we write.
The compulsion to tell a story is a part of my personality make-up. It was fostered early on by my grandfather, who loved to tell me stories about his own life, which is strange, since my grandfather was known to most people as a man of few words. I started writing young - my first "published" story appeared on internet fanfiction pages when I was about twelve years old. I haven't stopped writing since.
I don't understand writers like Emily Dickinson, whose work didn't see the light of day until after her death and who didn't share what she could do with the world. I often wonder what Emily would think of her legacy now that people across the world consider her to be of the finest English language poets to have ever lived.
I can understand, though, the fear of letting others read your work. My friends and family continual bug me to let them read copies of my unpublished work. Sadly, I know enough about writing to understand that friends and family can't help you very much as you're working. Just like at times you're too close to the story, they're too close to you.
My mother has read the current draft of my novel. About all she could tell me was that there were plot holes. I already knew this.
Why is it that I continue to write, even when I've worked on the other side of the coin? Being an editor has made me realize how coldly any piece of writing is treated by editors, and it made it very easy for me to see why good writing hardly ever gets published and how Snooki is on NYT Bestseller list.
Editors, no matter what they say or how nice they sound, at the end of the day, are loooking for a payday. It's their job, after all. Their job is not described as producing the next great American novel that no one reads. Their job is to put out books that people buy. Sure, some editors have the luxury to also produce books they truly believe in, but that's the exception these days, not the norm.
Which is why we must abolish that whole "If it's good, you'll get published" mantra. It's otherwise going to ruin a lot of people's ability to write. The reason is that if the pretty dang good but not at all comercial novel you wrote doesn't get you an agent, you'll stop writing, because since you didn't get published, you therefore must not be good. It's a horrible mindtrap of paranoia - being good has little to do with being published.
In fact, I hate to say it, but getting published is almost exactly like getting a job. It's luck, skill, and more than anything, who you know. So if you're like me, and you have a good amount of skill and know a few people (but not the right ones) and absolutely zero luck (family trait), you might not get published.
But that doesn't mean you should stop telling stories. You must keep on writing, because that next novel you produce might be the one that catches the right agent/ editor/ reviewer/ distributor/ bookseller/ Oprah's eye. You never know.
You write because you want to. You publish because you want others to read your work. There's a difference between the two, and in the hours you spend typing away or scribbling, you need to remember that if you're going to put in the years of work it takes to write a great novel.