The last few years have been really interesting for writers and readers alike. Publishers, writers, self-publishers, and others have been pushing for the view of the writer as one who must not only write, but do everything else too. While I understand why this vision is necessary (published authors have to sell books and all that), I am also opposed to it in principle. The only thing that should be important to the writer, in my opinion, is the writing. Selling books, gaining fans, and so on are important, but secondary items.
These things are not part of the vision I want to cling to. I would love to live in a world where the hard writing writer is the one who gets the attention, because telling a good story is more important than anything else. Period. Stop telling me about learning how to market yourself and all that mumbo jumbo. I get it. Writers have to do this, and it’s something I know I’ll have to learn
how to do out of necessity too, but the purpose of writing is to write and develop one’s craft. There’s a reason a lot of writers (particularly big name ones) have yet to tread into the self-publishing world: they’d rather spend the time needed to promote their material doing the act of creation itself. The time one could spend on the Internet and in bookstores trying to push books onto people could be spent writing two or three more books, and getting better at doing them too.
As a reader, I care more about seeing my favorite writers get better at doing what they love than I do about ad copy and whether a writer is a brilliant marketer (sometimes I find brilliant marketers annoying, actually). We have enough crappy novels with barely serviceable prose flooding the shelves as it is; we don’t need more. We need better novels. You can tell a riveting story with strong writing. Hell, there’s no reason why literary novelists can’t take all those skills they’ve developed learning how to craft sentences and beautiful images and apply them to the kinds of exciting stories that people love to read.
But maybe I’m naive. Do people really dislike reading more beautiful prose styles in general? I don’t mean difficult prose, but prose that is more than bare bones, that uses wonderful metaphors and images, digs into the souls of its characters, and so on. Is it equally naive to want the hard writing writer to become the norm?
Maybe I’m just frustrated, partly because there is a childish backlash in the SF/F community against the suffering literary fiction world (yes, it’s childish to point and laugh at the people who used to do the same thing 50 years ago), and partly because I’m tired of seeing publishers, self-publishers, and everyone else pushing writers and readers to adopt or desire the “hard working writer” persona. That’s not what writing should be about.
But everyone is acting out of necessity, I guess. It’s sad, but there it is…