IT'S A TRAP: Focusing on the Drivel

| Monday, January 30, 2012
Today's Tune: 1000 Ships

Time for IT'S A TRAP! These posts are intended as somewhat humorous (but true) tributes to traps that we writers occasionally find ourselves falling into. Disclaimer: there are always exceptions to every rule.

IT'S A TRAP!: Focusing on the Drivel

I don't know about you, but I've heard some variation of the following come out of a lot of writer mouths: "There are no good books in bookstores these days. It's all the same stupid formula. Originality is dead. Publishers won't publish anything but Twilight ripoffs. Everyone gets down on self-publishing, but there are terrible trade-published books, too. I write WAY BETTER than the crap they publish. They have no taste. They're driven by money, they don't care about ART."

And hey, I try to be very supportive of writers in every stage of their writing life and through whichever path they decide to take, be it going with major publisher, an indie, or self-publishing. However, nothing will make me roll my eyes and go elsewhere faster than writers who espouse this attitude.

1.) "There are no good books in bookstores these days." If you honestly believe this, then you either have an extremely skewed idea of what constitutes a good book -- maybe you think the only "good" books are classics written by long-dead white men -- or you don't read very much new literature at all. Literature is overall subjective, naturally, but that doesn't mean objective duds don't exist. Of course they do. Not even publishers are perfect judges of 100% quality literature. However, the existence of duds never negates the existence of strong, powerful novels. If you claim you can't find those novels, you aren't looking very hard.

I'm a very difficult person to impress. Even so, I can still recognize the strengths of works that I don't particularly care for. If you can't, that's probably something you should work on.

2.) "It's all the same stupid formula. Originality is dead. Publishers won't publish anything but Twilight ripoffs." If I hear you say this, I pretty much assume that you definitely don't read very much. This is ridiculously and patently untrue. I notice the way people who make this claim seem to fall back on the same super-popular books for comparison. Harry Potter ripoff! Twilight ripoff! Da Vinci Code ripoff! No, guys. You are being willfully stubborn if you claim everything being published today is a _______ ripoff. Yes, mimicry happens. It's not as common as you think. Some plots/storylines are archetypal.

This claim also seems to carry the underhanded implication that THE SPEAKER is the lone original wolf amid the sea of bland sheep. And I'm very sorry to say this, but none of us are the singularly-original special snowflake visionaries we see ourselves as.

3.) "Everyone gets down on self-publishing, but there are terrible trade-published books, too." Sure. There's crap everywhere. You might even venture to say that most of everything is crap, because that's just the way greatness works. It's not a common thing. That said, this attitude strays dangerously close to, "If *I* write crap, someone should publish it!"

This isn't to say that your writing isn't good, or that it won't find an audience. Just that this attitude belies a sort of acceptance that because sub-par books sometimes make it through the ringer, it excuses people from trying to make theirs better.

4.) "I write WAY BETTER than the crap they publish." This one always makes me cringe. I always encourage self-confidence in writers. I think it's a very good and powerful thing to believe in ourselves and our writing. It comes across in our attitude and correspondence. However, there is confidence, and then there is arrogance. This is arrogance.

5.) "They have no taste. They're driven by money, they don't care about ART." Uh huh. Look, publishing is a business. YES, THEY CARE ABOUT MONEY. Yes, they publish celebrity books by Snooki because she MAKES MONEY. Making money is one of those evils that comes with business management. However, making money means they CAN invest in unknowns and care about art. And they do. Try to stop looking at all the (arguably terrible) big money-makers and start looking at the smaller, quieter books full of beauty coming out every day. Maybe you should even support them. Supporting the "good" books means more "good" books will be released.

I am absolutely not the sort of writer who's down on self-publishing. I think it's a legitimate option and it's amazing that writers can take their career into their own hands that way. However, I also think it's pointless to simultaneously crap on the "competition." It smacks of bratty two-year-old behavior. Publishing in all its forms is currently evolving and changing every year. This is an AMAZING time to be a writer.

Don't fall into this trap. There's room for all of us in this world.


{ Old Kitty } at: January 30, 2012 at 7:46 AM said...

When I was younger (cough cough!) I was so guilty of no. 4! (hides head in SHAME!).

LOL! Take care

{ vic caswell (aspiring-x) } at: January 30, 2012 at 8:23 AM said...

this post is 100% vic approved. :)

{ Emy Shin } at: January 30, 2012 at 9:27 AM said...

Yes yes yes.

I'm a very, very picky reader. Not critical (I often read critical reviews and think to myself: "Wow, so true. Why didn't I think of that when I was reading?"), but picky. Very few books actually please me. However, even when I dislike a book, I can objectively acknowledge what it's done right. Actually, even then, I still think it's much better than the drivel I write (though that might be more my lack of self-confidence than objectivity).

To say that everything currently published is just uniformly BAD is arrogance at its highest.

{ We Heart YA } at: January 30, 2012 at 11:46 AM said...

<3 this post.

Kristan has been feeling especially rant-y lately, and may have to take down some of these "traps" herself.

{ Andrew Leon } at: January 31, 2012 at 1:58 PM said...

It's only arrogamce if it's not true. :P

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