There’s been a lot of talk around social media circles about how to make writing worth the time it takes to pull together a novel. Anyone who’s ever tried to write something knows. The hours of drafting, fixing, trashing, and redoing quickly become countless. And for those writing for the tight niche known as Christian Speculative Fiction…well, most of us have had to make a tenuous peace with the current reality that writing isn’t a career path.
Folks on both the secular and inspirational side of the fence chafe at this—and rightly so—and hunt for solutions. One such solution that has come up: authors just need to be insanely prolific. They need to get book after book after book out to their readers so that the income streams stack. Forget multiple passes of revisions! “Good enough” will do. Readers don’t really care about most of the stuff writers pull their hair out about, as long as the story connects with them in a powerful way.
While I can understand not reworking a project for years, (I admit to the propensity to want to continually revisit projects, even published ones, and make them better) and I certainly get that when readers have more books to buy, an author stands to make more money to support his writing habit, the proliferation model creates problems for both writers and readers.
Where writers lose: It’s the rare artist who can work both fast and clean. Speed begets sloppiness, to varying degrees, depending on the level of talent in the writer to churn out tight drafts. But American industry tends to run at a pace just a few clicks faster than its flagship producers, like Henry Ford speeding up the belt on the assembly line to force his army of technicians to fly through their motions to keep up. When this happens in writing, sure, more books get to market, but at what cost? Quality. As writers whose integrity is our witness, can we afford this?
How readers are shortchanged: The problem trickles down. Ultimately, cranking out books at a speed beyond best quality is a disrespect to people who read as a pastime. If writers and publishing houses careen to market, just to get the next book out, doesn’t that powerful story readers crave lose punch? Nuance and depth don’t happen in one thin coat. As readers, how do we injure the market by demanding the next book in the series right after we’ve consumed the first one?
It all reminds me of the culture of convenience food I see in American society. Being a working mom who shoulders three to four non-paying “gigs” outside of the ten hours a day I put in for the sake of practical earnings, I understand how people can find relief in unzipping a pouch, adding water, and hitting the “cook” button on the microwave. But processed convenience food is not only nutritionally inferior—it tastes like…you fill in your favorite negative piece of vocabulary. Even so, if you feed much of this to your kids, they develop a taste for it, so much that they will turn up their noses at “real food” when you offer it.
Some authors complain that readers only want “fast food” reading and get discouraged to an artistic standstill. Some embrace the general public’s lax demands as an excuse not to stress over the details—after all, why stretch yourself beyond what the readers demand? Is it because many have conceded to serving up the literary equivalent of Easy Mac and now few want artisanal cheddar because its flavor is too strong? It’s a self-perpetuating problem.
Conversely, there are readers who complain there’s so much junk on the market that it’s hard to find good books. I sympathize with these readers who have to comb through so much chaff to find the kernels of excellence that are out there…both traditionally- and self-published. It’s disheartening to see rave reviews of something popular only to pick it up and find another hackneyed, milquetoast, poorly-edited shelf-filler.
So what can we do about all this? It’s my hope that this will be at the heart of many of the discussions that go on at this year’s Realm Makers conference, if not from behind the podium, over the lunch table and in the hallways. Readers and writers alike have a role to play if they wish to see a cultural shift in the publishing climate. Writers must refuse to contribute to the growing haystack of mediocrity, but learn how to provide excellence with a speed that at least acknowledges the cravings for immediacy the internet age has cultivated. Readers must put their money and their very vocal praise behind the books that exhibit mastery of craft. If enough authors “cook up” story delicacies, and enough readers enthusiastically support the best of the best on the market (and ignore the Easy Mac, even if it’s what “everyone” is reading,) together, we can contribute to a paradigm shift.
It may be counter cultural, but isn’t God that? Is he not the author of excellence? If we’re truly committed to doing what is pleasing in his sight, how can we produce or consume anything less than what we feel our Maker himself would call “well done?”
If you’re a writer and would like to spend a weekend at an event full of people of faith who are committed to creating excellent science fiction and fantasy, join us at the 2nd annual Realm Makers conference, May 30-31, 2014 at Villanova University, just outside of Philadelphia, PA. Visit http://realmmakers.com for more information. Seating is limited!
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Rebecca P. Minor has grown in recent years to a true dabbler in many corners of the arts, from writing to illustration to singing and trombone playing. She is the author of The Windrider Saga, serial fantasy fiction from Diminished Media Group and Curse Bearer, from Written World Communications.
In 2013, Rebecca organized the first Realm Makers conference, a symposium for people of faith who write fantasy and science fiction. The 2014 conference will take place in May, with Rebecca reprising the role of conference director.
To learn more about Rebecca’s writing and artistic exploits:
Find her on Facebook as Rebecca P Minor, Author and Artist
To find out more about Realm Makers, visit http://realmmakers.com .