Monday, September 17, 2012

Should anyone publish a book?

Everyone likes a good, "snarky" argument. It sells. It's an underbelly of journalism. But in some cases, it's just juvenile. I offer you a case in point....

Recently there was a very heated debate on about book publishing. There was one side coming from a woman author whose name begins with a "C" (no comment), who has a questionably high level of self-importance and notably low level of self-esteem that she masks with snarkiness. About all she was going to allow was her opinion, everyone else was stupid. There was her opinion, or the highway it seemed. But I don't want to make this all about her; I do want to explain some about why this ended up on here.

During our brief discussion, because of her lack of cohesive thought and my desire to see some logic in the commentary, I decided to consider here, as I can discuss it without her venomous and useless monologue. All I did was to disagree with her and she immediately attacked me personally calling me a "Horror Hack", a title I wear proudly and ascribe a "hack" as someone who is usually getting paid for their work, though perhaps not turning out a high quality product, which was probably what she was trying to say without having read any of my work. At least I try to turn out quality work and I would like to make a living at it. She then picked on my book covers which I had an artist do. I think the "Death of Heaven" cover art is amazing, by the way. She was assuming I was someone I am not, comparing me to some shallow, opinionated "slob in a sports bar", which is so not me.

She was rightfully denouncing elitism in publishing. Then she turned around by becoming elitist about anyone who disagreed with her view, or who had another view, or a more sophisticated consideration of the question. A curious way to argue against something which you are arguing against. Eventually her comments evoked a sexist response from me that I later regretted. But she was pushing for that, I'm quite sure. I suspect that is one of her tactics in her toolbox, perhaps that she isn't even fully aware of, is to push someone till they say something stupid. I have always found that a lame tactic used by people who cannot argue logically and knowledgably on their own.

Yes, I'm arguing having been somewhat set up; but inadvertently on her part as I don't think she possesses the acumen or mind to have consciously set it up. Unconsciously, I wouldn't be surprised by what she might accomplish. Those are always the most dangerous types. Not just for others around them, but for themselves.

By her own words she has "done some really rotten things in my life, including criminal acts, spoiled selfishness, brutality, theft, and whoring." Well, it seems she hasn't completely stopped all of her negativity.

But, "Brutality"?

The original question by the way, as proposed by the LinkedIn thread creator, was:

"Do too many people think they can write books?"

Subtitle was:

"I mean, GOOD books, not cheap stories that say nothing and are written with the most basic of language skills."

The advent of independent publishing is something I think well of and have blogged about before as a trend that may very may increase the overall quality of what is published; but, there has also been a good deal of tripe published. Now, anyone can publish and among them, many who would not have otherwise been published and yet are quite good authors. Happily for us, they can now be seen by the general public. The stranglehold by the publishing houses has been released. But along with that, some degree of quality control. Alas, we also now have a slew of people publishing who have very rudimentary writing skills, or even less. That may be fine if you have a good concept, something to say, etc. But please, get some help with your writings, if you need it. If you can't put two words toget to make sense, or two sentences, please, have pity on your reader.

And that, was MY point in this entire discussion. My only point. A point I was never able to get across to Ms. Self-Importance Herself.

It's been said that even Hemingway was saved by his editor, Max Perkins. As the thread creator finally pointed out in the discussion at one point, when "C" was getting too over the top in her rantings and he wanted to pull some control into the discussion, refocus back on the actual topic and to smack her down a bit:

"Hey, "C" ... take it down a notch, will ya? If you think anyone & everyone can write just because they know their big letters from their small, that's great. However, editors at all publishing houses make qualified judgments every day on who can and who cannot write – "

The issue I was trying hard to get across wasn't that anyone shouldn't publish, but that some people shouldn't.

Can YOU see that difference? She simply couldn't. Something that made me question her veracity and acumen.

Now that I have some breathing room without her trying to stop the discussion, ignore the logic, maintain a train of thought to its completion....

I have tried several times in my life to help new writers. I really don't have much time for this now a days, but when I had more time in the past, I did what I could. I never got much help in my life from others who could have helped me, so I have tried not to be that way when it was possible. At some point, if I ever make it to the level I would like to get to, I would like to be able to find the time to do some helping out again. Especially for family, or those friends who have been close, something I haven't had much help on from my own family or friends.

But the few I have tried to help in the past turned out to be something I hadn't expected. After putting in a lot of time and energy trying to help them, I came to realize something. There are two types of new writers. The writer who wants to be one and will make it happen, and the "writer" who simply wants to be, and simply won't make it happen. This latter type is in love with the romantic notion of being a writer, with the benefits, but not the loneliness or the hard work and the rejection.

There is really nothing romantic about being a writer. It is work, it is solitary for the most part. It is many hours every day, day after day, year after year, honing your art, writing, learning, reading. And READING is very important. It has to do with taking in new information, digesting it, and utilizing it.

But those whom I have tried to help seemed only to want me to read their works, LOVE them, and then to see them get published. Or, to read them, rewrite them so that they were publishable, so they wouldn't have to put the thought and effort into it, so they have something to publish; so they could send it off themselves (or in some cases for me to get it published) and so, finally see themselves in print.

However, like the person you give a fish to for food when they are starving, that is really kind of a waste of time. Maybe to help them have the strength to then do their own work but that can be a trap. Unless you teach them how to fish, they will not succeed. They need to want to learn how to fish. Or, in this case to write. But many of these people don't want to learn to write, they just want to be a "Writer". Eventually, I got to the point where if they didn't want to learn, to do it themself, if then won't put in the time and energy to become a writer, I simply do not and will not, have the time of day for them. And rightfully so, I think. That's how my professors at the University treated me and it's what needs to be done.

I remember when I was a kid, learning in the Air Force to be a parachute rigger. I was having a horrible time with a new parachute I was learning to pack. These chutes are too much material to be fit in too little space. It is like an exercise in isometrics as you struggle and struggle and it never seems to get packed. So the Sergeant comes by, sees my problem, packs the chute for me to show me what I'm doing wrong and I'm ecstatic. I'm relieved. And then, he pops the chute and says, "Okay, now, pack it." I almost had a nervous breakdown. I had been nearly in tears from the struggle and couldn't believe I hadn't just gotten away with having to pack that damn chute. I wasn't the only one. I saw every one of us in that class go through the same frustration and emotional expenditures. But it was the only way to learn, because once we graduated we were on our own and people's lives depended upon our knowing and doing our job well. Writing is much like that. You have to suffer through the learning so that when you are out there in the world, you know what to do and do it well. Someone getting you published does you no good whatsoever.

Those are the writers I was talking about, those were the ones I was trying to point out to great "writer" the great "C" herself. But she only wanted to hear her own voice. She is, in some ways, so much like those writers I have worked with in the past. They waste your time, they are offensive in their expectations. And they should probably never publish.

Why? Because they dilute the writings that are out there. They make it harder on the writers who do care, who slave over their writings. That is not to say, as "C" kept uselessly pointing out, that they are elitist writers, but they are the writers at all levels who deserve our respect.

Not respecting them for being such brilliant authors, but for being hard working individuals who have respect for themselves, writing in general and most importantly, for their reader.

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I made one faux pas in the thread, that I alluded to before and that was so irritating "C" word lady. I stated my opinion, and then she immediately came back at me attacking myself, my writings, even my book covers, sounding rather... elitist (by my observation and actually a few others). She ended up many times becoming that type of individual that she was actually arguing against. Odd, that. But, that's who she is as an individual.

Anyway, I asked why women have to come back right away with a personal attack in a discussion such as we were having. That was wrong of me. Men do that too, after all. It was wrong because I was responding to a single woman who was serving up a personal attack in what I mistakenly thought to be a intellectual discussion. I had no idea it was simply a base, emotional rant in a debate absconded by one individual who has been trying to jump on the bandwagon of being a "Public Bitch" (her words), which has so been perfected by the attractive, smart and very funny, Chelsea Handler.

But being a funny and professional "Bitch" comedienne is not simply acting like a Bitch. It requires humor, intellect and a quick wit. Perhaps this "C" woman is just young or new at this concept of intellectual humor and merely requires a few more years to perfect it. I would suggest watching Chelsea on her show, "Chelsea Lately"; maybe reading Chelsea's books. Otherwise, one needs to remain quietly at home, writing (offline please) and rewriting and rewriting. Writing IS rewriting after all, something "C" doesn't apparently understand either for herself or for the poor writers I was referring to all this time. I have to wonder if she spends most of her profits on editors, or "Ghost writers" since I don't see the cleverness in her books, in his online debates.

So the point is this....yes, we have a lot of people publishing now who shouldn't. But let me point out, again something "C" couldn't get: I never said I thought anyone shouldn't be allowed to publish, I said that I thought that they shouldn't publish. But by their own decision. The trouble there is that they can't (won't) see it. Much like "C" word lady ("Lady", no, no, no, woman, surely but I'm sure she would say herself, not a lady...actually, I think she did say that in an interview somewhere), who can't see what I was trying to say in fairly clear English. Other erudite individuals on the thread seemed to easily understand it. But I suspect she was just "blowing" her own horn, much as she had been paid to do for others, in her previous career (and yes, those others being, men, perhaps explaining some of her causticness).

Well, I think I've gone on long enough about this. Far longer than I should have, for sure. But it is quite frustrating talking to someone when they are undoubtedly off their meds and you can't get them to see the most simple of concepts.

Certainly, I wish her well, as I do all writers who are trying to get somewhere. It's a tough business after all. One of the toughest. Considering herself other side, the self-proclaimed "Southern Belle" side, I just wish she could play up a little less of the unfunny "Bitch" motif and a little more Classy Southern Belle.

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