Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Fricassee

This is not a rant.  It is a revelation.

I just got back from my (way too) early morning grocery run.  (Note to the wise: Want to experience NO CROWDS EVER? Do your shopping at 7 in the morning. Seriously.)  I'm a sucker for the clearance display, even though it's usually stuff-I-would-never-buy.  Like jars of artificially-red ham glaze, questionable health supplements, and post-Jewish-holiday processed Kosher food-in-a-box. 

This morning, though, the clearance display touted a motley collection of books.  Yes, books.  And among the cheaply-bound recipe books and other nondescript titles were two or three paperback copies of a teen classic-literature-meets-vampire by a well-known imprint, both of which will remain unnamed.

Before I even read the title, the cover art grabbed my attention. It. Was. Awful.  It almost had the do-it-yourself look of so many self-published books out there.  (And I'm not knocking self-published books. I have one out there myself.  And I paid a professional graphic artist to design my cover.)

Yes.  It was that bad.  It was really that bad.

Succumbing to morbid curiosity, I opened the book and started to thumb through.  And I can't even express to you how poorly written it was.

Yes yes yes, subjectivity and all that.  Maybe some of you would pick it up and adore it.  You're allowed to.  That's part of the beauty of all the arts, right?  So many tastes, so much to choose from.

But honestly?  I work really hard at my craft.  As in, really hard.  And I know many of you do, too.  I have by no means "arrived", and so I continue to work really hard.  The words are important to me.  Their beauty, their cadence, their subtlety.  A story's voice is encapsulated in its words, and we all know how important voice is.

So it would be easy to pick up a (travesty of a) book like this on a rushed Friday morning and become OH SO BITTER.  As in, "I bleed from my fingers every day as I craft my novels, and this is what gets published?"  And, "I work incredibly hard to create well written stories for young people, and this is what is selling for teens?"

You know what I'm saying.

Here comes the revelation:  It doesn't matter.  My works--the stories of my soul--have absolutely nothing to do with what else is out there.  The time and effort I spend on my novels is by no means cheapened by what I perceive as lesser-quality work.  And the fact that excellent writing is important to me does not make me any better--or any more deserving--than those who have landed contracts with projects that I might personally find less well crafted.

I'm allowed to hate a book I find on a grocery store shelf, and you're allowed to love it.  We will never all agree on what is good and what is really good and what sucks beyond human comprehension.  Yes, there are standards of "good writing" in general--if there weren't, then we'd all experience literary anarchy.  But in the end, it just doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter!

So keep writing.  There's nothing else to do, really.  And keep reading books and allowing the really good ones to sink deep into your psyche and affect your own writing.  I'm going to continue to be inspired by my peers who do write well -- Jodi Meadows and Beth Revis and Joan Paquette and CJ Redwine and Myra McEntire and Peter Salomon and Geoff Rodkey and Victoria Schwab and Erin Bowe.  And countless others who are crafting well written stories for young people.

And there it is--my grocery store revelation.  Happy writing!!


  1. What an inspiring post! And exactly what I needed to hear today!

  2. Loved this post, thank you. I used to feel bitter at writers who published books that seemed to me to be only half-finished. But I eventually realized it wasn't the writers I was angry at. After all, how many us have made the mistake of thinking our writing was ready long before it actually was? I have an acquaintance who has been published many times over...each time I flip through her newest book I shake my head and curse the people around her for not encouraging her to revise. I can see the even funnier, even smarter book buried inside it, begging to be uncovered.

    I think of that author every time I get a crit that feels harsh and remember to be grateful for it. Because at the end of the day, I'd rather be a writer struggling to be good than a published author standing out there in my skivvies signing the inside flap of the Emperor's New YA novel.

  3. Yes, yes, yes. This is so true, and so important for all pre-published writers to hear.

  4. What a very healthy attitude. When it comes down to it, you can only control your own writing. You are not responsible for anyone but you. So, shake your head at it and move on, keep to the standards that satisfy you. Have a great weekend.

  5. There is a certain (very) famous mystery writer who my mother loves and my father deplores. When I asked him why, he invited my to look up one of the books on Amazon and read the first couple of pages.

    What I found was terribly awesome - mid-sentence shifts in POV, sentences that were 80+ words long or just plain awkward, verb conjugation issues - you name it, it was there.

    My reaction to this was not bitterness but joy - first it made me laugh out loud because it was so messed up, and second I thought "Dude, if someone can write like that and still make it, then I totally have a shot" ;-)

  6. Overcoming the unfair and bitter-inducing experiences of life can bless our souls. It is never fun to tread the grapes of "wrath" or "what were they thinking!!!". But when we come out of it with the attitude that you shared, it blesses us and so many others.

    Thank you for sharing. And keep up your awesome work!!!

  7. Well, now you know why these books were in the discount bin!

  8. Authoress:

    I know exactly what you are saying. I forced myself to read the first book of the Twilight series. Threw the second book in the trash. I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy. I liked the adolescent voice in the first one, wanted to slap Catniss in the second, wanted to throttle her in the third.

    By the way, since the subject is loglines, I ran across one of a classic that may interest you.

    "Wizard of Oz: Transported to a surreal landscape,a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams with three strangers to kill again." (Television writer Lee Winfrey)

    Have a great weekend.

  9. Seriously? That's the logline on a copy of Wizard of Oz? (I just typed in Wixted of Oz and now I am laughing--)

    I think it's great you're saying it doesn't matter about what gets published--it's certainly nothing to waste time getting down about (which is easier said than done). It's like that lots of times with who-gets-an-agent and who-doesn't, too. Like, THAT ms got a request in the contest and mine didn't even make it INTO the contest??? I felt like that last spring a bunch of times.
    Oh so much to worry about out there, which is why it is always good to be able to burrow into a story.

  10. Awesome revelation! I agree. I tell myself not to look at this from a competitive perspective. I love to write. I love to tell stories. So that's what I should focus on.

  11. Thanks for your POV. I'm consumed with getting my story right. I needed to read "It doesn't matter!" if others don't.

  12. Sometimes it bothers me too, but only sometimes. I try to look at it the way A.M. does and think the effort I put in now will pay off in the end.

  13. I agree! It's hard not to have "writer's envy" but it's important to keep writing, no matter what!

  14. I agree too! I felt exactly as you did when I picked up 50 Shades to see what the fuss was all about (sorry to fans of the books). But you are so right - move on, it doesn't matter. Keep working, keep improving, I say to myself. Thanks for your insight. I feel sort of vindicated. :)

  15. Absolutely Gorgeous! I love that you added the blue/gray tiles to the subway tiles. It's so gorgeous with the hint of blue paint! LOVE! :)
    ming green marble Tile