Why Did You Resign?

Today I was led to a resignation post from a writer.

I won’t link to it. I don’t want to add to the misery.

However…

The post was epic. It went on and on but it kept my interest despite the fact it was white text on a black background (stop doing that, everyone!).

And I figured someone that passionate is worth investigating.

So I went to the NaNoWriMo dump (read between the lines of that appellation) and extracted six samples of this person’s work.

Most of them didn’t hold my interest past page two.

There was just nothing there. Nothing that showed it was written by anyone with a soul. It was just word after word and entirely flaccid.

This person wailed about investing lots and lots of time into promotion and formatting and all of that.

It would have been better spent not publishing anything until someone dispassionate looked at it and said, “You know, this is actually good!”

Because what I saw was not good.

I can’t say anything about story or plot. For all I know, those might actually be worthwhile. But if the damn writing isn’t there, the best idea in the world isn’t going to be seen beneath the mess. (Also: when the writing is there, people don’t give a damn if the plot is entirely unbelievable or even makes no sense!)

But what’s interesting here is that this person never came up with this thought: Could it be my writing just isn’t good enough?

Because it wasn’t.

And I don’t care if you’re looking at a Meyer or Brown or Rowling or anyone else whose work you disdain yet sells by the truckload. The thing is, those things are selling — while yours are not.

No matter what you might think of the soon-to-be-forgotten bestseller, there’s still something there that makes people want to read them. There’s no mass hypnosis involved here. There isn’t some trick going on.

I’ve written before that writers are going to have to suffer an extreme amount of frustration as the world moves to eBooks.

But writers who really are writers, whose work is killer, will be found.

So if your books aren’t gaining traction, if people don’t even bother to post reviews about them, aren’t recommending them to others on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, then the problem is not that of the reader.

The problem is that your writing isn’t good enough.

Get back to work and make it better.

That’s what a real writer would do.

But if you’re not a real writer, go ahead and resign.

It clears the field for those who are.

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12 Comments

Filed under Writers, Writing

12 responses to “Why Did You Resign?

  1. Absolutely correct! Too many writers believe that self-promotion = book sales. It’s just one component of the equation. Good writing wins in the end.

    • mikecane

      Back before the home computer, back before TV, back when there was no Twitter, there was Ayn Rand with The Fountainhead. It sold entirely due to word of mouth in an age when it wasn’t easy to communicate across this vast nation. If people aren’t doing that for someone’s book, then the book is unworthy.

      • Mmmm… yes, but the book needs to back up the word of mouth. The Fountainhead does that. The problem now is people can generate some good buzz for an absolutely crappy book, and make some sales before people figure out it’s a bad book.

      • mikecane

        Doesn’t the availability of a sample chapter prevent that? I won’t buy anything unknown without seeing a freebie Sample from Kindle Store or elsewhere.

      • At that time, though, books were allowed some shelf time and space, so it wasn’t like it needed to make bank the first month it was out and then it went poof never to be heard from again.

        Shelf life is such an important factor and, IMO, one reason why self-pub has taken off. No expiration date.

      • mikecane

        Infinite shelf life cannot transmute bad writing into good.

  2. I was teaching at the Whidbey Conference this weekend and had a moment of enlightenment: as fast as e-books allow an author to upload their book, the speed of the internet will also cause authors to quit at the same quick speed.
    I see posts from new ‘authors’ asking how many ebooks they should be selling already when they uploaded yesterday.
    Those who write good books and have the persistence to keep going, will succeed.
    In essence, the success rate in self-publishing will equal the success rate in the agent’s in-box.

  3. Yep, I’m with you there too. It’s true of all the arts, look at American Idol, the amount of deluded cashews (nuts) that go on there certain they are gonna be big stars. Book world is no different. It’s just that most authors like to hide in their homes and let their book do the talking.

    The solution is simple: Try something else, see if that works. Or start a business because at least you’ll learn about marketing…and that way you’ll learn about what people want and don’t want, and what it takes for a product to cut it in the marketplace. Apply that to book writing and you might just see that game in the clear light of day, and not from the fog of wannabee delusion.

  4. Amen.

    You need two things to be a successful writer.

    1. Persistence
    2. Talent
    3. Numeracy, to deal with all the royalties

  5. I’m thrilled to see this post.

    I often have awkward moments when beginning writers (who are strangers to me) ask me to read an excerpt from their book that is posted online. Actually, they say, “Look at my fantastic book!”)

    They want compliments, not anything approaching honest feedback. Usually the writing is terribly weak. I hint that all writers need to work on their craft take classes, join critique groups (of good writers), and have their work edited. And that it wouldn’t hurt to learn about the publishing industry. But I can’t recall one aspiring writer who’s ever taken my hints.

    I don’t want to bludgeon them. I’ll just send them your post. Thanks!

  6. Pingback: Don’t Send Your Writing Out Yet—Please!

  7. Jason

    I think the key to great writing is not just persistence and talent, but also critical thinking and patience. A common piece of advice is to write down whatever you’re thinking about as soon as you get the chance, no matter how ridiculous it may be. Yet I believe that a truly great writer needs to thoroughly think about what they are jotting down on paper or on their laptop. The best ideas don’t always arrive overnight (a fact that many inexperienced writers and publishers ignore); some prompts require more thought and more inspiration. Research for your writing project is just as important as the concept of the project itself.

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