We live in an age of newness. Everything must constantly be new. We must supply our readers with new books, new blog posts, new articles, and new tweets, every moment of every day, or we become irrelevant. We must reinvent ourselves daily in order to hold attention. We must bring new subjects to new people via new ideas and new worlds. Some days it seems like even “news” is yesterday’s news. Who reads the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal anymore? Why read long, time-consuming articles when you can read Facebook or Twitter, with updates every few seconds and a constant barrage of new words, new information, new stories?
I was told, around Christmas break, that there was a book on indie publishing that I absolutely needed to read. I bought it and downloaded it to the Kindle app on my phone so I could read it there. The book is titled “Write, Publish, Repeat,” by Sean Platt and Johnny Truant. The subtitle: “The No-Luck-Required Guide To Self-Publishing Success”. Well, after getting about a fifth of the way through the book, I came to the conclusion that the entire book can be summed up by the title itself, and no further reading is required. (Spare yourself the five-dollar book purchase.) The entire message of the book is that: Write, Publish, Repeat.
It’s an exhortation to verbosity.
It claims, essentially, that if you write a book, publish it, and then do the same for many more books that you have also written, you’ll achieve literary and financial success. (No luck required.) The authors talk about writing four books a year, powering through manuscripts with fingertips aflame, as though all the coke and adderall in the world can’t compete with the motivational power of simply spitting out more and more and more words. They describe their own successes, rocketing from anonymity to author-stardom in a matter of months, simply because they have pushed out as many books as possible in as short a time span as possible.
Indie and traditionally-published authors alike are encouraged to turn themselves into machines, to pound out book after book after book, no matter how formulaic, no matter how generic. This is, after all, how James Patterson, Anne Perry, and Nora Roberts achieved their success. These are writers who can write three to four books a year, following a formula, giving their bestselling success to the public over and over and over again. Now add Sean Platt and Johnny Truant to that list.
Unfortunately, this is also how indie authors have gotten themselves into a bind. Whereas James Patterson, Anne Perry, and Nora Roberts at least had someone at the top of the chain to say whether or not their books were good, had editors at their side to trim their unnecessary phrases like so many unruly weeds, indie authors have nothing but a button to click on Amazon before their books go live. And by pounding out book after book after book without so much as a thought as to quality, editing, or professionalism, we are giving ourselves a dodgy reputation, to the point where book bloggers no longer accept our submissions and half the world doesn’t take us seriously. We are shooting ourselves in the foot. By spitting out as many words as we possibly can, arranging them into some general outline of a “novel”, and slapping them on Amazon for three bucks apiece, we are devaluing literature and losing ourselves in the process.
We forget why we started writing in the first place.
I hate to agree with Jonathan Franzen on anything, but he wrote in an article over the summer that literature and fiction ought to be about “the quiet and permanence of the written word.” God, I agree. Why do we forget about quiet and permanence in favor of noise and immediacy? Why do we lose sight of the subtle power of language in favor of dollar signs and word count? Why do we ignore our editors in favor of our bankers?
This writer has had enough. I, Amira K. Makansi, am proudly turning in the opposite direction. I am taking a stand against verbosity.
I’m encouraging you – nay, exhorting you – to add an extra few steps to that logline. Don’t just “Write, Publish, Repeat.” That’s not good enough. The title of my book on publishing success would be: “Write. Edit. Write some more. Edit some more. Think. Write. Edit. Think. NOW YOU MAY CONSIDER PUBLISHING. Repeat.”
Don’t get caught up in the immediacy, in the demand for instant gratification, the world of Buzzfeed quizzes and fast food burgers. Don’t forget about the power of literature in favor of the power of a backlist. Don’t get get caught up in the new and forget about the old. Don’t serve your readers a fast food novel. Give them what they deserve: A Michelin-quality story, replete with complex characters, beautiful phrases, perfect grammar, and an imaginative world. Give your readers quality, not quantity. Give your readers an author to cheer for, not a store to buy from.
Write. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Publish. Repeat.
Well-written, Amira, some good points!
Though I must confess when I saw the phrase “exhortation to verbosity”, I thought this post was somehow about me(I’ll elaborate later w more thoughts on verbosity).
But good post. 🙂
Haha, no, it’s not about you, but I thought you might get that impression! (Confession: I did that somewhat deliberately 🙂
Beautifully said, Amira. Well thought and beautifully said.
Thank you so much 🙂
So much agree. I’ve ranted about this before. I don’t want to come off as elitist, but as Susan Sontag said, there *is* such a thing as excellence. It takes time to write well. Unfortunately, it seems like authors just can’t afford to take 3-4 years per book anymore; to have any marketability, you’ve *got* to churn out at least a book a year, at the expense of quality. (To be fair, it’s not just self-published authors.)
I agree. It’s not just self-published authors, but it is self-published authors who feel the most pressure to do so. After all, authors who choose to publish through a house are encouraged to spend months if not years polishing that first manuscript before it gets accepted by an agent and then a house. Self-published authors have nothing to hold them back, and indeed, a myriad of voices claiming that popping off manuscripts is the quickest way to success.
Fantastic article, Amira. I finished reading it a few weeks ago and while I found some parts useful, it preyed upon this sense that we have to keep on the hamster wheel, keep producing. You are completely right that quantity should never take precedence over quality (which I think they also briefly point out) – although our stories can never be perfect. You have a knack for seeing through the BS ;). Am tempted to buy one of their works of fiction and see what I think…
Ah! I’m glad to hear you read the book also, as I’ve been wondering what other writers thought. Hamster wheel is a great metaphor! (I should have used it in the post!) If you do end up reading one of their works of fiction, please let me know what you think, as I’m very curious whether their fiction writing lives up to their ability to sell themselves as writers….