Why I hate writing, Part 4

Who would have thought that my love/hate relationship with writing would be such that I would need to write not just one post, but a series of them? I suppose I could simply categorize my writing posts under “Me ranting incessantly”, but that category is getting pretty substantial, and they might get lost in the shuffle.

I have issues, people!

In case you’re interested, you can find Parts 1 through 3 here:

Why I hate writing
Why I hate writing, Part 2
Why I hate writing, Part 3

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah…

Last Friday, Rachelle Gardner (who, in case you didn’t know, is a literary agent) wrote a post which asked the following question:

“(So) if you had a choice, which would you rather be:

(1) An author publishing steadily to positive reviews and strong critical acclaim, but selling low numbers of books and therefore unable to support yourself with your writing…

or

(2) An author publishing frequently (maybe two books a year) to average reviews and sometimes even being called unflattering names like “hack” yet making an extremely comfortable living and never having to take on other work.

To simplify: Great reviews, critical acclaim and awards… or great sales?”

Of course, I chose “both”, because she’s not the boss of me. Then she told me the point was to choose one, to which I responded, “I don’t wanna”, then she accused me of being a cheater… (This all happened on Twitter, btw. Not on her blog. But I digress.) Anyway, my point is (and I do have one), is that Rachelle posed this as a “thought question”, and rightly so. Because it really got me to thinking.

Not so much about choosing to be a critically acclaimed, award winning author or a best selling one, but about what lengths will you go to achieve the latter?

Before you get to be a published writer, chances are the words you share with the world are yours. They may be edited, but probably self-edited. Whatever point or message you are attempting to convey will be retained. The questions of critical acclaim or strong book sales are largely theoretical, because let’s just be honest: It might not even occur to you that once someone buys your story they may want to change it to fit a certain audience. You write because you have a story to tell, not to fill a niche in some yet unsaturated demographic, right?

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I think editors are the unsung heroes of the literary world. A good editor can make a good story even better, and it is in the best interest of your agent and publisher to do what they can to help you tell your story to an adoring audience. But how much control are you willing to give away in order to see your name on the best seller list? And at what point do you stop writing from your heart and start writing what you think people want to read?

I wonder about this because I have read so many best selling authors who start out with such promise, only to be disappointed by their later books. I don’t lay the blame completely on the marketing of a writer. I think some writers only have one or two good books in them, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when they continue to write anyway because they think writing something is better than fading into obscurity. You know, like Margaret Mitchell did after she wrote Gone with the Wind or Harper Lee after To Kill a Mockingbird. I bet you probably had to google those writers just to refresh your memory…

I guess the moral of my rambling story is this: If you are fortunate enough to have your work read by a large audience and achieve financial success because of your gift, please don’t take it for granted. Remember why you started writing in the first place. Don’t be a lazy book whore.

Editor’s Note: While I have a rather long list of well known authors whom I consider to be lazy book whores, I will not share any of them here so as not to offend them. While I’m quite confident that none of them read my blog, some of you might really enjoy their books, even though they’re crap. Kidding. Mostly. (See? I’m a great self-editor, huh?)

If you haven’t already entered to win a free, autographed copy of Snow Day by Billy Coffey, see details on Monday’s post. I will be accepting entries until Sunday.

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16 Responses to “Why I hate writing, Part 4”

  1. Michael November 9, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    Remember why you started writing in the first place.

    I think that line applies to so much more than just writing. I think too many times we become complacent and forget why we started doing something in the first place. Why do I write? Why do I help? Why do I care? All of these things apply. You have me thinking.

  2. Jake November 9, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    Too many awesome lines in this post. “Of course, I chose “both”, because she’s not the boss of me.”

    and also, “Don’t be a lazy book whore.” (HA HA HA HA! YESSS!)

    Jon Acuff posted a video of that lady who wrote that girl book, “Eat, Pray, Love” and how she feared that she may never be able to top that book and then went through all the ways she was coping with it. Her speech was genius.

    I think we all fear succeeding because it won’t be as glamorous as we thought, therefore we might as well have failed and avoided the whole disappointing situation, you know? It worries me just the same, but I also want to succeed, it’s the most ridiculous thing on earth and it makes me want to set something on fire, just to feel better (total exaggeration– for some reason fire is my flavor of the week).

    ANYWAY. Kathy, thanks for getting us to think about this kind of thing because it’s important. Wonderful post, lady.

  3. Krista @ Life in Texas November 9, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    You totally crack me up. Going next to read parts 1-3, so forgive me if you already addressed this.

    I “think” I wouldn’t mind being edited because I have so very many opinions and topics about which I want to write, and I know I need some help to focus.

    Then again maybe that just means I would be one of your “lazy book whores”. LOL.

  4. Cassandra Frear November 9, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    This is EXACTLY why I am writing my entire non-fiction book with the help of one sympathetic editor before I query it. Yes, I know that non-fiction books are usually queried before they are finished.

    No matter. My vision goes on the page first. Then, and only then, we negotiate.

    Some books are like that.

  5. Melissa Brotherton November 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    I like your rants. They make me laugh, but also make me think. 🙂

  6. Helen November 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    I can think of a mystery writer whose first twelve (maybe thirteen?) books in her series, I loved. (So did Mom… we started listening to them on CD together a few years ago…). But her last two books (yes, I gave her another chance) in the series were phoned in, and so were her last two between the series books (see, four chances, more than fair…). She came out with two new books this year. Nope. I shall not take these out of the library… apparently it only encourages her. That lazy book whore….

  7. Maureen November 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    The key to making the, ahem, “right” choice is knowing you’re doing what you love, what you’re passionate about, and because not writing just isn’t an option.

  8. Sharkbait November 9, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    I think it was Anne Sexton who said “When I am writing, I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.”

    (Actually I know it was, but I didn’t want to look like a show-off.)

    Anyhoo – The point is….

    Wait. What was the point again?

    Oh, yes.

    Write because you can, write because you must, write because you are a writer. Everything else is just vanity. – David Seven.

    I like writing.

  9. Doug Spurling November 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi Kat, You are too funny. I get what you’re saying here, I think. It looks like you love writing – it’s just some of the writers you can’t stand. Or at least they way they sell their soul for a buck.

    Personally, I write because my tongue has no delete button.

    Thanks for writing – even when you hate it.

  10. Michelle DeRusha November 10, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    I’ve enjoyed your series on why I hate writing a lot. I think I would have had to answer Rachelle’s question: none of the above. Simply to get published would be enough for me. But no, that’s probably not true in the end. Although I would LOVE to make my living as a writer, I’d rather have my published book keep to the integrity of the original ms, even if that meant a smaller audience and fewer sales. I think. 🙂

  11. Jason November 10, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    I would rather be the best selling author who doesn’t win awards because:

    A ) that would mean people are reading and enjoying the books that I put out;

    B ) I’m being able to make a living for myself and my family doing something that I love to do;

    C ) It gives me the chance to create many new worlds and characters within which I can share my thoughts and views on life, faith and the world.

    Now, I add the caveat that I wouldn’t be a lazy book whore. If I had to compromise and write less than my best to attain the best selling status, I wouldn’t want that.

  12. A Simple Country Girl November 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    stay true
    to who
    you are

    especially
    if it’s Christ’s
    light

    you are shining
    with your writing

    simply,
    there’s no other choice
    when it’s His voice

    (I don’t know what is the matter with me today. Talking in rhyme. Can’t keep track of time– I was still in my pajamas when the delivery man came to the door. I waved and he started for his truck before I could thank him some more. I scuttled across the floor, flinging myself toward the front porch. He looked over his shoulder and then ran off into the mist. I looked down and saw my flannel pj legs are all a rip. I think the grip of caffeine has finally let go because my thinking has started to slow. Ta-ta for now. Ta-ta for later. I think I’ll eat a ‘tater…. [i need help] )

    Blessings.

    • katdish November 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

      Snort!

  13. Hazel Moon November 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    I write just because I love to tell stories with an inspirational twist! I have at least one fan (smile) so I keep writing. You are awesomely mischievous and I agree, why not have both?

    • katdish November 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

      Aw, Hazel! That’s the nicest thing I’ve read in a long time. “Awesomely michievous”. I like that!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks:

  1. katdishionary, Part 11 | Katdish.net - November 18, 2010

    […] While I first used the term “lazy book whore” here in the post Why I hate writing, Part 4, the term was originally coined by Billy Coffey in an email […]

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