Respect the writer

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Wow, writer lady: that’s a mighty big pencil you’ve got there. I’ll just walk away and let you work.*

I live in Maryland, and the motto of the University of Maryland is “fear the turtle.” It’s the most clever thing you can do when your mascot is a Terrapin (the state turtle).  Don’t sleep on the turtle, peeps; they’re vicious.

I feel like we need some type of saying like that for writers, too.

“Respect the writer.” Simple and too the point, like fear the turtle. Because, I swear, these days, writers get no respect.

Why would I say this? Because I’ve been trying to figure out the best ways to promote my book when it’s published, and I keep stumbling across blog posts, videos and ebooks claiming that writing a book is a great way to make money. The key, they say is to just write something ‘high quality–nothing junky — quickly’ and publish it. Doesn’t matter if it’s nonfiction or fiction, just give people good stuff. One guy actually said, write something like Stephen King or John Grisham. Really? Just like that?

I understand that get rich quick scheme peddlers say these things to line their own pockets by convincing the unsuspecting to buy some product they’re selling. But, why is it that they can say this and have people, go, ‘Oh yeah. That makes sense.  I’ll just go write a book. Can’t be that hard’? Come on! Have a little respect for the writer. People like John Grisham and Stephen King don’t just throw a ‘high quality’ book together in a couple of weeks. Writing well takes time, practice and stamina. It is not for the faint of heart. I’m not suggesting it’s as difficult as brain surgery. But, I am saying it’s more difficult to do well than, say, baking cupcakes using a box of Duncan Hines mix. Writers — the ones who work hard at it, taking time to read, to build their craft, to revise — deserve a little respect in this regard.

Everyone can write in the same way that everyone can play basketball. Sure, most people can get a ball in the hoop if you give them 20 chances, but very few are going to be able to play professionally. Those who do it for a living, don’t just decide one weekend, I’m going to go join the Washington Wizards (or wait, given the Wiz’s records, maybe the do; No, I’m kidding. I kid because I love. Go Wizards!). But even as bad as my nearest local team is, every single player on that team would wipe the floor with me — or thousands of other people out there — in a one-on-one competition. Much like bowling and golf, writing well looks easier than it is.

So, I say, as my new slogan, don’t just fear the turtle, respect the writer.

 

* Image courtesy of Doublecompiler via wikicommons

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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2 Responses to Respect the writer

  1. Mel Parish says:

    Well said. What always amazes me is the advice that you have to write several books a year to keep your readers satisfied. There is a reason why most traditional writers bring out only one book a year – because to produce good quality writing takes time and is not something that can be dashed off in a matter of weeks (unless you have a stable of ghost-writers to help!). After all, even once that manuscript is finished, you need time to edit and proof-read, which if done properly can almost take longer than it took to write the first draft.

    There seems to be a fear that if you don’t produce more than one book a year, your audience will forget you – but given that has been the ‘norm’ for years, why should this suddenly change just because of self-publishing? Readers will often make comments such as ‘can’t wait for the next book’, but that doesn’t mean the writer has to compromise quality in order to satisfy that demand immediately. The reader will wait
    – providing you do produce quality rather than mere quantity.
    I think this ‘produce as many books as you can a year’ mantra is touted mostly by those who are looking to make as much money as they can from writing rather than those for whom the writing comes first. Of course, we would all love to make a living from our writing, but that is not what necessarily drives us to sit down and do it.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      I agree with you, Mel. My writing speed is probably about average, but I can’t write several books a year. Of course, readers would love several high quality books a year, but they don’t expect it, because they know it’s not that likely. The other thing readers know is there are tons of authors out there, so they find a few they like and read the new pieces when they come out. That’s the wonderful thing about being an author–it’s not zero sum game. A reader who buys another author in my genre might also buy my book. Avid readers polish off two or more books a week, and they have multiple authors they go to. When you come out with a new release, they’ll come back (if you gave them a quality read before, not something you wrote and shoved out the door in a month so you could increase your volume).

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