There are probably writers out there far more professional and able than I am who just sit down and write with a certain confidence that I lack. Obviously I am secure enough to write in the first place, to have some belief in a talent of some kind but I am also insecure enough to spend a lot of time reading books about writing, seeking other writer’s opinions and accounts of their experiences, surfing editor’s blogs, reading reference books, how to’s, guides, you know the sort of thing. This is my craft and I love it and when I was young and used to sit in my bedroom window or sometimes outside on the roof writing absolutely foul poetry to the moon and love, I would think to myself that perhaps I was somewhat of a genius when it came to writing. But now I know it takes a tremendous amount of hard work and rewriting and there are thousands of other moderately talented writers out there like me who used to dream about perfect first drafts and genius hood (or is it genius dom?) too.
So I study my craft and I sharpen it and perfect it and I get a lot of pleasure out of the simple fact that the more you write the better you become, and that it is a good thing to constantly ask more of yourself than you are initially prepared to give. Especially a lazy person like me who can be given to procrastination. Because it is extremely wearing and tiring but ultimately satisfying. Sorry to make it sound like work and no play and hard but it is. It is also the most wonderful thing in the world when you are in the middle of doing it. Truly.
So that is good writing. Or rather that is where good writing should spring from. From the minds of those people who love it but who know that however much they obsess over the words and the story, they can always do better.
So how is it that so much crap sells millions? Is it the lowest common denominator like it so often is in music? I don’t think so because the lowest common denominator aren’t really readers, and actually at this point in our human evolution I think that whatever it takes to keep people reading and not just watching reality TV (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is a good thing really. But it would be nice to see people enthralled and enraptured with books that challenge and inspire and stay with you for longer than a bathroom break.
All I’m saying is you study the rules and all that goes out the window. Try to make your chapters as pithy and smooth as possible? Carefully consider every word and ruthlessly kill all those clever phrases which are just you showing off? Make sure your arcs are tight and consistent? Your characterizations are unique and individual and ring with truth? Does it matter at all? Cause you can do all this and still some bloated, heavy and clumsy book soars to the top of the NY Times bestseller list. Some book that shouldn’t even have been able to fly and it’s on everyone’s lips. It’s enough to make you bury your head in your hands and throw your laptop out the window.
But you know what? Don’t. And don’t worry too much about what anyone else is doing. It doesn’t make sense. There are flukes. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out the trends or the next big thing.
The only thing you can do in the end is to be true to the voice inside.
And definitely, the more practice you put in, the better the work that comes out. It should be a matter of pride. Between you and yourself.