Ah, those wacky writers
It would be easy for me to raise my hackles, but I'll try to restrain myself.
So, I'm reading about these high school athletes who are working out endorsement deals for their name, image, and likeness that will bring them hundreds of thousands of dollars before they graduate. I read of the 10-year-old who has a silly YouTube channel and is monetizing it for millions. In the meantime, I pound away at the keyboard, hoping the next book can help build my brand, a few hundred dollars at a time.
I take a breath, put away my petty jealousy (GET OFF MY LAWN, YOU CRAZY KIDS!) and resume my work, which gives me enormous daily pleasure. The world is changing, I'm not going to be a YouTube star :( , and I'll be eligible for Medicare in a few years. Eh.
This does, however, segue into my main topic: Writer jealousy. Or as the syndrome is also known: He's really successful, he's too big for his britches, so I'm going to tear him down.
I recently read a quote from Stephen King, who made a blanket comment about writers who overindulged in plot. I'm not going go into the specifics of it, although I thought it to be valuable insight. What interested me was the response to this quote, which was posted in a Facebook group for independent writers. (Please note the target audience. These are not random civilians.)
While there was considerable debate about King's advice, I found a rather staggering number of these folks went after King himself as a writer and bemoaned how, in the words of one uninteresting soul, "Anyone can stand to read this guy's books. They're awful." Many others expressed a loathing that I suspect was more a product of his tremendous, decades-long success that guarantees each of his works hits the bestseller list.
Now, I'm not here to praise King or bury him. Personally, The Stand was one of the great reads of my childhood. What I find fascinating is when people of limited success relatively speaking go after someone in the same field who has had enormous success, acting as if he either doesn't deserve it or achieved it under sketchy circumstance. It's open season to debate the merits of another's work - we pay people money to do just that - but it seems counterproductive at best to slough off advice of an extremely successful achiever, when in fact the advice might be worth your time.
For instance, I'll say straight up I'm no fan of Nicholas Sparks. I find his work schmaltzy and manipulative, and the plots repetitive. However, the dude is independently wealthy and he found an audience for his work. More than twenty years ago, early in his career, he spoke at a writer's conference I attended. He spoke of his editing process and how he condensed one scene in particular down to its essence. Using his techniques to great extent will produce a short novel - a mid-afternoon snack as opposed to a five-course meal. However, the key point he was making about giving greater value to each sentence rather than droning on without end is something I have not forgotten.
This advice could have come from many writers (although certainly not George R.R. Martin, who goes the opposite way), but I try to take the advice to heart, not the writer. So as I continue to pound the keyboard in relative anonymity, I'll think about the advice and not get wrapped up in trying to tear down the messenger.
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