Admit it—you’ve most likely asked yourself this question.
In an era of “instant” publishing, so many people don’t work to hone their craft before publishing. I see it every day. Don’t you?
You know what I mean—the prose is pedestrian. The voice clunky to even grating. You wince when reading the first sentence.
And still, many of those books go on to sell a bazillion copies. Fifty Shades of Grey comes to mind, among a host of others.
The salacious subject matter of that book wasn’t what offended me. Nor was said subject matter in any way new (Urban Lit has been far racier for nearly two decades).
But when I read the first page free on Amazon, I literally cringed at the prose. And not just because I’m a book editor. In my spare time, I’m also a reader.
Didn’t matter much though, did it. The book spawned its own cottage industry.
And this isn’t entirely new to the age of CreateSpace, et al. Many bestsellers even before the existence of easy self-publishing venues had similar issues. Thrillers of all ilk and many in the Romance categories weren’t exactly conveyed in high-brow prose.
Although in recent times, the level of prose in Traditional Romance in general has elevated. And that’s due to the insane competition for spots in the major houses’ lists.
What is true now is that if you strive for Traditional publishing, unless you’re a household name already, the voice and prose has to truly sing off the pages.
And that takes a high level of skill.
We all know publishers are looking for solid platforms from writers. But they still take on beautifully written books when the author’s visibility isn’t big.
Rachel Kent, agent with Books & Such Literary Management, addressed this recently.
“Good writing is still extremely important in the publishing world and editors/agents are open to taking on projects that sweep them away with the wonder of the writing. The majority of the projects they take on will be because of good writing and strong platform,” she stated, “but if they are blown away by the amazing writing they won’t be able to say no even if your platform is small.”
A high level of writing skill does still matter.
Even if you’re intending to self-publish these days, or go the Indy route, what still holds true is the better the prose, the more likely readers are to buy your next book. And your next.
Don’t believe me? Take a gander at the reviews. So often readers criticize the writing itself.
Sometimes this is obscure, as readers in general don’t use terms such as voice, but rather say things such as, “I had a hard time reading this,” or, “It took forever to get into it.”
Then you read the first page of whatever book, and, well, cringe.
And you don’t have to be a book editor to do so.
Finding one’s voice, honing the prose, tightening, and evoking and creating rather than telling, all these take a while to learn. And, none of it’s learned in a vacuum.
We like to think of great artists being born, not made, and in some respects, that’s true. But nobody just showed up on the planet singing like Pavarotti or writing like Hemingway. Sure, they had talent to begin with. But then spent years and years and years honing their crafts.
For your work to last, for people to gush over it, remember it, to become an award-winning author, that all takes time and effort.
It all depends upon your goal, no?
It’s funny too—I’ve worked with writers with boatloads of talent, who weren’t willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to become great, and never published.
On the other hand, I’ve worked with those with thimblefuls of talent, who went on to publish wonderfully, and begin great writing careers.
If all you want is to toss a book out there, say you’re an author, then by all means, simply do so.
But if you want to be proud of your work, put out something that readers and critics alike call “beautiful,” “stunning,” “gripping,” or any of a host of other great descriptions, this takes time and effort and a willingness to learn the craft.
And that’s you, isn’t it? Don’t you want to be proud of your baby?