Forgive me for any typos in this post. I'm feeling extremely tired at the moment. I should have gone to the gym this morning, but couldn't drag myself out of bed. In short, I'm exhausted and probably not making much sense.
It had me shaking my head, not because the advice was bad, necessarily, but because I'm sick to death of all these prescriptions that people give on what makes a writer, and how to be a writer, and what you should or should not do to be considered a writer, as if it's a one size fits all situation. As if it's their way or no way.
Look, the author of the article made some very valid points. But what they were prescribing and under what pretence was utter crap. It is very true that chances are high of producing a steaming pile of weevil-riddled dung for a book if you rush through it, if you don't take some time to practice and hone your craft, if you ignore the egregious need for editing and so on. Yup. You'll produce shit. If you do this in a rush to produce four books a year? You'll produce a lot of shit.
On the other hand, you absolutely don't need to labour for ten or more years to create a book, either. It doesn't need to be slaved over your entire life to be a valid and entertaining work of art.
Can we just stop it with all the writerly pretentiousness, please?
There is not one way to write. There is no one way to make art. There is not single path that is correct and all others are not. Honestly. There simply isn't.
Look, admittedly, cranking out four books a year with no heed as to the quality of the work will likely do little but produce crappy stuff. But you know what? It's your name attached to that crappy stuff. If you want your name to be associated with rubbish then that's on you. No skin of my nose.
If you want to spend forever just writing one book and have that be the seminal novel; you're one legacy left after you're gone from this reality, then that's on you, too. By the way, doing this doesn't make your art any more legitimate than anyone else's.
I would strongly advice caution against shitty writing, and shitty book creation. This is mostly because it is your name on these books. I realise not everyone thinks as I do, but I would want my name attached to great things: great stories, great reads, great books. To this end, I work very hard on trying to produce the best book possible. Sometimes I fall a little short. No one is perfect.
What do I mean the best book possible? I mean the whole damned package. I try to write the story in my head as faithfully and as skilfully as I am able. I go through four rounds of editing. I have three Beta Readers. I have worked with and will be hiring on a formatter to make sure the inside of the book looks as good as possible (that formatter is the afore-mentioned Eric Desmarais. He's an absolute pleasure to work with. Check out his services here). I do this for every book.
I also hire book cover designers, because my skills do not lie in that direction. At all. I give them an idea of what I want, and they work their incredible magic to give me a book cover that looks, to me at least, absolutely spectacular. They take my ideas and create a cover that has meaning, looks good, and reflects what is inside the cover. I take special care to ensure it is the best it can possibly be.
When I self-publish a book, I go through extraordinary lengths to try and make it the best possible. I spend good money on a cover designer and I work with them to create a cover that appeals. I hire a formatter and work with them to ensure the inside of the book looks as good as possible. I edit a lot. I have people help me edit a lot.
This all takes time. There is a reason why, despite having a fairly substantial back list of manuscripts, I only put out a maximum of one book a year. I limited myself deliberately because I know that the level of quality control I want takes time.
I write faster than it takes a finished manuscript to be prepared for publication. I once wrote three books in a single year. I published one book, one I had written the year before.
Now, is this the right number of books to publish, or to write per year for you? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It really does come down to how you work. I have a very narrow focus, and so can usually only write one book at a time. I will be in various stages of editing others, but there is room only for one new story at a time in my conscious mind (don't ask me what my subconscious mind is doing. It's not pretty). Some people can bounce between stories in a single day, and have several different first drafts on the go at the same time. Those people make me jealous.
There is no one way to work that is good. There is no one way to produce that creates valid art. It is all good. It is all valid.
(For example, one of my favourite fantasy authors has cranked out loads of books since he started writing, and they're extraordinarily brilliant books. Yes, I'm talking about Steven Erikson. Again)
If you can create four great quality books in a year, then do it. Don't let anyone tell you that it's wrong to do so.
If you can't, but feel perfectly fine with associating your name with utter crap, then do that. It's your name, and I feel consumers are smart enough not to lump all self-publishers with the rotten quality of one author's works in the same way they don't lump all traditionally published authors in with those that have produced utter crap... and there are some traditionally published doozies out there. Why you would feel comfortable doing that is well beyond me, but whatever. You do you. Just be prepared when people say it's utter crap.
It comes down to what feels right for you and what is a comfortable pace for you to work in. If you feel like vomiting at the thought of producing four books a year, take a deep breath, self-published author. You don't have to do that. If you want to be alive to see your book in print, and the thought of only publishing one book ever in your life makes you hyperventilate, relax, self-published author. You don't have to wait so damned long to get the book out into the world. You can write more than one in your time on this planet.
My publishing advice, dear self-published author? Practice your craft. Write a damned good book. Create a damned good publication. And take as little or as long a time as you need to do it, and do it well.
That is all.
That's the point of being self-published. YOU are in charge. You do it your way. And don't let anyone's frantic rush for recognition or another's idiotic disdain for your style, genre or work flow sway you. M'kay?
Now, there is a Welsh lesson waiting for me.