The act of writing is a touchy subject for writers to talk about, even if we seem to talk about it endlessly (sorry?). What concerns me is why readers read what we write. Those two subjects are actually related.
Porter Anderson recently wrote a thought-provoking post about how the massive changes in the publishing industry are possibly so absorbing writers’ time and attention that we are not actually paying enough time to the art of writing. That’s where it gets touchy, because no matter how bad the writing or trite the clichés used in a story, the author of that story will defend it passionately. We are all very possessive of our work, and while there is no sin in that, it sometimes blinds us to the bigger picture which is that we are so busy trying to push sellable work onto the e-shelves that we might not be actually spending time developing our craft, our “authorial voice” as Anderson put it.
I’m not singling out romance here, either – crap is being written in mainstream sf and mystery and you-name-it. Whatever sins critics throw at our feet are just as evident in every genre listed on Amazon. Everyone is shoving work out the door because we can, and indeed to make a living we must.
It’s a fine line.
For me, this really resonates because I made a huge mistake with a book I pushed to sell before it was ready. Mixed Signals is one of my favorite stories with two of my favorite characters, but I half-assed the ending in my panic to keep my list of “latest releases!” current. People like the story and I love the story but yeah, no hiding the weakness of the ending.
Reviews burned me on it (rightfully so) and while I managed to scrape out Dawn in the Orchard afterward, the experience has made me a lot more aware of what Anderson is talking about: sacrificing my storytelling for the sake of feeding the machine.
The reason I’m not happy with Mixed Signals is not because it got so-so reviews, but because it wasn’t the story I knew it could be, the story that lives (still) in my head. And that’s on me.
So yeah, I’m not a writer who is going to churn out books every month. Some writers can do that and put out quality product, but for me as a writer the price to try for that kind of volume is the cost of my story’s value. I do have to aim for a solid number of releases, and I think for me that number is probably going to be about four books a year, with some novellas thrown in.
Because while I won’t go so far as to say my romance stories are high literary art (nope, no they are not), it is still important to me creatively, and even more importantly I think I do have an authorial voice worth developing. Making a lot of sales are great, no lie, but telling the best story I can write is just as important and I need to remember that.