This past weekend I was the moderator on a panel of authors at the Carson Library. With me were three talented ladies: Rochelle Staab, Maxine Nunes and Kathy Bennett. I enjoy being a moderator when I have the time to read the other authors' books and put together some thoughtful questions. The event was sparsely attended but it was lively and the audience questions were well thought-out.
One theme we kept returning to no matter what the question was that there is no substitute for good writing. No matter what happens in publishing, the bottom line is that it is always, in the end, all about the book - the characters, plot and story line - and the competence of the words on the page.
We've all read books, both self-published and traditionally published, that have made us scratch our heads and wonder how in the world the drivel came to be printed and released. And yes, I'm even talking about bad books from some of the major publishers. I've read some really terrific books from independent authors and some real garbage from the big guns. Go figure! But publishing opportunities and fairness aside, in the end, it's about the quality of the writing. There is no getting away from that. And don't readers deserve the best we've got?
We all have our opinions on what makes a great book. A plot line or theme that intrigues me might leave others shrugging or even retching with disgust, and vice versa. But no matter the story or the likability of the characters, or even the type of book, in the end it all boils down to the writing. Even a comic book has to be well written. A children's book consisting of no more than a handful of words must be well written. Even a book about raising chickens on a rooftop in New York City must be well written. See where I'm going here?
If you are a lazy writer and trying to cut corners or not willing to learn and hone your craft with each new project, it will show in your work. Readers may buy your first book to give you a shot, but if the writing isn't good, it will be reflected in the lower sales for your next. Trust me on this. Readers can tell when you've "phoned in" your performance or don't have the chops or interest or professionalism to fine tune it.
So why is this on my mind today? Glad you asked.
I'm currently finishing up the final edits on GHOST IN THE GUACAMOLE, my 5th Ghost of Granny Apples mystery. This weekend I'll begin the final edits on HELL ON WHEELS, my 9th Odelia Grey mystery. It would be easy to just gloss over these edits and speed through them, depending on the talents of the copy editors at both publishers to clean up my work. That's their job, right? Wrong! Their job is to help me turn out the best book I can, but MY JOB is to read every word again, for the umpteenth time, and make sure it is as clean and as perfect as it can be. Sometimes errors can and do get through, but when I turn these manuscripts in this next week, I'll know I've done everything possible to make them as good as I can.
As of today, I have completed twenty novels and seven short stories. And while I am far from a literary author, with each one I learn more about my craft. With each book, I strive to increase the quality of my writing. My writing skills are always a work in progress. It makes no difference if I write the book in twelve months, in six, or in two, if I'm not focused on producing a quality work, I'm wasting my time. More importantly, I'm wasting the readers' time. And shame on me if I do that!
In a nutshell:
There is no substitute for or
short cut to good writing.
short cut to good writing.