OK, I’m probably going to catch flak for this, maybe even damage or end a few acquaintenceships, but I’ve gotta get this off my chest, and I’m going to be very, very blunt doing so. (I know, those are y’all’s “I’m shocked — shocked, I tell you!” faces.) Here goes:
Ninety-five percent of self-proclaimed indy “authors” and their self-published ilk should never be allowed within a half-mile of a word-processing program — or even a typewriter — let alone access to POD capability.
Why? Because that ninety-five percent is a collection of no-talent, low-talent, incompetent, inept amateurs — in the worst sense of the word “amateur.” Through sheer critical mass they are stifling — hell, they’re strangling — the overall level of quality in both current fiction and non-fiction. By their presence alone they set the bar of standards abysmally low, then consistently fail to clear it. Laziness and incompetence have become the new benchmarks.
Case in point — and the trigger for this long-in-building outburst — was a recent request I received from a numpty wanna-be “writer” soliciting people to review his script for a sci-fi pilot. I asked, the better to make sure his story and its setting were internally self-consistent, if he had a world bible to include with the script. You know, the backstory that sets the stage for whatever slice of alternate reality you’re presenting — in writing fiction you must have a backstory, however broad or narrow it might be. Period. The perfect example of attempting to produce a fictional narrative without a backstory is Episode One: The Phantom Menace. And we all know how well that worked out….
His response? “This work…is a future dystopia piece like 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, Ape Planet (Did he mean Planet of the Apes?), etc, and for scenarios that are basically an Earth gone terribly wrong, I think that establishing your world rules within the story is sufficient.” (Note, if you will, that all of those works he cited had backstories.)
At that point, I wished him good luck with it and mentally consigned him to the dustbin of obscurity in which he so evidently deserves to live out his days.
The problem is not that this person is an outlier; rather he is typical of most of the indy/self-pub mob that, through sheer mass, is gradually taking overtaking fiction, like some humanoid form of Creeping Borneo Jungle Fungus — specifically, the ones who are unwilling to do the work necessary to become true writers and real authors. “We don’t need to follow the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation!” “We don’t need to write multiple drafts or make revisions!” “We don’t need editors!” “We don’t need plot, pacing, and internal consistency in our ‘stories’! We’re artists! Respect us for our artsiness and pretensions, don’t judge us by the lack of quality in our work!”
Let me make sure that you understand me: this isn’t a problem limited only to fiction, or even just certain genres and sub-genres of fiction. The same sort of laziness, combined with a healthy measure of “My ignorance is as valid as your knowledge” attitude is corroding non-fiction as well — just not as rapidly as it’s eating away at fiction.
Just because you’ve put down on paper a few rambling, quasi-coherent paragraphs that to you make some sort of narrative sense, you’re not a writer. You may become one, if you work at it, and it’s true that aptitudes can vary wildly from individual to individual, but there are no guarantees. Likewise there are no shortcuts, magic bullets, secret formulas, or hidden plans to becoming a successful (and hopefully, at the same time, “good”) writer. It’s like any other craft — you have to work at it. The problem of which I’m seeing far, far too much anymore is embodied in that exchange I had with the would-be script-scrivener: the lack of willingness to do the work required to produce a thing of quality. So, in the end, nine out of ten of them fail, usually miserably so, to succeed in their pipedreams.
Dear indy author or self-pubbed writer, there’s nothing wrong with or shameful in failing — witness Thomas Edison — but there is something deeply contemptible in the persistent refusal to learn from failure and repeating the same mistakes because you imagine you’re right and everyone who has succeeded via the proven methods and models is wrong. Worse, you’re stealing valuable oxygen the rest of us genuinely need.
And that’s the way it is, because I’m Daniel Allen Butler… and you’re not….