Sunday, February 26, 2017

If you're writing fast, it must be bad writing

Back in the old days, creating a book was a long, slow process.

Originally they were written by hand, the labor of a life-time with decorated, painted borders on each page, and embellished capital letters, each of which was like a tiny painting in itself.

Even when printing was invented each letter was a miniscule piece of metal that had to be physically placed in a tray, by hand, to make every word.

Times have changed, but the attitudes of some people have not. They feel that unless a book takes a very long time to write, it can’t be of value. They forget that many famous authors actually wrote their books chapter by chapter to be published in weekly newspapers. Charles Dickens pioneered this with “The Pickwick Papers” but it became the “normal” way most books were written.

In other words the huge time gap was not in the creation process by the author (he was writing a chapter a week, minimum) it was in the length of time actual physical publication took.

The “one book a year” model was also needed for the production process in many of the traditional print publishers last century. Even when the actual physical printing became faster and easier, the publisher had added many more layers and stages the book needed to pass through—cover art, marketing and more.

Some writers assumed that if they could write more than a book a year their work simply couldn’t be good enough. They wrote and rewrote, edited and reedited or lost their self confidence and stopped writing all together.

But if a reader takes a critical approach to a book, they will be unable to know which chapter an author sat down and wrote in a day, and which chapter was agonized over for a month.

Today a self publishing author can line up her cover artist, her editor, her book formatter, and her marketing team, so that the moment she types, “The End”, those people are ready to do their part. The book can be written in a month, edited in a week, and be ready for purchase on a dozen third party sellers forty-eight hours after that.

It is for the reader to decide if a book is what she wants to read or not. The length of time taken from the author typing the final sentence until the book is available for sale is not a guide to the excellence of the writing. Some authors simply are prolific.

Besides, just as Charles Dickens changed a few things between when his books were serialized in the newspapers, and before they were published as books, so, too, the twenty-first century author can make changes and digitally republish their books overnight if a lot of readers don’t like something.

Helen Woodall

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