Creativity or Desperation

The first part of this post is going to be in code because I don’t want to name the writers. That is mainly because I want to talk about the practice and not get off-topic into a discussion about the quality of the writer(s) in question.

On a well-known writer’s blog, another established fantasy writer blogged recently that their next book would be an annotated manuscript of their first novel. Not their first published novel, the one that got loving attention from a writers group, an agent and possibly an editor. No, the writer’s first written novel. ┬áThe blog post goes on with great glee and great humor about how bad the novel is. (It has never been published previously.) The writer discusses comments they made, in the margins, about how bad the book is.

Frankly, this is kind of funny and if the book is mass market paperback, I might even spring for it. The more I thought about this idea, though, the less I began to appreciate it, and the grumpier I got about it.

Is this creativity or desperation? Is this humility or hubris? Is this a useful exercise for new writers everywhere, or the last gasp of a writer with a three-book contract and a deadline?

Think about it. It’s a bit patronizing, isn’t it? “Hey, newbies, don’t worry! Here’s a manuscript that proves I once wrote as badly as you do!” Um… thanks.

Or maybe the message is, “I don’t have to bother to develop and write a good story, because you guys really aren’t worth it and I know you’ll buy whatever I put out there.” (See paragraph three, sentence one, above.)

Or is it just, “I can’t think of the way to end my trilogy and everyone’s staring at me, so… um! Hey, look! Charades, everyone!”

So, as I said, the more I think about this, the less I like it. Part of this is situational, since I am struggling with a short story that won’t gel. While I’m rewriting, making notes, deleting, walking around muttering, and generally fighting with my process, this published yahoo can drag a piece of dreck off the hard drive and shoot it out there to millions of people. Okay, yes, I am envious, but I have a right to be.

And, all that said, I might even still buy it, because I know it will be funny.

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2 Responses to Creativity or Desperation

  1. Brian Fies says:

    Good essay. I don’t care much for the idea either. There’s an arrogance to it–while most other writers are busting their backs and brains to do their best work, he’s squandering a publishing opportunity others would kill for. Hey, you don’t want to publish good stories anymore, get out of the way and give somebody else a chance (yeah, I know it doesn’t work like that).

  2. Marta Randall says:

    It’s the “selling shopping list” syndrome: At a certain point of popularity, publishers will print just about anything as long as it has a well-known writer’s name on the cover. And it’s more than shameless behavior like this — consider some of the late works of Heinlein or Bester, which could have benefited from good editing.

    I know, heresy, and I will mitigate it (I hope) by saying that I think those two at least thought they were producing good work. But this is just insulting, not only to readers, but to every other writer toiling in the vineyards of fantasy. I kinda wish you had published the name, so we could all have a good scoff in public.

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