Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What is a writer?

Anyone can be a writer. Someone who keeps a journal, writes the occasional poem or has written many a school paper is a writer. What makes a good writer? First of all, a good writer must know how to spell and/or spell check. After that one must understand the anatomy of a sentence in order to avoid run-ons, fragments and the like. Beyond all that, one must be able to put abstract ideas into words. Not all writers are authors. An author is someone who can weave an idea into a story or poem and feel confident enough to put his or her name to it. Not all authors are good writers. However, the word "good" is a personal word. Everyone has their idea of what is good. Of course, the writing has to be grammatically correct, first and foremost. Assuming that is the case, then the term "good" can refer to a plethora of prose. Avoiding the random cliche and over used expressions is always helpful. Sometimes a stale phrase is called for when creating a stale character. Mark Twain wrote grammatically incorrect dialog because that was the way many of his characters spoke. The ability to elicit emotion from the reader is a sign of a decent story as well. So, in effect, good to some may not be good to others. Publishers seek the "good" manuscript that is mass marketable. They want the most readers so they will bring in the most money. Sometimes, a book that is seemingly ordinary actually surprises the publisher and becomes a sensation. Take Jonathan Livingston Seagull for example. It is a rather short story about a seagull with spiritual aspirations. It just happened to come along at a time when people were interested in abstract spiritual concepts. Yoga and meditation were popular at this time. Would this book be published today? Who's to say. It is a fine book which fortunately got notice from someone in the industry.
"Good books, good food and drink make for a good life," I smile and put on some good music whilst I relax on my beautiful velvet lounger prepared to read. Visualize what I just wrote. Everyone will visualize a completely unique scene formed just for them. It will be different from everyone else's vision, even if only slightly. To some, music or books could be eliminated. To others that would be simply impossible to do. So there you have it, your private fantasy.
No matter how you look at it, all writing has its audience. I can only imagine the multitude of rejected manuscripts by mediocre publishers and agents that were actually quite good. Now, there are alternatives such as self publishing. It is a way for a writer to get published without the risk of rejection. Of course, the writer has to market her own book amidst the monopolistic PR industry's arena. Their onslaught of book pushing ads and overzealous blurbs reach out and shake you by the lapels.
"Read this book if you know what's good for you. Everyone's who's anyone is reading it! What are you, some kind of a loser?"
They have their hands in all the top book sellers pockets. Coupons, displays and author signings create a market for the book. It takes money to make money, and a lot of work. Marketing a book is necessary for the reader and writer to connect. In fairness, a book, in order to stand the test of time, must be able to stand alone in its merits. No amount of PR can keep a bad story on the best seller list.
Getting started without the backing of the big publishing industry is like trying to get to into space in a homemade spaceship. The movie "The Astronaut Farmer" did it, but let's see you try. All things have an energy. A book, that is remotely interesting, has a fan base no matter how small or large. I'm reminded of David Lynch's movie "Eraserhead". A strange, unique film which in a way launched his career. Many people have never heard of the film, but talk to the David Lynch fan and Eraserhead will surely surface in the conversation. The same is true for novels written by new writers. The fan base is waiting in the wings for their cult hit. The problem is how to connect the two. One can assume that the universe, somehow, someway, connects like minded souls to like minded ideas. An interesting concept. The like minded ideas, products and such have to exist in a way that it can be connected with. So, the intellectual, entertaining and fascinating tales exist in the aether. Those who seek such tales, like magnets, are attracted to them. The tale that somehow makes it to the printed word is able to be connected with. So, here's to the almost forgotten, lost in the aether, tale of prose awaiting its audience.

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