For me, writing has always been a solitary pursuit.
The first time editors got involved, it was a difficult adjustment. The second time, it was a torment. The third and fourth times were also disquieting, but eye-opening and educational.
The difference each time wasn’t so much in the editors as in me.
I was learning to let go; to stop clutching the sentences with which I’d fallen in love to my unpublished chest and, instead, look at them…hear them…through the fresh perspective of another person. And a person who was not a friend or family member operating under the misconception that praise and unconditional support are the same as constructive feedback.
In the end, the process of being edited and published gave me a new outlook on the value of involving others in the creative process. Don’t get me wrong. Writing is still an exercise in solitude for me. I love that about it. But, I’ve begun to open my own mind about accessing those of strangers.
I’m talking writers’ workshops. They can be extraordinary, depending on what you bring with you. Writing-wise and outlook-wise.
So I began searching my urban surroundings for likely workshop prospects.
That’s when I ran across one that had me laughing so hard it hurt. And for all the wrong reasons. Let me reiterate that this is my opinion. Only mine. I might be w-a-a-a-a-y off base. But…decide for yourselves.
The come-one-come-all cry for this particular workshop was issued by a woman who proclaimed herself the author of an astonishing number of ‘published’ books. She claimed thousands upon thousands of reviews. She brags she holds the title of being ‘one of the most popular authors.’
The first red flag popped up as I read her description of the workshop. It was a horror. Not the workshop…the description. Vocabulary, syntax, grammar, sentence and paragraph structure…all seemed to have been bypassed. Even giving handicap points for colloquialisms and artistic license, it shriveled my pelt and puckered my mouth.
Then I looked into her claims of fabulousness. She does have a great number of books out. All self-published. She garnered the claim to be one of the site’s most popular authors. It reminded me of some latter-day TV ad vaunting ‘Volume!! Volume!! Volume!!’ Put a thousand books out there and, for a brief time, you’ll probably be the most read writer on the site when compared to the author who has put up one well-thought-out publication.
Then I looked for the multitude of reviews. They were on Goodreads…not exactly professional. I didn’t delve past the first few dozen. They were cringe-worthy. More like hate mail than literary assessments. Some were very insulting. There were a few that gave lukewarm praise, but I saw none that could qualify as raves.
By now I was laughing. But the guffaws came in earnest when, in her workshop invitation, she said that writers don’t need to know grammar or spelling, because that’s what professional copy editors are for.
Oh, lord…I still feel the mirth bubbling up.
Anyone can self-publish. Anyone. And then, she’s right: literary quality doesn’t have to matter. But just try submitting something to an agent or a professional editor in the publishing industry with the attitude that someone else will clean up your mess because your work is that incredibly worth it, and…well…you’ll probably end up self-publishing a few hundred books, manipulating stats to make yourself look good, and leading workshops for writers where grammar, a vital part of your main tool…language…doesn’t matter.
Oh, God…I’m still laughing!