Saturday, 25 August 2012

Nothing stays the same

True colours.
Who knew that green peppers and red peppers could be one and the same? Not me, that's who. Are they more ripe, more sweet, or do they just fancy a change of colour scheme?* Whatever the reason, they do it because it's in their nature to do it.

Writing and publishing, like our peppers, is subject to growth and change. If I wanted to get poetic, I'd say it is an ever shifting landscape.

The independent book shops of old have been squeezed out by the chain-stores (although thankfully there are still a few around). The chain-stores in turn are now grappling** with Amazon and ebooks. And readers seem to want ebooks on every available platform, device and format. 

It doesn't seem that long ago since I was at the London Book Fair, standing next to an Espresso Book Machine and discussing the economics with an author, an independent publisher and a shop proprietor. It was 2009, actually.

Now there seems to be so many ways for writers to get their work out there that you have to wonder what's stopping us. And there are no shortage of great websites and blogs out there to offer advice and guidance. But before every writer runs themselves ragged, in several directions at once, it might be wise to think about what sort of writer you are. And to revisit that question regularly.

Say what you like about Fifty Shades - and I haven't read it, so I can't say much - it has sold in droves and seems to unashamedly have hit its target audience. No, it's not Shakespeare, and yes, it has generated controversy about whether it empowers or demeans women. Most importantly, for any book, it is being read.

There is so much pressure on writers to focus on 'out there' that it's easy to disconnect from the joy of writing. Of starting with a blank page and the seed of an idea, then lovingly crafting that into a fully realised set of characters, situations and locations. That, my friends, is a little piece of magic, and it's an inner process. The only way isn't Essex, after all; it's in being the writer only you can be***.

And on that note, I'll be getting back to my esoteric fantasy, Covenant. 


* Sweeter, it turns out.
** Some might say 'capitulating'.
*** I've yet to see a pepper worrying about the competition in its efforts to develop. 

3 comments:

  1. A very thought provoking post Derek. So true about the pressures and so important to remember why we write - for the joy of it. :-)

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  2. Thoughtful post, and yes, things are always changing because society changes. There was a time when ebooks were frowned upon (although I have no idea why--instant gratification society that we are). I did read 50 Shades, you aren't missing much. Horrible writing but yes, sex sells.

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  3. I appreciated your concluding paragraph. Yes, there is so much pressure on us to be commercially-minded as writers. No, it's really not helpful to taking joy in the writing process. So far, I've only tried to get published intermittently (sending out agent queries and all), and I'm preserving my writing joy just fine. However, I do worry that as I start making more serious efforts I'll start feeling jaded. Your post reminds me to make writing the priority about publishing and an audience and all, though, so thank you.

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