Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Throwaway Story

On more than one occasion, I've mentioned I'm a passionate re-reader. At the moment, I'm working my way through my Georgette Heyers. In the recent past, I've re-read books by Alistair MacLean, Barbara Michaels, Louis L'Amour, John Sandford, and Nora Roberts. That's the recent past.

I'm a very fast reader so when I tell you I've been reading Frederica by Georgette Heyer for the last three days...and I'm only halfway through, you might conclude I've just been too busy to read. And you'd be wrong. Nope, I'm just savoring the book, enjoying the vocabulary, the sparkling dialogue, the leisurely unfolding of the story, and the complete development of the wide cast of characters, no matter how secondary.

In recent years, there has been an enormous change in the publishing industry. Some people blame the publishers, others blame the big delivery systems like Amazon, and yet others blame the technological advances such as e-readers and the Internet. But in all my research, I haven't found anyone who blames the authors.

Say what you's a new standard out there for writers. Thanks to social media sites such as facebook and twitter, writers are free to share their daily production goals and their completion rates. I've noticed you can find many instances of a writer bragging about the three or four thousand words they wrote, but none where a writer is excited about writing the best paragraph they've ever done. No one brags about locating the perfect word they needed to convey the exact image they've been striving for.

I remember posting once on facebook something about finding the perfect word. There were a lot of commenters on that post--all negative, all pooh-poohing the idea of searching out the perfect word. The general consensus was, "Who cares?"

Well. I do.

Let me slap on my READER hat here. I care about what I read. I care about the attention the writer showed in their 'production'. Story is important. Spelling and grammar are important. But my friends, craftsmanship shines through. What makes the difference between a well known writer and an unknown? Craftsmanship. Fewer and fewer books are being crafted.

The driving force in the book market now is not craftsmanship, but more, more, more! The conventional wisdom in the publishing world isn't 'write the best book you possibly can', but 'you must produce as much as you can, regardless of quality'.

Tell me, honestly, how many books have you read in the last year that touched your soul? I don't mean inspirational books. I don't care if they were flaming erotica or books about repairing motorcycles. How many? What was the last book you took the time to savor because the language was so lovely, because the writer was passionate enough about his craft to draw you into his/her world?

This week another publisher announced their closing due primarily to poor sales. I submit that at least a portion of the blame rests on the current attitude that more is better. It's false. More is not necessarily better. Harper Lee wrote one book. Margaret Mitchell wrote one book. We still buy them. We still read them.

Here's my confession for the week. Unless an individual I trust recommends a book, I will not buy it. That's right. I buy only books by authors I'm familiar with--and know they will spend as much time and care as possible to produce a book worthy of my dollars. And when I do buy, the price is the least important consideration. Did you catch that? The price is the least important consideration, because I plan to read that book many times over the years. I plan to savor it, finding new bits, new views each time I read it.

The book industry is crashing not because there aren't enough books...or even because there are too many books. It's crashing because most books were written to be throwaway books. Read once and discard.

Stick that in your pipe and think about it.

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