As I was looking for a visual to puncutate this post, I ran across this book cover. There's just so much wrong with this, from the warped notion that a complete idiot should be encouraged to write anything, to the blurb with the cheesy, self-promoting pun by Jerry B. Jenkins.
And Christian fiction? Isn't that the New Testament?
Sorry. That was gratuitous. But as Sam Goldwyn said, if you want to send a message, call Western Union.
Today, everyone wants to write a book. And yet, few people know how hard it is to write something really good.
Every celebrity wants to be known as a serious author, and if you have a famous name, then your book doesn't even have to be good. You can just pull something out of your ass. For instance, here's the noted novelist, Ivana Trump:
"Fiction writing is great. You can make up almost anything."
Yes, you can. And it helps if someone writes the book for you. I've ghosted a couple novels and neither of the guys whose names appeared on the covers had a bit of trouble with the second act. But if they did, there are lots of places they could have turned to for advice.
Character quirks. Here's a whole catalog of behaviors you can slap on your character and make him seem almost human. Call me crazy, or quirky, but I believe character quirks grow out of the, you know, character. They're not something you put on your protagonist like a fucking hat.
And to really understand your character, you have to have a strong sense of empathy. Like Mariah Carey, for example:
"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean, I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."
That is one quirky broad.
Now here's a novel idea. I can see the pitch now.
"But Charlie," says his agent, "there are a million books out there about writing fiction. Hell, there's even a Complete Idiot's Guide to writing Christian Fiction, for fuck sake. How is your book going to be different? What's your hook?"
Charlie leans in and whispers, "I'm writing this one for profit."
"Brilliant," says the agent. "Why didn't we think of that sooner?"
And all the while, the otherwise smart Matthew Yglesias is telling his readers that everything out there is shit anyway, so why even bother.
"Meanwhile, contemporary fiction is pretty sharply divided between crappy genre fiction and literary fiction that often seems very artsy-fartsy. For a well-crafted, but basically straight-forward story of people doing things and interacting with each other in a moderately realistic way, you need to turn to narrative non-fiction."
And fuck you, too, Matt.
Why do we bother? I mean, it takes me years to write one book, and then there's no guarantee it'll get published, and if it gets published, the chances are slim it'll sell enough copies to make anyone happy. But every night I go home and try to clock another 500 words on this piece, without ever resorting to a book that will tell me how to add quirks to my characters or how to make money.
Christ, I must be a complete idiot.
Hey, that gives me a great idea.