Friday, May 22, 2009

So you want to be a NOVELIST

Hey, if an idiot like Dan Brown can make millions writing shitty books, it can't be that hard, right? All you have to do is follow this laughably easy step-by-step guide to instantaneous literary success:

1. Write a book.
Sure, we all have a book in us, but have you gotten round to the tiresome task of turning that jumble of ill-conceived thoughts in your head into a long line of little squiggly word-shaped things on paper? Thought not. But let's assume you'll soon have the necessary time, discipline, and self-serving vanity to turn your mediocre mess of ideas into middling prose, and skip to the next step.

2. Write a book that isn't shit.
Sure, we all have a book in us, but most of them are incoherent, clich├ęd, boring, predictable, nonsensical, pointless, crappy excuses for books. But let's assume that one day you'll get round to forming enough understandable sentences that together constitute a story that is somehow, magically better than average, and skip to step three.

3. Get an agent
There are a lot of other people out there who, like you, are determined to inflict their pitiable prose on otherwise blameless printing presses. This means that most publishers won't even glance at your smudged, stained carnival of tedium on its unopened, envelope-clad way into the trash unless you first convince an agent to represent you (and for "represent" read "add a post-it to your manuscript with 'Hey [insert name], this kid's plopped out something great' scrawled on it"). But let's assume that you'll find an agent dumb enough to take you on but also, strangely, clever enough to remember to get up in the morning, and skip to step four.

4. Find a publisher.
Even at this stage, it's still far from guaranteed that your second-rate agent will convince some third-rate publishing house to transform your fourth-rate writing into a fifth-rate book. But let's assume that your deluded agent somehow blackmails some desperate, senile publisher into accepting your spit-soaked excuse for a manuscript and turning it into a book-shaped shitpile of bound pages (or that you've circumvented this whole tedious process via the literary equivalent of public masturbation: self-publishing), and skip to step five.

5. Be a millionaire bestseller.
Congratulations! You're a published author. The bad news? Fame and fortune won't be joining us at your celebration party. Why? Well, every year there are around 50,000 other fiction titles published in the US alone. And that's not counting the 200,000 or so non-fiction titles. Or books published in other countries. Or books published last year, or the year before that. Or even the ones written ages ago by obscure authors with weird names like Twain, Tolstoy, and Twat-Face Austen.

And guess what that means? It means that even if you write your sad little story, even if it is - against all odds - any good, even if you dupe an agent and a publisher into not just reading it but actually liking it enough to turn it into a book, and even if that book achieves the improbable accomplishment of making its sorry way into actual bookstores, chances are virtually no one will either buy it or read it. Which, as outcomes go, is not that different from not bothering to write the feeble thing in the first place.

3 comments:

Michelle said...

Ha-ha thanks for that, it was fun.

I was told to read this by a friend, for what did he say ... inspiration. Hmmm.

Well, back to my sad excuse for a book.

ingridkeir said...

I skipped items 3-5 and published it myself. DIY baby!

Uth Video said...

Thanks for the reminder! It gets tough down in the trenches when you’re in the “one foot in front of the other” and “don’t look up” (rejections galore) phase. Must. Not. Stop.

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