The next time you visit your local book store, walk past the cafe littered with laptop filled tables and lattes and go straight to the magazines. Go to the literary section. Now count how many you see that are targeted toward writers. A lot, isn’t it?
I have counted no less than 10 publications with the words “writer” and “poet” splattered across the tops. There’s Writer’s Digest, Writers and Poets, New American Fiction, and on and on.
So it got me thinking: Which is the better racket, writing to get published, or writing how to get published?
There are tons of magazines and books out there that promise to hold your hand through this adventure called writing and every year we buy millions of dollars worth of them. They tell us “You can be a published author! We’ll tell you how for $14.99” or “Follow these 50 easy steps to writing a book that everyone will want to print!” But how much of it is pulling our collective dick?
On my way out of the bathroom not 10 minutes ago, I happened to catch sight of a book that tells me there are 10 simple steps to writing. It was bound in hard cover with faux leather trim. Upon further inspection of said book, I found that out of the 50 or so pages, 20 of them were blank and the rest had a picture or 4 sentences printed only on one side of the paper. Not only that, but at least three of the steps could have been combined into one. It’s a miracle folks! All this great advice for a mere $15 plus tax. But hey, don’t be too upset. There are some dandy little doodles on about 15 pages in case you get bored.
It’s sickening, isn’t it? They want us to believe that getting published is so simple that it can be summed up in a few short pages of rules and guidelines that contradict nearly everything we learned in high school English classes. “Use adverbs. Don’t use adverbs. Never describe your character. Show the reader your character in detail.” What am I to believe?!
Then I remembered something I heard a long time ago. There is no right or wrong way. There are no rules. There is only your ability to tell a story and tell it well. Now those are words to live by. And I didn’t have to spend twenty bucks to get them.