My post about the ethics of fan fiction went viral this week, spreading beyond even the Twilight fandom. From a post on mediabistro/GalleyCat to mentions at Dear Author, Jezebel, The Paris Review, and AbsoluteWrite, people have been discussing ethics in regards to writing and the publishing industry.
I don’t bring that up to brag but to make a point. One reason the situation struck a note with so many is because the success of That Book contrasts with our hard work. We’ve struggled to improve our craft and come up with unique characters and stories. When we see someone take shortcuts or cheat, it’s human nature to question why we’re doing it the hard way.
The Benefits of “The Hard Way”
Instead of grumbling about That Book, I’m trying to take the broader view. We all face setbacks in our life, and taking the hard road prepares us for the inevitable rejections and bad reviews. Taking the hard road means we know how to adapt to changes in the industry and the market. Taking the hard road means we learn more about our strengths and weaknesses.
Almost every published author ends up with “trunk novels,” those stories metaphorically stuffed into a trunk under the bed. Authors rarely debut with the first book they ever wrote. Did those authors waste their time writing the previous books? Or is that all part of the writing process, learning, improving, growing?
Writing Is Full of Risks
My first original novel took me about 3 months to draft. Then it took me months more to learn all those pesky grammar rules so I could write well. And then it took many, many more months to edit. And for now, it’s a trunk novel, waiting for the right time in my writing career to do something more with it. Was all that time “wasted”?
Those of us on the hard path know the answer. Not every story we write will be gold and deserve to be published. We risk failure with every new book we start. We accept that risk as part of our career. On some level, we’re even okay with that risk. Mostly. Probably. Maybe.
We might feel better about that risk if we think of what it says about us in the big picture. Maybe it means we’re willing to take risks with genre crossovers, higher stakes that torture our characters to the breaking point, or signing on as the featured author of a new publisher. Those are good things.
We can do things the risk-averse can’t. And that’s something to be proud of.
Shortcuts Come with Their Own Risk
These writers publishing their fan fiction stories or taking other shortcuts often don’t want to take the hard road. They don’t want to be told, “Great! You wrote a story. Now write another one, an original this time, please.” They don’t want all the time they spent writing their stories to go to “waste” by sentencing them to the trunk. And they don’t want to put in the work to rewrite their story with original characters either.
Call me a Pollyanna, but I think that unwillingness to work hard will come back to bite them in the you-know-where eventually. Writing is hard. Some might get a lucky break, but unless they quit at that point, they’re going to have to work for the next break and the next one and the one after that.
We hear about some actress being plucked from obscurity for a role and suddenly becoming the “it” girl. Then in the next year, when the world has moved on, they have to hustle like everyone else in Hollywood. Writing is the same way.
Yes, we could be upset by those who take shortcuts, but it’s like someone winning the lottery. We’re not going to quit our day job as a protest for not having the winning ticket. With so many publishing options available to us now, we have to power to reach our goals. First, we just have to…you guessed it…work hard. *smile*
What’s your opinion of those who take shortcuts? Is taking the hard road a waste? Do you think those who take shortcuts will have trouble when the need to work hard catches up with them? Does taking the hard road make you feel more proud of your work?
P.S. I apologize to all those who I haven’t replied to or thanked. The past week has been insane. Sorry! I do appreciate your support and friendship through this craziness.Pin It