by: Joelle Charbonneau
Why is it wrong to say that everyone shouldn’t be published? Yeah – that question is already sending some of you to your refrigerator to procure vegetable missiles. And while I might have to duck and cover, I will say that I don’t believe that everyone who writes and seeks publication should actually achieve it.
Should everyone be an accountant?
Does everyone have the ability to be a neurosurgeon or a rocket scientist?
Trust me when I say you don’t want me playing with sharp objects near your brain or doing whatever mathematical equations are necessary to launch people into space. Does that mean I suck at science or math? No. No it doesn’t. But it does mean that some people are better than me at it and I’m glad they’re the one in charge of keeping satellites in orbit.
Could I have applied myself and become a fabulous doctor or a ground breaking scientist? Yes – although all the studying in the world might not have helped me reach the fabulous or ground breaking parts. But yes – I could have spent years and years in school studying the principles and then years and years in internships and residencies and in a variety of jobs to learn the skills I needed to learn.
But I didn’t and so I will never crack open a skull (unless it is on the page) and I’ll never get high on rocket fuel fumes.
When I decided to sit down at my computer and type, I did so because I wanted to see if I could tell a story from beginning to end. And I did. Once I did that, I decided I wanted to learn better ways to write a story. I worked with other writers to learn about the craft of writing. I read lots of books in the genres I wanted to write in to see how the authors I liked best sculpted their words. And I worked hard to find my own voice….as crazy and wacky as it sometimes is. And even after years of work I knew that I might not ever be published because there are only so many books publishers will buy and mine might never be one that fits what they are looking for.
Would not being published mean I was a bad writer? No. Great writers go unpublished all the time. That’s just the way the business works. And I was okay with knowing that. In fact, just knowing that made me work harder to make my own writing stronger. I never wanted to publish the books myself (even though many do and they are very happy with that choice) because I wanted all or nothing. I wanted to get an agent, be edited by an editor and go through ever step that the authors I have loved for years went through. And if that had never happened I would have been at peace with it. I would never have thought less of myself for trying or curse the fates.
Publishing is what it is. A tough business.
And yet, for some reason saying the words “Everyone who writes shouldn’t be published” gets a lot of people pissed off and ready to do battle.
Being published takes hard work and even still you might come up short. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. The current trend to self-publish (and I’m talking full novels here not short story collections that are best sold directly to the author’s fan base by the author themselves) seems to perpetuate the thought process that all people who type on their computer should call themselves published authors. I can’t help thinking this is wrong. The new trend of writing a book and sticking it up on Amazon almost immediately after hitting "THE END" gives writers permission to skip steps in learning the craft and the business that would make them a better writer. They don’t have to go through the painstaking editing that might be required to get the book to the next level. They don’t have to worry about making sure every word is necessary. They don’t…
They just don’t.
Those steps are important. And I’m not saying that there aren’t books out there that have gone through these steps and for some reason or another didn’t get traditionally published. And I’m not saying that there aren’t reasons that one might want to self-publish a book. (Those short story collections are great reasons to venture into this arena.) But everyone who writes – traditionally published authors included – should never skip the steps that make their writing better. And if you are willing to skip those steps then you shouldn’t be published.
I’m not saying any of this to be mean or rain on anyone’s parade. In fact, I want to do just the opposite. I want every writer striving for traditional publication to keep working toward that goal. Keep writing, revising and submitting. Will you find an editor or agent if you do this? Not necessarily, but your chances are better. The more you do this, the more lottery tickets you buy in the publishing raffle. And one day, when you least expect it, your number might be called. And if not – then you will be proud of your efforts.