This is a four-part series.
Last week I ran through a few of the points that define the mythology that writing fast means writing crap, and how pervasive it is.
This week, I want to spin the dial and have a look at this mythology through the eyes of your readers (and mine).
Readers are conflicted about fast=crap. Worse, they don’t know it.
Most readers read for entertainment – and if you’re an indie fiction writer, then it’s just about guaranteed your readers are reading for entertainment and escape. Because they’re reading for fun, most readers are not interested in delving into deep self-examinations of their motives and values.
On the other hand, they have absorbed the same mythology about books written quickly as you and I have.
Just Tossing Stuff Out There
Readers don’t want to feel that an author is “just tossing stuff out there”, yet they love, love, love binge reading. They’ve been taught by live-streaming-everything to inhale a book or series as quickly as possible and move on. So even though they are suspicious of quickly written books, they still want the next book now.
By far the most frequent comment I get in my reviews is a version of “I can’t wait for the next one!”
The Writer Process is a mystery to them.
Also, some of their prejudice is created because they’re not familiar with the writing process. To them, writing a book in a week is unimaginable. Therefore, if an author writes a book in a week, that book is now suspect. The reader will, even if just in the back of their mind, think the book must be faulty, weak, and not worth buying.
Will a reader not buy a book if they learn how fast it was written? Probably not. If the cover and blurb and sample are all up to par, then they will likely buy anyway, but if they believe the fast=crap myth, then they will read with filters in place. The book will be judged suspiciously and with a greater critical eye.
They will be looking for faults.
Authors perpetuate the myth
There are many authors who lie about how long it takes them to write books. They tell the media and readers and the public that they slave over their books, that they revise and rewrite dozens of times, in the belief that readers will think the book’s value is that much higher because of the sweat and time and love that went into it.
There is one writer who is very well known for his speed, who quite blatantly advises authors to lie about how long it takes them to write books – to extend the time and effort and make them longer and larger, respectively.
Lying about the time you spent writing a book and any attendant work to produce it is simultaneously a self-defense strategy and a phenomenon that keeps the myth alive.
Writers lie about the workload so they are not penalized by readers and the industry in general, because the fast=crap myth just won’t die.
By lying about it, they’re perpetuating the myth.
Traditional Publishers also feed into the myth
Once upon a time, the only books readers could get were books published by the traditional publishers, via their stranglehold on distribution systems that feed bookstores.
Traditional publishers have always repressed prolific authors. A traditionally published author with a release every year was considered “fast”.
Authors who were more prolific than this could not acquire spots on the publishing schedule, nor could they go to other publishers because of the non-compete clause.
Often, these authors published under multiple pen names. To the public, it appeared they were plodding along at one book a year, regardless of which pen name the public happened to be looking at.
Readers who started reading when the traditional model of publishing was all that existed have been trained to think that a quality book (!), such as those put out by traditional publishers, takes a year to be produced.
Therefore, anything produced more quickly must be of sub-standard quality.
The category romance imprints such as Harlequin Presents are an exception – they often encourage their authors to produce four books a year, which is a pretty good clip. However, the novels in these imprints are short and standardized, so an author who is familiar with the categories could easily write a book a month. Which means, in fact, even this traditional imprint is choking prolific authors, and teaching readers that this is how long it takes for a “good” book to be written.
As indie publishing continues to mature, the idea that traditionally published books are automatically of high quality is finally beginning to fade (just as the myth that indie books are all crap is also dying).
However, as readers don’t want to examine their prejudices, their calcified belief that fast=crap lingers.
What can you do?
You have two choices. Lie about how long it takes you to write your books. Or tell your readers the truth.
I tell the truth…and take the opportunity to educate my readers so they understand that quickly written does not mean poor quality.
It is an easy point to make, because my readers already trust that I can deliver a story that entertains and satisfies, so there is ample proof that even though I wrote the book in ten days, the speed means nothing.
If you’re frank about how long it takes you to write books when you deal with your readers, you’ll be disabling the myth just as effectively, because your readers trust you, too.
Next week, I will explore some of the daytime disguises of fast=crap.