Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prolific Writers

The problem with only having one book publishing credit to my name is having only one book publishing credit to my name. "Backlist is king," or so fellow authors assure me. And while that may be true, unless I self-publish, each story I write must first be accepted for publication. Thus, I can have every intention of wanting to create a backlist but no means to do so. Cue vicious cycle.

I'm impressed at the dedication of writers who consistently publish a body of work. But is quantity really better? According to a recent blog post I read, many commenters bemoaned the fact their favorite authors' works suffered from lack of quality. These readers preferred authors concentrate on writing better stories rather than merely churning out material.

Prolific writers are nothing new. Walter B. Gibson, writing as Maxwell Grant, wrote "more than 300 novel-length" Shadow stories, writing up to "10,000 words a day" to satisfy public demand during the character's golden age in the 1930s and 1940s"  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_B._Gibson). Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, wrote 92 of the 156 Twilight Zone scripts, not to mention the screenplays Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight, among other stories (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Serling). Charles Beaumont published over 70 short stories and 15 Twilight Zone teleplays before his death at age 38 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Beaumont).  

Of course, screenplays are different from prose writing. And the 1950s and 1960s are far removed from the publishing environment of today. But while print publishing opportunities may be dwindling, digital publishing is keeping doors open to writers. Not only can writers submit novels but also short stories and novellas. Not that print magazines don't exist, but I imagine that space is a premium and advertisers often have priority.   

While some writers may dream of a contract with the Big 6, I'm happy to seek opportunities with the electronic publishers. Not that I won't ever seek representation. And there's always the chance I will self-publish. But when I do, the work will be as polished as possible. Meanwhile, I plan to keep improving my skills as a writer while the plot bunny whispers ideas in my head. 


Sonya Clark said...

I'm not very prolific either, partly because I suck at outlining. I've tried just about every method out there but the story never sticks to the outline. I've had to just accept that I'm not going to be one of those people with a new book coming out every month or two. There are some like that in digital publishing and I don't know how they do it.

Nerine Dorman said...

Writing novels isn't a cookie-cutter process. Some of those who bring out a book every two months seriously lack in quality.

Also, with the sad state of affairs in the global economy, it simply isn't realistic to expect to earn a living from one's writing.

Instead I feel authors need rethink whether it's a career--in which case they must write for a specific market--or an art. If it's an art, then even if you bring out one book a year that you can be proud of, that is far preferable than churning out titles that get lost in the swamp of new titles flooding the market each day.

Yes, back-list is king, if it's money you're after, but then you should also look at what motivates you to write in the first place.

PamelaTurner said...

Sonya, my outlines never match my WIP either. :-) I sometimes feel I'm at an excavation site and the more I keep digging...

Nerine, excellent points. And that's what the commenters of the blog I mentioned also talked about. They want quality over quantity. Some of the authors commented they were pulling back and decreasing their output so they could recharge and focus on writing better stories.

Writing is an art and a business. Of course I want to make money (help contribute to the family income) but I also want to write a damn good story.

As for why I write, it's simple. I have to. I tried stopping and ultimately wasn't able to. Whether I like it or not, writing is a part of who I am. :-)

Sonya Clark said...

Excavation is the perfect word for it, Pam!

As for money, I'd be very happy to break even. The bare minimum we as authors spend is on copyright, but I also have my domain and since I do want a few people to read my work I spend a little on promo. If I can make that back anything after that is like found money.

Luckily I've been able to let go of a lot of the pressure I was putting on myself to write as much as possible, as fast as possible. It didn't work anyway, and I'd rather tell good stories than a lot of stories.