Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is it impossible to not be a snob?

I have to confess...I too am a writery snob. After lambasting literary snobbery in a recent blog post I have become conscious that I too have been guilty of this transgression. If you are a reader but not a writer of books it is a simple story. You go and buy the books you like and you read them and unless you are a reviewer or a book club devotee you don't have to justify your reading habits to anybody. However if you are a writer, your view on books is no longer so clear cut. Everything now becomes relative. The bottom line is how many books will be sold. If you sell a lot then you will be odds on favourite to be published again and this is understandable as publishers cannot stay in business if they do not sell enough of their product. If you do not sell many books you must hope for some other virtue to be recognized to raise your cache and make your future books desirable. And here writers are pitted against each other for their share of book sales and recognition. Is a good book a book lots of people choose to buy? A book that wins awards? A book that makes a reader cry? A book with a rousing plot, hang the preponderence of adverbs? A book with a main character that has you swooning or determining to be a better person yourself, forget about the plot holes? A book that makes a reader happy? A book that teaches the reader something or is full of useful information? Should books be literary/commercial/romantic/action/have vampires/be entirely in Haiku? My favourite books to read are those with smart plots, engaging characters, clever use of words and a great sense of satisfaction on conclusion. But must this response be the one other readers must have? I strive to write the best prose I can. I try and make my characters ones a reader will care about and place them in a plot that will make the reader turn the page. I like to add humour and make the story emotionally engaging. Where does this put my writing on the literary totem pole. Do I need to climb over some other story to get higher up? The sad situation is that there are a finite number of publishing opportunities. There are plenty of good stories that never see the light of day in book form, plenty of masterpieces that languish alongside a 'bloody good read' that heads out of the shop in droves. It is hard work not to compare my writing to someone else's. I want my books to do well so the publisher might choose to publish more of my books in the future. I need my books to sell well and/ or win recognition in some way. I do my best to not be a snob but as hard as I try I feel like this business makes it impossible to avoid it completely.

I read this today in a review by Maggie Rainey Smith on Beattie's Book Blog - "...all writers to some extent need courage, bravado and a decent dose of vanity just to send their manuscript to a publisher." We must, by necessity, think our work is going to be good enough to be published, and therefore better than others on the slush pile. However it is never right to dismiss a genre as automatically inferior, and to demand that your genre/style/category is automatically superior. That's just rude.

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