When is the book you're writing "the best it can possibly be?" And truly, for authors who have the support of their pub houses, does it really matter?
This article, published in The Santa Barbara Independent, about Seldon Edwards' first novel, The Little Book brings up all sorts of issues near and dear to published authors who who have made full-time careers writing do so under deadlines that are reminiscent to the old pulp fiction era.
But would you trade the whole of your midlist to hear this our debut novel (or any novel, for that matter) described as an "impeccably crafted and suspenseful tale"?
Or, perhaps, to have these words come from your editor? "He described his own first encounter with The Little Book, which he has now read many, many times, as magical. ' got up at 4:30 on the third day that I was reading it in order to be finished before I left for work, and when my wife woke up, I looked at her and said, ‘I think this is an important book.’ It really feels like it has been in the making for that whole time. Let me put it this way: I have yet to meet the person who could write this book in a year.'”
Hmmmm. Then why do editors push their authors to do at least a book a year—and in some genres, as many as three or more?
Being the fatalist that I am, the first thought that ran through my head when I read this was: "What if Edwards had died before submitting?"
I also think how depressed I'd be to work on just one project all those years. I mean, the odds were greater than 50/50 that, even after all that time, it could have been a piece of junk, right? Talk about time wasted.
But a hobbiest wouldn't mind that, whereas a professional writer would move onto the next project, so that s/he could make another sale.
Even writers have to pay the rent.
Well, it's good to know that Edwards put it out there a few times throughout the years. And even though it was previously rejected, it's great that someone finally recognized its potential, and it found a wonderful home (kudos to his agent for being the first to recognize its potential, and getting it to an editor who did the same.)
But then again, I also remember the story of Simon & Schuster, which, though initially excited about John Kennedy Toole's life work, the Pulitzer prize-winning A Confederacy of Dunces, eventually passed on it "because it really wasn't about anything." Apparently the rejection led to his eventual suicide.
I remember the first time my sister heard that I was to have a book published. She looked at me in horror and asked, "Oh my god! Do they expect you to do that again?" To her it was anathema to think that I'd be "forced" to conceive plots that would interest readers, and dialogue that would keep them wanting to read more.
My answer, of course was: "I hope so!"
Because I love writing stories. But I realize that, to make a living at it, I'll have to write more than one in a lifetime.
Unless I'm Margaret Mitchell. Or, perhaps, Seldon Edwards.
And now that The Little Book is being touted as the next DaViinci Code (okay, agreed: Which breakout book doesn't get bandied about that way these days, anyhow?) I put this question to you:
Is it quality that gets you a career, or quantity?