Of Widgets and Craft

We over here at TPAC think about writing a lot. The doing of it and the marketing of what it is we produce. Particularly in an era when the fight for, dear reader, your attention is an unrelenting and quite daunting task given how many ways you can spend your free time. For instance, there are cable television shows I used to watch every week, Longmire and Hell on Wheels to name two. I got behind on these programs, keeping up with the storylines of other shows, then figured out why sweat it. Wait until the episodes were streaming on Netflix, Hulu or some damn thing yet to come along, and binge watch – a phrase spawned by our digital age. The age where stuff never truly goes away and we can find something to entertain us around the clock via various outlets.

Amazon is a factor in this as the Kindle and other e-readers have had their effects on the pursuit of creative writing as a career. Those who self-publish solely or as part of their writing life as I do, have felt the crush to constantly feed the machine. That it’s not unusual for some writers to produce four novels or mixed with novellas per year. I know at least a couple of writers who work full time at their craft and have managed to pull this off. They write across genres, under a different name or two, and maybe with a partner on one or so of the books they have to get out there. It’s a time when a come on to gather potential readers of your book is not so much a glowing review in the New York Times but putting it on sale for .99 or giving it away for free for a limited period. The book as commodity as opposed to an appreciation of its individual merits, what it gives to you the reader.

Lorraine Devon Wilke in a recent piece in the HuffingtonPost Book section decried these practices of producing books as if making your quota supplying the conveyor belt. She self-published her first novel called After the Sucker Punch. She’d worked years on this effort, wanting it to be a work of art, a book of depth and merit. I can dig that. I too want to write books that have something to say in big and small ways. And that does take time to make happen on the page. Writing and rewriting, thinking about does this passage work as I intended…maybe my man character should really want this and her antagonist talks in this way and those changes will alter the plot That even if you write genre, you might elevate the genre at times.

Carl Kolchak at his typewriter

This versus the grind to turn out x number of pages a day to get to the finish line so you can start all over again. Little time to shape and hone that one sentence just so or be reflective on how to shade the nuances of your characters as the story unfolds. That like the pulp writers of old, you pound out the work because writing’s a job and you have a deadline to make. The Raymond Chandler versus Erle Stanley Gardner school. The two were friends and Gardner it’s been reported could dictate three novels on a given day, each at its own stage, to his secretaries Even when he was doing his own two finger hunt and peck typing, Gardner was known to write two short stories a day for the pulps with a goal of producing 100,000 words a month – while maintaining his law practice. Chandler penned less than 10 complete novels and a few screenplays, and he sweated long and hard on what he put down on the page. Could you find Gardner more formulaic, yes. Was Chandler more evocative in what he wrote, certainly.

Arguably Chandler’s work has endured but you can’t dismiss Gardner so easily as his ultimate creation, keen witted criminal defense lawyer Perry Mason, has endured as well.

Is there a happy medium between these two approaches? For some it’ll remain a numbers game and for some, they can be prolific and hit a certain standard of writing that can entertain and be insightful. Other can’t be rushed and will take the time they need to write the book and there’s nothing wrong with that either. For yet another recent riff indicates readers like writers are becoming hybrid and consuming their books electronically and the tried and true method of paper.

Could be there’s room for all types of approaches, levels of output and how those stories are received..

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