Saturday, January 04, 2014

Why Bad Writers Should Keep Writing


Journalist Hector Tobar and I Think “Bad Writers” Should Keep Writing ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hector Tobar, an LA Times writer I’ve long admired, takes issue with a fellow writer who bemoans that there are too many books out there, that too many authors of books are bad writers, and that bad writers should quit writing.

In the article, Tobar chronicles his path from journalism to creative writing. He says, “The Tattooed Solider was my MFA thesis. All the big New York houses rejected it--it didn’t look like other, successful Latino books to them, some said in their letters to my agent, the legendary (and now retired) Virginia “Ginger” Barber. But it finally found a home at the small Delphinium Books, in the hands of an editor (the wonderful Joy Johannessen) who helped transform the “straw” of my prose into something more enduring.”

He also takes the author of this piece to task and I couldn’t agree with him more. He (rightfully, I believe) points out that many writers are awful when they first start writing. If all of them stopped writing (if, indeed, they recognized that we were one of the awful ones), we would lose many great writers and many more very good writers.

My mother had a favorite saying. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” If more writers followed Tobar’s wise path of recognizing our shortcomings, continuing to learn more from reputable institutions, and building on the writing skills we already have (Tobar was a journalist and still is), individual writers would improve. And the publishing industry would be the better for it. So would readers.


Of course, I want to add one my favorite methods to building a writing career. In a way it’s related to “learning more.” But it shouldn’t be only about writing. In this world of more and more self-publishing, more and more independent presses, more and more opportunities for exposure on the Web, we should be learning more about every aspect of the industry we are part of. Editing. Formatting. Indexing. Agents. Contests. Marketing of books and marketing in general (we will most certainly have to act as our own publicists at some point in our trek to bestsellerdom). In fact, Tobar leads on this issue by example. He manages to get exposure for his novel by utilizing what he knows from his day job at the LA Times, and do it in a way that helps other authors, too.

Read Tobar’s article at http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/19/entertainment/la-et-jc-in-defense-of-bad-writers-20130819  Learn more about the books I wrote to help writers learn more about all the skills a writer needs in today’s publishing environment at http://howtodoitfrugally.com.  

 
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

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