Independent writers have the opportunity of a lifetime. We are on the cusp of a revolution in breaking open the audience for our work. Millions of e-readers were opened under the tree, and all of us writers are standing on the sidelines watching and hoping and wringing our hands that our work will be chosen to be downloaded.
And we need our shit to be good. Really fucking good. Like so good, that grandma may actually break her 40-year streak in reading crime novels and read your anthology of shorts. We have this opportunity to kill the conventional publishing machine (no, it’s not dead yet, don’t get so comfortable). It belongs to us. This revolution was made for us. Now. What are you doing about it?
We can take convention and turn it on its ass. But only if we know entirely what we’re doing.
I’m all for breaking down the walls. But until we are experts in our writing abilities, we should not experiment too broadly.
(*I’m not making an empirical judgment though: there are a few writers who are so brilliant from the start that they can make and break the conventions all they want.)
(** And I am also not talking about the mode of publishing their work, either. This essay strictly addresses the style of experimental writing rather than the approach to marketing and publishing the work.)
If a writer is not flexible or creative enough to be able to learn the craft expertly before he begins to experiment, he may likely run into trouble. I did that a few times. I thought I was so stylie and I go back and read that stuff from back when, and it was not good. I was all into doing things differently, but I had no anchor. And I am not as intrinsically talented as some other writers who can do the most innovative things a compelling piece of art.
I don’t think that the independent writing community can afford to fall into line with conventional, mainstream publishing, however. There is a cultural need for innovation and creativity and we need to feed that. But we need to feed it with quality work, not off-the-cuff weird shit that just doesn’t have any compelling reason to exist because it just isn’t good.
Then this begs the question of what experimental work is good…and I’m not looking for a debate down that road. When I say something isn’t good, it generally isn’t original, or it isn’t compelling. But worst, an experimental work that isn’t good is generally contrived.
- Writing with funky fonts and calling yourself a non-linear writer is just incongruent.
- Writing a Twitter novel has been done, and so it is no longer necessarily unconventional.
- Jumping on a bandwagon genre trend is not experimental.
There are so many brilliant and interesting ways of breaking the rules and creating compelling work. But I contend that unconventional work is compelling in its integrity. And excellent writers have the breadth of experience to approach experimentation seamlessly–rookies should stick to learning the craft of writing first.
We cannot afford to have independent authorship appear to be too disjointed, with inconsistent quality. I welcome work that comes from out of left field–but the body of work we produce is now out of the shadows and under much more public scrutiny. If all those folks who receive e-readers from the xmas stork encounter download after download of shitty work or dubious quality, we are all–as a community–wasting an opportunity to introduce independent publishing to millions of new readers.
The time is NOW. Let’s get our shit together. Let’s be more careful about what we put out there. I count myself in that group as well–I’ve been guilty of putting shit quality short stories out there and I am going to stop doing that. I only want the absolute best of the best of freaky, bizarre, or even conventional storytelling with my name on it floating around the interwebz.