I am a follower of the Word Craft column that is published almost every weekend in the Wall Street Journal. The contributing authors may be established writers, debut unknowns, or a writer falling somewhere in between. Each selection describes thoughts about an array of subjects: poetry, fiction, essays, even translations and the occasional storyboard art. I am struck by the similarities in the examples of great stories they praise. Frequent notables include Flannery O’Conner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and J. D Salinger. I have read publications by all of these. But I wonder where are the big guns: the Stephen Kings, Dan Browns, and J. K. Rolands of the publishing world? I have also read a sampling of their books. Why are they not mentioned but so successful? A conundrum.
It appears that a new manuscripts can take two paths. One will be the wildly successful, hit the New York Times best seller list, and make gobs of money en route. Or the lesser road involves publishing pretty much on your own either through small and university presses or self-publishing and, after exhausting one’s friends and relatives, hoping to break even on one’s investment. So the outcomes are viral fame and fortune or self-satisfaction of a task accomplished and a goal met.
As I have learned the baby steps in creative writing I have become a better reader. Familiar with accepted rules and regulations of “good” writing, I am more critical of even best-selling authors. Some ignore the logic of their plot twists to the point of my thinking “Whoa. This couldn’t possibly happen.” Or the tale which shifts from one POV to another to yet a third and continues back and forth and yonder for the entire book. Or think about Roy Peter Clarks comment, in his writing manual Writing Tools, on Harry Potter’s author’s overuse of the dreaded “ly” words: “I conclude with a disclaimer: The wealthiest writer in the world is J.K Rowling…She loves adverbs…If you want to make more money than the Queen of England, maybe you should use more adverbs.” My personal opinion is that the reading public doesn’t know or care about the writing rules. They just know they like drama, intrigue, the page-turner and the hell with conformity to established regulations. So there’s hope for us all. One way or another, the road to seeing our writing in print is inevitable. The plot thickens.