One mentality that seems to be getting more prevalent as writers flood the market is the philosophy of envy (“so-and-so published a book that isn’t any better than mine. How come theirs did so well?”) In today’s opinion post, I’m gonna talk about that.
Let me start by saying that I’ve felt that envy too. I’ve been in that position, and I’d prefer not to be. The relative strength or weakness of someone else’s work has exactly zero bearing on mine. When I read about a successful novel, my first instinct is to think “why them, and not me?” Of course, my second instinct is to remind myself that we are all running our own races. There are plenty of readers out there for all of us, so long as we produce our best work.
We can shine together. When Harry Potter came out, I’m sure there were fantasy authors gritting their teeth, thinking the market had been ruined. For a little over a decade, Harry Potter dominated the market. But here’s my point (sorry to take so long in getting to it): after Rowling finished, the fantasy genre experienced a huge boom. Actually, the boom happened while she was writing as well. Far from being hurt by the mega-series, fantasy authors were helped by it in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Or take Gossip Girl. The series was lambasted for its portrayal of sex, drugs, and glorification of generally undesirable behavior. But it also introduced loads of teenage girls to reading for fun.
As a reader, I can say the one thing that makes me want to read more is a good book. When I finish something well-written, plotted, crafted, I immediately want another. It becomes an addiction. That book that’s similar to yours, but not quite as good, might lead me to stumble upon the one you’ve written. On the other hand, poorly written novels turn me off as a reader, make me less desirous to read again.
So share whatever you’ve learned, I say. Help every writer you meet in whatever way you can, and it will help the craft of writing as a whole. Don’t be envious, and hoard your “secrets” to yourself, or let yourself be too quick to point out another author’s flaws. We can attract new readers, and every raindrop will raise the sea. We can all shine together.
Thoughts? Agree/disagree? Think this post was a little too preachy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!