Everything’s Awesome Until You Find Out What Sort of Book It Is
Last week, I read an article in one of the student newspapers about this undergrad who got a book published. Normally, I would not give this another thought except that this is her first book and it is a book about writing. Apparently she wrote it while she was in high school, some publisher in Spokane thought it was ace, and it got published.
I suppose one could argue that my disgruntlement at this is just sour grapes. Maybe. But I will say this: I wouldn’t care if she was some snot-nosed fifteen year old who got a fantasy novel published, but I would still be disgruntled if instead she was a sixty year old grandmother who just got her first book published and it also happened to be about writing. In the former case, it’s a story. Every storyteller has to start somewhere. Even if it’s a bad story, it’s still a valid work. I would classify it as an “art work” in which there really isn’t a wrong way to create, per se, only that it may or may not coincide with a particular audience’s taste. In the latter case, I cannot take anyone seriously if there has been no evidence that she hasn’t practiced what she has preached. Telling a story to entertain is one thing. Attempting to instruct the reader is another.
I think there are certain subjects that can only be done well (or with any credibility) with age and/or experience*. Writing about writing is one of them. No one has any business publishing a book about writing until they’ve published at least one book not on writing**.
(Memoirs are another. Sure, a teenager*** can write a “memoir”, but unless said teenager has the misfortune of getting himself offed next month, how interesting and true to the concept of a memoir is it if half of it is devoted to the trials and tribulations of toilet training?****)
*Hey, don’t look at me. Despite doing the novel-in-a-month thing for the past decade, I don’t think I have all that much of an edge over Joe Schmo or his crayon-wielding toddler next door. Rejections have proved that most editors think that my writing sucks.
**I suppose one could ask, “Well, what about all of those writing programs? Don’t the writing instructors for those programs have the expertise to write a book on writing?” Well, have those writing instructors published a non-writing book before writing that book on writing? If not, I wouldn’t try to generalize any of their advice outside of the academic setting of a writers’ workshop or any of the obscure literary journals they might have published in.
***I am not thinking of any particular teenager who has recently “written” a memoir. Really.
****Scientists who study this sort of thing, however, may beg to differ with me as they may find this extremely riveting reading on a clinical standpoint.