Thursday, May 19, 2016

These Days Everyone's a Writer by Stuart R. West

"Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay."

The quote is most often attributed to Christoper Hitchens (1949-2011), a famous journalist and intellectual. Some sources argue the origin of the quote. Regardless of who said it, I couldn't agree more.

It's not that I'm snobby or believe my writing's the cat's pajamas. On the contrary, I'm always striving to improve my writing. And I've been more than willing to help out new writers. After all, every writer should be given a chance. Or so I used to think.

Over the past several years, I've had people crawling out of the woodwork asking me to read their Great American Novels. People I've never met before. People who have no business writing. People who become a little "stalkery."
I took on many cases until it became overwhelming and more than a little discouraging.

I worked on one guy's coming of age (groan!) novel for more than two years. At the end of our trial by fire, he still didn't get it. It was a mess, more head-hopping than a psychic's convention. I tried telling him what he was doing wrong. Every time he'd respond, "Oh, yeah, I get it now." Then he'd continue to do the same thing.

My mother, a "snow-bird" in Florida, has a new suitor who's a writer! He's written a spiritual self-help book. Wants my opinion. I honestly don't know how I could be of help to him when I'm writing jolly serial killer books and what-not.

Recently during a medical exam with a tongue depressor lodged into my mouth, a young doctor told me he's writing a book about government mandates on the beautification of homes and lawns. I said, "Really?" He said, "Yeah, it's a comedy." Not exactly water-cooler talk.

The other day my neighbor told me he's writing a book.

"Cool!" I said, while inside I died a little bit. But trapped as I was, I pursued it.

"What's the book about?" I asked.

"Well...that's hard to say...something about a Christian alien planet."

Noooo! "Huh. Okay, let me read it."

"I'm just starting it. But I will."

I told him I couldn't wait, ran inside and locked the doors.

Some of these writers take my advice to heart and actually work at improvement. All writers should. But some of my other pet projects? I've had a few writers get quite angry regarding my commentary, yell at me, then take their toys and go home.

The advent of "self-publishing" is a double-edged sword. While it opened up an alternate venue for fledgling writers who may not have had a chance via the traditional "over the transom" route in the past, it's also full of people who are absolutely clueless.

Which is why I appreciate dedicated publishers like Books We Love who uphold a high level of quality in the books they put out.

From now on, though, I'm closing the door on new writers who hit me up. (Except, of course, for my neighbor's upcoming epic about an alien Christian planet!)