Friday, June 3, 2011

Are you a Hobbyist or a Craftsman?

With eBooks becoming so popular and authors like Amanda Hocking making a killing, I keep thinking about the quality of what's being put out there. I looked at the Smashwords site yesterday, and four of the six books on their "newly published" page had egregious typos in the descriptions (one book even spelled the main character's name two different ways in that single paragraph). This makes me a little sad and a little embarrassed.

I've seen blogs that recommend eBook authors hire an editor, and others (like Amanda) who freely say that editing is their greatest weakness. I have mixed feelings about all of this.

Personally, I'm an editing freak.  I am *never* done with a project.  Never.  I will agonize over a sentence for days if allowed.  While I know that's not great for productivity, it's really great for my finished product.  It makes me look at prolific authors and ask...are you a hobbyist or a craftsman?  Do you love writing first drafts or do you love the whole idea of writing?

To me, a hobbyist is someone who loves the rush and thrill of writing, who puts the first draft on the page at lightning speed.  He or she revels in forming characters and whisking them in and out of plot points, whether it involves danger, romance, or what have you.  This was me in middle school and high school.  I didn't give a crap about polishing or revising.  I just loved the thrill I got when I wrote the part where the hero and heroine finally got together.  I got my high from giving my characters their high and I didn't need anything else to make me happy.  But did that mean I was producing publishable work?  Hell to the no.

In contrast, a craftsman is someone truly dedicated to the art and soul of writing--whose interest doesn't flag after the first draft.  Craftsmen read their sentences aloud.  Craftsmen agonize over passive voice, past tense, present tense, verb tense, and the alarming presence of adverbs.  Craftsmen are willing to work with a single sentence or paragraph until every word contributes to the whole, making it greater than the sum of its parts.  It's a different kind of high, and it's the kind of writer I've evolved into over the past decade.  It makes me cringe at some of the older stuff I've written, but it also makes me realize just how hard writing is when you take it seriously.

I'm not saying every writer publishing these days must be a craftsman.  Plenty of writers making beaucoup bucks aren't (and I'm totally envious of their millions).  I suppose I'm just lamenting the fact that some of the grace and beauty of writing is being lost in the mad rush to produce eBooks and earn the label of "published writer."