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3 Writing Myths

Myth #1: Someone Will Steal Your Ideas

This little ditty comes mostly from newbie writers who haven’t published a thing and still don’t know how this weird wild world of publishing actually works. They think of the idea as the important thing, when in reality, it’s the execution that counts. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The average writer has more ideas than they’ll ever be able to do anything with.

So when these newbie writers want an editor or agent to sign a nondisclosure agreement before looking at their work, they’re only showing what an ignorant noob they are. Editors and agents are in the business of finding new writers. And if they are writers, they have a ton of ideas themselves, all of which they think way more highly of than whatever precious concept you pulled out of the ether.

Myth #2: Writing Fast Equals Writing Crap

Both Dean Wesley Smith, whom I got the 7 day novel idea from, and myself ran up against this myth during our experiments. Not in ourselves, but from other people. You can read about Dean’s encounter here.

Someone commented something similar on Facebook in response to my own 7 day novel writing journey, though he was a lot nicer and more sane than Dean’s guy. But his point was the same: that writing fast means you are throwing quality out the window. This is completely untrue and unsupported by evidence. Let’s take a walk through it logically and analyze where this myth comes from, shall we?

As far as I’ve been able to deduce, this myth comes from our high school and even college English teachers, as well as traditional publishing.

In school we’re taught to go through a slow, excruciating process to write our magnum opus. We were taught that’s how guys like Faulkner and Hemingway and Dickens did it, whether that was actually true or not. Traditional publishing continues to support this myth, mostly because it supports their timetables for getting books out. You taking a year on your masterpiece gives them plenty of time to publish and market the other books in their catalog, as well as to get ready for your book’s launch. The top authors, like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Lee Child are well compensated under this book a year model, which gives them the freedom to write one book per year.

That’s hunky dory for them, but what if you’re the new guy trying to break in, and the publisher only gives you five grand for your book? Well, you’ve got two choices. You can keep (or get) a day job, or you can crank out more books.

This myth also makes the bold assumption that everyone who abides by this output method types The End and immediately throws it up on Kindle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Well, to be honest, some of them do. But those aren’t the ones you hear about making big bucks with self-publishing. Their books sink like a stone, never to be seen again, and rightly so. No, you still have to edit and revise. No one said anything about uploading your first draft to the masses. And if they did, they’re idiots. But editing doesn’t have to be an excruciating, six-month affair either, the poor writer snapping red pencils in half, while pulling his hair out trying to select just the right word for is. By writing fast, you can also cut your editing time by a goodly amount, and still get it to market quicker. And another advantage of writing fast: You fail quicker, leading to better writing faster.

Myth #3: Every Book is an Event

I’m guilty of this one. Dean Wesley Smith has helped whip this one out of me. By reading his blog more or less daily for the past year, and figuratively watching over his shoulder as he writes book after book, story after story, I’ve learned that every book is not some big event, some major achievement. It’s simply another book, another unit of product for your shelves. One of many you will (hopefully) produce throughout your life.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re saying now. “But James, books aren’t product. They’re High Art. Maybe while you’re writing them. But once they’re done they are product, a piece of intellectual property that can earn an income for you for the rest of your life plus 75 years. Don’t like it? Then print your manuscripts when you’re done with them and put them in a trunk somewhere. No skin off my nose. But if you actually want to get published and make a living as a writer, you’re going to have to learn business. Writing is a craft and an art; publishing is a business. Got the difference? Good. Then you are well on your way to letting go of these top three myths in publishing.

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