Friday, November 02, 2007

Fact vs. Fiction

My Friday rant is an old one, but one worth repeating: Why does everyone in the world think they can write a book? Or, if they realize that writing is an actual profession that requires an actual professional, why do they then think they know the business so well that just because they have a "unique" story, it will be "easy to write" and end up on the bestsellers list with the right ghostwriter?
I have a business degree, but I still I know nothing about the stockmarket. I don't pretend to. That's why I'm not calling my financial advisor saying, "Oh, XYZ stock has a unique name, I think that's going to soar, let's put our entire retirement in it today." He's the professional. He knows where to invest our money based on our level of risk tolerance. That's why I haven't even talked to him since opening the account - and our financial statements each quarter reflect a professional is handling our business.
Or, how about calling my doctor and saying, "Wow. That advertisement I saw on that new drug last night was really unique...let me try it." He's the doctor trained and skilled in his profession. I might ask him about a drug and do my own research, but I'm not going to tell him how to do his business.
Don't get me wrong, I don't take exception to people who feel the burning desire to write- we all started somewhere.
I take exception to the people who think that writing a book is a quick and easy process - people who don't take it seriously as a craft. People who think that with a few coaching sessions, the words will magically flow and the next thing you know, you're sitting at a book signing, paid for by a high-powered, well-known and well-financed publishing giant.
That's like believing you can earn a doctorate in surgery through an online correspondence course.
As with most writers I know, a majority of my life was spent writing - from the time I first picked up that #2 pencil. Most writers who are writers, have known this was our destiny since we were tots. We spent years getting an education either in school or in the school of life - or both - writing all the while. We spent months or years in writers conferences, classes and writers groups, getting to know the business and honing our skill. We learned the time and commitment it took. We learned most of us wouldn't be bestselling authors and, as my mother told me when I embarked on this journey - "It's a hard way to make a living."
This is not something that can be taught, it is who we are.
A unique story does not a writer make.

Here's the two ads I saw this week that illustrates my point. And, hey, James-Frey-Wanna-Be with the "Fictional Memoir Based on a True Story," I have a newsflash for you - your book is called a novel.

Ghost Writer for Fictional Memoir Based on True Story

I'm looking for a ghost writer to work with me on a Fictional Memoir manuscript that is based on a true story. The story will deal with time I spent living/traveling in South America, so familiarity with the culture and setting is preferred. I'm still in the conceptual stages of this project.

At least this person seems to know what a memoir is, but he just has no idea how to write it. But hey, once he finds his magical structure, the major agency that's "interested" will get him a sequel and movie deal:

I'm a writer but have never written a book before. I have a very passionate, creative, disorganized mind when it comes to writing. This works for some things, but not for this daunting task. I need to complete a book proposal and am using a book as a guide, but feel I could benefit from talking it out with a professional. I'd like a private coach (available on weekday evenings or weekend afternoons) to help me finish this book proposal. I have a very concrete understanding of my idea and a major agency interested. Now all I need to do is get this done. The book is a memoir of a very unique life experience. It will be easy to sell and easy to write once I have some structure. Help give me structure! Help me write this book proposal. Please get back to me with your qualifications/background and your rate. --- also need help with making characters and events anonymous to avoid legal trouble, let me know if you can help with this as well ---- Thanks.


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