I had to link to this blog post about writers not having to compete against each other. It's about the myth that writers and books have to compete with each other. Like people only buy one book in their lifetimes. Really, the opposite is true - at least in my opinion. People who like to read buy books. Plural. And lots of them. They like a book and look for similar ones. This is why Amazon's "people also bought" works so well. One book succeeds and all of those linked to it do a lot better too. I've talked about this before, I believe we will all ride on the coattails of somebody else's fame - it's a co-operative effort despite our claims of independence.
On that particular article I linked to, there's the idea that indies are more likely to feel in competition with each other - and with traditionally published books too. Bingo. So very true. Hang out on any writer's forum and this is the kind of atmosphere you'll eventually find. Some get a tiny bit obsessed with what everyone else is doing and how to emulate it. Unfortunately, the minority get a little bitter and twisted about how those they perceive as being less talented than them are doing so well with little effort. (I know for a fact A Little Girl bugs the shit out of one or two people - in a good-natured sort of way - because I've never exactly ran around promoting it but it's a steady (but not great) seller. It's okay, I'm baffled too).
Lately, I've been a little saddened by a number of attitudes (by people I've thought were cool/nice/smart enough not to get dragged down by this) towards some who are quite successful even though they aren't the most skilled in the way of editing/grammar/spelling/etc. I can't respect someone who makes snide remarks about their thoughts on another person's level of talent in a passive-aggressive sort of way. If you think they aren't doing a good job then help them, why put them down and wait for readers to embarrass them? To quote the post I linked to earlier:
If your book sucks, your story is dull, your cover bad and unreadable, it isn’t another writer’s fault. That is your fault.
Basically, my attitude is this. If a writer is successful, they are doing something right - even if you think they are awful, awful writers (I'm sure Stephenie Meyers is very upset by claims of her lack of talent, yet remains well-buffered by her wads of cash). If you aren't doing as well, maybe you're missing something. You. Don't waste time blaming somebody else. Keep writing, work hard and you will get there when your time comes, there's room for lots of people to do well, chill.
I read Dean Wesley Smith's blog regularly and get a kick out of it. He writes those wake up and smell the coffee type posts wherein he sounds incredulous that people would even come up with this shit. Love it. If you're ever getting wrapped up in your own ego and what everyone else is doing and achieving, stop comparing rankings and sales long enough to read some of his blog posts and get a quick kick up the arse that will send you back down to earth where you belong.
He writes posts like Dare to be Bad, which truly resonates with me. In that one, he talks about being confident enough to send the work out to stand on its own legs before you edit and rewrite it to death. I'm so not saying people don't need to edit - just, you know, learn to quit while you're ahead. :)
This post reads as though it were written for me specifically. Seriously, I edit and tweak the life out of everything. I thought I hated editing (okay, I do, but not as much as I thought) because I have one manuscript in particular I just can't finish. I've edited it so much, I've lost the heart of the story. I've edited out the humour, the originality and everything that made me smile when I reread it. I'm left with something that is technically better but a lot less fun to read.
My problem is twofold. I don't know when something is finished and I'm terrified of disappointing people. I got over it a little when I published A Little Girl and One Night. I disappointed enough people that I wasn't scared of it anymore. :) I'm fine with people not liking something but I have a problem with feeling like I took money from someone and disappointed them. Negative comments don't actually hurt me though.
I learned things I would apply to other stories so I was happy with the feedback, good and bad. Then I went back to work on a novel and lost my confidence (or courage) again. I forced myself to publish something else before 2010 finished because it was a now or never sort of thing. I hadn't finished anything all year and was holding myself back. If I didn't publish Thirst when I did, I would have tweaked it for the next three years and probably ended up giving up on it. I sent it out, listened to feedback and now believe it's not as good as I thought but not as bad as I panic-nightmared. :) Some people liked it, some people thought it was just okay and nobody's opinion killed me.
Actually declaring a finishing point made me appreciate editing a little more and despise it a little less. It will never be my friend but I think the whole arch-nemesis thing has calmed down a tad. My new thing for this year is to stop being scared, to have the courage to be crap and to learn from said crapness for the next book. We can't learn without making a few mistakes and breaking a few rules along the way - we can't move forward without risking failure too. (Some of the most successful and not-so-successful indies this year took chances and risked failure while a lot of us hmmed and hawwed and were too scared to put our babies out there in case they weren't ready). So I'm going to risk failing this year - it's better than not ever knowing. /Epic post