In Response to "Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year."

This article has been turning up in all of my online writers' groups lately. 

Basically the premise is that the model of high productivity being revived by indie authors leads to sacrificing quality for quantity. 

I think in some cases this is possibly true, although there's traditionally published authors who I use as an example when trying to satisfy myself with the quality of my own work. Well, I think to myself, at least it's better than so-and-so...

I like to think that the author of this article was coming from a well-intentioned place.  In the article she presents case studies in the form of pieces of literature that took incredible lengths of time to be produced, while ignoring the fact that some of our greatest writers wrote for pulp magazines and cranked out old serials like their lives depended on it. The fact of the matter is that even if their lives didn't depend on it, their livelihoods did. And in the new era of the indie author, as things are getting smaller and faster, we're finding that yet again, our livelihoods depend on producing as much high-quality fiction as our hearts and brains can muster and doing it as quickly as possible.

It would be great if we could all write for a living and produce a book or two each decade, which is what the author claims we must do in order to produce quality. But we can't. Indie authors of the modern day must embrace pulp and serial style production schedules to meet the demands of the industry and the reader.

Today's reader is voracious. Kindle and other e-readers make books fast, easy to access, and inexpensive, meaning that the reader can consume as many books as he or she is able. I mean, you can get a novel for the same price as a latte, or even less. Sometimes, for free. For people like me who can read a short novel in eight hours, that means we can chew through books much faster than our favorite authors can produce them.

Let me talk about my novel, A Guide to a Happier Life. That book took two years from start to finish, including a six month break I had to take due to a head injury that made writing an impossibility. But fully one half of the rough draft was written over the course of one ecstatic week.  And when I was working on tightening it up, those parts of the novel were the ones that needed the least work, the ones that already sang from the page.

If you were to interview the members of my critique group, they would tell you that early drafts of A Guide to a Happier Life were rough, and I mean rough. That's okay, though. We plowed through it and they helped me clean it up. I think I spent the last year on edits alone. Is it a perfect novel? Nope. Are there things I wish I'd done better? Absolutely. Is it art? I don't know, but I do think that's a boring and pointless question that could lead to a discussion lasting for days, held over a steady course of liquor and amphetamines. But I love it in the way that one must love a thing that is a part of you, that has a part of your heart inscribed in the feelings that lurk between the lines of text.

I often wish that I had waited a few years to tackle that project, because then I would be a better writer and would have done the story more justice. But we must do the things that we are passionate about. If I had waited, and allowed that flame of passion to dim, A Guide to a Happier Life would have been a much worse book than it is now. 

And in the editing process, I reached a point at which I knew that it was either release my weird little dove and watch it fly, or keep it in revisions forever. 

Because, and this is the thing people don't tell you; you will never, ever write a perfect book.

If you're passionate about your work, though, it's possible that you'll write a good book.

And that's what is important.

What matters is making readers happy. Or sad. Or nostalgic. Or homesick. Or anything, for the love of god, just make them feel something.

So for me, here's the thick and thin of it. Fellow indie authors; you must write as much as you can, as quickly as you can. You must not lose your belly fire. With each project that you work on, your writing will improve. You must write to learn craft. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. Put yourself out there, and let a few readers put bread in your jar. It's okay, really. You worked hard. 

Stay angry. Stay hungry. Keep searching. Keep striving. It's okay to not be perfect, but you must be invested.

And don't let anyone tell you that you're not good at this based on your words per hour.