Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The J.K. Rowling Effect

Tip of the Day: in between all your writing, don’t forget to make time for reading too!

Working in a library I am exposed to wannabe writers on a frequent basis. I am constantly amazed at the number of people in our community that want to publish a book.

But out of the large section of wannabe writers, I’m starting to notice an interesting trend. These people tend to fall into two groups.

Group 1: Potential writers that read
Group 2: Potential writers that don’t read

And a large portion of these people are in Group 2. People who are not readers, nor do they want to be.

Writing that sentence seems like an oxymoron to me. What’s the point of writing if you don’t read? And if you don’t read, then how on earth do you expect other people to want to read your book? (Yes, even if people are in Group 2, they still want to “publish” a book traditionally and see it on library shelves ::hits head against desk::).

I attribute this trend to the J.K. Rowling Effect.

There are many potential J.K. Rowling Effects. But in this instance, I mean people that hear about J.K. Rowling’s story: about how she was on welfare and looking for a way to support herself and her kids, so she wrote a book, and now she’s richer than the Queen of England.

But they don’t hear about all the rejection she went through to get that success.

There’s a lot of misconceptions about publishing, but I have to say this is one of the ones that baffles me the most.

And I’m amazed it comes up as much as it does.

Because for every one person that is genuinely interested in learning about writing, invested in taking the writing programs we offer at our library, and doing research on the subject by reading books or blogs like this, there’s another person that walks in and basically wants you to publish their book for them. And the last thing those people want to do is pick up a book and read what others are writing, because nine times out of ten, they “don’t think their book is like any out there, so what’s the point in reading others.”

If this happens at our little, local library, I have no idea how publishing companies and agents deal with this on a daily basis.

Nor do I understand where so many people got the idea publishing is an easy process, that most people make a lot of money from it, or that you don’t have to edit your novels before publishing them, but I wish it would stop.

Does this happen in other industries, too? Does every Joe Schmo going to an acting audition believe if they get a gig they can become Brad Pitt. Despite the fact, they don’t even want to read the script before the audition?

Because I really don’t think people would expect that. But maybe I’m naïve like that.

So to do my part to end this particular J.K. Rowling Effect, anytime anyone asks me anything about writing or publishing, I am going to slip in somewhere in the conversation that to be a writer, you have to be a reader.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent


Jessica Burkhart (Jess Ashley) said...

I'm totally with you on that, Em. You just can't NOT read and be a writer. I don't understand how you learn what's been done, what works, what doesn't, etc.

Great post!

Tabitha said...

Spot On. Excellent post. :)

Wanting to be a writer without reading is like wanting to be a computer programmer without learning how to use the language. You may know the syntax on a basic level, but if you don't know how to put a program together in an organized, structured way, it won't work well. Writing is no different, so writers must know the language inside and out. Plus, they must know how to put it together so the words and the content make as big an impact on the reader as possible. Reading is a big step in that process.

I think many wannabe writers don't get that. All they see is the success - they don't see the insane amount of hard work that went behind it.

Lisa Schroeder said...

It also amazes me how many people think writing a book is the quickest way to wealth. And that researching the genre they are writing for isn't necessary.

Someone asked my husband recently if I'd read a book her sister had wrote, because they're having some "hard times" and her book "isn't bad."

Not bad doesn't cut it. And not bad definitely isn't going to save you from bankruptcy!

amuse me said...

Hooray for this post -- I hope lots of people read it. You hit the nail on the head with every point you made. :)

DeenaML said...

Excellent post, Em! I have only run into like two library readers who also want to write. One came into the children's room to specifically research what is already out there on her topic. HOORAY! I pointed her to the books and also to SCBWI and Verla's. The other just wanted the CWIM. It's a start! But yes, READ, PEOPLE!

Emily said...

This is like one of those situations that you look at and quietly say to yourself, "Duh." Write but NOT read? What are they, out of their minds? And whoever thought writing and publishing was easy-- they must have forgotten how difficult it was for them to write something worthwhile in high school. Oh, and YES, people do think they can do just about anything-- I am a 5th grade teacher and I can't tell you how many people want to tell me how to do my job, how to fix schools, and basically say they could teach tomorrow although they have no training at all.


Kristina Springer said...

Well said Em!

Author and Reader said...

Wonderful blog.... Readers do make better writers. Even Stephen King in his book "On Writing" advises..."Read a lot, write a lot." I posted about this on my blog. Had some interesting responses.

Jennie said...

Great Post!

Plus, have you ever heard JKR talk about how much she reads? And how important reading is? As with most authors, "Read a lot" is some of her top advice for becoming an author!

She once talked about balancing career and young children and still making time to read everyday. Some things she mentioned were reading while brushing her teeth! (Not that I ever do that. Nope. Not at all (well, ok, but only twice a day. And after something garlicky...)

Anonymous said...

Group 2 makes up a large proportion, did you say? Really? Like how large? It's mind boggling. Why would anyone want to create art that they don't even respect?