Write your best story. Great advice, but the sentiment is vague.
What is your best story?
The market (both traditional and indie) is flooded right now by writers who believe they have written their greatest achievement until their next story gets put down on paper. Some authors have reached their goal. Others have not, and they are the ones creating a vast problem.
Many authors have no idea what their best story can be because they haven’t studied the craft of storytelling. Increasingly the level for excellence has been lowered while the availability for publication has increased.
Yes, this business is a subjective one. An editor looks at a story and decides it doesn’t have what it takes. Another reviews the same manuscript, and he feel it’s the author’s breakout novel. Independent writers, so proud of their prose that they believe it can rise above the millions of other published works, place it in the market. Some readers love it. Others hate it.
How in the world is an author supposed to craft their best story in such an industry where beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder?
I used a key word in that leading question. Did you see it?
Right in the middle is the word craft.
Craft is vital to storytelling. Putting a story onto paper is only the beginning. The first draft, maybe even the second draft of a story does not mean it is a finished work of art. Much like a sculptor, the author needs to chisel away words, scenes, entire chapters. In the same way a painter does, an author needs to color the prose with conflict, emotion, and vibrant pictures. These are aided by voice, by grammar, by the proper (and sometimes improper) placement of punctuation, and by style.
I’m afraid that in today’s world of publishing (in both traditional and indie), crap instead of craft is the key word. Individuals who long to be authors aren’t satisfied with rejection, even when the rejections are specific enough to help a writer begin to craft a story into a masterpiece. They do not want to take the time it takes to learn how to craft a story. They lean upon the “subjective” nature of the work. “Well, not everyone is going to like it.”
Couple the authors inattention to craft with editors (both in-house and freelance) who haven’t studied the craft of storytelling, the art of punctuation, and the refinement of grammar, and the industry has a very big problem. Horrible novels are flooding the marketplace, tainting the industry—especially the Christian publishing industry, which has had to fight this stigma from the beginning.
The beginning of the solution lies in self-editing. To do so, though, an author must learn the craft of storytelling, the art of punctuation, the refinement of grammar and using it to tell the best story ever. He or she must also learn to discern good advice from bad, to lay aside his or her bias toward a manuscript and begin to realize whose subjectivity is the best to lean upon.