The Life of a Published Author - The Truth no One Tells

There’s so much more to becoming a great writer than just getting published, but for most people, that is their end goal. There is a truth about what it’s like as a published author that I’ve learned over the last few years. L.E. Modesitt Jr said it more eloquently then I ever could:

“No author, not even in a book the length of War and Peace, can describe and cover all the aspects of a society and the people with which he or she populates that culture.  What authors do is provide bits and pieces in a way that the author believes will evoke a fuller picture of that society and those characters in the reader’s mind.  The inherent problem with this very necessary technique is that it can fail if a reader’s mindset, background, or knowledge base is such that the reader cannot evoke the feeling of that society… and the reader immediately says that the society and the characters are “cardboard.”  In addition, the more subtle the nuances in a society or character, the more detail from the author and the more understanding on the part of the reader that is required. Needless to say, sometimes this is the fault of the author for not providing enough detail…”

Take Eragon, for instance. Most fantasy readers know the books. Many people have seen the movie made from them. But here is what a couple of reader said about this book: (Not that I in any way agree or disagree with them…)

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“Ah, Eragon. The book I love to make fun of. After reading this book and dismissing it as a terribly written, if amusing, book, you can understand my puzzlement at the number of devoted fans there are. And now with the next book coming out, I fear that more people will fall into the same trap of  “Ooh, shiny dragon cover!” After that, they have no chance.

So, you might ask, what’s so bad about Eragon? And why am I being so hard on the author, when he was only fifteen? Doesn’t he deserve a little credit?

Paolini does deserve credit, but not for what most people give him. He has clearly read an impressive number of classic fantasy novels. What is not so impressive is how he blatantly rips off every one of them….”

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Just to show that one review wasn’t a fluke, here’s another:

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“I was given this book as a Christmas present and decided to read it. I’m 41, by the way, and have read a few books and written a few stories in my day. I see this book has received over a thousand reviews so I’ll keep mine short.

Good points:

The writing is technically sound for the most part (by that I mean at least grammatically correct) and  the writer followed the classic pattern of the “epic” (hero travels around discovering secrets of  him/her self and growing in power reaching a climax of killing the evil one).

Bad points:

The plot is completely cliche and "safe", woven from the fabric of all the stories the author had loved (Star Wars, Dragon Riders of Pern, Lord of the Rings, and perhaps even The Song of Albion and others) prior to writing his story. He even names the evil empire, "the Empire"! Tip of the hat or uninspired plagiarism?
(This review goes on and on at great lenght, point out the flaws in Eragon.)
Christoper Paolini has around 1,500 four and five star reviews and nearly 700 one and two star reviews. This means close to 50% of fantasy readers didn’t fully get the picture Paolini was painting. How about you? Have you read the series?

Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t all bad. As an author, you will get those glowing reviews that bring tears to your eyes. Here’s one of mine, which literally made me misty-eyed:

 "I recieved this from a firstreads giveaway. I have to admit when I first read the background for this book, I thought it could be cheesey luckily, I was wrong. The basis is the main character and some friends are on earth playing a game, then they are transported to a world where they have become the characters they were pretending to be. The are endowed with all the power their players possesed as well as their physical looks. I was pleasantly surprised to find the story engaging and active. It was amazing how well the author translates ideas behind actions and makes the scenes come alive. This book is creative and adventurous. You don't feel a lull in the story when action is less prevelent, instead the author draws you in with the personal experiences the characters face, and how it affects them. It has everythig from romance to war to pain and suffering, this book has everything you could really want from a great book. I suggest you stop reading this and go read it" 
~ Angela Sharp, Goodreads

In my humble opinion, if an author can get 70% of their readers submerged into the world they create they have successfully succeeded in conveying your story. In the meantime, toughen up your skin and have a rag handy if you want to be published: Even if you win a Pulitzer for your work, there will always be a few tomatoes thrown with the roses.

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