Happy Wednesday, dear readers.
I recently finished reading a book by one of my favorite authors. This author’s books are tagged with the unfortunate characterization of “chick lit,” even though they are smart, funny women’s fiction. The characters in her books have more to worry about than buying another pair of shoes, or whether or not that cute guy will call. This writer reliably churns out a great read–so much so that I trust her enough to buy her books in hardcover as soon as they’re released.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when her latest release fell flat. The story was told from the point of view of three women, and I didn’t care about a single one. All of the characters were unlikeable in their own way, and the story itself was predictable, uninspiring, and trite. (When the ditsy sister dumps the adorable guy who’s inexplicably madly in love with her, do you think he’ll show up and offer her a happy-ever-after at the end of Act III? Duh.)
It was paint-by-numbers writing that completely failed to engage. I was shocked that this writer had produced a book of such low caliber, and my initial thought was that her publisher had “encouraged” her to write a novel before she was ready. Then I read the Author’s Notes. Uh-oh. That explains it.This lovely novel was something most writers have in their closets or under their beds. The Novel I Couldn’t Get Published.
Here’s an unfortunate scenario that happens more often than it should. You write a book. It sucks, but there’s a glimmer of promise there. So you read, you learn, you write another. (And maybe another and another.) You get published. Your book does well. So does your second. You build a readership, and eventually (maybe you’re bored or feeling uninspired that year) your mind wanders to all those unpublished books hiding at the back of your closet. “Looky here!” you tell your overjoyed publisher, who is convinced he could successfully sell your grocery list at this point. “Guess I will have a new book coming out this year after all!”
Yes, sometimes publishers are afraid to take a chance on a brilliant novel, just because it’s too edgy or too unique or too whatever. Sometimes they’ll turn their nose up at a wonderful book because they already have a writer whose subject matter is sparkly vampires. But in most cases, there’s a reason why that book wasn’t published. Like most first efforts, it simply wasn’t good enough.
As much as I blush to admit it, I used to be an avid reader of Dean Koontz’s work. (Stephen King just didn’t write fast enough to satisfy my needs.) But Koontz fell victim to the Harvesting Crap That Wasn’t Published syndrome. Since he’d already produced dozens of novels by the time I discovered his work, I found it impossible to distinguish between his legitimately published novels and those books-from-the-back-of-the-closet…until it was too late. Then I paid for my error. Oh, did I pay! Ultimately, I stopped buying any of his books.
Writers improve with practice. It may take several books before they find their voice and learn their style. Their readers love the author’s work as they have come to know it, and while they may appreciate a glimpse of the writer’s early amateur stylings, out of sheer curiosity, they will not appreciate paying over $30 for it. Especially if they had the impression that they were paying for a great new novel. Because it won’t be great. Trust me–there’s a reason why it wasn’t published. Please leave those books in the closet. Or bind them for your mom for Christmas. Or use them as door stops.Whatever you do, please don’t punish your poor fans with those early efforts!
Has this ever happened to you, dear readers? Have you stumbled upon a case of Harvesting Crap That Wasn’t Published syndrome?
Thanks for reading!