My novel is going to be a best seller!

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

                                                         – John F. Kennedy

If your goal is to be the next JK Rowling… writing may not (there is a slight possibility) be right for you.

The Talent: It’s going to be a best seller

Voice of Reason: Now that I think about it, I’ve never even seen you read a book.

I’m not going to emphasize the importance or writing, I’ve done that in enough posts. Nor will I emphasize the importance of writing, because I’ve done that a few times as well, I think. You can check out my old posts in this series here if you want to.

There is something that I want to stress, and that’s the importance of money. As humans we need it, can’t live without it because it ensures life’s necessities: food, water, shelter, clothes and other great stuff. Money is important because it allows us to obtain these things, to continue doing the fun, stupid, pointless, amazing things we as writers do. All money does is mediate, acting as a means to something else. Money’s importance comes from a capitalistic interest in placing an arbitrary value on everything. There’s no reason, really, why a tomato should cost a dollar and a loaf of bread several. There’s no reason why essentials should be marketed to begin with, but that’s another post.

So what does being a millionaire, or a billionaire in Rowling’s case ensure? Even if you are a mildly successful author you’d be able to cover your necessities and guarantee that you continue doing what you love: writing.It’s easy to preach when the audience is a screen, but seriously , two for the money, ten for the art. Your skill as a writer has already been commodified, there’s no need to place added stress on yourself to be an international best seller. No disrespect to those who are of course, or those who desire success, but it shouldn’t be your sole goal.

Don’t compromise your novels, poems, paintings, films or essays solely for the fame or the money. You’ll regret it. At the end of that long, never ending day that is life, you owe authenticity not to your friends, family, job or self; you owe it to your work.

I’m going to write a novel. For the love of all that is holy, why?

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

                                                        – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A writer is a reader first

You’ve heard it before: in order to be a good writer you must be well read (we’ll discuss this lovely concept in another post). Read as much as you can and expose yourself to as many diverse authors as you can, writers learn to write from reading others who are masters of writing, and other wonderful pieces of advice that do little to ebb away our anxiety as writers.

I discussed in my I don’t need you to be my hero post that it is important to find your voice as a writer through writing. I made the argument that our influences make us who we are as writers, but we shouldn’t get lost trying to be Fitzgerald, Hemingway or their likes.

So we’ve dealt with the possible extreme of losing your voice through excessive imitation, without exploration of your own writing voice. We’ve yet to look at the debilitating effects of not reading at all. Debilitating? Yes, and I’m sure after this video you’ll be using such words to describe the side effects of not reading at all.

Anyone who wants to be an author needs to watch this video:

What are some of the things that have made you the writer you are? Is being “well read” all that important? What’s your favourite line from the video? I can’t decide, but “I’ve never even seen you read a book,” is golden.

Inverted World, Christopher Priest

  Genre: Science Fiction

 Publisher: Harper & Row

 Release Date: 28 May 1974

 Where you can find it: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters

Website: Christopher Priest

 Character: Helward Mann is part of the elite, aware of the desolation that surrounds the  mobile city, waiting to consume it if they slow down. He is part of the dominant sex, as female births continue to dwindle. Where is the city physically located? What happened to the rest of the world? These questions, and others, cloak the mysterious city and through Helward’s character and his interactions with citizens and foreigners, we learn how the city came to be. We also get the perspective of Elizabeth Khan, but I’ve said too much.

Plot: The city must move forward, winching itself along mobile tracks. Despite the efforts of the city, they continue to fall farther behind the optimum, which if continued, will result in the city being crushed by gravitational forces. For Helward and his people the drudgery and strain, and attention put into their winching pace is a necessity; stillness means death. Death creeps behind them in the distance, with every sunset gaining on them. But why must they move forward, laying and removing tracks, what was life like before the winching? For this you’ll have to pick it up.

Review: The book started off slowly, setting up the context and layering the plot. While reading it, I have to admit, I was a little annoyed by this. But after distancing myself from the novel, I can appreciate Priest’s ability to mould a text, drawing the reader in with his distorted, backward, inverted world. Many mainstream novels depend on fast paced action, quick exchanges and cliff hangers at the end of every chapter to keep the reader interested. It’s a little insulting to us as readers that some writers think we need a shiny toy dangled before our eyes constantly or else we will lose interest. Not every single word in in a novel needs to excite us. And this isn’t a reflection of the base quality of novels, but of life in general. If a page doesn’t upload in five seconds we get mad. If an email takes longer than ten seconds to send we get panicky. God forbid a YouTube video not load instantaneously.

We need to slow down. We’ve become a culture of expectation and this has lessened our ability to appreciate the details, to read slowly with attention. Inverted World slows down the pace of the reader as well as the characters. Just as we read slowly, fingers tracing smudge lines underneath every word, so do the men of the city stumble slowly on, trying to escape the “past.” The need to pace seems greater for Helward than it does for the modern reader, for Helward risks death if he doesn’t. But what do we stand to lose by our quickened, skimmed patterns of reading? What worlds are left unknown to us because of our inability to slow things down?

People may be frustrated by this work because of the undynamic main character. However, this text doesn’t rely on the drama, intrigue and conflict surrounding its main character to tell the story. The events and situations strung together bind this text, making it science-fictional as much as it is philosophical. We don’t need to feel “sympathy” for the low-trodden, beaten character in order to have a thrilling story. And even so, I still enjoyed Inverted World. It’s refreshing to read something that doesn’t rely solely on the drama between characters, tensions are produced elsewhere.

Backwords Verdict: Certified Hooker

Following this grading scale of course:

Not a Hooker (I wouldn’t recommend this, even to people I hate)

Hooker in Training (Needs a lot of work)

Graduate Hooker (Really Good, but needs to fix some things)

Certified Hooker (Very satisfying, little to no complaints)

Distinguished Hooker (Flawless, I’d comeback for other services)

Other Works: This novel drew me in, I’d consider giving it another read. I’m planning on reading The Adjacent, so look out for a possible review of that in the future.