Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Bitter Truth

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 16•12

Bitter Truth: the publishing world is not a fair playing field.
At some point in childhood most kids learn that life is often not fair. No matter how that realization comes about, when that lesson is learned, it’s rarely learned through observation, but rather experience. Perhaps you were a major acting talent in 10th grade, but a prettier girl was chosen for the lead in My Fair Lady; or your throwing arm wasn’t deemed good enough to make the team although the coach’s kid did and he had an arm like limp spaghetti. Or maybe a terrible injustice happened and someone you loved died much too young.

Unfairness and injustice has always chafed me and then I became a professional writer. And I learned that fairness and success don’t always coexist. Which brings us to The 50 Shades of Grey phenomena. By now you’ve heard the clamor about this runaway success sexcapade. Last I heard it was selling 25 percent of all book sales. No matter that the storyline is littered with worn out tropes: Beautiful young virgin (apparently there are a few left in America) thaws the heart of cold, powerful, older man. Make that a billionaire older man. No matter that her main characters are named Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. No matter that the protagonist is undeveloped, the message to women is creepy, and sentence per sentence the writing is just plain crappy and drowning in purple prose.

While there is nothing wrong with escapist fiction, as readers we deserve better.

So along with the fact that your parents always loved your older brother more than you, you need to accept that weakly-plotted, shabbily-edited, poorly-written dregs get published every day. Sometimes these dregs make a whole lot of money. Some writers have more luck than talent, more chutzpah than skills. None of this is fair. And now that the gatekeepers of the publishing industry are no long in charge, this happens way more often than it should. My friends, get used it and keep writing. And remember Tom Clancy’s words “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

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  1. Dot says:

    Thank you.

    Yes. I was going to say more, but no need; you said it so well.

  2. Mark Boss says:

    Thanks for serving up a tablespoon of vinegar. Sometimes I need a reminder like this. The best thing is to acknowledge the unfairness of life or simple bad luck (or be honest with yourself about your work), then let it go and move on. There’s always a new story to write.

    You only stop being a writer if you quit writing.

  3. Olivia Ashe says:

    I saw this book on sale the other day in Kmart for $10. It was in piles and I don’t know why but It made me feel bad. I was wishing my book was there instead. But this post had made me feel better, thanks.

    Why is it always a virgin who meets an older billionaire? Aren’t there any poor old men?

    This book sounds like crappy Mills and Boon that I read many of when I was younger. They always had passive virgins who blossom into life and fall in love with the first men to give them a so-so orgasm.

    The worst one I read was about a virgin who was a model. She was raped by a man who hated models because his mum was one and cheated on his dad and I think the dad killed himself. The worst part was, that after he raped her, she tried feebly to escape, but he held the door closed, so she was trapped. He filled the spa and said sorry and she fell in love with him.

    • jessicap says:

      Actually a good practice for unpublished writers is this: every time you go to a bookstore, walk over to the section that houses the kinds of books you’re writing. Go to the space where your name would be on the shelf. Now vividly imagine your book on shelf. Hold onto the image. And then get back to writing.

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