The company had posted the article on its website, a violation of copyright, and taken my name off the story. I’d prefer if they just posted a link to the original article, I said. Sure, the manager agreed. No problem. And by the way – the company sometimes needed a writer. Would I be interested?
And I suppose I am. But that’s not the service that I’m selling to my clients. A few years back, I judged one of CBC’s Canada Writes short story contests. I read hundreds of entries created by amateur writers, and time after time I was blown away by how good the contributions were.
The experience deflated my ego. A distinct voice, a fresh turn of phrase, a well-told anecdote – sure, I manage each one pretty well, but it turns out plenty of people have those abilities.
Aside from therapists, whose job mine sometimes resembles, ghostwriters hear the stories that no one else gets to hear.
The lion is a gentle but imposing figure, towering over the humans in the story. He provides companionship to the young girl as she walks home from school, strutting down the street while other people stare at the giant creature with looks of comical terror on their faces. The details in the picture tell a more troubling tale.
The young girl is walking through violent neighbourhoods, picking up her infant brother from daycare and cooking dinner while waiting for their mother to come home late from working at a factory. The lion is more than her security blanket – he is her key to functioning, surviving and thriving in a world where the circumstances are stacked against her and her family.
It produces graphs and charts for you to show how you have been meeting your daily word-count goals. Menmuir shared with the Guardian his peaks and troughs, why he faced procrastination and self-doubt in certain periods, and how he overcame them (long walks on the cliff).
If you work full-time and have small children, no app in the world is going to provide those hours for you. A far more useful app for writers might be a babysitting exchange. Or a program that applies for grants.
For let’s be honest: Anyone with this amount of free time likely is in a place of financial security. If you are in this place, an app might be great. But this is like recommending a stereo for your Porsche. It’s gravy.
Coming up with the story is not some kind of preliminary step, like priming your canvas: It is the crux. Writers will agonize for weeks and months and even years about what exactly happens in their story, filling notebooks with questions to themselves
(“How does Z get the invisible letter back to D without exposing her robotic arm, and how does D read it if he died in the previous chapter?”). This is before they even start writing the chapters. Apps don’t invent characters for you, nor do they imagine their secrets.
You can write for nine hours a day three days straight and then do something else for a month. Your editor, and your public, only care what comes out at the end. It’s not prayer; it’s not therapy; it’s not a spiritual journey. The only thing that matters is the collection of pages you submit for your deadline.
Possibly because, as the philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Pascal thought that was tough in 1669, and he didn’t have electric light, let alone Pornhub. Now concentration – a facility destroyed by computers – requires a computer program. Many of these helpful programs tell you to turn off all the things that computers do so well.
It takes about a half-hour and a few dozen keystrokes to sign a contract with Amazon and post your novel as an e-book; you can start selling e-copies that same day. And this is a great thing. Why should we not all be novelists? This would be a sign of a civilized and peaceful society.
Ask literary editors if they have too much to choose from these days and they will say nope, there is still not enough. They will say they would publish more books if they could find more excellent manuscripts.