Everybody knows the story of the tortoise and the hare. Rabbit challenged Tortoise to a race and Tortoise accepted. Everyone KNEW that Rabbit would win. Everyone except for Tortoise. Rabbit thought speed without skill was all that was needed to achieve his goal of winning the race. Tortoise knew that taking the time to do things right was the only way to achieve true success.
Writing for today's readers is much like that race between Tortoise and Hare. We once had only one path to race toward publication. The steps used to be so simple...write a good story, submit it to a publishing house, and cross your fingers while you wait with high hopes for that acceptance letter. Today the bar is set both higher and lower for writers and the outcome depends on whether you are a Tortoise or a Hare.
Hare writers think that the only ones reading their stories are other Hares. Hare writers think the only requirement to being a "writer" is to know how to string sentences together and slap it on the internet for the other Hares to read. They don't really worry about plot or theme or characterization or even spelling or grammar. The self-publishing market has exploded in recent years as Hares race to use e-books, print on demand books, and on-line bookstores to promote their substandard efforts. The only thing a Hare writer is interested in is being able to shout to the world, "I'm a published Hare author!"
Tortoise writers are different. Tortoise writers know that their Tortoise readers will be as different as the books themselves. But those readers will still expect strong story lines with all the elements that one would find in a well written work of art. Tortoise writers will spend time learning the craft of fine writing. They will take the time to hang out with other Tortoise writers and learn from their Tortoise writing ancestors. Tortoise writers will patiently stay the course and persevere until they have reached the finish line. At the end Tortoise writers will be proud of what they have written and guess what? So will their Tortoise readers.
When you sit at your desk today, think about what kind of writer you really want to be. Are you in this race for the quick glory, the instant gratification of the "published e-book author" label? Or are you in this race for the long haul, where the finish line comes with a price worth paying?
For myself, I will run like my friend the Tortoise. I may gather round me all the tools of the trade to ensure that I create the best stories I am capable of, I will ask for the help of critique groups to help polish those words, and I will seek the advice of experts in the publishing industry to help keep me in the race.
You see, books are too important in the whole scheme of things to rush to publication. E-books can't replace the touch and smell of a beloved book. Within the well worn edges of a good book there lives knowledge, adventure, and the door to other worlds. We as writers carry the responsibility to give our best efforts to our reader...not just our fastest.