I’ve been working up to writing a novel. I’ve published a fair amount of journalism and feature writing over the years, and I cherish the notion (right or wrong) that I’m a pretty good writer.
I’ve always secretly believed that if I worked diligently enough at the plotting (which I consider more craft than art), and if my literary style is as good as I believe it to be (stop snickering!), my novel would be publishable. Not huge, maybe, but sellable in at least the low-to-mid four figures.
This belief is partly based on the idea that it’s fairly difficult to write a novel-length work that’s worth reading. I know that lots of people crank out novels that don’t get published, but I sort of assumed that most of those novels are pretty wretched.
But now I’m not so sure. I took a look at some— um— coughHarryPotterFanFictioncough, just for, y’know, research purposes, and so far I’ve found two that are, frankly, fine. If some practical joker had typeset and bound the one I’m currently, er, researching, I might well have believed it was the real Book 7.
This has somewhat shaken my belief that novel-writing is hard. If an amateur fanfic writer—someone who hasn’t even bothered to turn pro— can whip up something that’s perfectly decent, then presumably the ability to do so isn’t that rare. What if being a novelist is like being Britney Spears: pretty much any a-hole can do it; it’s just a matter of who gets lucky?
If so, I should probably just throw in the towel now, as I’m not known for attracting the benevolent smile of Fortune. But the truth is, I can’t tell. So I’m asking: does the existence of good fanfiction prove that novel-writing is a piece of cake?