I was perusing the internet looking at various writer’s websites the other day, as I usually do. It’s a weird hobby I know, but I find that looking at how other people write helps get me into the writing mindset. Lo and behold, I stumble upon the site of a novice writer like my bad self. Curious as to what she thinks of the craft, I take my time going through her articles. A lot of it is the kind of stuff I write here, but some of it seemed like she pulled it out of her butt. That’s fine. I feel like writing is one of those things that’s unique to each person. We all pull it out of our butt’s so to speak. One thing she wrote struck me though, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. She said, “You always need to go that extra mile, and make sure there are no spelling mistakes in your novel.”
Stop the presses, folks. Go the extra mile? Is the definition of go the extra mile really spellcheck? Let me be as clear as I can on this: That isn’t going the extra mile, that’s the bare minimum. In fact, I would argue that there is no extra mile in writing. The extra mile is the minimum safe distance we have to go as writers to avoid the fallout of writing something terrible. That radioactive cloud of negative review fuckery doesn’t give us a distance to run, it just makes us run. If you want to look back over your shoulder and say, “Hey, I can probably slow down now. I’ve done what (I think) was expected of me,” then be my guest. I’m running until my book is the best I can possibly make it.
Think I’m crazy? What’s the extra mile then? Having a good plot? You should have that anyway. Telling an interesting story? You should be doing that anyway. Making sure everything you do is free of grammar mistakes? Nope, try again. Getting rid of all those nasty misspelled words? Come on, dude. Seriously? You can’t even pass high school English class with misspelled words. Raise your standards. None of the listed things are you going the extra mile. Extra mile in the writing world is making sure everyone who buys your book gets a 10% of coupon for Sizzler, not anything to do with the work itself. After all, if we want to be taken seriously as the dreaded and unclean INDIE AUTHOR, then we need to do all the things that would be expected of us if we were going through the slush pile at some overworked acquisitions editor’s office.
This is another one of those times when I feel like I’m being harsh, but that’s only because the truth is harsh. If you don’t do all the things you’re supposed to do to your utmost ability, then you’re one of the folks giving the entire indie author thingy a bad name. Now, that’s not to say the lady who wrote that piece of advice isn’t excellent, (She could be Edgar Allen Poe in a wig for all I know) but she should be very careful about what she labels the extra mile. I want to see people succeed. I want to see the book world opened up to the masses. At the same time, I don’t want to see standards drop. If you aren’t part of the solution in this case, you’re part of the problem.
(For the record, yes, I spellchecked this article. Extra mile?)