Two comments are made at various times in many people’s lives. They are related to how extensive your knowledge of a subject is or a story you tell to friends or family. In the former, you’re told that “You should be a teacher” while the latter elicits the comment “You should write a book”. Both, of course, are compliments, both in terms of what you have demonstrated ability in or experience of and in the commenter’s confidence in your ability to satisfy their suggestion. Sadly, both are also treated somewhat jokingly.
This blog being what it is, let’s look at “You should write a book”.
The vast majority of people have tales to tell. It’s perfectly normal, being a reflection of a lifetime of experiences or adventures survived. In recent years, there has been something of a scramble to record the spoken stories of people who lived through major events, such as the Second World War or the Blitz. Such living history needs to be recorded. Recording the spoken word, recollections that should be treasured, and learnt from, is long overdue. Why? Quite simply, because not everybody can write down their experiences, and even if they do, there is no guarantee that their writing, however good, will ever be published. Traditional publishing houses have never been good at providing the world with these testimonies of the past. Of the thousands of potential books, only a handful will ever enter print – if we’re lucky!
It has to be said that not everybody writes to a standard that readers would accept and enjoy. It’s not lack of ability, just lack of training and/or confidence. Even so, it would take very little real effort to bring the testimonies of the past to an acceptable standard, by finding skilled writers to either knock them into shape or to help the author to do so. Ghost writing is a long established, and accepted, practice. That said, however, we must be cautious! English, alone, has many dialects, all of which are threatened by standardisation of the language in written form. The dialect, and the language peculiarities of past times, need to be preserved and recorded, just as much as the stories themselves.
There’s another group of people who are told “You should write a book”. These are people who demonstrate skill in telling stories which are pure fiction. They most often show their talent in relation to children, by telling them tales which they invent “on the spot”. They are able to create stories out of nothing, or very little, though they will often weave in the names, and perhaps the characters, of their audience, knowing that children love to be included. These folk are far more likely to have the skill, however raw and untrained, to write books, as they are true inventors, creators. Unfortunately, too few of these tales ever go beyond the moment. In most cases, that’s because of the perceived obstacles to actually being published.
Self-publishing is making a difference, particularly in the arena of ebooks. “Vanity publishing” has ever been an expensive option, but the writer can now spend no more than time in producing a manuscript and then using a free publishing service like Smashwords. Of course, to be a major success, there’s a need to work hard at getting those ebooks noticed, but simply producing them and putting them out there may be enough for many, and it does mean that those tales aren’t lost.Whatever you may think of self-publishing, that must be one of the greatest benefits it brings to the world.
Next time you’re told “You should write a book”, give it some serious thought!