Last week, the writing world was abuzz with the news that 20-something student Anna Todd sold her Wattpad One Direction erotic fan-fiction tome called AFTER, for a hefty mid six-figure sum to Simon & Schuster. There was plenty to be said by many people trying to break into the world of published authors, and most of it wasn’t good. But is that really fair? I’m not so sure.
IF YOU WRITE IT
First, while some are complaining about the poor quality of the story/writing/characters…the simple fact is that SHE WROTE A BOOK. That’s more than a lot of people can say. She didn’t just dash it off in an evening, and while she might not be the master of her craft yet, she thought this thing up and carried it out. Kudos to Todd for doing that. I don’t think anyone who has never written an entire book can say anything negative in this regard. If it’s so easy, then do it. (If you’ve already written a book or books, I realize this point doesn’t apply in the same way.) Let’s just move on to point #2.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
1D fans are something else. We have a summer student at the library who would probably throw herself in front of a speeding car if one of these mop-headed boys were to ask her to do so. And she’d dress up to do it! Not only did Ms. Todd understand what she was writing about (she’s obviously a fan…hence the term ‘fan-fiction’), she knew who she was writing for. These young readers clamour for anything they can find online, in mags, on TV and in person, about One Direction, so fan fiction seems like a natural extension of this obsession. Of course they’d want to read it. And the demographic is perfect for those looking for something with a little more fire. They’re exploring, so why wouldn’t they want to explore a story—even an erotic one—about one of their favourite people? Todd got that, and so she wrote about it.
CRAFT CAN BE LEARNED
In the days that followed the big news, it’s been said that Todd’s book will be edited down because of the length. I’m assuming an excellent editor will be employed. (This is costing Simon & Schuster a great deal of money. They’re not going to dig around the bottom of the barrel for this.) The editor will no doubt whip the book into shape. That’s why there are editors, correct? Poor character choices, bad writing and much more can be saved if the overall story is there. And after listening to quite a few of my about-to-be-published friends, this won’t just be a quick skim over the pages. There will be lots of work done. Will it be WAR & PEACE when it’s finished? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be greatly improved. And after all, aren’t most readers looking for a great story that can drag them in and keep them turning the pages? Yes.
IT WILL ALWAYS BE 1D
And the big question, of course, was about the fact that AFTER was essentially about a real person. While Harry Styles might have been somewhat flattered, I’m not so sure it would be good for his overall image, or for that of the band, to have a book like this hit the shelves with him as the central character. So, all of the names will be changed. Will everyone still know who it is about? Of course! And isn’t that what many tell-all scandalous biographies and memoirs have struggled with throughout history? Yes. But that’s what makes it fun.
THIS IS FUN
As someone who hopes to have a book(s) published one day, I don’t take anything in the writing world lightly. It is a difficult and serious process, one which requires dedication, sacrifice, education, sweat, and many, many tears. It’s the “overnight sensation” stories like this that are really difficult for most of us. When we have been slaving hours each day to write the best possible work we can, to learn and improve, and to try to reach our readers at the same time, a quick and dirty success story is disheartening. But we write because we love it, and we believe we have stories to share with the world. Isn’t that exactly what Anna Todd did? So, good for her for achieving some success, for finding her audience, for allowing the book to go further than her own pages, and for making us talk about her. And she probably had fun doing it. Maybe we could all learn something from this.
How do you feel about the sale of this book? Let me know….