Lee Goldberg’s thoughts on this fictive flummery from Steve Clackson have been commented upon by a number of bloggers. David Thayer, in particular, was puzzled by why one would go to the trouble of “attacking” unpublished fiction. I have to ask why anyone would go to the trouble of publishing a fiction-in-progress and expect nothing less than hosannas. I have to ask why the prevailing attitude here is to celebrate Clackson’s inadequate draft (“In a surprisingly strong voice he began” is the clause of an amateur) and not give him the hard and brash criticism he might need to become a better writer. Any real writer knows that there’s more to be learned from an honest response rather than some vapid confirmation of his “talents.”
One of the problems with the Web is that anyone can publish. And indeed, so many people do. But why should literary standards be surrendered in the process? Goldberg, a professional writer with several credits, had the courtesy to inform Clackson that his book needed lots of work before being sent to a publisher and advised him to take his chapters down.
I’ve had fiction I’ve written (clearly not ready for prime time) raked over the coals, but the value I have imparted from these lessons has been astronomical. One would think that with the Web’s interconnected possibilities, such hard lessons would allow the next generation of fiction writers to understand just how valuable exceptionally hard yet enthusiastic reader reactiosn are. To insist that there is a shortcut or that there is some easy path from writing to publishing to reception is the height of hubris. It is to subscribe to an abject American Idol-style mentality where “everyone’s a winner.” I suggest to Clackson and his tetchy horde of cheerleaders that a little humility goes a long way.