Some years ago a friend of mine, a multi-millionaire businessman (yeah, I know lots of them!) phoned me and asked for a favour. He'd written his autobiography and he wanted me to have a look at it.
I wondered at this, and asked him exactly what he wanted me to do. Did he want me to rewrite it? Did he want me to sub-edit it? Did he want me to add a few gags?
Nope, he just wanted me to read it and tell him what I thought, and that's a process I hate, because there's nothing a writer hates to hear more but that his work isn't up to scratch. But the rules he was imposing were that I could highlight any blatant grammatical or spelling errors and make suggestions as to how the piece could be improved, but that was all. And as he was paying the piper I had to play his tune.
And found that he had written a good, interesting read. Sure, there were some minor flaws, but nothing that the editors at his publishers wouldn't have picked up, so why did he need me?
Simple, and it came to me when I recalled my own start as a writer. He had no confidence as a writer. All that money, successful businesses, fancy house, flash cars, and he was scared that someone would mock him for bad writing. Imagine how bad it is then for the newbie writer when he sets out on his career. Success breeds confidence, but the newbie has no success to rely on, he's only just written his first words. And when he submits it anywhere there's a 99.9% chance that he'll get a rejection slip. Which he needs like a hole in the head, and puts his confidence quotient into the red. How about some constructive advice, guys?
It's a catch-22 situation with publishers saying it's not their business to teach writers how to write. But neither is it their business to cut the legs away from a goose which may one day lay a golden egg for them. Sure, some publishers will at least give some encouragement and urge the newbie not to quit, but just as many will trot out a hackneyed line about their lists being full and the state of the market. Would it take too much for publishers to set up some sort of training program for writers they think have genuine talent but just don't have the writing experience that builds their confidence? Couldn't they tie them to a contract that gets first dibs on anything the writer produces if they train him?
No doubt the sums don't add up, because in the end it's always about money. But the truth is the writer is never going to perform at his best until he gets confidence in himself and his material. I wish I could put it in a box to give you.