To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was an assigned book to read in high school. As much as I love books, some high school reading I didn’t like. To Kill a Mockingbird, though, is magical and it deserves to be on every reading list.
Although technically true that this is a literary novel debut and it is a classic, it is also the sole published novel by Harper Lee. I have featured this book once before on Writer Wednesday, in relation to Halloween books, and you can read that here.
Today, though, since I am discussing debuts, I want to speak about why she may not have written something else. I have heard that she wrote other work for herself but did not wish to publish it. More specifically, this quotation explains why she chose not to publish again. “Two reasons: one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.”
While it is perfectly within her right to choose this, it reminds me of what I’ve seen in several authors. There is timidity, in wanting to perfectly please the audience. I have seen authors hold back their work, rereading and reviewing it many times. While some authors spend years on a single work and there’s nothing wrong with that, novels are meant to be a snapshot in time. Sweeping sagas may discuss great periods of time, but the majority of novels are about a season of the character’s life. A well known author said that it takes him a season (in terms of sports) to write a novel. I think that perfectly illustrates this seasonal mindset. A character is presented to the reader for a season and it then makes sense that the character be derived from an author’s own season. No season of life holds the entirety of existence and so it serves the audience well for an author to have courage and publish a season, rather than holding out for years, trying to perfectly nail the book. On top of this, what was once in fashion, may seem outdated by the time the book is published. This effect will only be multiplied if the work of a season becomes the work of a decade.
I do not mean to deride any author who spends several years on a book. There are very good works out there that do such a thing. I merely mean to encourage. I taught a writing course and so I feel that is within my capacity of writing coach and teacher. Have courage to believe in your writing and then move onto the next story.
My best to you all,