I’m just going to come out and say it: writing a novel is hard work. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t seen the sixth episode of the twenty-third season of The Simpsons. Originally aired on November 20, 2011, “The Book Job” satirizes the publishing industry and reveals how dirty it really is. Even though the episode is over 3 years old, it is still my favorite to date. It’s the first time I saw an honest–albeit satirized–depiction of how the publishing industry really works and realized how challenging writing for a living could be.
In this episode, Lisa discovers one of her favorite authors, T. R. Francis (cough, J. K. Rowling) is just an actress the book publishing company used for the jacket photo and that all popular YA novels are conceived by book publishing executives to make money. She doesn’t believe writing should be about money and decides to write her own novel, one readers can relate to. However, she is constantly distracted and fails to write even on sentence.
Meanwhile, Homer decides to get rich by writing a fantasy novel of his own. He recruits a team consisting of Bart, Principal Skinner, Moe Szyssalk, Patty Bouvier, Professor Fink, and author Neil Gaiman, all of whom bring their own unique experiences and talents to the project. For example, Patty is a fantasy fiction fan who can also speak different fictional languages and Moe has already published some children’s books.
After a short montage, the novel is complete, and they sell it to a book publishing executive for one million dollars. Later, they discover that the executive has replaced their main characters with vampires because vampires are more popular. The team breaks into the publishing headquarters to replace the new novel with their old version before it can be printed. Things get a little crazy from there.
Here’s what I took away from this episode:
- Writing a novel is hard work!
- Most writers are not committed enough to succeed at writing.
- Group-writing is a great idea!
- Traditional publishing is corrupt:(
- It takes more than good intentions to write a novel.
- Writing’s not about making money; it’s about the creative process.
- Self-publishing might be the way to go;)
- Neil Gaiman is a sneaky con-artist.
Okay, nix the last one, but the other points are valid. Writing is hard work and can be made easier with the contributions of other talented people. It doesn’t have to be a frustrating and lonely process. Also, saying you’re a writer, doesn’t make you a writer. Isn’t that right, Lisa Simpson?
I am embarrassed to say, when that episode first came out, I was just like Lisa Simpson, wanting to write a novel, trying to write a novel, and failing miserably at it. I even took my laptop to a coffee shop in the pathetic hope that feeling like a “real” writer would make me one. Of course it didn’t work. The only way to become a “real” writer is to write something and share it with the world. That I know now.
If you haven’t seen the episode, check it out. It’s an eye-opener. If nothing else, it’s worth a laugh.