Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday 20

Does success spoil the average novelist? Are most of us equipped to become Dan Browns, J.K. Rowlings, or John Grishams? What happens when by fate or luck or sheer talent, you leave 99% of your colleagues behind and zoom up there into the upper stratosphere of publishing? Do you become instantly friendless? Does trust become something you hoard or eliminate? Can you believe anything your agent, editor or publisher say to you?

I don't know the answers, but I'll be happy to serve as a test lab rat*.

Actually I'm wary of too much success. I haven't the wardrobe or temperment for it. I don't much like what it does to some people in the cranium and posterior departments. What goes up? Must come down. I've also observed the overnight success types becoming instant whipping posts for anyone with an envy grudge. The money is nice, but the cost to your soul may be a little hard to handle.

Now that you're properly depressed, any questions for me this week?

*My answer is yes, btw, to anyone who wants to offer me a couple of million for my next book. I'm crabby, cautious and suspicious, but I'm not stupid. And think of all the book touring money you'd save on me...

37 comments:

  1. So, what are you up to this weekend? Hope you have a good one! :)

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  2. Wherever I go, Ego . . .

    What I'm saying is, if you already have it in you to be a giant "donkey", then huge success and sycophants will likely bring out the worst in you.

    But if deep down you are not this way, I think it would be hard-er to turn into a large "donkey" even after huge novel successes.

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  3. Like you, I'd be happy to be a test subject for that experiment... I agree with Paul, that people who are ruined by money probably weren't great human beings to begin with. I think the worst part of money (or fame) may be that complete strangers suddenly want to be your best friend, and everyone acts like you must be a genius (instead of just lucky). If you believe that you actually are as wonderful as all that, you're in trouble.

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  4. I'd like to hear your thoughts on flashbacks. I'm using a couple in the story I'm working on. For me a brief flashback shows what happened and is a better approach than one person saying to the other, "As you know, Mary, before my surgery I was a Vegas stripper named Trixie La Mer," and then going into a boring speech.

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  5. scaredycat9:22 AM

    The last thing in the world I want is fame. I value my privacy and life stability way too much. In fact I wonder how I can ever be a successful author when I'm scared to put my real name as my byline. I would never want to tour.

    So my question is: was "putting yourself out there" something you were afraid of at one point? Or was it something you were okay with? If it WAS something that scared you, how did you deal with that fear?

    Thanks for whatever thoughts you're willing to share, and for running this wonderful blog. =)

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  6. Nalini wrote: So, what are you up to this weekend?

    My daughter and I are going to attempt to make another baked Alaska (the last time we tried, the recipe mysteriously produced what I can only call baked Alaska soup.) Tonight we're having a pizza party/movie night/sleepover for five teenagers (all boys, please pray for me) then tomorrow I'm off to see Mr. Gimme Ten More Repetitions, my sadistic physical therapist. I'm working hard on getting my foot into shape because he's the first person I'm going to kick when it's all better.

    What's on your schedule for the weekend?

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  7. Paul wrote: But if deep down you are not this way, I think it would be hard-er to turn into a large "donkey" even after huge novel successes.

    If success magnifies our basic character, then it's virtually predetermined how it will affect us. No redemption, no corruption....hmmmm.

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  8. I had a thought on this, but Paul Darcy beat me to it. What he said. :)

    Have a great weekend, PBW!

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  9. Katherine wrote: I think the worst part of money (or fame) may be that complete strangers suddenly want to be your best friend, and everyone acts like you must be a genius (instead of just lucky).

    Agreed. Success provides no sincerity meter, and a lot of people are damn fine actors. Maybe Dan Brown is right in being, as he is so often referred to in the media. "reclusive."

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  10. What about wardrobe?
    I take it my track suit is not de rigeur?

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  11. "I'm off to see Mr. Gimme Ten More Repetitions, my sadistic physical therapist. I'm working hard on getting my foot into shape because he's the first person I'm going to kick when it's all better."

    You know, we learn sadism 101 as part of the Physical Therapy curriculum. :) Right up there with anatomy and physiology. Some of us even go on to advanced coursework. LOL.

    Good luck with your rehab.

    best,
    lisa

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  12. I didn't even think about your Friday 20 until I got here or I probably wouldn't have posted the question I did on my blog. But here it is in a nutshell: do you still have a hard time writing opposite gender POV or are you used to it by now? (Obviously this question is answerable by more than PBW.)

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  13. Darlene wrote: I'd like to hear your thoughts on flashbacks.

    If they serve the story, aren't boring and don't take forever, I'll use them.

    I'm using a couple in the story I'm working on. For me a brief flashback shows what happened and is a better approach than one person saying to the other, "As you know, Mary, before my surgery I was a Vegas stripper named Trixie La Mer," and then going into a boring speech.

    Lol, yep, that definitely works.

    A few of my thoughts: If you're going to have a flashback, make it a memorable event. Trixie adjusting the ride of her g-string while talking to her reflection about the various moral dilemmas of her new employment is just as bad as an As-You-Know-Mary in the present. Trixie doing her first lap dance for a hairy dentist from Albany named Bear who shows his appreciation with more than money, then has a massive MI and dies in his chair, on the other hand, would be memorable.

    When you're in the flashingback character's heads, remember that our emotions change over time. When I went on my first date, I was excited, terrified, and sweating. When I remember my first date now, thirty-odd years later, I feel amused compassion for that nervous kid.

    Watch your balance between the two time periods. If you can't make the flashback read as interesting as the present, it's probably too long or too detailed; try to narrow your focus and cut to the chase. If the flashback is more interesting than the story, look at what elements you're investing in the past that you haven't in the present, and even it out.

    Unless you have a character who has ruthlessly cut every bit of their past from their lives, the past sticks with us in small ways. I had a job for 6 months when I was 15 selling photo packages on the phone for a national photography studio. To this day, I will not hang up on telemarketers because I know how crappy the job is. I listen to their pitches and even joke around with them (which everyone thinks is nuts.)

    Or, to use Trixie again, how has her stripper past evolved into her soccer mom with three kids and a minivan present? Does she do her housework in a thong and nothing else, or maybe puts on a little dance for the hubby once the kids are in bed?

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  14. PBW, I remember reading that you save each day's writing in a different file? Why is that?

    I've toyed with doing that a few times, in the hope that it'd stop me from editing a first draft.

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  15. scaredycat wrote: So my question is: was "putting yourself out there" something you were afraid of at one point? Or was it something you were okay with? If it WAS something that scared you, how did you deal with that fear?

    I dislike the public side of being an author, probably because I'm better as a writer in print than I am in person, so I did the bare minimum I had to during my first years as a pro and then quit altogether. I've been much happier and felt a lot safer since then.

    About the worst for me was facing the prospect of public speaking, as I'd never done it and feared I would suck greatly. I started going to the local Barnes & Noble on open mike poetry night and made myself get up and read some sonnets. It was like being burned in the Lake of Eternal Fire, and I think my face turned as red as if I were. But after three or four times of doing that, I stopped feeling like I was going to puke or pass out, and was able to make eye contact and speak in more than a squeak.

    Another thing I did when I had been talked into giving national conference workshop was trying a test run on the local chapter first. It's much better to give a two-hour long seminar to forty people and ask them how you can improve it before you have to do it for three hundred in a big hotel with lousy chicken.

    You should feel comfortable in everything you do. If safeguarding yourself behind a pseudonym and foregoing the public appearances is the best thing for you, then do that.

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  16. The most important thing I know about being a public figure (journalism, in my case) is that it gets easier with practice. All of it, from calling people to ask for interviews to nodding politely while listening to the same pitch for the thousandth time. So my advice would be to practice enough to get good at it, and then you can make an informed decision about whether doing the public stuff is worth the benefits or not.

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  17. Anonymous2:47 PM

    Great blog, PBW! Have you had any experiences with 'poaching' or 'headhunting', where publisher B tries to steal an author away from smaller publisher A? I've had a couple of attempts, but I've rebuffed* them since I'm on the tail-end of a three-book contract -- and it felt traitorus to even contemplate betraying my very nice publisher that way (I know, I know . . . it's business not personal). Does it mean I can set up some sort of auction for my fourth book?

    Sign me:

    Confused


    (*to the chagrin of all my unpubbed friends)

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  18. Beth wrote: Have a great weekend, PBW!

    You too, Beth.

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  19. Bernita wrote: What about wardrobe? I take it my track suit is not de rigeur?

    Nor more than my sweats and David Duchovny tees were, I'm afraid. They also make you wear tons of makeup and cocktail dresses so you can eat stale canapes at parties with no chairs where everyone mostly air kisses each other. Really horrible. :)

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  20. LJCohen wrote: You know, we learn sadism 101 as part of the Physical Therapy curriculum. :) Right up there with anatomy and physiology. Some of us even go on to advanced coursework.

    Lol. It helps to have a big baby like me as a patient, too. I believe I've inspired an entire generation of sadistic therapists.

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  21. Steven wrote: do you still have a hard time writing opposite gender POV or are you used to it by now?

    I'm not as paranoid about it as I was back when I tried it the first time, but I still tread cautiously, and when in doubt ask male friends what their reaction would be to a certain situation. Men have interesting minds, and are far more complicated than women often give them credit for, but it's always good to double-check before making assumptions. :)

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  22. Milady wrote: PBW, I remember reading that you save each day's writing in a different file? Why is that?

    It's really an old trick of mine to avoid the temptation of backtracking and rewriting. The daily saves only let me work on what I've written that day.

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  23. Katherine wrote: So my advice would be to practice enough to get good at it, and then you can make an informed decision about whether doing the public stuff is worth the benefits or not.

    Good alternative to my run-and-hide approach. :)

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  24. Thanks PBW!

    If I lose it again and chuck out this first draft (haven't finished anything yet), I'll give that another try. It's looking good though. :)

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  25. Confused wrote: Have you had any experiences with 'poaching' or 'headhunting', where publisher B tries to steal an author away from smaller publisher A?

    For the sake of discretion, let's say I've been romanced a few times by various entities. :)

    Does it mean I can set up some sort of auction for my fourth book?

    I can't say, and rather than give you bad advice on a future career move as important as this one, I'd recommend you talk to your agent about it. If you don't have an agent, you might consider getting one, because this is another way they earn their 15% -- helping you make decisions like this.

    I don't know that authors can set up auctions (if someone knows better, please feel free to correct me) but you can shop your book around to several publishers and take the best offer.

    On shopping around: It's sometimes written into your contract that your present publisher gets first refusal on your new work, so do check that out. If it isn't in your contract, it's still professional courtesy to let them see it before anyone else does.

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  26. Confused, I should have added on the last two paragraphs of my reply to you that shopping it around yourself is an option when you don't want to get an agent involved.

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  27. Anonymous3:49 PM

    Thanks, PBW! This whole situation really chaps my a** because those publishers who have been trying to woo me rejected the manuscript when it was on their desks. It's only after my medium-sized, newish publisher spent a bucket of cash on marketing did they take notice.

    (a little less) Confused

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  28. I sort of have a question at my blog. It's the typical "where is it okay to blow one's horn about a book contract" sort of question.

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  29. Kate R.: My feeling is, if the advance wasn't big enough to hire a publicist, no one cares. If the advance was big enough, hire one and let them answer that question.

    Certainly there's nothing wrong with letting your friends know that the book sold, thanks for all the support, etc. etc. But beyond that, it's like bragging about money in any other context: boring and tasteless.

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  30. Good answer Katherine, but for someone with a big contract it's not about the money entirely . . .it's more "YIPEE I [not me, unfortunately] have work for a couple of years! I get to write this book, and then this one and this one."

    Although if money = status and that's what's annoying about the subject, then a book contract is probably in the same category

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  31. Kate wrote: It's the typical "where is it okay to blow one's horn about a book contract" sort of question.

    Here! Congratulations. :)

    Depending on how much you want to blow that horn, you can put up notices on your blog or website, or at other places online where you have friends and/or readers who would like to hear the news, and send it along to any writer organization to which you belong that puts out sale notices for its members in monthly newsletters or whatever and so forth. Doing an article about it in your own newsletter, if you have one going, would be ideal. You might mention it in an interview or discussion about sales, contracts, or what's hot right now, but it's probably best to keep it low-key. As Katherine pointed out, any widespread tooting will be viewed as bad ton.

    The people and places that will be most receptive are likely romance writer friends or romance-friendly sites. We kind of a sisterhood-in-the-trenches thing that non-romance writers don't enjoy, and we know the amount of competition you just beat out.

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  32. There should be a have between "We" and "kind" in that last sentence. Sigh.

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  33. No, not me. I wish.

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  34. I think there's such a huge difference between fame and success. Fame is fleeting like beauty. I believe you can have success and still manage to keep fame at a minimum.

    That said, there is nothing more annoying than someone who has had a morsel of success, and then suddenly believes they're famous.

    Have a Happy Easter. :)

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  35. Sorry I messed up that response with my erroneous assumption, Kate. When you do land the next contract, though, I expect to hear about it.

    Jordan wrote: I believe you can have success and still manage to keep fame at a minimum.

    Now there's a philosophy I can go bowling with. :)

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  36. I keep my pseudonym up front at all times; not even my e-mail is in my real name; I find it easier to deal with people in that personality than me - that way, I can take the heat, the criticism and the 'oh, wow, that was great'.

    As for public speaking, sigh, I'll have to disagree with Katherine. I did journalism to get over the abject fear of speaking in public - the nausea, the sweaty palms, burning ears and face, dry throat. Unfortunately, others believe I'm a natural at it. I really, really wish I wasn't. Nothing worked to ease the symptoms until I thought of myself as a different person, hence the pseudonym.

    I still loathe it, but it is easier. So, when I'm rich and shameless, er... when Jaye Patrick is rich and shameless, I shall enjoy her rewards as if they were mine.

    Um... does that make me a schizophrenic or a typical Gemini?

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  37. Hope the baked Alaska came out ok and that you survived the teenage boys! I'm staying in and writing this weekend. That's the plan anyway... :)

    Good luck with the rehab.

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