Okay, that was one of my more fun puns to write.
A newly discovered writing friend, and it’s so nice to call her a friend, recently wrote a blog about the writer’s dilemma: the business side of writing. How to get your book published in a world where there are “. . . ever-changing literary/publishing trends.”
The way I have dealt with it is to take the Lana Turner approach: sitting at the soda fountain looking cute and waiting to be discovered.
I’m not particularly proud of this (and it hasn’t been particularly successful – but you never know) and think that I need to get over myself.
So my new goal is to start sending my work out. A couple of writing friends have suggested that we have a weekly coffee klatch so we can give reports on what we sent out that week. A kind of weight watchers weigh-in for writers if you will.
The saddest part about doing this is that getting a rejection with a handwritten note is considered a step in the right direction.
Oh, my. I think that’s how I felt in high school. I hope I have girded my ego with enough maturity to actually endure this.
In the meantime . . . one needs to keep writing. And it’s easy to wonder, “what’s the use” since the odds of getting published are so high, and even if you do the odds of your ever coming close to recouping your costs are astronomically against you. I spent two and half years on perfecting a short story that I discovered in my Iowa Summer Writing Festival class last year should probably be a novel.
The task seemed daunting, so I’ve approached it as a novel in short stories. I’m actually enjoying it. It gives me more time with the characters, which deepens my understanding of them, and forces me to become more understanding of what it means to be human.
Which leads me to a book by Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth. I’m reading it as part of my research for being the dramaturge for the play Metamorphoses. It is quite literally short (you can read it in an hour or two). I got to the last two pages and found this:
“. . . like mythology, an important novel is transformative. If we allow it to do so, it can change us forever.”
And then this:
“If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest. If professional religious leaders cannot instruct us in mythical lore, our artists and creative writers can perhaps step into this priestly role and bring fresh insight to our lost and damaged world.”
That’s why writing is worth it — worth doing it with respect for the power of language to transform. Or in the words of William Faulkner, worth “the agony and sweat.”
As for the business part of it, well, that’s not going to go away. However, the Greek word for marketplace meant a place for debating and exchanging ideas.
Perhaps it’s chutzpah on my part, but maybe there’s something we as writers can do to help transform the marketplace — the publishing world that thinks in terms of trends and demographics. I mean the one undeniable demographic is that we are all human, and humans need good stories as certainly as they need food. I think we are meant to live our lives, not merely survive them. Perhaps the recent economic bubble was an expression of that – a desire for something “more than.” Money and things weren’t it.
I don’t know what the answer is (perhaps five), but I feel better and plan to keep on writing, with the knowledge that writing is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.
You will all be invited to the release party of my best-selling novel, a work of such transformative power that it humbled the schmuck who said there was nothing unique or compelling about my writing so he joined a monastery and took a vow of silence, an act for which writers everywhere are applauding.
I have some bad news, and some good news.
The publishing world cares only about making a profit. Trends and demographics are simply mapping tools for figuring out where the money is. That’s the bad news.
The good news is, you don’t have to write in a way that’s unique or compelling in order to sell a book. All you have to do is write a book that someone thinks they can make money on.
The even better news is, you don’t have to define “success” as “getting published by a multinational corporation whose editorial offices are in New York.” But if you do choose to define it that way, they get to make the rules.
Arguing that their rules are too rigid or lacking in a profound understanding of what it means to be human — complete waste of time.
Actually, I wasn’t arguing. Just suggesting that maybe we can have an impact. How we do it is up for grabs.
Indeed, I went from delusions of grandeur (lovely shiny ones, too!) to measuring my success according to the quality of my rejection letters. (On the other hand, those acceptance letters are like nothing else!)
This is quite wonderful – a reminder (which I need from time to time) why it’s good, this crazy thing we do. You go, Lana!
I’m so there for your release party!!! (Don’t get over yourself.)
Thank you for inviting me into your “blog” Your enthusiasm for writing and your talent for the spoken word have always touched and inspired me. Ever the seeker of truth, a philosopher and a poet, that alone will satisfy the heart of a writer. So when some one says:
“The good news is, you don’t have to write in a way that’s unique or compelling in order to sell a book.”
I think they are missing the obvious.
Bravo, my Dear. Please continue.
My feeling is why write if you don’t strive for authenticity.
Thanks to the woman who gave me the opportunity to Say It.