I’ve been out of the loop lately in terms of saying much, but I’ve been catching things here and there. Which means of course my brain has been mulling over attitudes and assitudes as I’ve begun to call it all… What can I say? I’ve been watching the stars of the new literary world–and yes that was the Sarcasm Fairy whizzing past... These wonderful new authors who believe their own fabricated publicity to the extent that they feel the “right” to look down on others. In my opinion, and I realize no one asked for it, there are very few real stars of the literary world. Many, many award winners, and just as many respected and well known writers with large followings. But the “stars” are few, the names everyone knows even if they don’t read their books–people like Stephen King, Nora Roberts–this is where I confess I’ve read one King book, and not one by Nora Roberts despite many attempts. BUT, I give them the respect they are due, because they have worked hard and undoubtedly deserve the accolades bestowed upon them. Others who come to mind are Tom Clancy, Patterson, Danielle Steel, J.K. Rowling… each of these authors, whether you like them or not, has achieved their “stardom” in the field of writing. So, tons of people now make millions of dollars, yet you have to ask around to find someone who knows them–welcome to the new world of publishing.
BUT, what about the mid-level authors with the big assitudes?? I use that word because most of them behave like asses with their attitudes. They think somehow they’re better than the average working writer because they’ve got a best-seller in some small house, or they’ve been nominated for an award. Hey, celebrate, it’s given you bragging rights. It hasn’t given you the right to act like you’re suddenly world class famous. Social media is full of this crap…almost as full as the authors themselves in some cases. What the hell ever happened to behaving with some kind of graciousness? I know, I’m dating myself because in most cases, manners and class are only concepts now, and that is truly sad!
Editors… The jewels of a writer’s life, don’t kid yourself. The editor can bring you to the top, or ruin your confidence, but either way, the writers who don’t think they need them are just listening to ego, not reality. I have to admit, I had it pretty easy from the time I started writing and offering it to the public. To this day the rejections I’ve received number under a dozen–and that is over 10 years pro, and years before that as a fan fiction writer. I have been, and continue to be, very lucky for whatever reason. I’ve had the worse editors and thankfully in more recent years, the best of the best. The ones who think all there is to editing is correct punctuation and grammar are the ones who’ll really do your talent some damage. Just like those who think their job is to rewrite your work to their personal style can be deadly to your confidence and your work. But then there are the ones who want to work with you and make your work the best it can be. They take the time and care to explain why certain things work, and others don’t–why it’s important to focus on the small details to make the overall picture more beautiful.
That leads nicely to another of those realities some people refuse to accept. Writing is an art that is never still, it’s forever in flux, changing and evolving. It needs to be tended like a garden, with care and attention. New techniques have to be employed for the most beautiful blooms to grow, you have to relearn over and over. If you stop learning, reading, extending yourself to be better with each new story or book, you will soon be old news. I am in the painful transition of attempting to learn to write again, with a tighter and faster style, a more immediate and accessible feel. I used to love to write deep imagery and emotion. Over the years, editors have stripped away those things, deeming them unnecessary. I’ve been told to cut out the deep POV that was present in my books, told to cut the descriptive passages, told to be stark and direct… I’ve had editors tell me over and over how beautiful my writing is, then give the wackiest reasons for not contracting. After a number of years, it’s totally paralyzed me in terms of being creative. I stopped writing entirely for the first time in my life. When I tried, I’d sometimes get 20,000 words on the page then dump it because I hated it. I didn’t just second guess, I third, fourth and fifth guessed–to the point where it was all garbage in my eyes. Coming back from that darkness to find anything worthwhile in writing is proving to be a real challenge. Thank God I’m not doing it alone, but with an exceptionally gifted editor and friend who believes I can be a good writer again.
Content and styles change, reader tastes change. If you really care about writing and storytelling, you have to move with that, and be open to the learning process every day. It’s not easy when you encounter snide remarks and shots from people you think are friends, and you’re targeted by others who have agendas and want to see you fail. This is a competitive business, and there are some truly gifted and incredible writers who love the craft and are friends to their fellow writers. Others resent anything good that someone else gets because they think it should be theirs. That’s human nature, it goes with any job. The real key to becoming the writer you want to be, I believe, is to focus on the stories you want to tell. Care about all of it. Give readers worlds that make them smile, and feel good. Whatever your genre is, study it and bring your best to it. Never stop learning. The moment you think you have nothing left to learn, or no need to change–retire, because you’re no longer going to happy. No one gives a damn how successful you were years ago, it means nothing. It’s what you bring to the table now that matters, and if it’s not a current, viable product, you’ll soon discover no one cares. That hurts, but that, too, is reality. Yeah, it bites… welcome to the real world.