Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Monday, July 24, 2006

Excitement and Depression Mounts

I'm getting ready to leave for the Romance Writers' Association (RWA) annual conference, this time held in Atlanta. This is always a difficult time for me as an unpublished writer--although I guess now that Cerridwen has indicated they want to send me a contract for A Smuggled Rose, I'm on the cusp of being technically published. I'm trying hard to convince myself that this is on par with having a book out by the big publishing houses in NY--but I can't wrap my head around that. Because much as I am pleased with Cerridwen and my editor there, it is significantly different being published by a small house than an big one and it all boils down to money. (Doesn't everything, eventually, boil down to money?)

The big boys in NY pay advances--sometimes, significant advances (okay, to me, a significant advance is anything in excess of $3,000--I have low expectations). It means the publishers believe they will sell enough books to get back that advance and then, hopefully, make a profit. Even at $3,000 for an advance, that's a significant amount of belief.

Smaller presses don't need to believe in you that much because they generally don't give you much of an--if any--advance. On the bright side, this means they are willing to take a chance on something different. On the dark side, this means some works are published which probably would not have gotten published except by a vanity publisher in the days before the Internet made e-books possible. This has lead to a situation where folks often pooh-pooh the quality of e-books because they think they are only written by people who didn't write well enough to make it in NY. I'm not sure what to say about this, because I have purchased some e-books which were not so good. But then again, there are others which are good. It's a very mixed bag out there.

Just like in the "regular" paperback or hardcover arena. Only I do think the bad e-books are maybe a little worse than the bad paperbacks I have read, but this is purely subjective. When it comes right down to it, bad is bad no matter what format it comes in. And there are e-books which contain stories you can no longer get in a bookstore, and that counts for something.

I'd like to believe the books I wrote and will be selling through Cerridwen could not get published because they fit in traditional Regency territory which the mainstream publishers say is no longer profitable and have declined to publish any longer. I also think what I write doesn't fit squarely "between the lines" because there are strong elements of mystery, suspense, and black humor. In my stories, I let the characters dictate what they will and won't do, and I don't attempt to twist the story or characters to shoe-horn in the apparently obligatory s-e-x scene. I'm not about to make them take a break and have s-e-x while the madman is standing outside the bedroom door with a hatchet. Embarrassing though it may be, in that situation, the madman comes on in and they either flee naked or get chopped to bits, depending upon the speed with which they can run. Needless to say, it has made my characters a little wary about dropping their drawers during any apparent lulls. Trust is a big issue for them. I don't know why.

This means my stuff is not hot, and apparently, not marketable. Don't get me wrong, I actually have a paranormal with a s-e-x scene that fit quite naturally (although it may not be hot enough!) and I have a couple of other manuscripts in the contemporary suspense arena which have s-e-x, and in fact, one of them which I have tentatively entitled Ride the Wave actually starts out with a s-e-x scene (and I'm thinking that this make actually make THIS manuscript unmarketable--go figure), so it's not like I won't write it. My problem is, I have to write the story my characters order me to write. It seems like when I read other HOT books, there is no story, or the characters and the story have been twisted to give room for what in my mind is a relatively trivial activity, to the point where the story is just a weak, trickling stream meandering around the large boulders of s-e-x, but...I'm drifting off into a rant here...

What I actually started to blog about was the RWA conference. Conferences generally leave me feeling completely depressed and despondent because I get to meet all these great writers who are actually published, and in the back of my mind, I'm thinking--these people are so far ahead of me, and so much better than me, that I'm crazy to think I'll ever publish anything. I'm the most unlucky person on the planet and most published writers will tell you: you have to have luck. And talent. What if you don't have either? What if you really are a hack? What if you just like to write? What if you just like to write a good story, but nobody wants a good story without certain elements in it, anymore?

Anyway, this year, I'm trying not to let the conference feed into my worries about being in the lowest caste of the publishing world by getting my Regencies e-published. Or this fantasy manuscript I'm also considering submitting to them for e-publishing, just because.

So...does that make me a hack writer?
No-strictly speaking--a hack writer would be one of those PUBLISHED writers who have s-e-x in every other scene because that is what is hot right now and it sells, regardless of the integrity of the story they are writing. They write to the market and basically don't concern themselves with artistic integrity.

Therefore, I'm using the wrong term, it's not hack, it's bad writer. Bad writer, bad, bad (get off that computer right now!)
(Am I a bad writer because I'm publishing through an e-publisher? I have a published friend, who sold the first book she ever wrote, as soon as she finished it, who firmly believes only bad writers are e-published. What do I say back to the Golden One who is young, beautiful, and published by a good, NY publisher? How do you explain to someone who published the first thing she ever wrote, how it feels to write story after story, many of which are requested and actually come back with happy-editor comments, but with "No, sorry, we don't publish traditional Regencies anymore" kinds of remarks?)

Now that I've dampened everyone's mood, back to the conference, and depression. For me, the worst feeling sets in when all the buzz and hype is about making your books hotter and more sensual--because I just want to write a good story and where are all the workshops and buzz about characterization, plotting, and grammar? Is it possible anymore to expect to write a book that doesn't go into laborious detail about every shining drop of sweat oozing from every pore as your two main characters roll around between the hot, wrinkled sheets? Am I crazy? Behind the times? Stupid? Frigid? All that between-the-sheets stuff fascinated me between the ages of about 12-21, but after I got a regular boyfriend, I didn't need to know all the gory details anymore. I liked the tension, but I preferred the door closed in a book because it left more room for the story to unfold--and it was the story that fascinated me. "It" wasn't the main thrust of the story (except when I read Anais Nin, maybe, or something specifically written for the purpose of titillation--where I had no expectation of a "story".) And that's the problem--it's a matter of expectation.

I think I'm crazy and stupid to refine on this, but I'm trying to psychologically prepare myself for the barrage when I go to the conference. The bad thing is that all the talk about it "puts my back up" to the point where I start refusing to put it into my stories even if the characters *want* to have it in there, just because it pisses me off that it is all anyone seems to talk about anymore. It really pisses me off that I start thinking editors won't even look at a book if it isn't hot. I'd like to think this isn't true, but...there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. Again, it's that darn expectation: their's and mine.

Does anyone else find that pretty abysmal and depressing?

Can't we talk about something else for a change? Really. I mean, what ever happened to the craft of writing?

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