Friday, July 14, 2006

How much truth can we take?

Ever notice how some writers spill their guts and and make a million fans in the process?

I've always been on the fence with this one: Is it better to share the gritty details of your writing dilemmas and difficulties, or do you plaster a smile on your face and show the world only your successful side? I'm still undecided about it. . . have generally erred on the side of professional silence, except in occasional, intentionally funny speeches. But where's the fun in that? It's beginning to seem to me that "telling" garners more empathy and more understanding (also more interest) than maintaining a ladylike professionalism. . . especially with blogs becoming so popular.

Dirty little writing secrets. For fun and profit. I'm not suggesting we should blab about every down time, wrong writing alley, and contract dispute we encounter. But does revealing something of the struggle we go through in writing make us more human and accessible to readers. . . and fellow writers? I know it works for some and I can't help thinking that if Kathleen Woodiwiss had had a blog back in the day, fans and readers would have been a lot more sympathetic about her lack of production and her decision not to respond to fan letters.

My most recent "DLWS" involves my upcoming book. (Brace for a blatant promotional plug.) (See above.) (Fabulous book that almost didn't get written.) I had a devil of a time writing my September release-- or should I say, the book that was supposed to be my September release. It started out to be The Book of Forever Young and ended up being The Book of True Desires. The journey from "Forever Young" to "True Desires" makes for some ugly reading. . . which I have decided to share in an RWR article called "Breaking Up With The Bad Idea." And I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not. Baring my soul. . . sort of. . . in the name of helping other writers and sharing the pain. . . may be a colossal mistake.

What do you think? By "telling all" am I revealing feet of clay that readers won't want to see? Or is any publicity good publicity?

What about you? Got some dirty little writing secrets you're dying to get off your chest? Like maybe what you hate most about your process and would love to change. Or maybe what you hate about the biz. Talk to Mama, honey. Get it all out.


anne frasier said...

ooh, betina!! you are talking to the biggest blabbermouth in the writing world. i have no idea if it's good for the career, but it feels wonderful to do it!
:D just this week i unloaded a blabfest on my other blog about the downward spiral. it's something writers rarely talk about. i don't know why, for some reason it seems to be like breaking some sacred oath and can even bring about shunning. *shrug* i spent a lot of years keeping my mouth shut. did THAT help my career? i don't think so. not keeping it shut anymore. blahblahblahblahblah.

Betina Krahn said...

Hurrah, Anne! So, one big vote for Telling.

And you're right-- there is some taboo about talking about the "over the hill" or the downward slides in writing/publishing.

There's a reason that they call talking "therapy."

Kathleen Eagle said...

I had to search out Anne's blog about the downward spiral--it's on her STATIC blog--so I could read it and weep. I hate thinking about the numbers, the lists, the market, the competition, the push or lack of same, the demise of independent distributors and independent book stores. In other words, I hate reality.

I deal in fiction, and optimistic fiction at that. I can't sell anything. I was a HORRIBLE Mary Kay lady (back when I was preggers with my 29-yr-old). If I can't sell makeup and moisturizer--two necessities of life, just between us girls--how can I be expected to sell myself? Because make no mistake, that's my blood on the page. I hate that I have no control over what happens to my book once I've made those last corrections on the AA's. I hate it so much that I retreat into the irresistible fantasy--if I write it, they will come. Corny, huh? Come into my cornfield, then.

My next book comes out in hardcover first, and I apologize for the price, just the way I did with the price of the Mary Kay basic skin care set. No self-respecting salesman apologizes for the price. I HATE that I do that. The story is priceless, and the best way get the story, to have it for your very own, is to buy the book. I do believe that. My house is full of books. Way back when I spent half my allowance--more!--on ordering books from the school book club flyer.

But sell the book I wrote? Promote my book? That's my blood! (I give blood regularly, by the way, and that's a cause I can sell sell sell. Do give blood. You won't regret it.) I can't sell it. That's the publisher's job.

The truth is that I'm a natural introvert, and I'm flying in the face of my nature when I try to push my work. I want the publisher to get the word out. It's heartbreaking when that doesn't happen.

Nonny said...

I'm pretty open about what I'm going through on my blog. That being said, it depends. When I'm really depressed -- and I can usually tell if it's a hormonal thing or such -- I post behind a friends filter on my LiveJournal instead of on my public blog. Cause, well, if I'm that down, I want replies from people I trust, rather than the general public.

Betina Krahn said...

Nonny! How good to hear from you! A voice of reason and sanity. You're so sensible about confiding certain things only in people you trust. Most of the time we instinctively do this. . . seek out people we trust to confide in. But my worry is that sometimes the blogs and e-mail and IM's sometimes create in us a false sense of intimacy that can cause us to say things publicly that we regret later.

See-- there's that innate sense of caution again!

And Kathy-- I hate that loss of control over the fate of my "babies" too. The few times my publishers have really listened to me on cover, title and copy, things have gone well. Why don't they listen to us more???

Michele said...

Ah, the truths behind the stories. I'm currently involved in a multi-author series, and one day I had this ridiculous thought. Hey! We should blog about the creation process of this series. All the nitty gritty, the trials and tribulations, the good and the bad.
Cyber silence.
And then the fog cleared from my brain. Oh no. Not a good idea. People could get killed (or consider murder) if we revealed some of the seamy background stuff that goes on during a multi-author collaboration.
That's all I'm saying.
Michele, (checking over her shoulder to make sure no one heard that)

Candace said...

How about the biggest secret of all? The one we were all brought up not to talk about? No, not SEX. We blab about that all the time. I'm talking about M-O-N-E-Y. Actually, there are two "secrets" connected to money.

One: the public at large seems to think authors make globs and globs of it. We don't. At least, I don't. Even after 25+ years in the business and 26 books (all of which sold well according to my editors), I still couldn't support a household on the income I earn from writing books.

Two: As creative types we're not supposed to write for the money. We're supposed to write for the love of writing. I was actually told that by an editor once, i.e., that if I were a "true" writer, I wouldn't be concerned with such things as advances and royalty rates; I would just be glad my work was been published for the world to read. Well, I was and am!)glad my work was being published. Very glad. But, hey, I've got bills to pay, too.

So, my DLWS is... I am not a true, pure writer because, for me, money matters. Money is, in fact, one of the reasons I've cut wa-a-a-y back on my fiction writing output and concentrated more on the writing I do for my corporate clients.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Rereading my first comment, I see that I went around the horn to confess that deep down I'm afraid of people. Major DLWS when you're writing popular fiction, the word popular meaning what it does. I'm actually seeking popularity. Risking rejection. Hate that. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

I love dishing with few people. Send me to a party and that's exactly what I'll do. Find a corner and hang out with the same small group all night. I don't mingle well. When I try to be the life of the party I get show-offy and talk too much. When I'm invited to speak off the cuff I often make a fool of myself.

See, there's something about this blogging that feels intimate, and as I get into it, I find myself talking with that small group at the party. Is this a dangerous thing?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Ah, money. Another major DLWS. We who bleed for our art need to buy food to replenish the blood supply. When I got into this biz I was told that you keep the terms of your contract close to the chest. Especially the money part. Made sense since that was the way I was raised. Mama was a Southern Lady.

But I speak to aspiring writers, and as much as I love creating fantasy, I do believe in getting the facts out when it comes to education. As a teacher, my salary was a matter of public record. As a writer, I go from contract to contract. Some of them have been very nice. I once made the mistake of signing for too many books at once so that I could reel in a terrific signiture payment and buy a house. It was a mistake for a relatively slow writer, but we needed the house.

The reality is that writing contracts generally start out modestly. Then the attention to numbers kicks in. You can spend years building, hit a plateau, do a new contract and suddenly be making much less than you were last year. My road had been a gradual but steady incline. I know that could change any time. I hate that. But it's a reality that I must not allow myself to forget.

Kathleen Eagle said...

How do we edit comments? I spelled signature wrong. I hate that.

Nonny said...

"But my worry is that sometimes the blogs and e-mail and IM's sometimes create in us a false sense of intimacy that can cause us to say things publicly that we regret later."

Hmm. I think it depends. I'm usually very circumspect in precisely what I say publicly. Like, I remember Anna Genoese's LJ post awhile back about writers throwing temper fits about rejections and such on their blogs, or putting down industry professionals in ways that really came back to bite em in the ass.

I'm not usually inclined to rant about such like that. Rejection is truthfully no big deal to me, and the only time I have is when the editor told me I should take their $500 writing course. Maybe that's not technically a scam, but it definitely falls into the "sleazy" category for me. Though I don't think I mentioned the name of the publication in the post.

IMO, as long as the people you are ranting/posting privately to are trustworthy, it shouldn't be an issue. Discerning who's actually trustworthy, though, can be a difficult thing, especially once you get to the point in your career where it would be worth it for someone else to copy and paste your post and get you in hot water.

So, I'd tend to say, a very small group of people who you know very well and trust -- like a CP or intimate friend -- is probably best way to go, rather than adding your entire writing group to the filter. ;)

Betina Krahn said...

Wow, did we strike a nerve with this one! I'd still love to hear from more of the writers and readers on this one.

Two votes for talking. Two for not talking too much. Several for keeping biz woes close to the chest. . . but talking about other stuff. Several for. . .

Oh, heck. I've lost count. And I'm usually good at counting. sigh. Well, at least we're off and running on topics!

Thanks ya'll.