Free-For-All Friday

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive.)


Two items I ran across that made me uneasy: This goes to the state of the publishing biz and our lot as novelists within it.

The Independent carried a piece about how novelists are under pressure to “dumb down” so as to appeal to a wider readership. It could be that publishers are rebranding certain authors more commercially — I call this the cult of personality in action — rather than let their work stand on its own.

Granted, these novelists stand to gain in the moulah-department if the publishers succeed in the marketing “remarketing.” But, I ask you, would you really want to see Cormac McCarthy rebranded as a thriller or action writer?

Simiilarly, The Guardian ran a piece about authors as “branding machines.” I’m going to quote a portion, because, for me, it says it all:

“…the obsession with “branding” authors is threatening to hamper new talent. Writing a book a year is the absolute minimum for an aspiring genre novelist, and this treadmill approach allows no let-up. Will new crime writers get the freedom of say, Dennis LeHane, Thomas Harris and James Ellroy to write the books they want, when they want? Or will they be squeezed out by rivals willing to fire off three or four books a year to establish themselves?”

Seems to me this scenario is pertinent to most novelists, not only crime writers. What are your thoughts?

An item that made me think: Sometimes another blogger’s pearl of wisdom takes me by surprise. One wee sentence on Quantum Storytelling’s blog was a welcome slap in the face: “Procrastination is caused by indecision.”

We could discuss whether procrastination is always caused by indecision, but, in point of fact, when I read that statement I realized that my procrastination of past weeks had indeed been caused by indecisiveness! Yowza. I outlined my tangled thoughts in a post last week. This week I decided to tackle point number one from that post (finish a revision). Low and behold, this week my work routines settled back into their good groove.

And, an item that made me smile: A writers-retreat-friend is doing well for himself these days. His name is Eldon Thompson, and he writes epic fantasy. I enjoyed perusing his website this week — and I’m happy for him. The bit that made me smile came out of an interview. He said this:

“…Most importantly, perhaps, it has taught me to simplify things—to toss out ideas that are too complex and to really focus on the emotional response of characters to whatever obstacles are thrown at them.”

I smiled because I tend toward too much complexity in my first drafts. Glad to know that I’m not the only one that’s learned a few lessons around this!

What a Difference a Year Makes

Cleaning out my email Inbox this past weekend, I had occasion to think about where I was one year ago versus where I am now. Specifically, I came upon various San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) newsletters, and I realized that one year ago I was back in my home territory as an attendee at this conference. I was:

1. Anxious because I was in the midst of a mysteriously debilitating shoulder and neck ailment. MRIs, X-rays, EMGs, orthopedic surgeons, a neurologist, eight months of physical therapy — all with no answer. You could have called me Lisa the Robot because I was ordered not to slouch or bend my head forward at all for six weeks. I wasn’t writing.

2. Anxious about my job because I’d received a writing grant but couldn’t quit until my mysterious ailment corrected itself (July!). I was underperforming because I was too ready to begin my grant time-off. I was secretive with my boss, which made me very uncomfortable.

3. Anxious because I was about to officially begin the onerous task called agent-hunting. Among my writer friends, I know exactly ZERO people who enjoy this necessary but fraught task. I was set to pitch my latest novelistic effort to three participating literary agents. I spent most of my time in a hotel room littered with scribbled-upon index cards trying to perfect my pitch. (Not to mention performing a strict regimen of physical therapy exercises).

Was I anxious at this time last year? Hah!

(I did manage to have some fun. I went dancing at the Starlight Room with writer-buddies Bonnie and Christopher. I caught up with another writer-buddy, Eldon, who had graduated from conference attendee to speaker. Rode the cable car up Nob Hill to the hotel; ate Chinese in Chinatown; browsed inestimable City Lights Books in North Beach. Sigh. I love San Francisco.)

A year later: what do I have to say for myself? I’m not so anxious these days, not even about what will happen to the novel that eventually found its best, talented agent. I’m just writing; this makes me a happy camper compared to last year.