Writing — a Bitter Rant Using the Word F&%$

I was a writer and I wrote novels. Not long ago I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, “You wrote three good books. You don’t have to write any more. Lots of ‘great’ writers only wrote one and where does it get you, anyway? You just work very very hard,  deal with your own frustrations and sense of failure over the proofreading problem, shell out a thousand bucks for an editor, go through the submission process, get rejected (and ignored), make the decision to publish the books yourself, bust your ass doing that (though it’s actually, for me, a fun process), then you get to do what you have no aptitude for or interest in — marketing — and then? Some people enjoy your books very much, but most people never even hear about them. What’s the point?”

The point is having something to say.

All three of my novels SAY something. This thing I’ve been plugging away on for two years now (?) doesn’t say anything. It’s just there.

If you want to “be a writer,” you might want to think about what I’ve learned.

Unless you can do it for its own sake, it is NOT worth the time or effort. Don’t even fucking bother.

  1. There are millions of scams out there that exist to take the money of all those people (largely baby boomers, I suspect) who have always felt they have “a book inside waiting to come out.”
  2. You might indeed have a book inside waiting to come out. Just write it and shut up.
  3. There are conferences that cost hundreds of dollars (and they won’t make your workmore likely to sell and they won’t make you a better writer). There are workshops. There are editing services. There are marketing services. None of these things will change the market and the market is where success lies.
  4. All the advice out there for dealing with rejection? “Don’t let rejection get you down. J. K. Rowling was rejected 900 million times and look what happened to her! Same with Stephen King! He was rejected 900 million to the power of 10 times and now where is he! Just keep trying!” You will reach a point where you don’t really give a fuck about J. K. Rowling OR Stephen King OR Willa Cather (same story, but only 700 million times — the population was smaller back then).

    In the process of eliminating files before transferring stuff to my new laptop, I realized — saw — that I have submitted my work to literally hundreds of agents and been rejected and/or ignored hundreds of times. Well, basically EVERY time. “Don’t let it get to you,” say the advice mongers.

    “You try it,” I say to them at this point though once upon a time I agreed with them. “Fuck you.”

    If you have something to say, you have an edge against rejection “getting to you.”
  5. Youth — young writers have more appeal to agents and publishers (generally) than old writers. Why? People are looking for the “next Hemingway” or a “new voice.” This is really stupid, but we are youth worshippers in our society and this is part of it. There are many contests out there for young writers and “new” writers, and it’s assumed that “new” writers will be young people.This is both objectionable and logical. The target audience  (from a publisher’s perspective) is always assumed to be the current generation with money in its pocket.

    A book that appeals to the young today will be carried along by that generation for many years though it may be completely unknown to succeeding generations. Just as an example, it’s been a long time since I heard anything about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  and yet that was a HUGE book back when I was young. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues — another book that was HUGE when I was young, probably a meaningless title to the 20 somethings of today.
  6. It is NOT “all about how you pitch your book” either. Pitch matters, but it’s not “all about” anything. Take any advice with a grain of salt. Why?

    It’s a crapshoot.

    What does X agent believe will sell to her vast stable of (four) publishers? What do the publishers believe will sell to their readers? Who are the readers of your book? Can you imagine them? Does that matter? (Not much…) Does the quality of your writing matter? Not a lot, no. What matters is the tempo at which the public pulse is beating, and, if you are ON it, you have a chance.

I love my novels and I loved writing them. When someone reads them and enjoys them, I’m over the moon. That is the whole point of it. Learning a couple of weeks ago that the library in Alamosa had acquired my books, I was very happy. I had no idea. That my books are for sale in the largest independent bookstore in Colorado also makes me happy — through my own effort I succeeded (somewhat) in doing what a publisher would do for me.

I cannot deny that much of this has taken the joy and optimism out of the process of writing a novel. The story I’m working on now is good, but each time I sit down to work on it, I see ahead to the future when I would — again — be attempting to sell it one way or another, asking myself questions that have little or nothing to do with my book such as, “is this the spiel that will get an agent’s attention?” “Are my characters sexy enough?” Bleah.


20 thoughts on “Writing — a Bitter Rant Using the Word F&%$

  1. Yes yes yes, yes yes and yes.
    Sometimes it pisses me right off knowing that I write better than some of the crap that does get published (it wouldn’t be hard) for a genre that will always hum along, but really, I might as well not bother trying when the ‘sure fire winners’ are erotica, violence, scandal and controversy, preferably written by babes in arms.
    But that’s only momentary. Happily for me, I’m mostly way past caring, write for the thrill I get from doing it and leave it to moulder on my computer without regret.
    I also get pissed off occasionally that I’ve never had a penny out of Smashwords or Kindle for the novel I did self-publish, which did sell a few, but I think that would involve taking on the US tax office and I doubt even my principles would stand the strain.

    • At the moment, I don’t get a thrill from writing at all. I would if I had a story to tell and something to say, but I don’t. I think inside me is a knot of anger that is holding me back. I think I might be starting to deal with it. I feel at the moment like my brain is very very busy sorting out where I am right now which is why I’ve spent the summer setting my house in order, literally. I did — out of no where — start a science fiction story. For it to be anything or be finished ever I’d have to do research and I’m not interested, so I’m just playing with it. I think that’s a good idea for me right now. 🙂

    • Sad is part of what I feel about writing at the moment. The other part is angry. I push down my emotions so much some times that they hold me back. I have begun to see that if I’m going to move forward, this stuff has to come out into the open — at least for myself but maybe for others. What I wrote here I wish I’d read (and been open to) several years ago.

  2. There is nothing like getting the unvarnished truth straight from a person who’s lived it. Bravo, well said, and thank you. For all of that. That was brilliant.

  3. I’ve written a couple of novels. Self-published one which was once netting me about $25 per quarter. The other one would probably sell better since it has sex and drugs and nudity and rape and high school kids but never bothered to even think about publishing it. Not worth the trickle of money I’d get. But the act of creating and writing itself was fun.

    The act of self-promoting sux the joy right out of it.

    • I love writing, and the process of writing my novels — even making them into books! — was great, but everything other aspect was awful. I got burned so repeatedly that I could even experience the pleasure when something worked. I think that is the worst part. My book is for sale in an awesome store that is on Denver tourist’s lists of things to visit, but I just don’t care. In my mind it’s just something I’ll have to pay to ship home when it doesn’t sell. I can’t even SEE that they stocked it AFTER reading it and WANTED it. I think relentless disappointment broke something inside me… 😦

      • Then just write for yourself. Publish it blog style and people will love it.

        If you want to be REALLY evil about it, stop half way thru. Then slurp up all the anxious pleading to keep publishing it. You’ll feel better.

      • 🙂 If I write anything more, I’ll write it with the knowledge that I’m doing it on my own hook. I have absolutely decided to cut out the contact with the frustrated wannabes with dandruff on their shoulders known as “agents.” That will eliminate a HUGE disappointment factor and save a lot of time. 😀

  4. I had something to say. I said it. Now, I don’t have anything more to say that seems important enough for all that work involved, so I’m not writing a book. I also don’t believe this market wants me and I don’t think there is ANYTHING I could write that would change it. Even if I wrote THE best book ever written, they wouldn’t want it because 70-year-old writers are highly undesirable to publishers.

    I write because I like it. I have always enjoyed the process of writing. I like being funny. I love drawing a word picture of my world as I see it. Is it important? I doubt it. I like doing it and what else would I be doing if not this?

    BUT. If I were doing all of this to get published, I’d be sucking my thumb and taking heavy drugs.

  5. It seems you wrote this for me, Martha. For three months I’ve been floundering in a quandary, thinking I should tackle a novel, even making a start, and resenting the time I know it will take from other things I enjoy and wondering if I have the stamina to do all the wrangling around self publishing again. I know I wouldn’t have the spirit to shop it around to publishers. You’ve given me food for thought. I’ve read your words twice and will read them again until I climb out of my quandary with a decision. I’ll let you know when I do.

    • I think I wrote this to help me think so I’m VERY glad it’s helping you!

      I am beginning to see how some of the stuff around writing and publishing caused me to lose heart and make it difficult for me to see the many good things that have happened because I wrote my books, things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I believe that’s what I need to focus on, but until the hurt and anger are expunged that’s going to be difficult.

      As for self-publishing, I really enjoy putting a book together. The other thing is that people in my narrow world think my books are great and they’re proud to have me in their midst. The local bookstore puts them in the shop window. The library in Alamosa bought them on their own hook, without even knowing me. My Aunt Dickie LOVES my books and wants me to write another one about our family. There are so many really good reasons to persevere, so I hope I get over this internal obstacle.

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