Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Writing Career

by Sariah S. Wilson

I started writing a response to Kerry's post yesterday and decided to go ahead and make it my blog for today.

First off, Kerry, let me add my voice as another reader who was ready to pack on my climbing gear and start scaling the mountain. I know few writers who can motivate and inspire the way you can.

I thought too of how you described feeling burned out, as if you had nothing more to write.

Jennie already mentioned my own thinking on this subject - perhaps it is time to head your work in a different direction.

I know I talk a lot about Jennifer Crusie, but she's the most famous author that I'm acquainted with (although she does *not* know who I am even though we belong to the same romance writing chapter) and she's had a long and successful career.

For those that are not familiar with her, Jennifer Crusie is an extremely successful romance writer. She is a very intelligent and well educated woman - if I'm remembering correctly she was working on her PhD when she decided to take a crack at romance writing. She started off small - she wrote for a category romance publisher and when she decided she wanted to expand her career, she procured an excellent agent and started off her single title career as a top list author. You know how you hear about mid-list authors? Crusie didn't have to work her way up to the top - she started out at the top of that list which meant she got a lot of support/publicity from her publisher.

She went on to have one of those careers that we all dream about. She is an extremely funny woman, and she wrote romantic comedies which were not particularly popular when she started out (and you'll see that all kinds of people write them now). She is a New York Times best selling author (along with all the other best selling lists you can be on) and made oodles of cash, has an extremely devoted fanbase called The Cherries, and is very respected by her peers.

In short, it seemed like she had it all.

However, there came a point in her career when things started to fall apart for her. Her life changed in many different ways, and she seemed to lose some of that Crusie magic. She gave a book to her editor who told her that it "didn't feel like a Crusie."

She remembered being told at the beginning of her writing career that many writers seemed to last about ten years before fading into obscurity. She realized that she had hit that ten year mark and wondered just how much truth there was to that statement as she found herself in that situation.

As she pondered over her next move, wondering, as Kerry did, whether she should just chuck it all (and she didn't write during that time either), she met an author named Bob Mayer at a writing conference where they were both presenters. He wrote thrillers, mostly military books, about as different from romances as you could get. Bob sidled up to her and suggested that they do a collaboration.

A new career was born. Jennifer Crusie now writes books with Bob Mayer. Very successful books.

Her mountain was overshadowing her. I think of all she was up against, the deadlines she had to meet, the books she had promised to deliver, her own reputation that she had to live up to, how frustrated and scared she must have been.

But with Bob's help she closed her eyes and moved out from that mountain's shadow and found her joy again.

I think too of how many successful authors I'm aware of who changed their genres and reinvigorated their careers and their love of writing. Tami Hoag, Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, etc., authors who were well known and successful in one genre and switched to another when they found themselves unmotivated or loving another type of genre more.

It happens because from a marketing standpoint, a publisher wants you to publish the same sort of books. I don't see this happening as much in the LDS market, where someone like Jeff can put out a suspense and a fantasy and a horror story in a single year, but I know in the national market that the publishers will expect you to sort of specialize in one thing, and then after you pick up steam and gathered an audience, they'll let you try some different things.

Because if you think about it - how often have we as readers felt frustrated when one of our favorites deviated from the type of books they typically write? I think publishers are simply responding to the need that readers have for an author to keep writing the same sort of book. Which can lead to staleness for an author.

So my incoherent advice (and in an attempt to sum up) would be this - write what your publisher wants you to write, write what your readers want to read and will pay good money for, but remember to keep your options open for the future. Remember to try different types of writing. If you write primarily Westerns but feel struck with the need to write a fantasy, then I say give it a shot. Try something different. It might change your perspective completely.

And ten years from now I expect Rob to drop everything and become my collaborative writing partner.

P.S. - For those who didn't know (like me!) "Eclipse" by Stephenie Meyer comes out on August 7th.


At 8/05/2007 4:08 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Sariah (and everybody) please consider this my public apology for Friday's blog. I was going for something introspective that maybe hinted at a little hope for others in the same place and came off as desperately pathetic instead. Probably I'll take Marlene's advice and take up macrame! Writing just isn't working out for me right now. :-)

But I was kidding about jumping off the cliff -- I swear I was! Writing is what I do, it is not now nor has it ever been who I am. Who I am is a very grateful, happy person. Really.

At 8/05/2007 5:55 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Kerry, you have nothing to apologize for. Your Friday blog was amazing - I was so touched and moved by it. It was introspective and did offer help to others - myself included. I was so motivated by what you said.

My blog was to second what Jennie had said - you are so talented and so gifted that I'd love to see you move into another type of writing if you're done with the one you're currently doing, and I wanted to share a story of someone I knew who had gone through the same thing. It may not have come off as I intended, but I'm functioning on about two to three hours of sleep a night. I should mostly be ignored.

You are wonderful and amazing and you're not allowed to ever forget it. :)

At 8/06/2007 1:54 AM, Anonymous marlene said...

Speaking as one who has never been able to macrame, crochet, knit or tat, and almost drowned trying underwater basket weaving, let me say that I've tried nearly everything else and that is why I find myself here at the age of--oops--and having my first novel published. It is all like a new adventure. There are so many other things to try, too. Can you imagine sky-diving! No, I didn't try it; my Mom made me promise I wouldn't, but my dad took up piano at 85. With the extra enthusiasm you get by trying new things, you can go back to the old loves, loving them more. You, Kerry and Sariah, both do wonderful blogs, that's why I'm up nearly as late as you, Sariah, reading this, but take some time, both of you--all of you--to really enjoy some other things. I want you out there at sunrise painting, Kerry, and I get first bid on the painting--or the macrame.

I am saying this as a wanna be good writer. You can't fill characters out if you haven't filled yourself out. The more different things you do, the more you have to write about. And if you never write them, they are still in you giving you life.

The mountain can wait while you dance around on a few clouds.

At 8/06/2007 9:00 AM, Blogger robisonwells said...

Sariah, I had this great idea for some gritty, unhappy Westerns where everyone dies. Want in?

At 8/06/2007 8:13 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Great blog, Sariah. I read an article awhile ago about Bob & Jennifer's collaboration. It didn't go into the depth of "why" for Jennifer. So thanks for that. And Kerry, best of luck! We all need breaks to get those creative juices flowing again!

At 8/09/2007 12:36 AM, Blogger Josi said...

Kerry--your honest post struck a cord with many writers. I had it forwarded to me from another writer--so many of us feel this way and to have someone open enough to allow the rest of us to really look at it, is a gift for us.

And Sariah, this was a perfect follow-up. There is so much more to writing than just writing, but we tend to expect it will be as easy for us as it SEEMS to be for other people. It's refreshing to learn that it's not easy for anyone.


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