Monday, December 08, 2008

Publishing Envy

How does one keep the publishing envy at bay? One of my writing group members, Val Hobbs (seriously one of the best writers I know) asks this question in her blog this morning, and it got me to thinking. I haven’t been haunted by that particular monster for a while, and I’m trying to figure out why.

Part of it stems from the fact that I love writing what I write. I have fun with those books, I tear my heart out with these books, but I adore writing them. The thing is, I have written books I didn’t love as much, that weren’t a part of my own core writing drive, and those books are much, much harder.

About three years ago, in order to save my sanity, my writing focus shifted away from publishing and more to the process. Now, I realize that’s somewhat easier to say once one’s had the validity of being published, but being published isn’t the same as staying published, so there is still a huge risk involved. And at one point I had a huge epiphany: I realized I’d rather write this book my way and never sell it rather than write it some other way. That was a hugely anchoring moment and came after about eleven rejections on the book. As luck would have it, the twelfth editor bought it. Coincidence? I think not. I think sometimes that act of letting go is what sets things in motion—but I digress.

I’ve come to view all those reports of large, six figure deals as urban legends, publishing myths that have very little to do with my own reality. The other thing is that for as many of them that earn out that advance, a similar number do not, and that terrifies me; to have had some publisher pay that much money for one of my books then seriously underperform. ::shudder:: I seriously think that sort of pressure would crush my muse.

Now, just to be clear, I do get bitten by writing envy—someone’s voice just leaps off the page at me, or their sentences are lyrical and lush, or they get to a cherished idea before I do. But that strikes me as being somewhat healthy—something that motivates me to push my own boundaries.

So I guess I manage to avoid publishing envy at this stage in my career by a unique combination of denial, fear, and sheer stubbornness. Not sure that’s something to be recommended, but it’s working for now.


Sheri said...

Ooo--I'm with you on the "get to a cherished idea before I do" bit. I have a story that I have worked on off and on for several years and I am terrified that someone else will publish it before I do! LOL! And yes, it should inspire me to write on it harder but I just don't have the time to immerse myself in it, and trust me. It is a story line that I MUST be immersed in to write--fantasy is like that...

Robin L said...

That's so true, Sheri! That total immersion is KEY, especially for fantasy, as you say.

When my kids were younger, I did a lot of writing in snippets, but it wasn't until they began to have lives of their own that I had the uninterrupted time to really go deep with my writing--which I think can make all the difference in the world.

Here's hoping no one gets to that idea before you do!