Thursday, January 07, 2010

Shooting In One's Career Foot

  The road to publishing can be hazardous. Few well-published writers are truthful about their disappointments, and sugar-coat their experiences.

I've just read a great post, by one of the most talented writers, Jayne Ann Krentz. (I may have read everything she's ever written from her start in category and throughout.) In her blog post, Krentz deals with shooting herself in her career foot, professionally, and then keeping her core story. It's a wonderful piece by someone with tremendous experience and who has written under many pseudonyms. Please do read this very important and truthful piece.

As one with shooting in career-foot experience, I really identified with Krentz's article. Then, too, I also like romance, suspense, and psychic stuff as a writer and as a reader. I also like her humor, neatly tucked into the stories.

But for me, once after understanding how badly I've misstepped in what career path seemed logical at the time, the difficulty comes immediately after the discovery.

  Once hit with a trickle of fear that I had made the wrong move, which was not pinpointed alone on story-line, but on moves to publishers or agents or editors, panic set in. Clear thinking went out the window, and I went into shock-mode.

My first thought then, was how to recover, what to do, what to do for a next move. Then, at the point of no return, "What have I done?!"

I'm not alone. Most writers have this path, made career decisions they regretted and struggled to recover. Some don't. But Krentz has found her writer's core, the core that was always there in her stories, romance, suspense and psychic stuff. If we look clinically at our stories, maybe we'll find our core elements, too.

Sometimes a writer has to step outside Safety, and test new things, but generally, there is a certain focus on specific elements that does well for us.

But the important thing to remember is to hold your writer's core, either in Krentz's article which focuses on storyline, or in what you deeply believe is right for you.

Let's face it: Writer's creativity, forced into one mold and never expanding or testing the limits of individual talent, can lose that spark. So it's natural for writers to test limits and to write what excites them. Factor into this, realities: time, finances, family needs.

We learn from it all. Or we don't.

But the writer within us is going to struggle with the realities of business and with our needs to create what lives within us. Same Old, Same Old probably doesn't suit many writers for very long--their creative spirit nudges, wants that stretch.

I love all my stories. I really do. But one I regret years and years ago, because the editor took too much control of the direction of the story. It became her challenge to change it. I didn't go down easy. And I knew it wasn't right, but after we gnawed on the story-bone for awhile I thought well, maybe she's right. She wasn't and the story fell short of the feel I'd originally intended. It did well in the market, but it wasn't what I'd wanted for my child.

If you feel you need to write "ahead of the curve" as noted by Krentz, then that may be what you need to do creatively, regardless. However, be aware that the marketplace, agents/editors may not be ready.

In today's publishing drama, publishers are playing it very safe. But if the need rules, are you really going to resist the story living within you?


Shirley said...

Great advice, Cait. And I LOVE that picture of the road with the fog! How mysterious!

Cait London said...

That's an pic. Used it in a trailer. It seemed to suit the writer's survival stuff--foggy. :)