Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Pain of A Writer's Fame

While reading my local newspaper, I spotted a story about mega-bestselling author Danielle Steel that I found fascinating. In the last few days, she's been out on book tour to promote her latest novel. If you check out this story, you will note that Steel has a strong preference to be sitting in her office working. Yet as a writer, she knows the importance of getting out to the public and telling them about the new book. This story paints an interesting look at Steel's feelings about promotion--yet notice that she does it anyway.

As I read this article, I noticed this author isn't chasing after the latest technology or using the newest program or gadget. Just look at her work habits as a writer, when Mark Kennedy writes, "Steel pounds out all her novels in a tiny office in her San Francisco home, where she lives half the year. (The other half is spent in Paris, where she refuses to work.) All the books are written on a 1946 Olympia manual typewriter, and first drafts are usually done in a punishing 20-hour shift while 'dressed in my nightie with my hair sticking up straight.'"

"'There are people who show up nicely dressed; they work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I can't do that,' she says. 'Sometimes I don't leave my house for two or three weeks.'"

"In person, Steel is far more approachable than the woman whose regal photograph appears on her book jackets. She's a mix of elegant and down-to-earth."

Looks to me like years ago Steel discovered a writing formula that works for her and she's sticking with it. That old manual typewriter works just fine for her writing habits and she's sticking with it. Of course other people can take those pages and keyboard them into the computer but they can't create the stories which come from her creative mind.

Also notice those 20-hour writing stints to get her first draft in place. Wow what an effort for each novel--and she does that three time a year--and year after year. Before you feel too bad for those choices we also notice the article tells us that she spend half of her year in Paris, France where she refuses to work.

Looks to me like this author is trying to have some measure of balance in her life and time to celebrate her success yet is committed to a strong work ethic and discipline.

I know now I did it--use that word discipline. Most of us want the rewards of a writer without the pain of discipline.

Just yesterday I was talking with one of my agency clients about a situation where a publisher is considering his work. In the middle of his conversation he said, "If we get an offer, that means I have to write the book? In what sort of time frame?"

It's a question that I've been asked repeatedly as an editor and now a literary agent. I can't answer that question about how long it will take you to write the book. I do know that whatever deadline this author chooses to take for the book is critical to the success of the book and has to be met (even completed ahead of the deadline if he wants to be a rare author).

Because inside the publishing company, whenever you sign a book contract with a specific deadline, it sets off a chain of events that the author doesn't know about. If you miss your deadline for turning in your manuscript, you potentially delay or at times sabotage your own possible success with the book.

For example, if you miss your deadline by a month, will publicity have your manuscript at the expected time to write their press releases and catalog copy and send out advanced review copies of your book? If you miss that schedule, it may never be replaced because of the pressure of other books. Then a year down the road, you wonder about some of the lack luster or missing publicity efforts for your book.

Once again the key returns to taking responsibility for your own writing life and efforts. You can certainly see the drive and regularity of it in this short article about Danielle Steel.

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1 Comment:

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Crystal Laine Miller Left a note...

I think it is true that you have to find the formula that gets you to work and get those words on paper. And I could work with Danielle's schedule except for that typewriter thing and living in Paris half the year.(I'd pick somewhere else.) Love/hate the computer.

However, I was listening to Shirley Jump (romantic comedy novelist) at a conference recently and she finally convinced me to try an Alphasmart.

The truth is--isn't it?--that a writer has to write if you want to get somewhere.

Great post.


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