Friday, July 31, 2009

The Pit of Despair

by Susan Sey

I wouldn't feel right about leading anybody on, so I'm going to say right up front that this is not a Princess Bride blog. Sorry, fans.

In spite of the title, there will be no ROUSes (Rodents of Unusal Size), no Six Fingered Men, & no love in the Fire Swamp. There will also be no more rhyming, & I mean it. (Though I will give props & bonus points to the first person to successfully finish off that quote. It's my mom's favorite.)

No, the Pit of Despair I'm talking about (hereafter referred to as the PoD) is a writerly phenomenon. It's not an underground torture chamber, exactly, though there are similarities. It's more a state of mind.

A realization.

A moment of clarity.

It's the place you end up when you must reconcile three ugly realities:

1) You have reached the limits of your talent.

Seriously. You have taken every workshop, tried every technique, read every craft book & worked your tail off. You have dug deep, you have summoned up your courage & honesty, & you have put your heart on the page. On lots of pages. Maybe a book or two (or three or four) worth of pages.

2) You have put your work out there.

You've queried every editor, every agent. You're written a kick-ass query letter, your synopsis rocks. You've endured the sound & fury of the contest circuit, & flung yourself on the mercy of every person even remotely interested in critiquing you. You've even (saints preserve you) pitched in person. Maybe you have an agent. Or even a contract. But you're doing the work. You're out there.

3) It isn't enough.

Your contest scores blow. Or maybe they don't. Maybe you're winning contests, but not getting requests from editors. Or maybe you are. Maybe you're getting full requests, but getting form rejections that get your name wrong. Or maybe that agent you sweated blood for just blew you off. Or maybe your long awaited publication date just got pushed back. Again. Or maybe book two on your contract just got shredded by your editor & you're pretty sure you only had one decent book in you.

Welcome to the PoD.

Good news, though. You're in good company. Hell, you're in great company. NYT best-selling company. And how do I (not remotely a NYT best-seller) know this?

Easy. I heard Janet Evanovich speak at the RWA conference a few weeks ago. And of course, she told us her Call Story. Now keep in mind, it's been something like 15 years & several millions of dollars since she got The Call. But between the part where she wrote & failed & wrote & failed for ten years, & the part where her husband & son tracked her down at a roller rink so they could tell her her editor had called--her editor!--she had to stop.

She got choked up & had to stop to collect herself so she could go on. Fifteen years after the fact, fifteen years in which presumably she's gained a certain amount of confidence in her talent, she still remembered so vividly what it was like to live in the PoD--and how it felt to be so miraculously released--it could move her to tears. I don't think there was a person in the audience who wasn't moved by that. Or inspired.

I know I was. Because while I don't have the faintest clue what it must feel like to see your name on the NYT best-seller list, I sure as hell know what it feels like to reach the limits of your talent, & see that big gap between where it ends & your dream begins. I know what the PoD feels like, & I know what it feels like to live there long enough to write a book or two. Or three. Or four.

So when I find myself in total despair (like when I read anything by SEP or Kristin Higgins & realize I will never write anything that witty or charming), I like to reframe things. Because what if the PoD isn't a death sentence? What if it's a prerequisite? Because here's something I know:

Maybe not everybody who lives in the PoD winds up on the NYT best-seller list. But every single writer who hits the NYT list has lived in the PoD. They all served their time.

And if they can go on to own the list, why can't we?

So, tell us. Spent any time in the PoD lately? What--or who--pulls you out when you fall in? Share!

61 comments:

flchen1 said...

PoD??

flchen1 said...

Susan, eloquent post on the Pit of Despair--not a writer, but I think you may be on to something. It does seem like with some things, you've got to hit the low in order to appreciate the high. Or maybe the appreciation is in the contrast. Or maybe I'm just blowing smoke...

Anyway, please write on, PoD or no--you have a lovely voice, and I sure do enjoy reading your posts! May I be able to read your books soon!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Anybody want a peanut?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, sigh, I think I live prepetually in the PoD, writing-wise.

As the Bandits know I've turned in my contest winning erotica to an editor and several agents. It truly was a scary book for me to write, and I poured tons of heart and passion and hope into it.

And now?

I wait.

Sigh...

Still waiting....

Banging head on desk...

Still waiting....

Idea for next erotica mulling in head, taking shape.

Still waiting...

Totally different project has just popped into my head. Fingers to keyboard. Nearly thirty pages in two weeks, (that's a lot for me).

And

Still

Waiting

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Fedora.

Hi Susan,
I think most of us are familiar with the PoD. It usually takes a while for me to get up and dust myself off and get back into the game.

Natalie Hatch said...

Oh I'm soo here right now. I had an agent have one of my mss for eight months, asked for revision, going great and then on Saturday afternoon emails me and says that she wasn't confident enough to sell it. So no agent contract. Ahh well, you live and learn. Our own lovely Anna Campbell wrote 17 novels before selling, if she can suck it up and get on with life, so can I... although I do tend to have a whinge now and again.

Joan said...

Helllloooooooo....down here in the 9th level of PoD.....

It's a hard,hard place to be that's for sure, Susan. A place that after a while makes even reassurances of "you're almost there" start to feel hollow.

But.....I keep on.

Because I'm stubborn. Because I KNOW I've written 3 good mss. Perfect? No. Needs polishing? Absolutely but dangit...I'm not giving up.

Another thing that helps me hang in there though are wonderful friends, Banditas and BB's

So pass the nachos as we wait out our time in the PoD...

Beth said...

Susan, I was very moved and inspired by Janet's Call Story. That was such a great opening session!

The last time I was in the PoD was right before I got The Call, but at the time, I was in so deep, I wasn't sure I'd ever get out :-)

And while I haven't been in the PoD in a while, I seem to end up in the DoD (Ditch of Despair) or, more accurately, the DDoD (Doubting Ditch of Despair) with each new book.

Is it good enough? Better/worse than the book before? Do I have another book in me? Will I get another contract?

Luckily, I'm a bit of a Pollyanna and am (for the most part) able to pretend the doubts don't exist *g*

Natalie, hugs on the agent news!

Congrats on nabbing the GR, Fedora! What are your plans for him for the day?

Caren Crane said...

Fedora, major congrats on snagging the chooky chook. Be kind. He won't be kind in return, but it's good karma. *g*

I'll admit, I've been in deep PoD (which is not at all like deep PoV) for a looong time now. Like Joan said, the reassurances of "you're almost there" get hard to take. I'm in danger of becoming bitter, especially on hearing about debut authors getting six-figure contracts, but I know I won't quite make it there.

My Banditas and BBs won't let me!

I use y'all terribly, in case you didn't notice. You lift my spirits and tell me it was them, not me. *g* So what if every editor in NYC hates my heroine? So what if they love the writing, the plot, the hero, the secondary characters and everything except the heroine I adore?

I'm trying hard to make the heroine of my new book more likeable. It's a major struggle. See, I don't think I am a "likeable" person. I'm too honest, too blunt, too insensitive and, overall, kind of hard to take. Why do I think I can write any other kind of heroine?!

*sigh* I'm not worried, though. I know all my Banditas will rush to assure me that, all evidence to the contrary, I'm not nearly as horrible as all that. They will assure me my edges only but them every once in a while and that my wit, while acerbic, doesn't usually cause permanent damage.

I have a feeling I'll be a pit-dweller for a while yet. Meanwhile, maybe I'll give my heroine a dog *shudder* and a fondness for crafts or something. *double shudder* Ack, I can't even think about it!!

Marie Force said...

Great post, Susan! It was soooo great to meet you at RWA this year!

We've all been there, those low moments when we think we can't possibly go on. What always drags me out of the pit o' despair is the writing. I can't NOT write. I just keep writing and keep creating and hoping that what I'm doing will resonate with someone. That's all we as writers can do to get ourselves out of the pit. I agree that Janet's speech was a highlight of the conference.

Susan Sey said...

flchen1! Congrats on the GR! I'll bet he could pull a girl out of the PoD! (nudge, nudge, wink)

And I think you're definitely right on with the "experience the lows to appreciate the highs" thing, too. Not that I wish the PoD on anybody, of course, but I do think that it makes you a better superstar when you were really, really humbled once. :-)

At least that's my theory. Won't it be great when we're all superstars & can compare notes?

And thank you for thinking nice thoughts about my voice. My first book will hit the shelves in July 2010--nearly two full years after I sold it. I anticipate, however, the published author's PoD will not be so very different from the AYU's PoD with which I'm so familiar. :-) A little more crowded, however, what with the agent, editor, publishers & readers I want desperately to please. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: Anybody want a peanut?

Awww, Suz! You're awesome. My mom will be so happy.

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: As the Bandits know I've turned in my contest winning erotica to an editor and several agents. It truly was a scary book for me to write, and I poured tons of heart and passion and hope into it.

And now?

I wait.


Oh, Suz, I hear you. I hear you loud & clear. Waiting is hard enough but waiting for judgment? Geez. That's just...cruel.

Best thing about being a bandita, though? Or a bandita buddy?

You never wait alone. Come here. I'll hold your hand & we'll talk about your awesome new project, because when they call & offer you a two-book deal (or three, or four) you're going to want to have a few ideas to throw out there.

:-)

Susan Sey said...

Jane wrote: I think most of us are familiar with the PoD. It usually takes a while for me to get up and dust myself off and get back into the game.

I think a waiting period is perfectly acceptable. I usually give myself a full 48 hours to wallow. I eat ice cream, I whine to my husband, I create dire visions of a future in which I am a talentless failure.

And then somebody (usually my ever-loving CP or staggeringly patient husband) mentions to me--oh so gently--that if I'm going to quit I should just please do it. Then they smile into their collars when, a few days later, I announce that I've had An Idea That Can Fix This, & am furiously writing again.

Susan Sey said...

Natalie Hatch wrote: I had an agent have one of my mss for eight months, asked for revision, going great and then on Saturday afternoon emails me and says that she wasn't confident enough to sell it. So no agent contract.

Oooooh, that stings. That really, really stings. But we can reframe this. (After, of course, a 48 hour period in which you wallow & whine & cry & rail against the fates. Don't skip that. It's essential.)

Let's think about Janet Evanovich again, & try to picture yourself giving a keynote address to a few thousand of your fellow writers in, say, 15-20 years. Think of the story you'll be able to tell, & how inspiring it will be to all the people who currently feel like utter failures. Imagine yourself telling them how you shook yourself off, tried to quit & couldn't, then wrote another story. A story an agent snapped up & sold & the rest is your own personal HEA.

No guarantees, of course, but I like to cast myself as the heroine of a Disney movie sometimes. WWAD? (What Would Ariel Do?) It makes me feel better, & if it doesn't, at least I start belting out Disney tunes. That's something.

Which is a long winded way of saying--Keep writing, Natalie. If an agent spent that much time on you, you're close. Really, really close.

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: But.....I keep on.

Because I'm stubborn. Because I KNOW I've written 3 good mss. Perfect? No. Needs polishing? Absolutely but dangit...I'm not giving up.


And you shouldn't. Because you DID write three good mss. And sometimes success is more a 'last man standing' thing than a 'cream rises to the top' thing.

Not that you aren't cream. :-)

But cream by itself doesn't cut it sometimes. Sometimes the cream has to be stubborn, too. So good on you. And when you win your Golden Heart, & then your Rita, nobody will cheer louder than we will.

Susan Sey said...

Beth wrote: And while I haven't been in the PoD in a while, I seem to end up in the DoD (Ditch of Despair) or, more accurately, the DDoD (Doubting Ditch of Despair) with each new book.

Is it good enough? Better/worse than the book before? Do I have another book in me? Will I get another contract?


Oooh, yeah. The DDoD. I think we who have yet to experience a book on the shelves tend to believe it's all smooth sailing once you finally, finally sell a book. People try to explain that there are whole new traumas available to the published author, but they're vague to us. Unreal.

But I have a feeling the pubbed PoD (henceforth known as the PPoD?) is a very frightening place as well. It must be terrifying to know that all these people (agents, editors, publishers) have invested in you & are expecting the goods. Any words of wisdom on carrying that little burden??

Susan Sey said...

Caren wrote: *sigh* I'm not worried, though. I know all my Banditas will rush to assure me that, all evidence to the contrary, I'm not nearly as horrible as all that. They will assure me my edges only but them every once in a while and that my wit, while acerbic, doesn't usually cause permanent damage.


And it's all quite, quite true, Posh! You are a wonderfully warm & real person, and while your committment to honesty might give you an edge or two, it's an edge I personally count on. If I have a VPL (visible panty line) or try to wear stupid barettes, I know you'll tell me. :-)

Or if my heroine or hero has problems, I know you won't let me slide. You'll tell me because you expect better from your banditas.

So I'll tell you this--don't make your heroine crafty. Oh please don't. If she's edgy & tough & mouthy....oh, wait. You could give her a craft that matches! Remember how in Faking It by Jenny Crusie, the repressed mom was always needlepointing? But everything she sewed ended up with fangs & teeth? Kind of disturbing? Like all her edge was being channeled into the craft? Your heroine could be determined to knit things, & they could end up being bustieres, or thongs, or something kind of edgy.

Okay & now I'm babbling, but I think you should trust yourself. We do.

Susan Sey said...

Marie wrote: What always drags me out of the pit o' despair is the writing. I can't NOT write.

Amen, sister. My husband always hits me with this about the 48 hour mark of my sulk, when I threaten to quit writing. He smiles (which is infuriating) and says, "You're not going to quit." Which is doubly infuriating because he's right. I CAN'T quit. I write. It's what I do.

Sigh.

But there are days when I love it. Just love it. Aren't those days great?

p.s. It was really great to meet you at the conference, too, Marie! How did your daughter like it?

Louisa Cornell said...

Way to go, Fedora! The GR is NEVER in the PoD! Must be nice.

Suzanne beat me to the Princess Bride quote. Love that movie.

I've spent so much time in and out of the PoD that I've installed an elevator!

It IS frustrating when you know you've worked hard on your craft, you've really tried to make your writing better. And sometimes the worst place in the world to be is "almost there." Almost there is a great place to be if you're driving to Mawmaw's house, but NOT if you are trying to get one of your babies, a large part of your life, your greatest wish, your hope for a future outside of Wal-Mart published. Can you tell I have given this some thought?

And I was really inspired by Janet Evanovich's story when I heard it at the conference. It really was inspirational. But for a fleeting moment I thought "Fifteen years??? I should have started sooner! I don't want to arrive at my first booksigning in a wheelchair!" (Unless maybe it is being pushed by a REALLY, REALLY hot cover model / male nurse. Then all bets are off!

But every step of the way, every time I get down I know I can stop by here or talk to my fellow writers and I will always feel better. Not to mention my CP who is constantly cracking the whip!

Kristan said...

Hey, Susan! Thanks for the nod...am in the pit o' despair right now, ironically. I think there are two types of books we writers get: gift books, where the story leaps out of your brain; and pit books, where you grind them out and doubt and lose sleep and wonder if you're really in the right business. Maybe being a writer is more about acknowledging that than anything else.

Hang in there! I will if you will. ;-)

Susan Sey said...

Louisa Cornell wrote: Almost there is a great place to be if you're driving to Mawmaw's house, but NOT if you are trying to get one of your babies, a large part of your life, your greatest wish, your hope for a future outside of Wal-Mart published.

I think that noise you just heard was a collective AMEN SISTER going up from the crowd, Louisa.

Louisa wrote: And I was really inspired by Janet Evanovich's story when I heard it at the conference. It really was inspirational. But for a fleeting moment I thought "Fifteen years??? I should have started sooner! I don't want to arrive at my first booksigning in a wheelchair!" (Unless maybe it is being pushed by a REALLY, REALLY hot cover model / male nurse. Then all bets are off!


You crack me up, Louisa! Everything is better when you toss in a male model/nurse. Even the PoD, I bet. :-)

jo robertson said...

Great post, Susan! As writers, we've all been in that Pit of Despair. Some days I've been in it deeper than others LOL.

But I think we fall into the PoD in all areas of our lives -- this kid will never reach his 18th birthday because I'm such a lousy mother -- this job will eat me alive because I hate, truly hate it, and there's no chance for advancement -- this body will never shed those 20 pounds it put on while I was IN the PoD!

Anyone remember that song about the ant and the rubber tree plant -- oops, here's the dreadful rhyming, Susan.

"Just what makes that little old ant/think he'll move that rubber tree plant/everyone knows an ant/can't/move a rubber tree plant.

But he's got high hopes/he's got high apple pie/in the sky hopes."

I don't know why but that silly song pulls me out of the PoD every damn time!

Susan Sey said...

Kristan wrote: I think there are two types of books we writers get: gift books, where the story leaps out of your brain; and pit books, where you grind them out and doubt and lose sleep and wonder if you're really in the right business. Maybe being a writer is more about acknowledging that than anything else.


Oh, yeah. Gift vs. grind. I have to wonder if the reader can tell the difference between them, that one just sparkled & laid itself on the page like a Disney character, while the other caused you to sweat actual blood before you forced it down.

As to acknowledging that as part of the journey, I'm totally with you on that, too. If there's one thing I took away from the conference this year, it was that writing as a career is completely non-linear. No amount of talent or effort or forethought or planning can make it so. It's just a wild ride at the whim of a fickle market & people who hang on & keep writing eventually see the pendulum swing their way.

Frustrating for those of us who like to think their success is at least in part contingent upon talent & effort. :-)

Hang in there, babe. I'm telling you, the talent & the effort are totally there. Now it's just a question of endurance.

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: But he's got high hopes/he's got high apple pie/in the sky hopes."

I don't know why but that silly song pulls me out of the PoD every damn time!


Oh, Jo, thanks for this! My mom used to sing it to me whenever I got down & who can resist laughing when somebody serenades you with such a lovely piece of ridiculous optimism? So it totally works. Every time.

I also enjoy "you've got to/acc-CEN-tuate the positive/E-LIM-inate the negative/Latch ON to the af-FIR-mative/and don't mess with Mr. In Between"

Try singing that & staying down. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Oh, Posh, I meant to say--

When I said trust yourself, because we do? A disclaimer:

We do trust you. Absolutely. But don't you trust Joanie. She still wants your jacket. And she's sneaky. And, as she may have mentioned, stubborn. And goal oriented...

:-)

terrio said...

I'm not to the PoD yet, but definitely in the line for it. With school over, I'm finally diving into the writing with gusto, only my gusto isn't flowing as I'd like. I tell myself I can and will do this. I tell myself I have what it takes. I even read back some of my stuff and occasionally impress myself.

But there's the knowledge that this journey is just beginning and I still have all these major mountains and obstacles to overcome. Piles of rejections and heartache in my path. *sigh* That can be daunting.

But then I come here and you all inspire me and encourage me and never fail to make me smile. And I will now have Baloo singing in my head all day. So thanks for that. LOL!

Janga said...

Beth, if it helps you in the DDoD, yesterday I put His Secret Agenda on my TBB book calendar. I can't wait to read it.

Recently I decided one thing is worse than DoD--fearing DoD so much that you never take the risk of putting the work of your heart and head out there.

terrio said...

Janga - Don't make me come down there.

Janga said...

Ter, you don't have to threaten me. LOL! Honest. It was that realization that relit the fire.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, Princess Bride is one of my hubby's favorite movies. He and my kids quote it often. And the rhyming/peanut line? Used to come up almost nightly at the dinner table!

Anna Campbell said...

Fedora! It's been a while since you've been chook custodian, isn't it? Or did I miss a nabbing when I was in America and off email? Congratulations!

Susan, the Pit of Despair lives in the room next door, sadly. Something that helps is a nice email from a reader. Seriously those emails are like chocolate, even when you're not in the POD!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Nat! Sorry to hear about your disappointment. Now write another book and send it off!

Not sure I wrote 17 novels - I did eight Harlequins and a few other full length ones and there's lots of stumps still under the bed so it would have added up to something like that. I did, however, write for 27 years before I sold. Believe me, 27 years gives you plenty of time to dig a pit of despaire.

Anna Campbell said...

The Banditas and our buddies always help to drag me out of the POD. I LURVE the Banditas and our friends here.

Actually, Janga, you're right about the Dead of the POD. It IS worse to sink into that particular mire!

I firmly believe a good book will find an audience so hang in there, everyone!

Donna MacMeans said...

Susan - I do love your posts! Can't wait for your book to come out.

Posh - Shame on you. I love you to pieces and wish you lived closer. Definitely one of the nicest people I know. (And can I just say - rooting interests :) ).

I'm afraid I missed Janet's speech at National but I'm looking forward to hearing it when my CDs arrive! I know well the PoD and revisit it often. I was deep, deep into it in San Francisco, but writing eventually saved me.
(Praise the Lord! Amen!)

I'm learning to trust the fickle muse, but it's not easy. I think tossing aside the need to be good helps and frees the imagination. Yes. Embrace the crap! Crap can be revised. My new motto (grin).

Marie Force said...

My daughter LOVED it, Susan. The free books, the authors, the RITAs, meeting Nora Roberts and having her photo taken with Nora on her 14th bday! Fabulous experience, but I fear I've created a monster... She's already talking about "next year." Gulp!

Susan Sey said...

Terrio said: But there's the knowledge that this journey is just beginning and I still have all these major mountains and obstacles to overcome. Piles of rejections and heartache in my path. *sigh* That can be daunting.

Indeed it can. And whenever a rejection slaps me silly (and oh, they do, very silly), I try to reframe it (after a suitable mourning period, of course. Don't skip the chocolate.)

I like to think that, on the path to success, there are a finite number of rejections you have to endure before somebody recognizes your genuis. Right now, you have no idea how big or small that number is, but in retrospect, there will have been some definable number, right?

So every rejection you endure gets you one "no" closer to "yes", if that makes sense. One down, X to go. Yay, you!

Small comfort, I know. But comfort nonetheless.

Terrior also wrote: But then I come here and you all inspire me and encourage me and never fail to make me smile. And I will now have Baloo singing in my head all day. So thanks for that. LOL

Oh, darling, that's what we're here for. Unlimited inspiration & the dreaded earworm. Lately, I've been singing LeAnn Rimes' Blue. Remember that one? She was, like, fourteen? And it was a song meant for Patsy Cline? I know only the chorus--four lines, absolutely nothing more. Yet I sing it all day. And not particularly well. :-) Baloo's got to be better. And more optimistic.

So write on, writer girl! We're behind you!

Susan Sey said...

Janga wrote: Recently I decided one thing is worse than DoD--fearing DoD so much that you never take the risk of putting the work of your heart and head out there.

I'm with Terrio on this one. Don't make us come down there. Aunt Cindy has a crop & she's not afraid to use it. We could also sic the Golden Rooster on you, but that's a last resort. Plus his methods are...unconventional. But effective. Let us know if you need him. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: Princess Bride is one of my hubby's favorite movies. He and my kids quote it often. And the rhyming/peanut line? Used to come up almost nightly at the dinner table!

It's such a quotable movie! My mom, who is SO not a movie quoter loves it. In addition to "anybody want a peanut?" she also likes to use, "I don't even exercise!" Which is even more comical, because she is not remotely Andre the Giant sized.

I myself have gotten a great deal of mileage out of "sleep well, my friend, & dream of large women." Makes me laugh every time.

Susan Sey said...

Anna C. wrote: Susan, the Pit of Despair lives in the room next door, sadly. Something that helps is a nice email from a reader. Seriously those emails are like chocolate, even when you're not in the POD!

Awww. Come on, I don't want to hear that successfully published authors deal with the PoD! I mean, I KNOW they do, but I don't want to acknowledge it. Can't you tell me they issue you these little elves who write fabulous prose for you while you're off on a whirlwind book signing tour & drinking champagne in your air conditioned limo?

No?

Sigh.

But I hear you on the reader emails. I can't imagine anything better than a total stranger dropping you a line to let you know how much they loved your book. I had never written an author before I started writing myself. I guess I thought they'd never get it, or it wouldn't matter. But now I understand better what goes into writing a book & I try to make sure to write the author a little note if I loved it. It's lovely to hear an author say how much they appreciate your praise.

Susan Sey said...

Donna wrote: Susan - I do love your posts! Can't wait for your book to come out.

Awww, that's so kind, Donna. Believe me, you won't miss the release date. July 2010, people! I'll be in touch!

Donna also wrote: Posh - Shame on you. I love you to pieces and wish you lived closer. Definitely one of the nicest people I know. (And can I just say - rooting interests :) ).

Ditto, Posh! One of the things I meant to say earlier was that in addition to being a true & honest friend, you are also one of the most genuinely kind people I know as well. And I know that from personal experience, friends, as Posh saved me from a sad, lonely conference experience by allowing me to sleep in her bed. I will someday write a blog on people who do you large favors & call it "To Posh T, Whom I Slept With." :-) Watch for it.

Donna also wrote: I'm learning to trust the fickle muse, but it's not easy. I think tossing aside the need to be good helps and frees the imagination. Yes. Embrace the crap! Crap can be revised. My new motto (grin).

You know what La Nora says: "I can fix a sh*tty page. I can't fix a blank page." And then there's the inimitable Jenny Crusie who says, "Give yourself permission to put garbage on the screen."

It helps, doesn't it?

Susan Sey said...

Marie wrote: My daughter LOVED it, Susan. The free books, the authors, the RITAs, meeting Nora Roberts and having her photo taken with Nora on her 14th bday! Fabulous experience, but I fear I've created a monster... She's already talking about "next year." Gulp!

Oh, that's awesome! What a wonderful tradition to have with your daughter! I can't wait until my oldest is big enough to come with me, & appreciate the icon that is Nora Roberts.

Have you considered making her your 'assistant' or some such thing? At the very least, you can have her typing up your workshop notes or put together your conference schedule. :-) If she's going to come every year, she ought to pull her weight, no?

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, someone told you about the elves? I thought they were a trade secret that you learnt with the secret handshake once your book is on the shelves! ;-)

Actually, on a serious note, I never wrote to an author either until I sold. I'm so sorry I didn't especially as so many of them have now passed away and they'll never know how their words inspired a girl growing up in Australia.

Claudia Dain said...

Caren! Good grief! I don't know how you see yourself, but it's nothing like the world sees you. Put down that freaky mirror, girl, and accept that you're an intelligent, straight-shooter in a world full of stupid liars.

Oops. Was that a bit snarly? I'm not a bit sorry! *g*

Susan, oh, Susan, aren't we all there, hovering near the edge of the Pit of Despair? Sometimes we're back a few steps, feeling safe, then sometimes hanging my a trembling hand, our legs swinging in the black of the abyss, but we're all living our lives circling the pit.

This is not sad news. It's the reality of publishing, maybe the reality of life.

Has anyone else heard that country song about the guy who's in the bar and whining about losing his job and his wife is pregnant with #3 and he can't pay the mortgage and his life is in the toilet...and this other guy says, "What are you talking about? This is LIFE you're living. This is what *it is*. Congrats on the baby, dude!"

That's what I'm talking about. Life on the edge of the Pit of Despair is just...life.

Nancy said...

Fedora, congrats on taking home the rooster.

Susan, a very thoughtful post. I think many, many writers can identify with it. The thing I've had to realize, though, is that the limits of one's talent can change. Going to workshops, getting critiques from people who're ahead of you on the road, and analyzing favorite books can expand one's horizons and lead to new approaches.

None of that brightens the moment, but does brighten the horizon.

Nancy said...

Suz, doesn't waiting just bite? That was what I hated about that whole dating thing--waiting to find out whether a relationship was going anywhere. So glad to be done with that.

So now I have subs out and am, like you, waiting. Again.

And unlike marriage, publishing is a series of waiting periods. Urk.

Nancy said...

Natalie, I'm so sorry the agent didn't work out. For me, something like that is a bigger disappointment than a form letter with my name spelled wrong.

Anna Campbell's a great role model for perseverance, isn't she?

Nancy said...

Joan, "close" is actually a four-letter word. I'm personally really sick of it.

I do think it helps to have more than one project out and to always have SOMEthing out, at more than one place, so if a rejection comes back form one, there's still hope.

Nancy said...

Caren, I'm struggling to balance "likeable" with "tough," which I think is harder for heroines than heroes.

Nancy said...

Caren wrote: See, I don't think I am a "likeable" person.

Yeah. Right. You're so unlikeable that you got elected president of your RWA chapter. You're so unlikeable that many, many authors are happy to call you friend. You're so incredibly unlikeable I'm rooming with you at M&M.

Pull the other one, bandita.

As Terrio says, don't make me come over there. . . .

Joan said...

But don't you trust Joanie. She still wants your jacket.

Moi? But I am so trustable....

Except....

NOW Posh has a total of THREE jackets I covet....

Plus Suz's glitter flip flops (BTW...we'll have to make the stories "Bandita's I've Slept With" and anthology as Suz and I had to double up when my CP's arrived earlier than we thought :-)

Lorraine Heath's beautiful purple/blue gauzy wrap

Nancy's accessories i.e. Chico bracelet.

And yeah, ya'll need to be wary...I'm contemplating coming to M&M :-)

Nancy said...

Joan, I'm beginning to think we shouldn't ought to have let you go to conference. Your "covet" list seems to have grown exponentially while you were there. Though we would've missed you terribly if you hadn't gone, not to mention missing out on those mega-chocolate-chip cookies.

And the bracelet's not from Chico's. Not the one you were stroking, anyway.

So come to M&M. If you come early, I can show you places near the hotel that sell accessories.

Don't know if there's a Chico's, though. *g*

Susan Sey said...

Anna C. wrote: Susan, someone told you about the elves?

Well...I'd heard rumors. :-)

And I kinda wish I'd started writing authors earlier, too. There were so many people whose books I adored who might've really enjoyed knowing how much they meant to us. Ah well. I'm starting now, & that's something, right?

Susan Sey said...

Claudia Dain wrote: Caren! Good grief! I don't know how you see yourself, but it's nothing like the world sees you. Put down that freaky mirror, girl, and accept that you're an intelligent, straight-shooter in a world full of stupid liars.

Amen. And I'll add a 'preach on' & possibly a hanky wave. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Claudia Dain wrote: ...and this other guy says, "What are you talking about? This is LIFE you're living. This is what *it is*. Congrats on the baby, dude!"

That's what I'm talking about. Life on the edge of the Pit of Despair is just...life.


Absolutely. This is--I think--what I was trying to work out with this post. I'm not actually in the PoD myself at this moment, but hearing somebody who's achieved such a wild level of success admit to spending time in the PoD really sort of sparked an epiphany for me.

If Janet Evanovich felt this kind of self-doubt, and went on to achieve what she has, then maybe the PoD isn't a bad sign. Maybe it's not a sign that we're talentless hacks who really ought to give it up & stick to the day job. Maybe, like you said, it's just how life works. Sometimes--maybe even most times--you just don't win.

All we can do is aim to muddle through it with a little grace & whole lot of perserverance.

A big bowl of ice cream never hurts, either.

Susan Sey said...

Nancy wrote: The thing I've had to realize, though, is that the limits of one's talent can change. Going to workshops, getting critiques from people who're ahead of you on the road, and analyzing favorite books can expand one's horizons and lead to new approaches.


Absolutely true, Nancy. I think that's one of the things RWA does so well. They really do help aspiring writers learn the craft. There's nothing you can do about whether or not you have 'special something' that makes a ms pop, but you can absolutely figure out how to construct & pace a ms, or develop a character better, which gives the 'pop' that much more chance to show up.

Susan Sey said...

Nancy wrote: That was what I hated about that whole dating thing--waiting to find out whether a relationship was going anywhere.

Right on, sister. I once dated a guy for two years because he kept convincing me that it didn't get any better, & that if I thought it did, I'd been reading to many romance novels.

In the end, I decided I liked what I got from the romance novels more than I liked what I got from him, & dumped his pessimistic self. I immediately met my wonderful husband & thought, "Thank god. I never have to date again."

Susan Sey said...

Nancy wrote: Caren, I'm struggling to balance "likeable" with "tough," which I think is harder for heroines than heroes.

You're so right about this & it makes me mad. I don't know why women have to be so darned nice all the time. Why can't a heroine be unabashedly alpha? I think it would be refreshing.

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: (BTW...we'll have to make the stories "Bandita's I've Slept With" and anthology as Suz and I had to double up when my CP's arrived earlier than we thought :-)


Banditas I've Slept With: The Anthology.

I love it! I've also slept with Kirstan. Does that make me the slutty one? How refreshing! I've never been the slutty one before! Unless somebody out there has slept with more than two banditas? Do I hold the title?

p.s. the GR doesn't count. He sleeps with everybody.

Christine Wells said...

LOVED this blog, Susan! I really think it's true that you appreciate the things you have to work hardest for. Maybe some writers have a dream run but I do believe that even those writers will one day hit a wall and have to dig themselves out of the PoD. This business is not for the faint hearted, is it? But we love it anyway.

Susan Sey said...

Christine wrote: Maybe some writers have a dream run but I do believe that even those writers will one day hit a wall and have to dig themselves out of the PoD.

Exactly! And I have to think that it's even worse for those people. I mean, can you imagine? After the very first book you ever tried to write is snapped up at auction for six figures, where do you go from there? I imagine it's like those little gymnasts who win Olympic gold at age twelve. An amazing accomplishment, of course. But what next? Try topping that.

So there's an upside to repeated trips to the PoD. At least we're familiar with the smack-down, & have developed the skills to buckle down & write through the blahs until inspiration strikes again.

Plus the company down there in the PoD is awesome. We could probably throw a crazy party. :-)