Misfit Writer

Excuse this sort of stream of consciousness post. I’m all worked up from reading about other authors’ successful sales. Earlier this week I was invited to a movie and lunch. Magic Mike was the movie. Most of you have either seen it or decided not to, so I’m not going to review it. The movie was fun—because gyrating men do make me laugh. But the point of this post is not the movie or the lunch that followed, but my reaction, as an author, to being in the company of women who are in my target readership.

One of the women in that group is from my generation and the other two are of the next younger generation. None of oddthem are writers, but they are avid readers and movie goers. They didn’t discuss Magic Mike except for a few joking comments, but as we ate, I listened to them discuss several other movies and books they had all seen or read.

Listened is the operative word.

Most of the time, I could only listen because I had seen few of the movies and read even fewer of the books they named. As I listened, I felt as if I’d grown antennae and a few extra eyes. How could I be so alien to their entertainment world? Or more importantly to me as a writer, how can I write fiction that appeals to them when I’m such a misfit?

That was not the only time I’ve discovered I’m on the outside looking in. I’ve joined several reading groups on Goodreads, populated mostly by women, to find that I don’t read the same books they do. Writers are told to grow your reader base by joining such groups, not to sell, but to let them get to know you as a person. But I join and then remain silent because I have nothing to add to the conversations.

I could force myself to read the books they read, but then I’d have no time to read the books that truly appeal to me. And writers have to read, right? Yes, I know. We should write what we love to read. But when you’re a misfit like me, is that good advice?

Of course I’m not going to start writing political thrillers or something else completely foreign to me. Nor am I going to start writing “mommy porn” just because it’s selling through the roof. That’s the rub. This would all be moot if I quit thinking about how to sell more books.

If I could just not care about that, I could be happy in my little misfit world—and return to my study of Magic Mike’s character arc.

19 thoughts on “Misfit Writer

  1. I’m just glad I’m not trying to sell books because I identify completely with this situation. Discussing stories online, critique group comments and the like, all demonstrate to me that I’m never going to write a best seller [give or take the capacity to put one together!] so I can relax and just write the kind of fiction I am happy to own up to. That said, I’ve just submitted a flash piece that spoofs ’50 Shades’ – I hope the eds recognise that bad means BAD and that it’s deliberate!

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    1. You know, Suzanne, 50 Shades came up over that lunch. I blurted my opinion before learning that two of them women enjoyed it. I guess I’m better off in the online groups where I can silently lurk. I’m looking forward to reading your spoof. 🙂

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  2. Hi, Linda. I read this post at work this morning, but couldn’t comment until now. “Mommy porn”, huh? You cracked me up with that. It’s very true though. I know some writers who seem to be making a killing with that kind of thing while I continue to chart the course. It hurts if you think about it too long.
    I just wanted to add that a good book is a good book – no matter what the genre. I think we just keep crafting the best novel we can. The audience will find it. Have a good weekend, my dear friend.

    -Jimmy

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    1. Hi, Jimmy. Yeah, it does hurt if you think about it too long. 🙂 I go through these sales envy periods every few months and make myself a little crazy. But I can only write what I write. If it sells, it sells. I do hate these antennae and extra eyes, though.

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  3. Well spill the beans and pick out the fat! (Sorry, I had to use that line after one of my characters said it yesterday – lol)

    I feel your frustration, Linda. You shouldn’t have to write to formula or switch to genres that are running hot for the sake of selling books. You shouldn’t have to sprinkler a little free advertising, or public opinion though your work to get the backing a novel needs to become successful. Unfortunately, you need backing to keep moving your product to the front. In a world of chatter and five second attention spans if your not standing in front of the masses with all eyes focused in your direction you’re simply forgotten. Long-term fan base takes what feels like centuries to grow. Until then you have to keep bullying your way to the front of the line.

    Fortunately you have the right to make those choices. But, as with anything in life, there are consequences. Unfortunately if you want to sell books you also have to sell out.

    Fiction – Poetry – Magazines – Movies, it’s all the same. I know several very successful poets that lament having to write on subjects and in forms that are marketable. They’re frustrated that being a “recognized” poet also means being tongue-tied and having to keep a private file for the stuff that really runs through their veins. The strongest (and easiest) marketing campaigns are built around what is socially, politically, and empirically accepted. In all media craft has become secondary to marketability with the most successful media presentations being marketability combined with craft. (It’s sort of like the psychohistorians of Asimov’s, Foundation Series – which I’m reading now – it’s all about the formula.)

    I’m not saying sell out – H. E. double NO! I’m only suggesting that to relieve yourself of these burdensome thoughts you accept that it is what it is and free yourself. Focus on writing what you love if that is what makes you happy. Or you can focus on money where you might also find happiness – eventually.

    Sorry for the long reply, again! I ought to email you these comments.

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    1. First off, K., you know I never mind the length of your thoughtful comments. 🙂

      You know, what I really envy are those authors who do write what they love, but because they’re not social misfits, what they love is also what gazillions of readers love. Best of both worlds.

      And too, my dissatisfaction is mainly because of my persistent impatience. I want to be the writer NOW that I know I can become. I clearly published too soon. I panicked because of my age and circumstance.

      “Bullying your way to the front of the line”? You could not have written a less accurate description of my modus operandi.That’s never going to happen, so I simply must accept my lot. And finish this next book, already! 😉

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      1. Exactly! I’m the same way. What I write appeals to a very limited and critical audience. Because I’m somewhat of an isolationist, and definitely a misfit – I don’t mind. Fewer followers equals fewer people I have to let inside my world.

        Think of it this way: If we were all social butterflies the sea would be empty of fish. Not to mention butterflies have very short lives. Pan: Flash: Enough said. I sort of like being a deep sea creature! We live a very long time. LOL

        Money and fame are not AS important as truthfulness and honor. Wealth is easily lost or stolen and empires built on sand crumble. 🙂 Happiness is priceless! Now go write down some words. 😉

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        1. I apologize, K. Poets probably have even less hope of mass appeal. But then, as you said, I guess you have no wish to appeal to the masses. I’m sure no one will ever point to me as a writer of truth and honor, though. Maybe with book #3????

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          1. What on earth are you apologizing for? Seriously, there is no need.

            Besides I should be the one to apologize. Sometimes my comments can be interpreted as snarky, but I surely don’t mean them that way.

            Oh, and I was referencing my fiction work as having limited appeal. I should have clarified. Poetry is sort of a complicated subject to be trying to discussing here. That’s best done around a smokey coffee shop table, or under a grape arbor. If we weren’t the full spread of a continent apart, I’d be happy to pour you a glass of Shiraz.

            And believe me when I say – I’d love to make a fortune writing. Who wouldn’t? But I realize it will not happen for two very specific reasons. #1 As you know I’m a real introvert. I haven’t gone out with the girls in over 10 years and that is no exaggeration. I spend my time with family like everyone else, but I prefer to be alone or with my husband, dogs, turtle, duck, and the bounty of green things that grow in my yard or hiking through nature. #2 – I don’t write much fluffy or even happy stuff where I leave the reader with hope. I instead inspire to make them think and reach their own conclusions. I’m a realist, an analyst, and a critical thinker. There is no room for fantasy in my fiction world – LOL.

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          2. Just so you know, K., I didn’t take your remark as snark, just a reality check. Meaning, my situation could be worse. 😉

            Obviously, I don’t write dystopian realism. You write to inform; I write to entertain. I can’t control the outcome in real life, but I can in my fiction, so I prefer to show that, though the road there may be bumpy, sometimes people end up in a happy place. Therefore, between my writing and yours, the odds of earning a “fortune” would favor me because there are more readers wishing to escape than think deeply. But I’m not holding my breath, either. In a world where poorly-written, fan-fic porn blows all other novels off the charts, I’m lucky to have even a small reader base.

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  4. Being a misfit isnt’ the worst thing that could happen to a writer. I have no desire to join groups just to be “seen”. I also know that in giving my opinion on any subject I would alienate those that are listening. Been there done that. Powerful opinionated person here.

    That being said, the only way to get over author sales envy is to just stop reading about it and write the next book. Believe me, I’ve had sales envy for YEARS with an author I’m friends with. We launched at the same time, published short stories and novels at the same time, and her sales are through the roof. Mine are no where near hers. But you know what, I also don’t market or promote like her, or give interviews, and be everywhere and Tweet and blog and comment and become exhausted like her either. It takes all that to sell, and you know what, I’m just not that into it. So whatever my books sells it sells.

    The only thing that I’ve done that’s worked to generate sales is Twitter. And not actually Tweet my own horn, but re-Teweets from friends. If you have a large enough following, and your friends re-tweet your sales pitch, or review, or what have you, then other people find your book accessible. And they will buy it. Slowly but surely.

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    1. Well, Anne, it does seem that traditionally writers were expected to be misfits. And, of course, pre-Internet they had much less visibility. But the rules have changed. And though I have sought out groups to join with the aim of widening my readerbase, I truly did hope I could just be one of the girls.

      Yes, I know I shouldn’t look at anyone else’s success. I’ve fallen down this particular rabbit hole many times and then I vow to never do it again, but that only leads to me feeling more out of the loop than ever. I’m also a publisher, so I have to keep current on the business to give my publications a fighting chance. Double-edged sword there. 😦

      I’m glad Twitter still works for you. My affair with it is pretty much over. I have 1,800 followers on Twitter. That means nothing. A year ago, tweeting helped form some relationships, increased blog hits, and sold some books. Today, I go there and rarely find any of my “followers” willing to interact with me. I have lists set up, so I don’t miss my real friends tweets, but the main twitter stream zips by so fast, I can only catch about 1 out of 15 links that might be valuable. Of course, I’m actively writing now, so I don’t have hours a day to spend on Twitter. Maybe while I’m waiting on feedback from betas, I can rekindle the Twitter flame.

      Anyway, writer or not, sometimes I wish I were more mainstream.

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  5. I think we are writers because we are misfits. Otherwise all books would sound the same (yawn). I am afraid I don’t follow the crowd when it comes to books and movies but I am OK with that.

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  6. “Mommy porn” . . .? I don’t even know what that means, so I must be more of a misfit than you are, Linda. I often sit together with friends–wait, that’s not even true–I SOMETIMES sit together with friends and they talk about movies, actors or even books I know nothing about. I read a lot, but obviously not the same thing. So, I, too, am a listener. But authors are listeners, aren’t they? We listen and observe and stumble through life, trying to write the kind of book we love to read. Not sure, this is helpful at all. But if you want to take a break from worrying about writing and reading, I actually did see two really good movies, well three: Here they are “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (with Judy Dench) and, a fantastic story: “The Intouchables” (a French movie). Try them if you haven’t already seen them.
    Christa

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    1. I was speaking of the bizarre popularity of the 50 Shades series, Christa. It’s being called “mommy porn” because women 20-40 are apparently the target market

      So, we don’t have to relate to the women we hope to reach with our books? No wait, maybe we need only to relate on a universal level?

      I have, at least, heard of two of those movies. I’ll add them to my list, though nowadays, I get off this computer to watch a movie about as often as I do to read. Maybe I’ll have a marathon watch and read after I finish this first draft. 🙂

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      1. My one treat is a date with my husband most Saturday evenings which consists of renting a movie and snuggling on the couch to watch it. We just watched Albert Nobbs this last weekend which was amazing. Glenn Close at her best!. We watched Buitifull with Xavier Bardum the weekend before. These are not mainstream movies but they are exceptional and inspire my writting. Other than that it is work all day and write all night. (and read on the commute to work and back) I hope you are able to treat yourself to a marathon when you are finished the first draft!

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