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The Naked Page

Author Jamie Sobrato's Diary

3.29.2006

Next Exit: Insanity 1.5 Miles

Melissa asked on the last thread how an author's career goals change after the first sale. Or something like that. So let me explain the usual psychology/neuroses/insanity that occurs once a writer has made his or her first sale and asks, "Okay, I made it. What's next?"

(And let me say that this is not exactly, like, scientific stuff here. I didn't survey 5000 writers or anything. I'm just talking out my my ass...I hate that phrase, "talking out of my ass," but what other phrase communicates the same sort of I'm-winging-it incompetence?)

Once you've recovered from the elation that comes with selling your first book, realizing you've proven you're not a hack or a fraud, and showing all your friends and family that you are not completely deluded in your pursuit of your dreams, then you start to worry that if you don't sell your second book, you'll prove that you really are a hack and a fraud and that all your friends and family will soon be whispering among themselves about how your one sale was a fluke and that you really should have gone back to school to study accounting after all. And then you worry that you really WILL have to go back to school to study accounting after all, and your first book advance isn't even enough to pay the tuition for one semester.

A year or so passes, and if you are diligent and lucky, you've made your second sale and maybe a few more. You have a small altar to your editor erected in your bedroom, complete with a photo of you standing next to her at a writer's conference, and a hair of hers that you found on your sweater after the photo was taken. For a brief while (like, ten minutes), you are blissful. You have something resembling the start of a writing career.

But then you get your first royalty statement, you do a little math in your head about your future income, and you feel the horror of knowing that if you ever want to live above the poverty line, you should have gone back to school to study accounting. You have an intimate night alone with a bottle of Wild Turkey.

After you recover from your hangover, this is when you really get serious about writing as fast as possible. Partly because you do not want to be an accountant, and partly because you are starting to go insane. You sit down with your calendar and do complicated calculations about how many hours per night you need to sleep, how many pages per hour you can write, how many years of your life you could claim back if you stopped watching TV, and how many pages per year you need to produce to write as fast as Nora Roberts.

You realize that if you shake the reality TV addiction and develop a nighttime coffee habit, you can write 6 books per year just like Nora. For a couple of months--or a couple of years if you are as obsessive as I am--you spin your wheels trying to live by this schedule. You only manage to get three books per year written, because you keep getting pregnant and having babies and moving to different countries and your hair is falling out and stuff.

At the same time, you become obsessed with winning a Rita, and your over-inflated ego expands further when you actually final in the Ritas. You find yourself saying over and over again, "It's an honor just to be nominated." And when you look around at your competition, you realize it's actually true--it IS an honor just to be nominated--but that doesn't make you sound any less cheesy for saying it all the time. When you don't win, you are both disappointed and relieved, and actually happy JUST TO BE NOMINATED, but everyone treats you like an important family member has just died when you tell them you didn't win.

Okay, and this entry is getting way long, so I'm going to stop here. A cliffhanger! You must tune in again to learn the rest of the story. You must come back again to read Part II in this rambling and self-serving essay on my--er, I mean, every writer's--journey from one set of career goals to the next.

16 Comments:

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Okay, so I went off the deep end with this post, right? No one's going to talk to me now that you all know how neurotic I really am?

Fine. Be that way. I know you all really want to talk about bare-chested men or how Angelina Jolie is probably getting gigantic stretch marks on her breasts and ass right about now, thanks to being what? Like 9 months pregnant or something?

 
At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Jamie,

Didn't read your post 'til today (30th). I think it's brilliant and witty! Bring on more!

You're not neurotic. Your pattern follows that of pretty much every category writer I know. Yes, we all want to sell, but that green grass on the other side has several brown patches and I think it's great to let unpubs know about them, because then the unpubs can feel more prepared when they sell than you might have felt.

Of course, I think no amount of information can prepare a writer for what it's like to actually be a published author, the continuing but different effect on your psyche. Like becoming a parent, only living the situation can tell a person that. But who wants the shock of the publishing reality? I'd rather hear the dirt and then realize how truly sick I am that I still want to LIVE the dirt!


Cindy

 
At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, let me caveat. You ARE neurotic, but then all writers are neurotic, so then you AREN'T neurotic, or you wouldn't be a writer.

Cindy

 
At 1:20 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

I thought you just posted this entry so no-one would have to read my post on dog poetry.

Not that there is anything wrong or neurotic about your entry. Just that I was feeling neurotic about my dog poetry comments.

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Shannon Canard said...

OMG! That was a funny post. Yes, you're neurotic, but you're in good company. You should read about some of my neuroses. Though I've been trying to hide them lately. Is that a neuroses in itself?

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Gosh, did I really come across as...neurotic? ME?!

Yes, Shannon, trying to conceal your neuroses is seriously neurotic.

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Bethany, yes, you should take this gigantic post as a hint about the dog poetry.

No, just kidding. Really!

 
At 6:44 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Cindy, If you keep calling me "brilliant and witty" I will erect an altar for YOU in my bedroom. I don't think we really want to go there...

 
At 9:09 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Jamie... wouldn't your husband be a tad unhappy if you did that?! (Of course... he might be flattered if u ALSO made a shrine to HIM, but... :-)!)

 
At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Actually, Jamie, I have friends who have "Cindy walls" that feature nothing but pictures of my gracious self (or so they've told me...), so why not an altar?

Tim, don't you dare try talking her out of it!!

Some day I'm visiting, and there'd better damn well be an altar.

Cindy

 
At 8:48 PM, Blogger Gennita Low said...

Sheesh, you're making me sick with jealousy, envy, and bitterness. That's because I know you look sexy in pink and dance like a goddess too. I hate you. Really. Don't even think of dancing anywhere near me in Atlanta. ;-) :-D Unless, of course, you buy me the drink you promised. What? You forgot about that promise? Sheesh. Fine. Be that way, Miss RITA.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Oh Gennita, I WILL buy you a drink, if you dance with me. And don't EVEN start with the you make me sick thing, Miss Exotic Dancer. What WAS your former career before you took the romance genre by storm, Gennita? Please. Tell us. And let us know your stripper name while you're at it.

(Kidding, kidding...)

 
At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Gennita Low said...

Umm, how can there be a better name than the one I have? LOL. Ah, the schoolboys back home had a great time with my name, they did.

You and I will dance and be the good girls that we are. Hugs!!!

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger Bethany said...

You mean the neurosis gets worse? Damn... I just landed an agent, am in the midst of rewrites for her--and THIS? THIS is what I have to look forward to? :-)

Ah hell-- would you have it any other way?

[and I can't believe I am responding when there is *another* Bethany around... what are the chances of that?]

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Cindy: lol... wouldn't dream of talking her out of it. her husband might do that instead. :-D!

 
At 8:25 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Congratulations on the agent, Bethany! You really freaked me out with that post. I thought you were the OTHER Bethany for a few seconds there and was about to pick up my phone and frantically call her after her bedtime to demand details.

Good luck with your rewrites!

 

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