A Clean Sweep

broom.jpg  Beware–here’s comes a rant!

Many of you know that my job as an Editorial Services Associate at iUniverse came to an end recently. The company got sold and is moving from Nebraska to Bloomington, IN. It has been a horrific experience, but after all the pain and angst, I’m learning some valuable lessons. Sometimes that’s the only thing you can do from a painful experience–thank God for the lessons and move on. So I begin a new job next Monday.

One thing I couldn’t help noticing at iUniverse was the delusional quality of most of the authors. It was a self-publishing firm, so we got books that couldn’t be sold anywhere else. You just couldn’t help noticing how many authors sent in books they hadn’t even bothered to proofread–full of errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Most of the books were not interesting–they were about arcane, esoteric subjects like “my bout with cancer,” “my grandmother’s adventures in Poland,” or “how I found God.” The fiction was worse–rambling stories told off the cuff. Genre fantasies, romances, and mysteries with absolutely no idea of the conventions of those genres. You had to wonder if these authors had ever even read a book in their genres before.

And yet these authors all had such high hopes and dreams. They thought it was so easy. Their questions and comments would range from “How many copies will I be able to sell?” to  “I think people in Hollywood will be interested in my book–make it into a movie!” When you tried to inject a note of reality, like “your book needs editing,” they didn’t have the money, it would take too long, or the editors wouldn’t understand the very special thing they were trying to say. The editors might try to *gasp* change their nonexistent style!

This made me look at my current writing groups–women I like, but who have been meeting literally for years but getting no writing done. Writers who talk about writing romance, but hardly read it, and won’t do what it takes to sell–that is, write seriously, give and get rigorous critiques, and mold their “books of the heart” to genre requirements. No one wants to face the fact that to make it in the romance field, a writer has to be able to turn out two books a year, come rain or come shine. And as soon as the last book is out, everybody will be putting the pressure on–“Yeah, real nice, but what are you doing lately?”

Wannabees also don’t want to face the fact that writing doesn’t pay well. Why should it, with so many people willing to write for free? It’s been said, and rightly so, “Lightning can strike, and you can make a fortune by writing fiction. But few can make a living at it.”

Of course, this brings us to me. I couldn’t help noticing that I’ve been doing the very same thing! Going to the meetings and talking a good game, all the while steeped in denial and delusion. No more!

I don’t WANT to turn out two romances a year. I can hardly bring myself to even read romance novels anymore, certainly not for pleasure. So I’m going to let some memberships lapse this year. I’m going to quit giving people false encouragement. I’m going to quit searching everyplace for THE SECRET that will make writing easier.

IF I write at all, it will be by myself, getting back to why I began writing in the first place–to have something interesting to think about. That was really why I began writing. But somewhere along the way, I got sucked up into the delusional wannabee frame of mind. And my denial ends here.


6 thoughts on “A Clean Sweep

  1. Betty, what an awesome, honest post. Wow, girl!

    I was at the very same spot as you a few years ago. That’s why I quit NRW and quit RWA. I felt like I was doing more organizing and worrying about fiction trends, etc., than actually writing.

    I’ve accomplished a lot since I left those groups and don’t regret it a bit. Do I miss the gals from NRW? You bet! But the group itself wasn’t doing for me what it needed to do – get me to WRITE.

    Good for you on taking charge of your writing life – you’re a terrific writer and you’ll definitely make it!

  2. Wow, Betty, you really poured your heart out and said some things I’ve been thinking and wanting to say lately, too. Thanks for sharing. But there’s more to be said before you close this chapter of your blog.

    You need to know how much you’ve helped me over the years. Not just in how to write a synopsis, or resurrect a manuscript, but things that matter, like this: Remember when I asked you, “Do you think I could learn how to write books if I ever lost my eyesight again?”

    I remember your answer every time my eyes start to hurt so bad at night that I can’t look another second at the computer screen and I get scared–to death.

    I want you to know that I hang onto your answer with all my being. That if my business failed, I could never drive again, couldn’t see my kids grow up, that I could still realize my dream to write, even if I were blind. Betty, I believed you. And now that I’ve studied the craft and learned with your encouragement, I know without a doubt that I COULD write if I were blind. And that was no trivial pursuit. Sorry to sound so morbid, but you need to know the impact you’ve had on my life.

    So, what’s that say about you? Betty, these are not just flattering words I’m trumping up for your blog. I want you to know how MUCH you’ve inspired me; how deeply I’ve been affected by your friendship over the years, and how much more I believe in myself because of you. It’s true.

    I am so very grateful for your critique of my fledgling work when I know it’s bad, bad, BAD writing. You encouraged me anyway and met me where I was at! I miss our partnership in so many ways.

    You’re right, there’s no magic formula or new secret in this business. What you fail to realize is that people like you are the magic, Betty. It’s definitely not the publishing business, LOL! That much I’ve learned.

    And there’s no need to feel frustrated over the ones that didn’t make a career at this. The fact is that several of your students have gone on to prolific writing careers. Very few people ever do anything with their dreams, though. Don’t be discouraged by that. You’ve had plenty of success and have planted many seeds along the way.

    In any case, I can’t help but think that so much of what you said sounds like burn out. Only one thing will cure that. Time.

    Lastly, I have to admonish you, but I hope you take it in the light it’s given. Please, don’t ever label yourself as a wannabe. It’s simply not true. You’re a writer, a teacher, and a mentor. You’re also a good friend who cares about people. And there’s nothing derogatory in that.

    But I will agree that there’s a time to step back from giving and recharge your own batteries. When you lose your own dream along the way–or maybe just your direction–you’ve hit the wall, my friend.

    Here’s hoping that you find your inspiration, and that you fall in love with writing again soon. I’ll miss you during your sabbatical but I know it’s for the best.

    Take care of you.


  3. i am one of those wan a bees and i still think i have a good story well written. if you want to self publish where would you go? i had planned on using iUniverse but am not impressed with author house.

  4. Hi, Fran. Welcome to my blog. To be honest, I would not trust my book to iUniverse or AuthorHouse–not until they get the transition over. There are lots of problems at those houses, and it will take a while to see if they can get them solved. As for which other self-publisher to choose–I really don’t know, since I haven’t had dealings with any of the others. I would just say do lots of research on the Internet!

  5. Hi Elizabeth,

    I think you are a wonderful writer! And whether you write alone or with a group, I love to read your stories. So, do what you need to do, girl. But know that some of us gals who have been in writing groups with you adore you…wherever and whatever you are writing. And although I wish you were wrong about the monetary payoff of a writing career, I know you are right on the money. Literally. Aaargh. The truth sometimes hurts!



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