The Writers' Loop

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Lions and Tigers, and BESTSELLERS? Oh My!

Bleak_House_frontispiece

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

I came across an article on the Writer’s Digest website by guest author Kevin Kaiser, entitled The Dark Side of Being a Bestseller. My glasses almost flew off my nose with my sweeping double take. There’s a dark side to being a bestselling author? What a notion.

What a notion to consider while I’m still agonizing over yet another revision of my manuscript. Is my protagonist sufficiently scintillating? Does my plot suffer from Swiss cheese look-alike? Has my narrative arc drooped in the center like McDonald’s golden arch? Will it ever be good enough to snag an agent? Would anybody ever want to read it—never mind, pay money for it? As a writer, I stew over these and more issues, but I always soldier on undaunted. Until this.

What a notion, this dark side. Now I’ll be facing Heathcliff’s bleak, windswept moors, and groveling for more gruel in Dickens’ workhouse, if Heaven forbid, I become a bestselling author. If the day ever came, would I find the courage to muddle through it?

 

funny-dog-picture-careful-what-you-wish-for-300x175
All kidding aside, I’ll share some excerpts from Kaiser’s excellent article:

“Expectations…
A New York Times bestselling novelist once told me, “You’ll never be as free as you are at the beginning. It’s easy to forget how to take risks and write as if no one is watching.” She went on to explain how success creates a cycle that few authors know how to handle expertly, especially when recognition comes early.

Fear…
Success begets success…authors who were once large fish in a small pond find success… find themselves surrounded by others who have sold more books than them, command a vastly larger platform…they often slip back into the comparison game…the game always leads to self-sabotage and fear. Fear of missing out, fear of not being successful enough, fear of being found out as a fraud…No amount of money will quiet those fears, which is why refusing to play the game at all is so important.

Only one thing really matters.
The point isn’t having written, as many are so fond of saying, but the actual activity of creating that matters most. You see, once you’ve released a story into the world it no longer belongs to you. The reader brings their world to the edge of yours and what they experience from there is a process we don’t control… It’s the love of the craft, our surrender to the art of exploring and illuminating new ideas that matters most.

Act Like No One is Watching
Write as if no one is watching. Write as if no one will ever read it or judge your work. That’s where the magic lies, and that is ultimately what readers want to experience, too.… You’re never as free as you are right now, and the beautiful thing is that you can choose just how free you really are.”

I encourage other starving writers to visit  http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-dark-side-of-being-a-bestseller and read his full article.

bhakti bestseller

There’s a plethora of epic tales out there today, on websites, in books on publishing, news articles, and told at writers’ conferences, all decrying the current state of publishing. The chances of breaking in as a new author border on the miraculous. An experienced writer and expert on self-publishing recently told me that she felt her chance of being struck by lightning was better than getting her first novel publishing traditionally.

Authors whose books are picked up and sold by major publishing houses are required to do more and more of their own marketing, often with minimal returns for their investment. Since writers are usually writers, and not marketers, I wonder how much actual writing time is diverted from art to business.

Traditional publishing is a changing landscape today, affected by a variety of factors including successful self-publishers and low returns of digital book sales. Bestselling author and ghostwriter Michael Levin, at Ghost Business, suggests that the concept of bestseller means less today than it once did. As one example, he cites authors’ popular strategy of tipping the scales by using Amazon’s hourly sales recalculations to create bestselling status.                                                                                                                                                                                  

robert KDeepak Chopra cautions and advises us in his article for the Huffington Post, Advice to New Writers: Go Where the Readers Are (and Why You Cannot Trust the Best Seller List). He points to a fading publishing industry, citing declining sales of traditional books and rapidly rising e-books sales.

Chopra writes about the “disappearing best-seller:”

“For two weeks I’ve been on a national book tour to promote a new novel called God: A Story of Revelation. The book sold more than twice the number to make most bestseller lists in its opening week, and enough to stay on the lists the second week. But neither happened. God appeared on no lists, and the explanations varied: a computer glitch that failed to register sales, the down-grading of bulk sales when lots of people attend a single event.
…Even established writers feel aggrieved when they deserve to make the best-seller list and yet don’t. Book chains base their future orders on these lists, and the week’s best-sellers get prominent displays up front.”

In order to break in, Chopra advises new writers to explore alternatives to the old system: “…self-promotion and going where the readers are…new writers can find their readers, target them, and speak directly to them as never before. This is thanks to the Internet, Facebook, blogs, Amazon’s open policy about e-books, Facebook, and other social media. Like it or not, successful writers are probably going to turn into book entrepreneurs at the same time. Publishers are becoming more and more risk averse. In a few years, no writers will be given advances except the most guaranteed sellers. The rest will enter into partnership with their publishers.”

Chopra also encourages new writers “…not to write for praise… Write to be noticed, which means in the end writing from the heart.”

Deepak Chopra

So yes, there are dark sides, down sides, and risks in getting our books out there. But if we’re writing from the heart, as Chopra advises, then maybe we’re already enriched. With or without that best seller or best earner, can’t we feel some fulfillment in our journeys of sharing our stories? I was recently asked to write my goal for an upcoming writer’s workshop that I plan to attend. It’s not about fame or money, or the New York Times lists, but oh, that would be so lovely!  For me, it’s about writing better stories that will help readers to laugh, feel happy, and be uplifted.

quill

 

To read Deepak Chopra’s article, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/god-a-story-of-revelation_b_1956477.html

 

 

 

 

 

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Catch a Falling Star?

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

essier 107 ~  NASA

Messier 107 ~ NASA

It was February 7th, the day stars tumbled from the sky and graced those who would take notice. A low pressure system was sweeping from the Ohio Valley to southern New England, washing the sky in dusky gray hues. Hesitant  flurries were ushering in bands of snow, heralding yet another blizzard.  But before Winter Storm Marcus could dump its heavy swath of snow across Connecticut, an extraordinary discovery took place. Sheer crystalline gems alighted on coats, hats, gloves, hair, —  whatever concluded their airy descent; ephemeral favors bestowed on the  mindful and fortunate few.

That was the day my son boarded a plane at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  We were all thanking our lucky stars that his flight took off before the next in the long chain of snowstorms hit the Northeast.  My son might have missed his flight if he had paused any longer for the magical moments of star-shaped snowflakes sprinkling all about him. He had just time enough to witness the “starflakes” and snap a photo before they disappeared.

star snow flake

Star snowflakes caught on my son’s suitcase.

“What about the notion that no two snowflakes are identical?  Falling stars?”  My son and I considered the curious phenomenon while viewing his star-studded photo; each of us on opposite ends of the North-South compass.

As it turned out, there were many “starflake” sightings in the Northeast during the recent winter storms.  The Weather Channel reported: “As Winter Storm Juno bears down on the East Coast, reports are surfacing of star-shaped snowflakes. At around 2 p.m. ET, weather.com spotted the unique snowflakes in midtown Manhattan. While it looks like magic, there is a scientific explanation behind the phenomenon. ‘If snowflakes stay separated from each other…and if you look closely enough, you can sometimes see the structure of snowflakes with your naked eye,’ weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce says. ‘There are many different types of crystal patterns and these star-shaped snowflakes are just one example. The dendrite, a star-shape with varying patterns, is the most common shape of a snowflake.’”

By atsperaInstagram

By atsperaInstagram

Kathrine Brooks of The Huffington Post (at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/star-shaped-snowflakes-_n_6555614.html ) reported:

 “The complex ice crystals are part of a natural art-making process that you might have learned about in your grade school science class. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a snowflake begins to form when exceedingly cold water droplets freeze onto certain particles in the sky, like pollen or dust. The meeting of water and particle creates an ice crystal, and as that crystal falls to the ground, water vapor freezes onto it to produce new crystals –essentially, the six points of the snowflake that make that stunning star shape…Winter Storm Juno descended upon the East Coast this week, bringing with it a mélange of wind gusts, icy temperatures and admirably geometric snowflake masterpieces…Residents of cities like Manhattan reported seeing a mix of star-shaped flakes falling upon them, posting impressive shots of the unique configurations across the Internet…”

Brooks invited readers to get a close-up view of snowflakes by macrophotographer Alexey Kljatov  at   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/alexey-kljatov_n_4373888.html.

Alexis

By Alexey Kljatob

So, why all this snowflake talk on The Writers’ Loop?  What does it have to do with reading and writing?  But then, what isn’t reading or writing?

For reading: Throughout and at the end of this post you’ll find several links for more information about star snowflakes, as well as some fun and interesting weather-related information links for adults and children.

For writing:  I don’t think we need to be world travelers, great history buffs, or geniuses in order to write creatively.  Of course that would help.  We take the mundane, ordinary, everyday happenings and look at them from all sides.  Consider the ideas that can come from people watching, overhearing bits of conversations, news articles, obituaries, art, music, friends, nature, children, history, travel, sporting events, or even politics (oh dear). Find some facet that appeals, begs for commentary, or deserves elaboration, and jot down those thoughts.  As a case in (six-) point, star-shaped snowflakes inspire me.  I envision magical, miniature glistening stars streaming from the clouds or trailing a meteorite as it races across the universe…

By STARtorialist  twitter

By STARtorialist on twitter

Author Neil Gaiman says, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”  You can check out his response to “Where do you get your ideas?” at: http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%3F

I’d like to add advice to Gaiman’s comment.  When you notice that you’re getting ideas, jot them down on the nearest piece of paper before you forget them.

Thoreau on snowflakes

For more information: 

  • Terms used by meteorologists, forecasters, weather observers, and in weather forecasts:

http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/box/glossary.htm

For children (Not just for kids, I’ve learned a lot from these sites.):

Tycho's Supernova, left, and Nebula S175, right, in the Constellation Cassiopeia Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Tycho’s Supernova, left, and Nebula S175, right, in the Constellation Cassiopeia
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

  • To read about Tycho’s Supernova, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1713.html