Monday, October 26, 2009

Things I Learned From My Kids: Life Isn't Fair

This one is really more what I teach my kids, but it kind of goes with the theme. So here goes...

Last night my daughter threw a MAJOR tantrum. She's 5--way too old for tantrums. She was mad because my husband picked a book for bedtime reading that she didn't like, so she slammed the door and told him she wouldn't read it. Then he told her if she was going to throw a tantrum she wouldn't get ANY books. This (of course) caused her to scream, "IT'S NOT FAIR. IT'S NOT FAIR" for ten minutes.

When I finished putting the baby to bed and my husband finished reading stories to our happy 4-year-old we went in to address the tantrum.

"Mom, it's not fair that Daddy wouldn't read me a book," she said.

"Things aren't always fair," I told her. "You made the choice to get upset and slam the door, and Daddy decided you shouldn't get a story since you threw a tantrum."

She screwed up her little face and pouted, but she didn't argue anymore. We completed the rest of her bedtime routine and she went to bed.

I don't know what point in life kids decide that things should be fair. It's certainly not something we teach our children. Life is NOT fair. It is wonderful and horrible, happy and sad, glorious and miserable, but it isn't fair.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but publishing isn't fair either. Is there a brilliant author out there who writes prose that could make angels weep, who can't manage to get an agent, much less a publisher? Yeah, if fact, there are probably hundreds. Are there people who can barely string sentences together who get book deals? Definitely (ahem, think of all the celebrity tell-alls).

Blogger/Author Jody Hedlund asked the question yesterday "Does Today's Writer Need to be Perfect to Get Published?" and the answer, of course, is NO! Would it be more fair if only the "best" writers--the ones with flawless, beautiful prose and complete command of the English language were the ones to get published? Yeah, I think that would be fair, but that's not how publishing works. The books that get published are the books that publishers believe people will buy.

Publishing isn't fair. If we want to be published writers we need fantastic, salable stories (and even then there are no guarantees).

So I'll ask you these questions: What are you doing to make your story salable (not necessarily perfect)?

27 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

It's a very good question... wish I had good answers! My agent basically told me last week that I had a half a dozen nice stories but she "can't sell nice." :)

staceyjwarner said...

wow, to the comment above...I don't know if my book is sellable but I love writing it.

I write because I love it and if its meant to be published it will find it's way...perhaps this naive.

much love

Jemi Fraser said...

Good question!I'm trying to make my characters interesting and likeable, but not perfect and/or annoying. I believe my plot is interesting enough and hopefully unique enough to find an agent!

Susan R. Mills said...

Everything I can, Natalie. Everything I can. :)

Patti said...

I'm with Susan. I'm trying everything I can to make it appealing, but still a story that I like.

Abby said...

Great question! I do obsess about being perfect, but I'm trying to get my story to the point where everything is believable, the characters are compelling, and the tension throughout is, um, tense enough, I guess. :) So, no sweat, right? ;D

Mary said...

I'm hoping they don't want a perfect writer only - or I don't have a chance. Great story, adventure, romance and likeable interesting characters. That's what I'm working on.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I think the biggest thing is story. If we haven't got a compelling, intriguing, fresh story, it doesn't matter how much we polished the prose. So I'm spending a lot of time rethinking what makes story great.

Bane of Anubis said...

Life isn't fair... unfortunately, most use this as an excuse for stepping on others instead of using it as a call for action. *mini-rant over :)*

Kristi Faith said...

You know what's funny, my nine year old hasn't said "not fair" one time to my knowledge-her little sister, learned "not fair" by the age of two, I swear.

I am writing what I feel to be a little on the dark side, but more character driven books is what I love to read, and this is what I tend to write. I also love to add some odd twists to the plots. It's usually a total afterthought as I'm writing it.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Life's not fair. And then you die. ;)

That's what I tell my students, anyways.

As for what I'm doing to make my book salable... I think the biggest sacrifice I've made it cutting about 15% of the initial draft. I could write 800 pages about my favorite person in history, but that doesn't mean anyone else wants to read it. I guess 370 is doable, even if there's a million things I wanted to include, but didn't.

Great question!

Erica said...

Great question! Wow. Hmm. Well I guess I pick characters I like, and hope others will relate to them. I make them as different as I can, but still the same- you know?

I try to make sure there is a big story, nothing mundane. Probably the same stuff everyone else does!

I think some luck and a lot of persistence goes a long way. At least I hope so ;)

Who knows what makes a saleable book? Everyone likes different things right?

Thomas Taylor said...

I think 'same old, same old, but different' is the safest route. But I'm mostly just glad I'm not writing literary fiction!

Matthew Delman said...

I'm trying to write the most interesting story I can.

jdcoughlin said...

What a question! I'm rewriting and rewriting and reading and writing some more and I'm doing it every day. And I am getting better, really.

Georgina said...

Publishing these days doesn't seem to be fair does it? Technology has overloaded us with access to an infinite number of things to read. How do publishers compete with all of these sources to get our attention? Unfortunately it often ends up being about the LCD, lowest common denominator, and the quality ends up going right out the window. I'm not saying it has to all be literary perfection. But I get irritated when pop-lit gets reviewed and consumed based on its popularity on the NYTBS list. Mass appeal does NOT always = great writing.- G
PS - On a positive note, at least your daughter was having a tantrum about books and not Barbie Dolls!

Linda Kage said...

The times I've learned the most was when I had to teach something to someone else. So, you can still say you learned this lesson from your kids!

And now about writing... I've had to cut out big chunks of my story so I would be able to submit it to a certain editor that only accepted a specific word count. Of course, I've never sold anything yet by doing that, but I'd do it again if I thought I had a chance.

storyqueen said...

I try to write the story the best way I can. I think very little about other people reading it while I'm writing it, for it tends to make me think more generically. I try to keep out all, "Oh, people will like this," thoughts out of my head.

Shelley

Heather Sunseri said...

Great story, Natalie. We've had nights like that. They're always fun - three or four years later when all you do is reflect on them.

You are so right. Publishing is not always fair. I've told myself what I try to teach my kids. All we can do is our best. I like to say that once we think we're doing our best, we should step it up one more notch, and that's really our best.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and offering those wonderful words of encouragement. I have awesome blogging/writing buddies!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes, publishing AND life isn't always fair. But as soon as you realize it, you can move on and work with it. :)

I was at a conference where one of the authors worked with an editor at Harlequin and sold her first book. A lot of people though, "Wow. She sold on her first try. That's now fair!" Then her editor left and she couldn't sell for four years! Then a new editor came in and gave one of the books she had rejected from the old editor (are you following this? LOL) a chance again and she's been selling ever since.
The point is, she didn't give up writing. And she said, your career will always go through hills and valleys. Now she's award winning and multipublished. :)

Diane said...

Is there any age that we really outgrow tantrums? I think I just had one last week. :O)

And no, things are not always our definition of fair.

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh gosh, this is such a good question. I've always thought all of our books are very marketable, but it's actually been a tough road for us because we write straight up contemporary YA. Also, it's pretty light, which apparently is BAD right now. We need to up the angst. Anyways, I wish we could say we did this intentionally, but it's sort of just a happy accident that our WIP is very angsty and emotional. Let's hope that plays well with editors. We'll see....

Laura Martone said...

If Stacey's naive, then so am I! I believe my story is salable - just not in its current form. But that's okay. That's what revision is for.

La Fleur said...

No, Life most certainly is not fair. Poor little one... She should just learn to 'suck it up' now and go with the flow!

I teeter back and forth between whether I want a sellable book or the book that I am called to write. To whom does a writer owe their allegiance?

I have recently made the decision to cut my mammoth novel into smaller books. Why? To make it marketable. But when all is said and done, I have to write the story as is, whether marketable or not.

When I began, I just wished to quiet the characters chattering inside of my head. I never intended to write a best seller, just... Well heck, I don't know! Now it has ballooned into much more than that, I could not be happier about it.

At the end of the day, I have written it for my own personal entertainment and satisfaction. If others wish to read it (and a few have) then that is wonderful as well!

Dawn Simon said...

I'm trying to make my WIP the very best I can. I hope that will make it salable.

There's something for you at my blog. :)

Tamika: said...

The best thing I am doing to achieve a salable story is work on my craft and fine tune my writing. In the end that is all I have to stand on.

I have to be willing to commit to my writing the time and resources God has given me to give my very best.

That is hard enough.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Don't know how I missed this post. It's a great one!

I strive to write from the heart, whether that makes it salable or not, I'm not sure, but it makes for one emotional writing ride!