Monday, January 25, 2010

Dancing in the Dark

First, thanks to all the people who answered the 10 “What if” questions I posed last week. And thanks to my high school friend James for pointing out the platinum version of What if. My birthday’s coming up and I’m adding to the list!

Second, the song about Writer’s Block is Dancing in the Dark, by Bruce Springsteen. Anyone who's ever suffered through writer's block should recognize this sentiment.

"I get up in the evening, and I ain't got nothing to say

I come home in the moring, I go to bed feeling the same way

I ain't nothing but tired, man I'm just tired and bored with myself "

I love Dancing in the dark as a metaphor for writer’s block. Because it gives such a great image of how a writer is working like crazy without really knowing if they are going in the right direction—or as my friend Julie pointed out, if they are about to hit their shins on the coffee table.

So here are my answers to the ten questions and reasons why.

1) Get a huge advance on your next book but have it be shredded by the book critics, or make almost no money on the book (even after the awards were announced), but receive top awards?

This is a kind of trick question. The goal of a writer is to publish more books. That’s my job, it’s how I get paid. If I don’t sell a lot of books, I don’t publish. But a big advance doesn’t guarantee a lot of sales. In fact getting a big advance and not selling well can kill your career. So I’d go for the awards. Yes, you didn’t sell a lot with that book. But an award winning writer will usually sell more books down the road—generating bigger advances in the future.

2) Write a book adored by millions of readers you don’t know, but despised by your friends and family, or write a book your friends and family love, but everyone else hates?

Another tricky one. Ultimately I am writing for my readers, not my family and friends. But I have many close family members and friends who read all my books before they come out and give me good feedback. So if my friends and family hate my book, there’s probably a good reason for it. But, hey, who can argue with millions of readers, right? I’ve always said, I rather be Stephenie Meyer than the other authors who complain about the Twilight series. Gotta go with the millions of readers.

3) Have your book made into a big budget film with lots of publicity and stars, that bombs, or not have your book made into a movie at all?

I’m going with the movie. Yes, it would stink to have your book be turned into a bomb. But think of all the people who would tell their friends, “Read the book. It’s much better.” Eragon was a flop in the theaters, but it didn’t hurt the book’s sales at all.

4) Only be able to write in a genre you don’t enjoy but sells like crazy, or write what you love but always sell poorly.

The good news is that I think I could enjoy writing any genre. If I had to write really sappy romances, but they were great sappy romances, I’d do it. The only caveat is it would have to be fiction. I would get really bored if I could only write non-fiction.

5) Get the agent of your dreams, knowing they are only lukewarm on your project, or a so-so agent who LOVES your manuscript?

Another trick question. I believe you need two things in an agent: Great connections and excitement about your work. I’ve known authors who had really nice agents, who love their work, but didn’t have the right connections to sell it. But would a great agent take on your work if they didn’t love it? Ultimately, I’d take the great agent. If they didn’t love this work, they must have liked my writing enough to take me on. So let’s figure out how to write something they will love.

6) Publish only one book, but have it be a classic, or publish dozens of mid-listers?

I’m a swing for a homerun guy. Since I’ve already published six books, I might think differently, but it would be great to write a book that people are still reading hundreds of years from now. Mid-list books disappear from the shelves too quickly.

7) Write books that are very slow reading, but extremely thought-provoking, or quick reads that make people laugh and cry?

Laugh and cry. I want emotion. I’ll leave the deep thinking to someone else.

8) Sign a contract that guarantees $75k a year for the next twenty years, or an all of nothing deal that has a 50/50 chance of paying out nothing or twenty million?

Again, I’ve got to go for the home run. I can make $75k a year selling software. And if I miss on this big chance. I’m betting there’s another big chance down the road.

9) Publish a book that in a genre that is all the rage right now, or one that breaks new ground?

New ground. I’m all about the “wow!” factor.

10) Publish amazing books that everyone loves, but never read another book, or read the best books for the rest of your life, but never publish a thing?

This would kill me. Writing and reading are two of my favorite things in the world. But I think it would kill me most to read great stories and know I couldn’t write my own. So if I had to choose I’d take writing. Then I’d figure out a way to tunnel into my local bookstore at midnight.

Next blog, I’ll talk about how to turn the light back on when you find yourself dancing in the dark. Which will also be the topic of my presentation at the Utah County chapter of the League of Utah Writers next month.


Erin G. said...

I'm a bit embarassed that I've never heard that song before. Haha. Maybe it's time for me to check it out on youtube. I liked your answers and reading everbody elses. It's cool to see what other people think, especially people that are already published and then those that are novices. Seeing the different perspectives was fun.

You rock! :)

Anonymous said...

Please check your forum mail...

J.J. Bennett said...

"Dancing in the dark" is excactly like writing!

I noticed many of your answers were similar to mine. Great minds think alike you know. Matt and I found out we're having another child this week. We'll see if I can get this book finished before the baby is born. Once I get it finished I might send it your way for some feedback. Hope all is well with you and your family.

L.T. Elliot said...


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