Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pride

Somewhere in the annals of history pride went from being a virtue to being a sin.

While no one likes a braggart or a boaster, and being around someone who talks about themselves constantly is a major bore, I believe that many writers became writers because of a need to show off. After all, it takes a large ego to write words down on paper and believe that others will not only enjoy them, but pay you for the privilege of reading them.

This isn't too far removed from bringing home macaroni art in the third grade and expecting Mom to tape it to the refrigerator door. And what child doesn't swell--and rightfully so--at the sight of their hard work on display for anyone who reaches for a glass of milk or a sandwich?

I know I still get a giddy feeling when I see my new book or short story in print for the first time. I love getting email from fans, and reading reviews, and hearing friends and family share how they saw someone reading one of my tomes. This is a healthy feeling. In fact, with the many problems the publishing industry has, and the many pitfalls that go hand-in-hand with being a writer, sometimes feeling good about our work is all we have.

I've written fifteen novels and over a hundred short stories. Each time I pen "the end" I feel like I'm six-years-old again, and can't wait to show my mom my latest masterpiece. I still show my mom most of what I write, but my first reader is now my wife. I haven't written anything in the past thirteen years that she hasn't read immediately afterward, and I'm incredibly lucky to have her.

I think this need to show people our work helps tremendously. Not only does it boost productivity, but it also takes some of the loneliness out of a solitary profession. I'll often write a scene, or finish a chapter, grinning because I can imagine my wife's reaction to reading it.

Unlike many other careers that people seem to fall into due to attrition, luck, or apathy, writing is a career that is sought after, cultivated, and difficult to maintain. We should have a sense of pride in every success, whether it's finishing a short story or novel, getting something published, receiving fan mail, or simply hearing the laughter of a family member reading our words in another room.

I pity writers who tortuously labor over their prose, or who can never be satisfied with any accomplishment. Perfectionism is fine, to a point. But I know that I got into writing because of the joy it held for me. If I didn't have that joy, I'd be doing something easier. For me, the writing is the fun part, but sharing that writing is also fun.

It is possible, however, to be too into your own accomplishments. This not only annoys and alienates those around you, but it's not a very healthy way to live. Newbie writers are often guilty of this. Hell, even I was, and often still am.

So here's a list of Virtues and Sins for authors, centering around Pride.

Virtues
  • Feeling good when writing.
  • Feeling good when finishing a piece of work.
  • Feeling good when something gets published.
  • Feeling good when getting positive feedback.
  • Feeling good when getting a decent review.
  • Feeling good after a successful signing or event.
  • Sharing major successes with family and close friends.
  • Offering requested help and advice to peers, without being condescending.
  • Feeling good when seeing something of yours in print.
  • Feeling good getting fan mail.

Sins

  • Thinking you're entitled to success.
  • Bragging.
  • Conversations that revolve around your accomplishments.
  • Posting every little thing that happens in your career on your blog, website, favorite bulletin board, etc.
  • Talking down to anyone.
  • Fishing for compliments.
  • Sharing major and minor successes with everyone moments after they occur.
  • Offering unsolicited advice to peers.
  • Believing that the opposite of talking is waiting.
  • Hogging the microphone and/or spotlight at multi-author events.
  • Believing the hype.

That said, I'm ridiculously proud to report that Dirty Martini is my first hardcover to ever go into a second printing. Thanks so much to all of you who have bought this book--and hold onto those first editions, because they'll be worth more on eBay in a few years. :)

If you have any additions to the Pride Sins and Virtues list, I'd love to hear them, and so would your peers.

29 comments:

Rob in Denver said...

Congratulations, Joe!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Sin: "Posting every little thing that happens in your career on your blog, website, favorite bulletin board, etc."

I'll split hairs on that one Joe. If you need to talk about everything in your career, by all means get a blog. Nobody's forced to go there. It's when people turn every single thread on a discussion list or forum back to a discussion of their own book with pats on the back interspersed that I have an issue. Websites (and blogs to some degree) are there for authors to tell people about themselves and their accomplishments. If I want to know all the books and short stories you've written, that's where I'd go expecting to find that information.

But in general, amen to that. It really isn't pride in your accomplishments that's the problem. It's when it turns to arrogance, coupled with the presumption that everyone in the world should care just how darn special you are.

Congratulations on the second printing. I bet that feels wonderful. Enjoy the moment.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks Rob!

Hi Sandra. I disagree. A blog is meant to entertain and inform (which is actually also entertainment.)

Posting a bibliography is one thing. Detailing every little thing that happens and expecting others to be as excited as you are is a damn boring blog, and the writer is doing hmself a huge disservice.

I wrote a piece for Writer's Digest a few years ago which was a day by day accoutn of what happens after getting a publishign contract. The point of the piece was to inform, not to shout LOOK AT ME ME ME!

I agree with you about discussion lists, and arrogance.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey Joe,

In general, I do agree with you about what I like to see from blogs. There are some where people only post news of acceptance letters, publication, etc, and I certainly don't find that interesting reading.

But I'll overlook it on a blog because nobody sticks it in my face. It may not be the type of blog I want to read, but at least they aren't spamming me!

Cheers,
Sandra

Mark Terry said...

Congrats on your 2nd printing. (Glad I could help! :))

Adam Hurtubise said...

Congrats, Joe.

Nice job on the second printing.

Rob said...

Awesome news about the 2nd printing. Way to go!

Michele Lee said...

I second, or third the blog thing. Right now, with no fan base, my readers are mostly my friends and family. They care not for how publishing works, or how the writing process works (which is why it never comes up in face to face conversations). But they do want to hear I've been accepted, or finished a project or started a new one. I've seen people say they want it one way or another. Writers who want to read about other writers, their ups and down and their opinions of their stories. And I've seen people say going through it themselves is more than enough and they want entertainment. I try to do a little of both. But then, I'm happy with that, and it's working for me. Obviously entertaining is something you are good at, as you are far more energetic and amusing than I ;)

M.J. said...

Wow on the second printing! That's terrific. I agree on the blog stuff. I think its okay to mention a few things about your own books, but if you want people to come back you need to either entertain or inform and constantly talking about your own career isn't usually the best way to that.

Pat Mullan said...

Congratulations on the second printing, Joe! And you can hog the mike at any conference I attend !

Slan, Pat.

Michelle Styles said...

I am going to agree with Sandra.
There is a very fine line between saying on one's blog that one appreciates a review (and giving that review and its writer the oxygen of publicity), giving news of where one might be appearing, or just giving news about one's writing career in general and it becoming a sin of pride. Arrogance rarely makes an appealling read.
Why shouldn't a blog be used to celebrate one's writing, IF that is what the blog is set up for? I do not see this necessarily as a sin but rather sensible use of the blog medium. It is however far more problematic IF the blog proports to give information on PR, recent detective novels or the care and feeding of Japanese carp and in reality has become a look at me and my books fest.
Basically as with everything, it is All In the Execution.

Josephine Damian said...

Yay! A second round of "Dirty Martinis." For all those naysayers who think blogging and myspace are not worthwhile endeavors, you can point to your second press run and say, See, it works!

JA, if I'm not mistaken, was it Barry Eisler who made the NYT's bestseller list for the first time with his latest release - something he attributed to myspace?

Tasha Alexander said...

Joe, congratulations! I was just admiring the well-displayed stacks of DIRTY MARTINI in Borders yesterday. Very, very happy for you!

JA Konrath said...

Ok, you've all convinced me. I'll retract "posting every little thing that happens in your career on your blog, website, public forum" and instead substitute "posting every little thing that happens in your career in public forums like listservs, bulletin boards, meassage boards, and online writing communities."

All of you are right. A blog can be a place where a writer muses about their career, because the blgo and the writer are essentially the same topic.

But posting on a writing forum every time someone gives you a good review on Amazon is annoying, and a sin of pride.

Tom Schreck said...

Hey Joe,

I just got Dirty Martini---why the delay? It was sold out at The Bookhouse in Albany. That's probably a good sign.

As for the blog stuff- I side with your original thought. I think some blogs get terribly self-absorbed. Not all and certainly no one here.

tom
"On the Ropes"
Now Available
www.tomschreck.com

Claudia said...

Congrats on the reprints. Much as I like your blog, I didn't think I'd ever read one of your Jack books because I'm not a fan of the genre. However, the Backstory interview convinced me to pick up DM and I'll now give the others a try. :)

I'll also agree about the blog stuff. It's so annoying to visit agent blogs to see the same handful of aspirants overrun topics by posting thinly disguised pitches and/or pr blurbs as comments. Then there as the are loooong CV-esque signatures some use...

willoughby3601 said...

Add to the SINS list:

To think that an unpublished author sending a submission to a publisher
will ever have it read, much less looked at.

Published authors glow in what they think is their relevance in the literary world while the unpublished grind their teeth in anger.
Or is that just me?

suppose.wordpress.com

Michelle said...

Somewhere in the annals of history pride went from being a virtue to being a sin.

Actually I think pride has always been a sin. Like a deadly one. But that's what makes it so much fun!

Congrats on the second printing. And good post. You gotta toot your own horn sometimes. Just not all the time in every neighbourhood. ;-)

JA Konrath said...

--Actually I think pride has always been a sin. Like a deadly one. --

If I remember my church history, pride was once indeed a virture, but religious leaders wanted to pack more people in on Sunday mass (for those donations, natch) so they made pride a sin.

JA Konrath said...

--To think that an unpublished author sending a submission to a publisher will ever have it read, much less looked at.--

I'm not sure what you mean. Publishers look at manuscripts all the time from unpublished authors. These are usually agented submissions, because many large publishers don't accept unsolicited.

I don't know any published authors who snub unpublished authors--everyone was unpublished once.

Jude Hardin said...

Congrats!!! I'm pretty sure it was my review of DM that pushed it into a second printing. ;)

Another prideful sin: Actually rewriting parts of an author's text when asked for a critique. I've been guilty of this in the past (along with many other sins), but I've since repented and changed my evil ways. It's sometimes useful to offer suggestions for revision, but rewriting for someone else is a form of arrogance and has no business in the critical process.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Congratulations...

Thanks for the tough talk... And I really enjoy the writing myths... Here's one you can add. "I don't need to edit my writing."

:-) cyn

Sherryl said...

In the sin list, I'd add:
Complaining and moaning about how terrible publishers are, and how they wouldn't recognise a best-seller if they fell over it, etc, when the real problem is that the writer just isn't good enough yet. (Huge egos and poor writing often seem to go together.)

Jeff Shelby said...

Congrats dude:)

Nick Kelly said...

Congratulations on the 2nd printing. I know I'm help spread the word...even if I don't prefer dirty martini's. I'll stick to the straight Jack on the Rocks....hey, sounds like a good title to me!

haha,

nK

Sonya said...

Fishing for compliments is a sin?

*sniff*

Guess I'll go put away my compliment tackle box. And I had all these re-compliment flares ready to go off, too...

Barry Michaels said...

Just found your blog after reading your article on author websites in the new Writer's Digest. Good article, excellent blog! I'll be spending plenty of time in the near future going over it carefully. Thanks very much!

Barry Michaels
www.barrymichaelsbooks.com

Jina Bacarr said...

Hi, Joe,

Congrats on your 2nd printing!! You've earned it by not only writing good books but by writing a damn good blog that entertains and informs--as you noted--but also inspires, something writers need from time to time.

You inspired me to start a blog showcasing my expertise: writing erotic fiction.

"Venice, Paris, Rome...discover the story behind the books. We all know the research can be stimulating...it's also fascinating. Come with me while we explore the most interesting facts and stories I've discovered on my travels."

I'll let you know how it goes...

Best,
Jina

Josephine Damian said...

PS:

This little antie is hoping for a little "link love." I have your link on my blogroll, was hoping you'd do the same...

http://josephinedamian.blogspot.com