May 21

Dirty Words

Luck: Why is this a dirty word?  Because anything you need so much and get so rarely deserves to be cursed.**

Timing:  Luck’s shitheel of a cousinSure, Ian Fleming’s and Tom Clancy’s careers were boosted big-time by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan respectively.  But most writers tend to get the equivalent of the reading habit of George Bush–at least I think he had one.

**Deserve:   With the above exception, this  word is so worthless it ought to be expunged from the dictionary.  Just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean recognition and reward is a gimme–which applies to most everything else, too.

Expectation:  See above.  But it’s not a dirty word if, as Lao Tzu recommends, you act without it.

Agent:  Rare is the writer who’s had an agent or two and NOT used a lot of other dirty words to describe them.

Gatekeepers:  A fancy dirty word for agents and acquiring editors who like to claim they act as literary levees, the last defense against the surging flood waters of the River Dreck–when in fact they don’t give a rat’s ass about how well a book is written.  I understand these putzes have mortgages to pay off, but it would be refreshing if they just admitted they were in it to make money as easily as possible, just like the rest of us.

Percentage:  Not as filthy as it used to be, thanks to Amazon’s 70 per cent royalty rate for its Goldilocks zone of price points.  But still damn dirty–as in the percentage of novelists who make their living at writing, whether they’re indie or traditionally published.  Or the percentage of writers agents take on as clients.  Or the percentage of writers Big 5 publishers actually promote.  I still have wistful memories of my last, best percentile:  Reading Comprehension freshman year in high school.

Productivity:  A personal favorite.  Why waste a good word on something you suck at?  Russell Blake doesn’t, just to give one example of steroidal productivity.  Evidently, this author works 14 hours a day and produces 3-4 tough guy thrillers a year, and seems like the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with–if he ever had the time.  Which brings us to another favorite…

Social Networking:  I once went to a workshop on marketing for indie writers.  The featured speaker was doing quite well financially with her books.  I asked what it took her to get there; how many hours every day she spent promoting her books as opposed to actually writing.  The ratio?  7-1.   Now, most writers probably feel like they’re stranded on a deserted island, waving frantically at the distant passing ship, the S.S Readership.  Most writers feel they should do more to spread their gospel, round up that posse, besides just, well, writing.  Which brings us to…

Should:  Elsewhere in life, of course, this word often doesn’t qualify as dirty, even when guilt isn’t the context.  But here, should is dirty enough because it implies doing something I really don’t want to do, even if I could–such a write 14 hours a day, or spend 7 hours of them social networking.  Or:  if you also want to make bank, you should try writing the kind of novels that are currently popular or have a sweet demographic, such as Romance, YA, paranormal, post-apoc, a rip-off of a previous best-seller, or any combination of these.     Naaah.  I’ll stick to my psychological suspense and dark, gritty fantasy…and leave the ninja assassins, co-ed FBI teams, faerie queens, magic and steampunk for others to write about.

My posse of readers may be small but I couldn’t ride without them.



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