Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Writing Game: Are We All Just Stepford Wives?

There's been a lot of negative hoopla in the writing business lately. It all started back with Kidlitchat where it was revealed that an agent wouldn't sign a "would be" client if they'd given a bad review of one of their other clients. It kinda free fell from there into blog entries both for and against the idea as well as conversations on message boards and twitter.

So, now you're not supposed to give anything but 5 Star Reviews or it could come back to haunt you. This is coupled with how you shouldn't talk industry related stuff on your blog(for the love of God don't mention the sub process!) and it's probably not a good idea on Twitter either. There's a mentality that you almost have to constantly watch your back because the "Big Brother's" of the industry are watching you.

After some pondering and grumbling and resignation, this is what came to me the other day. To be a writer--published or unpublished--you kinda have to adopt a Stepford Wives mode of operation. And when I say Stepford Wives, I'm talking about the 2004 version, not the 1975. The 75' version really is a scary, psychological thriller that is not to be taken lightly(If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. The end scene is *shudders* scary!)

For those who haven't seen the movie(s), it's about a woman named Joanna whose family moves from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the quaint and overly idyllic Stepford, CT. At first, things look too good to be true. A vast majority of the women have perfect houses, perfect clothes, and perfect sunny dispositions. Have they deposited Lithium into the water supply? No, the robotic and programmed behavior can be attributed to the fact that the men of Stepford are killing their wives and taking up with identical robots.

Now, hold the phone....I'm not saying that the industry wants to make robots out of us--that's not the analogy I was going for at all. I do think an ideal is perpetuated where you're supposed to slap on a toothy smile and say how wonderful it is in Stepford---er, I mean, the Industry. And you're made to feel there's something epically Debbie Downer aka Un-Stepford about you for wanting to put negative aspects of the querying and/or submissions game on your blog or anonymously complaining about agents and editors in writing forums or finding fault with fellow YA writers books, etc. You're not supposed to notice that some authors get held to a different standard or there's a double standard with agents who maybe blog or tweet about negative things.

But dude. snap out of it! What are you thinking? Writers can't be human wait, they can't always exhibit natural human emotions. You read a book with a million dollar advance that stinks or you get another rejection or you wonder why this agent hasn't gotten back with you--these are human emotions that you're supposed to keep inside. Or, talk to people outside the writing sphere. You know, the ones that have no concept of the game, lol.

Here's the thing....although I've never been rebellious and always wanted to do just what everyone else did, I'm NOT a Stepford wife when it comes to the writing game....I'm way more Joanna and her less than perfect sidekick, Bobbie. They question what's going on in Stepford, they don't like being squelched or having to look and sound like Mary Sunshine's all the time. They just wanna be their own person.

In the end when it all comes down to it, I certainly hope it will be me aka my writing that the publishers look at and not a 3 Star review or maybe a bad day when I blew off some steam. Hopefully, it'll be what the industry was started for and that's for great storytelling.


Melissa said...

I'm doing a book thing on my blog every monday where I say one good thing about each book I've read - because there's always at least one point. I'm not doing it because I'm worried about people in the industry it's more that, if my book gets published and someone hates it....I hope they can find at least one good thing about it. Like, they'd try to at least.

But you make a valid point here. We have to be careful what we say - I don't even think it's just like this in the writing game though. It's the same in any sort of community/workplace. Unfortunate but true. If you complain too much, go against the flow - you're going to make people upset.

Michelle said...

I love this post Krista. I had so many problems with the Stepford mentality. I'm a rebel at heart!! Only recently did I find a comfortable between-worlds space. My internal rules - bad days and bad reviews get thrown into the drafts section until a later date.

I'm almost thinking of starting up a anonymous site where wanna-be authors can post negative reviews all they want! It would be called; "Because We Can." Hahah!

Nicole MacDonald said...

It is tricky, posting/chatting on line because I am constantly 'editing' myself. But I think unless you write an intentionally hurtful review that they can't hold it against you! That said when I am asked to review things if it's really 'not me' I get in touch personally to let them know :)

The Arrival,only .99c on Amazon/Smashwords

Elissa J. Hoole said...

The Stepford Wives is a great analogy for this perfect smiling (BORING! MEANINGLESS!) image writers are always told we need to maintain. Like...freaking out and removing all ratings below a five star? Seems a little extreme. I understand this publishing world is small, and it does no good to be scathingly negative or go all crazy-reaction to rejection or bad reviews, and I know people tiptoe a lot because "who knows when I might need a favor, a blurb, an introduction, etc., from someone, and what if they can't handle the fact that I pointed out that one flaw in their book two years ago on my goodreads account..." but it drives me nuts to think that I need to be so prim and proper and complimentary.

I don't ever say bad things about books or publishing just to start controversy or air grievances, but I may point out problems I had with books in what I hope are balanced little review-type blips listing the things I liked as well. We're writers; we're readers. We are professionals. We're so much more than robots.

E.J. Wesley said...

I blogged about this the other day, too! I definitely do not advocate ax-grinding, and I recognize that there is a 'game' aspect to every business. After all, does every Starbucks employee feel like smiling and sincerely hope that you have a good day? Nope. Especially when you've had them re-make that Vinti Chai Soy Latte for the 10th time. However, that's part of the game they have to play to work at Starbucks.

However, I think this stuff in the writing world is coming off as, "you can't have an opinion, ever, unless it's positive" and not so much as a set list of rules that are clearly defined and apply to all participants (game).

My thoughts/solution? Apply social courtesy and etiquette to your public thoughts, but certainly speak your opinion. If someone is going to hold your respectful disagreement over your head, then THEIR opinion of you shouldn't matter.

Her highness, Samantha Vérant said...

In fact there were two agents discussing this on the kidlit boards, saying they don't think writers should review books on our blogs. Or say anything, in fact, that could come back to haunt us. Mums the word...

Anonymous said...

Writers are urged to build a web presence, and I think it's impossible to always write glowing things about books, writing, and the industry. I think negativity and honesty are okay, as long as writers still maintain discretion so that they're not over the top. We don't want anything to come back to haunt us, but we shouldn't have our finger on a censorship button at all times.