Thursday, April 28, 2011

Very Superstitious

Is it just me or do lots of writers focus on the bad and underplay the good? How many times do you have to hear, “I loved your book!” to counter the one furrow-browed reader who says she thought the love scene was not very tender. Never mind that you wrote that scene to illustrate how wrong the relationship was in the first place. Now you are convinced your whole book is an example of what every writer should not do.

The agent can say they like your style or that you have talent and the full manuscript you sent isn’t right for them but they’d love to see anything else you have. You don’t see the offer to send another story, you see “You couldn’t write an application for a grocery store discount card. You have bad hair, could stand to lose some weight and your feet stink.” And when I say you, I mean me.

I delay celebration. A publisher sent me an offer… in writing. It looks pretty darned official. As with dear Folio and her husband when the publisher accepted the book but seemed to take forever to send the contract, I refuse to break out the champagne or go for a celebratory dinner until my name is on the dotted line. Underneath the logical, accountant brain of mine lurks a superstitious mind. I’m afraid if I rejoice too soon, the bottom will drop out and I’ll be disappointed beyond repair.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of writers who sold books only to have their editor leave the house and the book is dropped. Do you suppose one of the writer’s friends threw them a party with a multi-layered chocolate cake and that somehow jinxed the deal? Think what would happen if, for instance, my husband took me out for steak and lobster and we toasted the deal with the publisher, and then, for some reason, I never got the contract.

Just what WOULD happen? I’d have had a nice evening, a terrific meal and feel special and successful. I’d feel awful if the contract didn’t materialize. On the other hand, if I don’t celebrate the offer and the contract doesn’t happen I’d just feel awful, without the feel-good evening.

But just in case, contract first, champagne later.


What are your writing superstitions?


  1. You're living in my head, right? What is wrong with us? I mean, we sold a book, we should be jumping for joy and dancing around the room.

    Yet, I'm too afraid to break an ankle doing so, which would lead to the ER, where they'd discover a brain tumor. And said brain tumor would prove to be the kind that creates delusional and I'd find out I never sold anything, but instead am completely crazed...

    The funny thing is, when other writers downplay their sales I want to shake them and say, YOU'RE AMAZING!!!!! So I promise not to shake you, but you are amazing and congrats on the contract. Go drink your champagne now!

  2. Julie, I love the way you said all that. My protagonist is always making doomsday scenarios in her head. I thought I was alone in that train wreck of thought patterns!

  3. Well, I do have bad hair but I don't THINK my feet stink. Sniff. Hmmm...

    Since we all think this way I now suspect subliminal conditioning. It has to be at the conferences. But where? Which rooms? Can't be when we sleep since no one ever does. We need to start an immediate counter offensive. I'll begin now so listen carefully.

    Shannon and Julie, you're both such GIFTED, TALENTED writers!! Rinse and repeat. Oh, and have a drink in the morning.

  4. I celebrate first! Life is short. We must immediately, eagerly, enthusiastically embrace the brief milestone-markers that arrive unexpectedly between long stretches of work...for the very reason that it sometimes takes so long to get those contracts and that the promise of them feels so tenuous. Besides, that way you get TWO celebrations: when you get the word, and when the contracts arrive. :-) I'm married to someone who's just the opposite. He kindly indulges me, noting that writing is very unusual because of its long unsung years in the trenches. Whichever way we lean, writers are the best at celebrating one another's successes!

  5. Stormy,
    You are SOOO right! Especially about writers celebrating each other. You have been instrumental in the very best writer celebrations I've been blessed to enjoy!

  6. Contract...the word sounds so wonderful. Inkpot