Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ultimate Writer Fantasies

What is your ultimate writer’s fantasy? We all have them. There are the realistic fantasies, tied to what truly is possible and then there are the fantasies that don’t have to be constrained by the laws of physics or any kind of statistical probability. The ladies at Jungle Red posed a similar question this week.

After successfully banishing my episode of self doubt for the time being, I’ll share my wild author fantasies first and then the more realistic, real one. Then you share yours – now is not the time to be shy. Think BIG.

1. Part One requires the US Government enacts a computer security public law that requires all federal agencies to buy and implement the product I sell in my day job. This results in a commission large enough to permit me to leave said day job and write full time without worrying about income – hip hip hooray! (There is an alternate version of this that involves winning the lottery).

2. I put my nose to the grindstone and finish my novel. My search for an agent is a bit arduous, but then I get a call from an agent who thinks my book is the best thing s/he’s ever read and can’t wait to take it on, can’t stop talking about how excited s/he is. The agent gets me a good deal (not too good – I couldn’t take the pressure) and I’m delighted to find that the book will be categorized simply as “Fiction” and it will come out in hardcover. It might even be published by L.J. Kenney in order to allow me some sexual anonymity. It gets some decent reviews, maybe even by a lit blogger or two and then…

3. Fantasy kicks into overdrive -- Some big name author falls in love with it and mentions it as his/her current favorite book in an interview. I’m suddenly getting emails and personalized notes from Michael Chabon, Philip Roth, Annie Proulx, Ernest Hebert (my favorite writer), and Nick Hornsby telling me how much they just LOVE this book. I am flush with validation! Emails and letters pour in from readers who just love the book. The Oprah people call, but I’m camera shy and so unphotogenic that Scott, the love of my life almost didn’t want to date me after meeting me at an online dating site so I tell them how flattered I am, but decline. My publisher, my agent and all of my relatives think I’m insane – insane! But I then become known as the reclusive debut novelist who refused Oprah and without going through the humiliation of a TV appearance where people could pick me apart, I’ve managed to become bigger than ever! Who is she? Why won’t she talk to the press? My aloofness drives the media mad and after the novel is optioned for a wildly successful movie, Scott and I spend our time, he painting and I writing in our homes in Northern California, Aspen and an undisclosed location on the east cost.

4. Fantasy is fueled into hyperspace – Truman Capote comes back from the dead, calls me and insists Scott and I jet over to Paris with him for a fabulous soiree. Dead painters and writers are resurrected, so we’re hanging out with Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Modigliani, Renoir, Monet, Paul Klee, Gustav Klimt – oh, and we’re transported back to the 1920s and everybody smokes again and drinks absinthe, but none of the health hazards exist anymore so it’s OK. It’s just a fabulous time!

5. The real one? I keep at it for the next couple of years and finally have a finished manuscript I’m proud of. I find an agent who wants to represent it and it sells to one of the big New York publishers, big enough so that it gets decent distribution and stands a chance of being read by a few people. It gets its day in the sun and people say more good things about it than bad and enough people buy it that it stays in print for at least (what’s realistic?) a year? In the true fantasy, I’m in a bookstore near where my book is shelved and someone points to the book and tells another shopper, “That was a great book”. In the true fantasy, I walk into the Denver library and my book is displayed among the new releases. I go into my local bookstore and they’ve got it displayed with the staff picks. In the true fantasy, I don’t have illusions that I’ll be able to quit my day job, but if something close to fantasy #5 were to happen, I would be ecstatic.

It could happen!

What are your wild and not so wild book publishing fantasies?


NoviceNovelist said...

Wow Lisa - I had a smile plastered to my face the whole time I was reading this - loved your fantasies - in fact I'm still smiling!!!!! Mine overlap with some of yours - Get a great agent, she/he gets me a great publishing deal - this enables me to quit the day job (ok maybe cut back to part time) and I spend the majority of my waking, productive hours (still need time to watch ER and My name is Earl) writing (because of course I have a fab 3 book deal).

I earn enough to buy a run down but great beachhouse which I can retreat to whenever I like just to write, stare at the sea and think. Then my first book comes out and it has the best jacket cover EVER.

My phone rings after the fantastic reviews have been published and it's the hunky guy from university who broke my heart. He is GUSHING down the phone to me about how wonderful I am and how he hated to have left me without a word or goodbye BUT actually he had been secretly conscripted by the secret service and couldn't tell anyone (yeah right!!!!!) He misses me and would love to catch up - am I free tonight for dinner????? I say 'hang on I'll just put you on to my lovely husband.'

I hear him mumble and drop the phone just as the first royaly cheque arrives and falls on the hall mat. I count the zeros on the cheque and remember that I'm really bad at Maths - could it really be that much????? I seek confirmation from a knowing 5 year old and his abacus. Yes it is that much!!!!! I send the ex boyfriend a signed copy and make sure I write his name over my glamorous ( and seriously airbrushed) author photo so he can torture hmself with what he gave up.
The End.

And no I haven't realy given this scenario much thought!!!!!! ha ha

reality said...

Simple, six figure deal, NYT best sellers list for a year or more, movie deal.
And JK Rowling wants my autograph. Of course.
Who's Oprah.

kristen said...

I'm smiling too. Mine involves much of the same--sudden independent wealth, finished novel, great book deal (but, of course, I'm independently wealthy at this point and the money doesn't matter...), recognition at some super glam black tie event in the city (that requires a shopping trip in which a ballgown is purchased), and in the end, moving my family out to a lovely estate on the cliffs over Montauk Beach and living a somewhat quiet and simple life of luxury, wealth and continued writing success--with frequent jaunts into the city for super fabulous literary events. Oh, and of course, there are no bad reviews in this dream. That's why it's a dream.

What fun!

Carleen Brice said...

This was very funny! I have to say that I was working at the Tattered Cover about 10 years ago and someone came up and asked me if I knew where a book by Carleen Brice was. And it wasn't a prank! I took her to the book and then turned it over and showed her my picture on the back. I signed it for her.

Keep dreaming big and keep writing!

Charles Gramlich said...

Wild: I win the lottery, quit my day job, start my own publishing company and publish exactly what I want to publish. I also hire others to do the distribution and selling. I just write.

Barely within the realm of possibility: Word of mouth builds about my stuff until someone at a big publishing house takes note and they want to give me serious treatment, and money, for my next book.

Shauna Roberts said...

Loved your fantasies! No. 1 reminded me of my critique group's Plan A for continuing to meet after I move: We all chipped in $2 for lottery tickets. With the $172,000,000, we would buy a five-bedroom house in the Smokey Mountains, where we would meet each month for critique group. We could also use it for group and individual retreats. Unfortunately, we did not win the lottery, so we will fall back to Plan B: Buy two computer cameras and use iChat to bring me virtually to the meetings.

My own fantasy is a little different than the others. Although the book my agent is trying to sell is a fantasy with adventure, many moral questions come up in the book. My fantasy is for readers to write and tell me that my book really made them think or reconsider some of their prejudices or (best yet) changed their lives.

Anonymous said...

I HAD to delurk for this one...loved this post (indeed, the whole blog)! My fantasy? See, I would LOVE to be on Oprah--I think she has great taste in literature, and I would love the validation (not to mention the sales reach). My dream is to finish my manuscripts finally, and get a good agent to sell them in auction for a decent amount. Then I'd become a darling of the sales force and get "hand sold" into my favorite bookstores, both chain and independent.

A few awards wouldn't be a bad thing either. And having a party with all of my favorite artists and writers, dead and living--that would be fabulous as well. Also, being studied in literature classes.

My more realistic fantasy involves being prolific enough (and selling enough) to justify hiring a part time nanny, giving me more time to write. And having my writing taken seriously by the people around me.

Thanks for starting my day with such positive thoughts!

Lisa said...

NN, I love yours! So glad I could spark a great writer fantasy! Greatest jacket cover ever -- note to self :)

Reality, Of course! Keep it simple, right?

Kristen, Good point about the money! In my fantasy I will come out of seclusion to attend a black tie event in your honor.

Carleen, Now THAT is truly a writer's fantasy come true! I'll bet you joked with your friends about something like that happening back then before it really happened. WOW.

Charles, When you do start that publishing house, don't forget about your friends!

Shauna, That's an excellent one. Yes, I think in my fanmail, maybe one of my readers will tell me that they were about to stick their head in a gas oven or jump off of a skyscraper, but after they read my book their life was changed and they decided to live :)

Mardourgrrl, I'm so glad you did! You've got a great blog (how did I never stumble across it?) I just added you to my links. I think the common thread we all seem to have is the desire to be taken seriously -- for me, it doesn't necessarily have to be the NYTBR, but it would be nice to be taken seriously by someone who doesn't share my bed or my DNA :)

Jungle Red Writers said...

Hey Lisa,
I don't know about Truman Capote, but I think you will realize fantasy #5 -- except maybe for the part where you're finally content because it seems like as soon as as our dreams come true,(we get pubished) the dreams get bigger. Or perhaps outlandish. (NYT bestellers list) And regarding your previous post. I don't know about real writers, or what makes a real writer, but this writer, DEFINITELY experiences that in-the-middle-stage for all three books I've sold and the one I'm working on now. My writers group calls it the POS stage. You can probably figure out what the Acronym stands for. Think Piece OF.......

~jan brogan

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Lisa, keep writing and it will happen. And the reality is so much cooler than the imagining. I know. I'm living it. I do walk into bookstores and see my book (and have to hold in my little shriek of glee). I do get letters from readers. And a couple years ago I was in your shoes imagining what-if and wondering of any of it would happen.

Now, I'd still like to get the Oprah call . . . maybe for my next book (which I need to go finish!)

Lisa said...

Jan, I agree totally that we tend to keep raising the bar on what will make us happy when we're working toward a goal. I'm sure if I got every one of my wishes, I would undoubtedly start in with the "if only...".

And thanks for weighing in on my previous post -- I was really interested in hearing from the published writers to see if once you've gotten that validation, the panic and anxiety and self doubt evaporate and I've gotten a 100% NO WAY response. Good to know the POS stage attacks even writers who've published multiple books too. At least now I know it's "normal" :)

Judy, I try to imagine it and I'm such a doofus that if I were to walk into a bookstore and see a book I'd written on display, I don't know if I'd be able to suppress the urge to run around the store waving the book into every employee and customer's face, screaming "this is me, this is me, I wrote this!!!". Now see, I think the Oprah thing would be cool too, although in my fantasy, I wanted to put the reclusive writer spin on it. In real life? Ha! If I got that call, I'd be in Chicago before the assistant on the end had even hung up the phone!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Well, I did burst into tears (but discreetly, adultly, I hope) when I first saw my book on display on the front table. And I made my husband drive past the window--slooowly--where my picture was publicizing my first ever reading.

I do wonder what I'll do if I ever see someone random reading my book--on a plane or in an airport or hotel. I like to think I'll walk up and calmly introduce myself, graciously offering to sign the book. My fear is that I'll run up, grab it and ala Sally Field scream "You like me, you really like me!"

Therese said...

This is way fun...

Having now achieved some of my pre-publication fantasies (terrific agent, respectable but not terrifying $, multi-book deals, many foreign rights sales, fantabulous editor--yes, it can happen, even to someone like me) I'm now focused on things like:

-seeing the book on sale in the US!!
-steadily growing sales so that the book (and the ones that follow) stays in print for many years (one year in hardcover is more or less the standard, then most go into trade paperback until no one buys it anymore...or until it makes its way to mass-market as some do)
-finishing my current wip and having it turn out better than my debut
-seeing the wip sell into all the same foreign markets as my debut plus many more
-making Lists, of course!
-optioning movie rights...but only to the "right" people, who won't f*** up the story but instead will improve it

...my ARE has gone to the film agent this week, but let's not lay any bets on the outcome--some of these things are YEARS in the offing...

Mostly, I just want to be able to keep writing professionally for as long as I have the will to do so.

Simple, right? :)

kristen said...

I had to come back to say I LOVE the image of Judy grabbing her book out of a reader's hands and screaming "You like me, you really really like me." That is priceless.

Larramie said...

These comments -- and the post -- are great examples of writers' creative thinking.

Lisa said...

Judy, I love imagining you driving by that storefront and getting your husband to slow down. When you do see someone reading your book (and I'm sure you will), I DARE you to run up and say that!

Kristen -- It's priceless!

Therese, I see no reason at all why all of those things won't happen. And -- fingers crossed on the movie rights. I'm already casting...

Larramie, This has been more fun than I ever imagined -- but hmm... nothing to add? This applies to you too!

squidlet said...

Oh... this post and all the comments have been so much fun to read.

My fantasy involves a lot of people telling me that my story was just the story they've been waiting to hear... and then it evolves, of course, to a star-studded red-carpet premiere of the movie version, which I adapted myself and got to help out on the set and had the time of my life and my next project is a straight-up screenplay and Clooney's already chompin' at the bit for the male lead...

Lisa said...

Squidlet, Excellent! Having a lot of people say that you've written just the story they're waiting to hear would be so incredible -- but I agree, what's not better with Clooney? :)

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf