During my time on the internet, I’ve observed some patterns that I felt the need to record for posterity. Based on behavior, an author’s classification may shift. In some cases, people go along the scale, passing these phases in the development of their writing paths. Other times, writers jump around a bit, before getting stuck in one category or another. And sometimes they skip a stage. These are not a hard and fast rules, of course, but just a simple guide that may prove helpful.**
**This post is for entertainment purposes only. No authors were harmed in the making of this post. Random facts have been invented, and any use of scientific terminology has been cobbled together from cereal boxes, an old Latin grammar book, and the Internet. God help us all. Any resemblance to real persons is strictly coincidental. Do not taunt happy fun ball… erm, right, on with the show!
This is where an otherwise normal person has somehow become infected with the need to write. I theorize that it may involve being bitten by a rare insect, diptera novelis, but have no proof at this time to substantiate my findings. Unfortunately, there is no cure.
An Aspirant generally comes in two age-ranges. The first is a SAHM (stay at home mom). She has held a number of day jobs, but after popping out a few kids, it was decided (probably in some Shirley Jackson-style lottery) that it would be better if she stayed home to nurture the family’s young. This may have sounded like a good idea to her as well, but bear in mind, she was probably dangerously sleep-deprived when she made the decision. Now her little rugrats and curtain climbers are about to drive her insane. To keep from winding up on the evening news for doing horrible things to them, she decides to write a book. (Because yeah, that will reduce her stress.) But bear in mind, she doesn’t know what’s coming down the pike, or she’d probably take up macramé instead. Or maybe get a nice part time job at the video store in the evenings. They give you free rentals, you know.
The other class of Aspirant is an empty-nester. Maybe she always had the desire to write, but she got very involved in the lives of her offspring, or maybe she’s just tired of working for Mr. Gilderstein down at the insurance office. In any case, now she has a lot more time on her hands since the kids went to college. Well, she has loved romance novels for years, so now she’ll write one, by golly! How hard could it be? (I know, right?)
By either avenue, the Aspirant arrives on the Internet, bright-eyed and full of hope and wonder. (Don’t worry, the denizens of the ‘net will soon crush her hopes and dreams, then stomp all over her tender soul.) The Aspirant lurks on editor and agent blogs, hoping to pick up some crucial piece of information, and is disappointed to discover the existence of “form rejection letters” and the “slush pile.” She may post a question or two that everyone else already knows the answer to, but she does it anonymously, and doesn’t realize that agents / editors never answer questions on their blogs. The aspirant may or may not have completed a manuscript by the time she arrives on the Internet.
After an indeterminate period of time, she may evolve into…
Blogs are great for getting your name out there, right? Therefore it makes good marketing sense to start a blog. They’re easy, cheap (sometimes free!) and they offer an instant forum for whatever one wants to blather about.
For the Blogwriter, topics center around her writing goals, submissions she’s made (and possibly rejections received), snippets of her incomplete manuscript, and near brushes with greatness (expect namedropping in this case). There will also be posts about the Blogwriter’s pets and/or offspring. She may use the word “pre-published.” In some instances, the Blogwriter may even post interviews with her own characters, or write the blog solely from their perspective. I will not comment on this practice.
The Blogwriter may carry on in such fashion indefinitely, ever so pleased that she’s getting her name out there. Until it occurs to her that she hasn’t had a comment in the (three, six?) months she’s been blogging away. Well, crap. What’s the fun of blogging if nobody reads it?! Sadly, the adage if “if you build it, they will come” does not apply to blogging. I’m not sure that applies to baseball fields in the middle of nowhere either, but I digress.
Sadly, Blogwriter blogs have a low chance of becoming popular. Why? Well, a variety of reasons. Readers frequent blogs for two reasons: they love your writing (and being famous already doesn’t hurt) or they heard you’re giving out prizes. Many bloggers view the Blogwriter as an upstart. Why, I’ve been blogging since Bravenet was the only place you could get a free blog! Young whippersnapper, they mutter. The only thing that can save a Blogwriter from obscurity is really fresh content (that means breaking from the formula described above) or evolving as an author to a new level (and taking the blog with them).
The Blogwriter may tire of talking to herself, and thus she enters…
The Eager Beaver
The Eager Beaver has a blog nobody reads. So she stops lurking and goes on a posting spree. She comments on every post anyone else makes about anything. She may ask people to visit her blog in return. She might post a silly signature like “Hugs and Kisses”, along with her name, and a link to her site. She may talk about her work where it doesn’t relate.
It will not be unusual to find ten to twenty comments from her in a discussion. She wants people to know her name, dammit. She will email a lot of people who have no idea who she is and ask for reciprocal links. This is because she hopes it will increase her blog traffic, but what she doesn’t realize is that almost nobody looks at anyone else’s links. ‘Net denizens are like water buffalo; long ago, we wore a virtual rut with our surfing, and we’re wary of alternate routes. We almost never deviate, and when we do, we feel cranky about it, like we’re daring this new blog to be any good. Mostly we click on unknown links when we’re promised something mean, something shocking, or the next shitfest. But Eager Beaver doesn’t know that.
Eager Beaver may continue her comment spree, earnest and bright-eyed, desperate for attention and acceptance, until she runs afoul of the old school bloggers, who will make such comments as “Who the hell is this…?”, “She’s everywhere!” and possibly, “This has to be someone running a sock puppet on my blog! I’m checking the ISP.” If Eager Beaver continues, she may be confronted with, “You post so much, I don’t know how you find time to write.”
Ouch. This shot may jolt her into one of the other stages, or alternately, she makes A Sale. In which case, she might proceed directly to…
The Diva has made a sale. It may be to a NY publisher, or it may be to an epub. Success level does not necessarily predict the Diva’s behavior. She will tell everyone about the sale on her own blog, of course, but that’s not enough. It will be mentioned in any conversation with the Diva, and any comment she makes will reference her sale in some way.
For instance, if a normal blogger posts about Laura Kinsale, the Diva will reply with something like this:
“Oh, I just love her! She’s such an amazing author, so gifted. I used to write historicals, but I just didn’t have the touch for it. Now I write contemporaries, and I have one coming from Diva Moon Press in September! Don’t miss Sugar Lips Brown by yours truly. If you like hot, sexy romances, you’re going to love this one. It’s a contemporary Kinsale!”
The Diva is tireless in pursuit of her own aggrandizement. It’s impossible to have a normal conversation with her at this stage in her development. She will perceive any attempt by colleagues to discuss their own work as a threat and she will respond accordingly. The Diva still has illusions about the glamorous life of a romance writer; she imagines chocolate bon bons, feather boas, pool boys named Raoul, and constant media attention. Her attempts at self-promotion will frighten small children and animals. She will likely not meet her deadlines.
The Diva does not yet realize she will be inundated with work, and that a sale to a publisher does not guarantee reader accolades / high sales revenue. She may post rants about her editor, whine to her associates about her agent not understanding her vision, and/or complain that her publisher isn’t running a special publicity campaign for her extra special debut. Her first review may startle her into another phase, such as…
Laughing All the Way to the Bank
LAtWttB has anywhere between two and twenty sales beneath her belt. But she does not respond well to criticism. Any implication that her work is anything less than divine and handed down by the Almighty pisses her off. She will respond in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to:
“I’m laughing all the way to the bank.”
“All the other reviewers loved this.”
“Obviously, you just weren’t smart enough to get my work.”
“Stop reading my books. I have tons of loyal readers, and I don’t need nitpickers.”
“This book has sold better than all my others combined.”
“This is slander* and I’m contacting my attorney. Please don’t post about me or my work on the Internet anymore.”
Deep down, however, LAtWttB does care deeply what people think and will be found on reader blogs and forums, wading in with her shitkickers on. She lives to argue with readers and is hopeful that one day she will get the collective Internet to issue an apology, and admit that her work is, in fact, the best thing since sliced bread. An author can linger in this stage for years, like a wasting sickness. And some authors remain locked here for the duration of their careers.
Others move on to…
Authors who fall into this category have seen (or been) all of the above, and still care about writing. They’ve learned that the job is all the matters. They’ve learned to be respectful of readers in public, no matter what they think in private. They post on the Internet rarely, and only when they have something valuable or witty to contribute.
Mostly, they stay busy writing books. They meet their deadlines. They want to write the best books they can, and they want to make their readers happy. They apologize when they get stuff wrong, and they move on. Drama does not interest them in more than a passing fashion because… duh. They have work to do.
So… did I miss anything?
*I realize this should be libel but LAtWttB does not.