Baby You're a Superstar!!!
Recently I met a fellow writer who wanted some advice on a novel they were working on. Let's call this writer J. J. sent me a rough draft of their novel. They wanted advice on tone and pacing and character. I read J's manuscript and gave some gentle advice about the MC and their motivations. I advised J. to get their book edited professionally. Not a necessity mind you but something that has worked for me in the past. After reading my genial critique J responded
"This sounds like it's going to take a long time. I don't want to wait until I'm old to be famous."
I stared at my computer screen for a long time after reading that sentence. Intellectually I understood it's meaning. I was able to process what J was saying. I just couldn't believe it. Don't get me wrong if any of my books ever become a best seller I'm going to revel in that notoriety well past what it is considered socially polite. However I've never ever sat down to write a story or a poem or a book with the express goal of being famous. Or infamous. I just wanted, no I just WANT to tell a good story. A story that will engage my reader and let me enjoy myself. Fame is far down the list for me. However it is on the damn list. Let's not jump into the realm of complete fantasy.
I am one of those corny hayseeds that really believes it's not just about the money. Because let's face it most writers, crime or otherwise don't get rich from actual writing. A few of us might be able to make a decent living. The truly fortunate can afford to write full time. The truly blessed are earing a salary with more than five figures I'd hazard a guess that if you asked those truly rare examples of superstar authors they would tell you the intention was never to be "famous" The goal , the first goal is and always will be to have someone read your work and not vomit immediately from the vastness of your ineptitude.
It would be easy to dunk all over J for being shallow, vulgar and avaricious. J. set themselves up to be posterized viciously. I'm not going to do that. J. is a good writer. They have a lot of talent and a vivid imagination. Sadly that's not enough. Not now nor has it ever been just about talent. Determination, flexibility, focus , these are just some of the traits I think it takes to be a successful writer. Again when I'm using the word "successful" I'm not just talking about monetary compensation. I'm talking about success that is measured in the emails you get from readers telling you your book helped them as they sat in the waiting room of a maximum security prison while they waited for their son and their monthly visit.
I asked J.
"Do you want to be a good writer or do you want to be famous? People on the back of milk cartons were famous. "
J. didn't get the reference but they got my point.
"Can't I be both?"
Yes you can. But if you are not the former you will most likely not become the latter.
Unless you're Nicholas Sparks.