Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Blog Week: You May Be a Bestseller on Tralfamadore

Anne R. Allen is a freelance journalist living on the Central Coast of California. She has published two novels in the UK with maverick indie publishers Babash-Ryan: Food of Love (2003) and The Best Revenge (2005.) Babash has, alas, shuffled off this mortal coil, so she is out of print and scrambling down in the slush pile with everybody else. She writes a blog that she hopes will help new writers benefit from from her prodigious collection of publishing mistakes at http://annerallen.blogspot.com

A few months ago, Nathan posed a question on this blog: “How Do You Deal with the ‘Am-I-Crazies’?

Those are the blues that can overwhelm the unpublished/underpublished novelist as we slog away, year after year, with nothing to show for our life’s work but a mini-Kilimanjaro of rejection slips.

The truth is, most fiction writers spend our lives sitting alone in a room generating a product that has zero chance of ever making a penny—or even being seen by a person outside our immediate circle of friends, relations and/or personal stalkers.

So—not surprisingly—we occasionally ask ourselves that big, existential question: WHAT ARE WE—NUTS?

Trying to answer can plunge a writer into despair. So how do we cope?

Most of the over 250 respondents to Nathan’s post answered with variations on the following advice:

1) Embrace the crazy and accept that we are, most of us, deeply and certifiably Looneytunes.
2) Chocolate helps.
3) Ditto booze and caffeine.
4) Ditto sunrises, music, and long walks.
5) Ditto the company/blogs/tweets of other lunatic writers.
6) And reading good books.
7) Or crap books, because we know we can do better than THAT.
8) Funny, nobody mentioned sex,
9) But denial is good. Really good.
10) And keep writing, even if it’s just for ourselves, or the one person who reads our blog, or the dog, or whoever…because: WE CAN’T STOP OURSELVES.

And why is that?

Well, I have a theory: It’s the Tralfamadorians. If you’ve read your Vonnegut (and what business do you have calling yourself a writer if you haven’t read Vonnegut?) you know about Tralfamadore. It’s a planet where a super-race of toilet plungers exist in all times simultaneously. The name of their planet means both “all of us” and “the number 541,” and they control all aspects of human life including social affairs and politics.

Since these beings have infinite time on their hands, I figure they’ve got a lot of leisure to fill up with reading. And how do they get their books? Of course! They compel earthlings to write novels. Hundreds of thousands of them. Way more than earthbound publishers and readers can handle. But on Tralfamadore—hey, they’re consumed like Skittles.

In fact, the Tralfamadorians are so eager for new material, they’ve figured out how to transmit stories right from our brainwaves to their TralfamaKindles the minute you type “the end” on that final draft.

And it could be that right now, as we speak, your first novel—the one that has been sitting in the bottom of a drawer along with its 350 rejection letters and the restraining order from that editor at Tor—could be at the top of the New Tralfamadore Times bestseller list.

Think about it. You could be the Dan Brown of that whole part of the galaxy, where readers are desperate—pining, pleading and panting—for your next book.

And that voice in your head telling you to pound away, day after day, trying to finish that opus, even though everybody, even your girlfriend—and your MOM for god’s sake—says it sux? That’s a transmission from the Doubleday Company of Tralfamadore saying, “Hurry up, dude, we gotta have this for our Christmas list!”

Hey, just prove to me it’s not true.






86 comments:

Amy Lundebrek said...

Best post EVER. (Sorry Nathan). :-)

ryan field said...

Great post.

"8) Funny, nobody mentioned sex,"

Excellent point.

Linguista said...

Great read! It's good to know someone loves my writing! Off to edit! :)

Oh, and sex is on every list implicitly. Noone HAS to mention it! :)

maine character said...

That would explain the toilet plunger glowering at me this morning.

Samantha Clark said...

Sounds like a good theory to me. Guess I should put more potty humor in my manuscripts. :)

Robena Grant said...

This is too funny! Thanks for the great start to a cold, wet Friday.

Mira said...

Lol.

Awesome post, Anne. Funny and clever. You write with a sure touch and a great voice. I remember reading one of your earlier blog submissions to Nathan and loved it, too!

So, there's a bit of an underlying truth here - who knows what agenda our writing really fulfills? Thanks for speaking to that in an amusing way.

Well, okay then. I don't want to let the Tralfamodorians down. Better get writing. :)

Nathan, if you're reading this - really terrific choices this week. Thanks so much!

Of course, it will be nice to have you back next week as well - hopefully feeling refreshed and from all the fun you've had this week.

Thanks Anne - you rock. :)

Matt McDonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt McDonald said...

I love any post with a Vonnegut reference by default, but this was good by its own standards.

Here's my thing: Nobody ever says that a 16 year old football prodigy is insane for spending his time and money on something he'll likely never do again past age 18 (let alone do professionally).

Nobody ever says that a guy who spends his weekends in a woodworking shop behind his house making tables is insane. Nobody calls hunters and fishermans crazy (even though, when you think about it, that's a consuming hobby that costs tons of money).

Writing is a craft, a hobby. It's something one does regardless of a chance at publication. And no one is crazy for indulging in a hobby, or bettering themselves at a craft.

Geoff said...

Awesome.

Nona said...

Bring on the Skittles! This Tralfamadorian is getting peckish. I'll be at the opera this afternoon but when I get home I expect to see some dinner on the table.

maybe genius said...

A Vonnegut reference, hurray! A+ read, would read again.

The Pollinatrix said...

I like this. It's a humorous take on a concept that's been floating to me repeatedly out of the blogosphere in the past few days - that even when it seems like we're not having an effect, we really are. That when we do what we love, out of love, it always is the right/good thing to do.

Vonnegut knew what he was talking about!

Munk said...

there it is

Chuck H. said...

Ahhh! Montana Wildhack. Er, what were we talking about?

Jason Kurtz said...

I have suspected this for quite some time, I have just be taunting the Tralfamadorians... Besides, they can afford to wait for the opus, right??? ;)

I agree with Matt McDonald, above. I think calling it a 'hobby' is a bit off putting, but it's true. Passions fall into many levels. I mean, writing isn't currently my Career, but I'd like it to be! And until it is, I guess I am going to have to keep satisfying my current audience...

Arabella said...

Did you mean to put up a link to a password-protected site/blog/whatever it is? I really wanted to read about your publishing mistakes, but . . .

CKHB said...

Snort!

Sarah W said...

Finally-- a reasonable hypothesis!

I'm putting this on a t-shirt:

"The Tralfamadorians Make Me Write."

Or maybe

"I'm #541 on the Tralfamadore Best Seller's List."

Lauren Johnson said...

How'd YOU know about that restraining order from Tor? Who have you been talking to?
----
So basically, keep on trying so that you'll have no regrets?

I can work with that.

D. G. Hudson said...

Perhaps Vonnegut had a peek into that lofty realm of the Tralfamadorians. Anne, I loved this post.

It falls right in line with my theory of an alternate universe which overlaps this one, which I use to explain those gaps in memory and those times that I say, 'what did I come into this room for?' Switching back and forth can cause time delays, etc.

This is what I call a motivating post. A little humour cures a lot of ills. I'll definitely check out your blog.

annerallen said...

Arabella--Thanks for the heads-up!! For some reason the link posted for my blog is corrupted and takes you to some password protected place I don't have a clue about.

Obviously, I want all of you to come over and visit my blog. I've even posted one of my oldies but goodies that got an addendum from Janet Reid, the QueryShark herownself.

Here's the correct link:

http://annerallen.blogspot.com/

I think maybe leaving off that back-slash (my bad, not Nathan's) must have screwed it up.

I'm basking in all your praise, everybody. I seriously love the idea of those T-shirts, Sarah. I might just have to get some printed up.

Matt has a great point. Fishermen aren't considered crazy, even if they don't catch any fish. And hardly anybody can make a living as a fisherman anymore (just ask the poor commercial fisherpersons in nearby Morro Bay.) And yet we fish. And we write. Because we must.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm not going to even try to prove it's untrue. You reference my favorite book extensively and I want to believe the Tralfamadorians love my novels. But even if they don't, I do. So as long as one of us compels me to keep writing, it's all good.

I agree that this post is venturing into "best post ever" territory. A+

Emily White said...

Nice!

Matilda McCloud said...

Looooooove this post! Now I finally have a reason for toiling away at my WIP! Yeah!

Charity Bradford said...

I love you! And I dare anyone to try to prove you wrong. Stick to your theory, I've got your back.

Oh, and if I didn't write the chaos in my head, I WOULD go insane. :) So for me it is survival as well as those Tralfamadorians, but thanks for explaining to me why I just HAD to write the Draguman's history down.

Pamala Knight said...

Excellent!!

Thermocline said...

I want Tralfamadorian royalties. What's the exchange rate?

Suzannah-Write It Sideways said...

Too funny. I'm moving there.

I've never read Vonnegut, but now I think I must.

Looking forward to checking out your blog!

mkcbunny said...

Well, that explains those voices in my head.

Thanks!

annerallen said...

Nathan has fixed the link to my blog. For anybody who tried it and got an off-putting password protected thing--the friendliness of my blog has been restored. Do stop by.

Thanks everybody for all the fun comments. I'm looking into the royalty thing, Thermocline.

And CKHB, CONGRATS on your engagement to the Rejectionist. Awesome, indeed.

TKAstle said...

Hallelujah. Now no writer has an excuse to ever feel crazy again, right?

Thanks, great post.

@Samantha Clark - "put more potty humor in..." cute.

Melissa Pearl said...

Awesome post :) Thanks for making my day.

Other Lisa said...

Put me on the T-shirt list!

I am all out of witticisms so I'll just leave my sincere compliments for a great post.

Fawn Neun said...

When I first read the title I thought it said "You May be a Best Seller on Tramadol".

It sort of makes sense, either way, though, doesn't it? :)

8) Sex...

I thought this was why we were doing it...

Wonderful post! If you have a blog I must follow it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I have been battling the demons all week "Am-I-crazy-for-doing-this-writing-thing?" while continuing to catalog the 15 form rejection slips in a humongous binder on MS 2. Then, I went back to MS 2 and started reading and editing it, once again. I still think it's good and my beta readers are pestering me about reading MS 3 which I finished, but put away feeling the rejection woes from MS 2...

And, all this time, I should have put my faith in Tralfamadores aka beta readers, so there you go! I'm saved. I resurface from the dark depths of despair and realize: writing is the journey for me, not the end game.

Anonymous said...

I guess I should clarify my editing efforts on MS 2. I ripped out the first fifty pages thinking perhaps, my story started out too slow. I have talked to a few beta readers about cutting a certain character and was contemplating just that, despite major protests from my following.

One does have to ask, who am I doing it for? An agent who can't be bothered to read the work? Or, do I stay with with the Tralfamadores aka my flock who reads my work and shun the rest? I have my answer. Again, thanks for the post.

abc said...

3 things:

1. I'm totally on board with this theory.

2. Matt McDonald, Thank you!

3. Skittles are fracking addictive! Try to stop shoving them into your mouth by the painful handful (should you buy a bag). You can't!

P.S. Wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Aliens ate my WIP.

Now I know what they were.

Tralfamadorians.

Thanks for this post!

(And the neat spaceship!)

Marilyn Peake said...

Anne,

I’m so glad your entry won! I commented on it in Nathan’s Forums, but thought I’d comment here as well. Vonnegut’s one of my favorite authors. I love your theory about the Tralfamadorians and their need for all the books written today. LOL. That is beyond awesome! Have you ever seen the movie Back to School? It’s a comedy featuring Rodney Dangerfield, but Kurt Vonnegut makes an appearance as himself. The bit about Vonnegut in that movie is hilarious.

Ed Miracle said...

The deolaters have their gods; I have Fred, my invisible friend, who reads everything I write and sometimes doesn't puke.

annerallen said...

Marilyn, thanks for your comment on the forum. My only one. I appreciated it the more for that.

Rodney Dangerfield. Kurt Vonnegut. In a movie. Together!?? Wow. Gotta put that one in my Netflix queue!

Fawn--there's a link to my blog in Nathan's intro. It's now working.

Thanks for taking the time out of your vacation to fix that, Mr. B!

Emily Cross said...

Hey Anne!

Excellent post as ever. Highly recommend people drop by her blog, she is a great source of advice and knowledge!

Fawn Neun said...

Anne- got it, following, hope to see much more of your writing in the future.

Sarah said...

I love it!

Now, Anne, if you can just tell me about the folks who are responsible for my chocolate compulsion...

christineA said...

Great Post. I've been following Anne's blog for some time now. It is truly always brilliant and wholly entertaining! Write on!

Judith Mercado said...

I have found solace now. My novels don't exist solely in my computer or in a desk drawer. They have a reading public. Wow!

Wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and Julia Roberts shouldn't be movie stars, because they should have been sensible enough to know the odds of them becoming movie stars was impossible and done something else.

The reality is we don't live by the percentages; we live our lives. Almost everyone who writes a novel think they will be the exception to the odds, and some of them will be right.

And ultimately, who cares if you're not? Is a life writing novels that don't ultimately sell any worst than what 99% of people do with their lives? Would you be happier if you spent that time watching TV, making a few more dollars, or whatever?

Terry said...

Wonderful post. I'll have to check out your site.

Number 8 is odd. Hmm.

JTShea said...

Anonymous 3:50pm is right. According to the Statistical Wisdom of the World nobody should ever dream of starting anything out of the ordinary, much less dare to complete it.

Juli Cragg Hilliard said...

Yes. Oh, yes.

Julie Roads said...

Every single word in this post is brilliant. Well, well, well done.

Mia said...

And nobody ever says that a person who spends the weekends golfing is insane.

Kaitlyne said...

I loved this! :D

Julie Henry said...

And THIS is why we love Nathan Bransford.

Lesli Richardson said...

ROTFLMAO!!!

Hey, I'll mention sex. *LOL*

Hmm. It also explains the voices in my head.

AND it explains why the yahoos with the foil hats never get published on Tralfamadore. *LOL* Their signals out are getting blocked! :)

Tambra said...

Thanks, Anne for a great post.

I write because I have to. Because the stories and characters in my heart and imagination MUST be brought to life on the page.

I've come too far to quit. My goals are in sight. We're writers, we create and share our beauty with the world.

Best,
Tambra Kendall/Keelia Greer

David said...

So you're upset at Nathan because he hasn't gone after the royalties?

Mimi said...

I'm definitely in the "we can't stop ourselves" boat. It's salve on the heart when the words come out right. Am I crazy?

C Riede said...

Great post! I've written 'I don't want to let the Tralfamodorians down' on a post-it and stuck it on the wall above my desk.

Anonymous said...

i love this post. by far one of my favourites.

Tara said...

There's no such thing as hurrying on Tralfamadore. It already is.

COME ON, ANNIE.

(Nonetheless, the metaphor is charming and appreciated, if inaccurate.)

Ellen B said...

A lot of people have said a lot of inspiring things to me over the years - don't give up, you never know when things might change, just keep working.

This one may be the winner :D

davidbdale said...

Will it hurt my chances at publication if I've just used a Tralfamadorian to unstop my toilet?

Nona said...

Just for the record, this Tralfamadorian is not a toilet plunger. I'm a back scrubber with one of those poufy things on the end of it.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Hey great post. Funny, especially the restraining order part. Now I have a "true" reason to write. Tralfammadore is waiting.(:

Leslie Garrett said...

LOVE this post...and not just because I'm a slavish, adoring devourer (is that a word? should be...) of all things Vonnegut.
Thanks. I knew there was a reason I did this. Could never quite put my finger on it, though.

annerallen said...

Nathan and all the Nathanites, THANK YOU!!

Being blog goddess for a day has been such an amazing experience. I'm basking in all these appreciative comments. And to the new followers who have come over to my blog--welcome!

And isn't it nice we haven't heard a peep from any anonymous trolls? Maybe the Tralfamadorians have activated the anti-troll shields to make sure we get the word out: get back to your brilliant WIPs, folks. Tralfamadore is waiting!

Carol J. Garvin said...

It's as good a delusion as any I've heard and provides justification for continuing to embrace this sometimes-mind-numbing pursuit called writing.

Great post, thanks!

Leis said...

That explains EVERYTHING. See, deep down I always suspected it went something like that.

I blame Vonnegut. Had he not written about Trafalmadore, the Trafalmadorians would not have won multidimensinal eternal rights over Earthlings' unpublishables. Their terms of sale suk!

Rich Dailey said...

Very helpful. Now I know I'm not so insane as to understand what this post is about. Thank you. Thank you.

Rich

howdidyougetthere said...

"Theere's aaaaaaa place for us...somewhere a plaaaaace for us..."

Sing with me, everyone!

Excellent post--
Kristi

Diana Paz said...

Great post, Anne! Your list is perfect and hilarious, and so is this post. I wonder if Trafalmadorians have all the rights to my stories or if any revert to me at some point in the foreseeable future...

I agree with Emily, your blog is a source of great advice and wisdom. Everyone should check it out :)

Also agreed that fishing seems like a such an unobjectionable pastime, even for the fishermen who come home empty-handed. Hmm, what if I take up "fishing" and go to a lake every weekend, but secretly bring my laptop instead of fishing gear? It could work!

rose said...

I love it!

Thank you!

lbdiamond said...

Just think, if we were Tralfamadorians, we'd already be published.

So it goes.

Peter Newland said...

Fantastic post!

I'm a fan of #8

Michael said...

Anne,
I found this post conspicuously timely (if I were crazy in the schizophrenic sense). Let me start by saying thank you, so you know to read the rest of the comment to understand that it is in this vein.

I originally came across Nathan's site by googling some variation of "Vonnegut" and "literary." I was searching for inspiration after being rejected by an agent for being too literary in my partial submission. Apparently, I was suffering from what I didn't know at the time to be the "Am I crazies." One of the first entries took me to his October 29 post where he defended the importance of literary fiction in a marketability-sensitive publishing world. If you recall, this was the post that directly followed the one where he, first, outright bashed literary writing. In the comments some of Nathan's supporters had been discussing Vonnegut, which got me reading his blog. As I'm sure you feel the same way, his blog has been very helpful in not only learning how to effectively query but stave off the "Am I crazies" (a biweekly issue).

I just went back to that post and noticed you were one of the commenters that day. Just last week, I finally queried Nathan and thanked him for his guidance but I now realize that I owe you a thank you too. Your comments revived my confidence at one of my lowest moments. I thank you sincerely.

annerallen said...

Michael, it means so much to know I cheered a fellow writer. I go through the "Am I Crazies" at least bi-weekly myself. I'll have to go back and see what that comment was. Maybe it was the reminder that Vonnegut was published as "pulp sci-fi," and not considered "literary" until he'd been writing for many decades. And as pulp sci-fi, he wasn't that successful.

You may never be James Patterson Inc., but if you keep knocking on stubborn doors, maybe you'll be the next Vonnegut. Sounds like a better deal to me.

Michael said...

Anne,
Great memory. That is exactly right. Just curious, do you read Haruki Murakami? What other authors do you like?

Stricklen said...

I gave a writing talk to a seventh grade class last week Friday. One of the questions was why read a book when you can watch a movie. Luckily, I had with me the original Treasure Island novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. I held the book up in the air and explained that it had been published ninety-nine years ago. I could pick it up at the moment of my choosing and dive directly into the author’s thoughts. “Writing is timeless,” I said. I also went on to explain that when you watch a movie you may see for example shot of a man walking down a dirt road toward the sunrise. You are watching it as an observer but you cannot live it. In a book you know that the stones are sharp against his bare feet. The morning sun is blinding him and with weary legs the character trudges forward as a bead of sweat slides down his cheek.

I asked them if they had ever heard anyone say that the book was better than the movie. Almost everyone in class raised their hands. I said how is this possible? They spend hundreds of million dollars to create the move…how can the book be better? They looked at me blankly. “Because when you read a book you can get right into the body and thoughts of the main character, you can live it.” I received smiles and nods and got the warm feeling that they understood.

What you write will out live you.

Stricklen said...

Point is we are not crazy...

Terry said...

Stricklen- Nice story and well put to the class. I'm not sure about the "not crazy." :)

Stricklen said...

Point taken. Writing a query over and over makes me crazy.

Chrystal said...

Nathan,
This post is right up there with my favorites, and why I continue to read your blogs & Tweets.
Keep up the madness.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Everyone quotes Gandhi because he is a social change agent par excellence, or sui generis, well you know what I mean. But Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Gandhi, and I feel, unless you're MLK, maybe you should think twice about quoting Gandhi. I think MLK is a phenomenal writer, if you have ever read any of his books - collected speeches, etc. - there is a lot of quotable material in there, for grants and other purposes. And just all around inspiration.

Casey McCormick said...

I'm reading this late, Anne, but I wanted you to know I read it and LOVED it. Totally explains everything. Woo. Glad you figured it out for us.

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