Wednesday, December 14, 2005

High Price, Low Payoff

Tonight I have the rare opportunity to go out all by myself. I have an appointment that warrants the hubby coming home early enough to take the kids and deal with dinner, leaving me free to play afterward. WooHoo! I figured I'd take in a movie since there are so many coming out now that look wonderful.

I checked to see what my options were, thinking I really want to catch Jarhead. But to my disappointment, I find that it is no longer playing in any local theaters. I missed it! It was released on November 4, and five weeks later it's gone. Now I have to wait for the DVD release. Bummer.

(Sidebar: I just discovered it is playing at a theater about 15 miles away. I might make the trek. I'm thinking about it.)

But this got me to thinking about the creative process and how disproportionate the entire situation is. I'm guessing it took a heck of a lot longer than five weeks to make Jarhead. The filming alone took longer than five weeks. I have no idea, but I'd guess it takes something closer to two years to get a film such as this from the page to the screen. Yet it gets a mere five weeks to shine.

Seems like writing is much the same. I would wager that even the most prolific authors out there (hello, Nora and Danielle) can't whip out a book in five weeks. Or, at least, it takes longer than five weeks for the writing, editing, revising, etc. to happen and the book to hit the shelves.

Yet, for many non-Nora level writers, they work weeks/months/years to write something publishable, only to see it sit on shelves for a month before being replaced by the next batch of latest releases. And if said writer never achieves La Nora fame, it's a good possibility that once the book is off the shelf, it is gone to the great out-of-print pile in the sky.

Talk about your raw suckage. The idea of working for a year (or more) on a book, losing sleep, suffering hair loss from pulling and stress-induced weight gain from junk food eating, so that your book can sit on the shelves for four weeks only to disappear holds little appeal.

I mean, I think I can speak for others safely when I say that characters we writers meet become as close to real to us as possible for people existing only as words on a screen. We think about them when we aren't writing. We imagine their voices and give them lives, past, present and future. To find out they actually have a life expectancy of about four weeks is a smack upside the head with a cold, dead fish.

I guess that's just part of the biz. Something you have to accept if you plan to make a career as a writer. Even more so if you plan to write category romance novels. Thing is, it's kind of hard to be motivated to dump your heart and soul into a work of art when you know it's a fleeting thing. When it comes down to one o'clock in the morning and you're faced with finishing a tough scene or getting some sleep before the seven a.m. wake-up call, remembering the final outcome of your efforts helps make that decision a tad bit easier.

I know. I know. That's not a good attitude. Every story deserves our very best efforts. And writers write for the sake of writing, not because we want to become immortal through our words. If you tell a great tale, four weeks should be plenty of time to give people to find it, read it, and clamor for more.

But don't even get me started on how I shudder when I imagine what happens to books that don't sell and how people dispose of books they don't adore. The idea of my Work of Pure Genius in the bottom of somebody's recycle bin? Yikes!

1 comment:

Amelia June said...

I just wanted to say hi--we're much in the same boat and I stumbled across your blog and found it highly familiar--and funny!

My name's Amelia, and I'm an aspiring writer of romance, specifically "romantica", where I don't have to say "flower" and "manhood". Heh. I'm a mom of two boys, have a paying job but stay home most of the week with my little one (baby weight? It's called insulation for the winter months thank you very much).

Anyway, great blog. I have one (not spam, I swear).