Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hey! You in the back. SHUT UP!

thumbs_upMany (most?) writers I know have a little voice in the back of their heads, pestering them with questions, nagging them with doubts. Is the novel good enough? Will an editor like it? Will readers like it? Will your spouse like it? You call yourself a writer?

It’s not the muse talking; it’s the muse’s crazy uncle who got dropped on his head as a child.

Sometimes the questions seem valid, rational. Is the pacing good? Have you portrayed the protagonist as a sympathetic, multi-layered individual whom people would like to spend some time with? Are you sure you want the sidekick to say that?

Other times, the questions are of the extreme sort: What if you only sell eight copies? What if nobody shows up at your launch party except the old lady who shows up at every book event for the free refreshments? What if they arrest you for wanton and heinous destruction of trees?

Usually, I just tell the voice to shut the heck up. (Like my children, sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn’t.)

Obviously, if I trusted my judgment more, the “voice” wouldn’t be raising so many questions in the first place. I might add that, at least for me, the uneasiness grows at certain points in the writing process. It’s definitely heightened when a manuscript has been submitted somewhere, or during the time right before a book’s release when the reviews start trickling in.

There’s one question I can’t seem to ignore, no matter how hard I try: Is the book any good?thumbs_down

As anybody who’s ever read a book or gone to a movie knows, “good” is subjective. One person’s good is another person’s “meh.” But it’s still a question that hangs around my neck like a turkey vulture.

Are my books any good?

My wife thinks so (usually). My mother thinks so (often). My critique partners offer their suggestions/ideas/criticisms (and excellent ones they are), but they don’t give an overall stamp of approval (too caught up in the nitty-gritty, I suppose. I mean, they’ve seen all the warts and blemishes along the way—and who could possibly put all that ugliness out of their mind?)

After a book’s acceptance, my editor thinks it’s good (I hope).

But still, I’m not swayed. All those people know me personally and/or have a horse in the race.

I don’t think I’m fully convinced (check that—I’m never fully convinced), something I’ve written is any good until a completely impartial person weighs in. Actually, I don’t think I feel at ease until a dozen impartial reviewers declare that my book doesn’t stink.

That’s why I was heartened by the first impartial review of KILLER ROUTINE, from Kirkus Reviews. The pullquote:

“Orloff generates considerable suspense en route to a conclusion most readers won’t see coming. Good-hearted characters…make this premiere of the Last Laff series a winner.”

So, that’s one down. Eleven more to go.

And you, in the back, SHUT UP!


ALSO, I had the good fortune to be asked to participate in an awareness/advertising campaign for The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. My picture is appearing on Metrobus ads, and I’m having a Where’s Alan? book giveaway contest involving DC mass transit, a camera, and my face. Check out my blog here for details and a peek at the ads.




Lisa Bork said...

Congrats on the great review! I never doubted your book would be a winner.

Lois Winston said...

Alan, congrats on both the review and the campaign. I'll bet that campaign winds up selling a lot of books for you.

Alice Loweecey said...

Congrats, Alan!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Congratulations on that great review, Alan. I can't wait to read the new book.

Jan Morrison said...

Great review and yes those voices persist but you must persist - sometimes I tell mine that I really will listen to every whiny complaint out of its mouth but not until I'm done such and such. Then I do. I invite the voice in and say bring it on. I give it about five minutes - and believe me that is plenty of time. sometimes a dear friend or mate will listen as I go through it. then I'm done.

Anonymous said...

Nicely articulated -- and congrats on the review!

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks, everyone. I found review number 2 this morning, from Publishers Weekly: "Orloff's entertaining first in a new series..." and "Orloff does a great job of evoking smalltime, struggling comedy clubs."

So only ten more to go!

Keith Raffel said...

Alan, who cares about the review? Your wife thinks it's good. Luxuriate in that.

Darrell James said...

Alan- I guess every creative endeavor comes with self-doubt. I set out to tell "myself" a really great story, and if I accomplish that, then I tell myself "it's good."

Doesn't always stick, however.

Congratulations on a couple of great reviews!

Deborah Sharp said...

I was all set to comment on that voice in the back, until I got distracted by the last paragraph in your post. Hello?????! Your picture is on Metrobuses?
You go, author boy!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

What a fantastic review! Especially for Kirkus, which I've found to be grouchy (now I'll never get a good review from them! Ha!) Yes, we all have those voices of doubt, but we just need to try to shut them up.

Alan Orloff said...

Lisa - Thanks. I like your positive attitude!

Lois - Thanks. Either that, or it will frighten a lot of bus riders!

Alice - Thanks.

Sue Ann - Thanks.

Jan - Thanks. I'm not sure I could take listening to that nasty voice for 5 minutes. Maybe I'll build up slowly.

Art - Thanks.

Keith - I'll luxuriate in anything I can.

Darrell - Thanks. Another positive attitude. I like that!

Deb - I think I'll ride a bus and sit underneath my picture. See if anybody notices!

Elizabeth - Thanks. I think I'll stuff a sock in my voice of doubt next time he pipes up.

Beth Groundwater said...

Congratulations on BOTH of your great reviews, Alan. And yes, that voice of doubt should now go slink off into the corner and mumble to himself, because nobody else is listening. :)

Kathleen Ernst said...

Excellent review! And really...your picture on a Metrobus? You've made the big time!

Unknown said...

Alan - I often tune in to Inkspot, but rarely post. Had to comment on your blog tho. I'm always surprised when I hear a writer, whose work I truly enjoy, share doubts about their upcoming novel. I have no doubt that you'll receive 10 more glowing reviews...hey you've got Kirkus behind you, it's smooth sailing from here.
Huge congrats on all the great news!!

G.M. Malliet said...

Alan - I can't get the image of Carrie Bradshaw in the opening credits of Sex and the City out of my head (you know, where a bus goes by with her photo on the side).

Why is that?

G.M. Malliet said...

p.s. A big congratulations on the Kirkus!