What do writers want?
Hmmm? What’s the answer? Well, lots of things, I’m sure. But among the top tier of responses, I’d say: Fame, Bathtub Moments, and Respect.
Yep. But not the immature version of ritz and fancy lunches with drinks containing tiny umbrellas. Days and nights filled with signings, radio spots, and television interviews. These might have their place. Fantasizing can be fun. But ultimately, this goal’s more enjoyable in thought than it would be in practice. At best, when realized, it’s fleeting, and often more trouble than it’s worth. And then there’s the reality that for the vast majority of gifted authors, this level of fame is just not a practical reality.
But what is FAME?
It certainly can be defined as having great renown, of being recognized and recognizable in the public’s estimation. The definition, though, is not just limited to Hollywood glamour.
It’s also simply this: one’s reputation!
And that is most certainly something that’s practically attainable. To have a reputation. If not across the world, then certainly within one’s community, whether real or online, and most definitely with one’s readers. And writers most certainly want it, and want a good one. A stellar one … rich and consistent, of … well, again, of many things: of consistently putting out stories of note, scary pieces that are really scary, or suspense pieces full of anxious suspense, humoristic work that brings on the laughter, and on and on. And most definitely–and most especially for the fiction writer, that most wonderful of liars–one of honesty!
That’s right. Honesty. With character, with plot–with genre. Honesty and integrity. Will the author have the strength to be brutal if the story calls for brutality? For sexuality? For profanity?
For subtlety, too?
The good ones most definitely are strong enough–at least most of the time. And they’re most definitely known for it. They have FAME; they have a reputation. Over the years, reading the many works of Richard Laymon, I found myself consistently amazed at how often the “famed” writer took the harder writing road. How often the man put his characters in the most difficult of pickles, not only in terms of throwing rocks at them, but in terms of the writing. Again and again, he put his stage actors in positions that made his work as a writer more difficult … tougher in thought, in research, and in making the effort believable. The man was truly honest with his lies, and through his work, title after title, proved his integrity to the craft, and his legacy, his rep, verily his FAME lives on with those who’ve read, who read, and who will re-read his library.
There’s also BATHTUB MOMENTS.
I’m sure there’s other terms, but the above is mine, a descriptor coined in 1987, after coming home from desert warfare training in the Mojave, back when I was a young infantryman.
After spending three weeks of rolling around and doing individual movement techniques in the hot California gravel, getting filthy and not showering, I finally arrived home, dirty and s-t-a-n-k-y.
Sore, and with layers of filth coating my body, I opted for a bath … a chance to lay back and let my body soak a while, for my muscles to unwind, and to enjoy at least a few moments of private time before taking on the job of re-acclimatizing myself to life at home.
But there was also something else I had to do. For the past 21+ days, on top of carrying bullets and biscuits, I’d also kept on my person a battered copy of Robert R. McCammon’s relatively new release of his epic work “Swan Song.”
I’d been stealing moments to read through the work, a story I loved, and now, sitting in the tub, I was down to the last hundred or so pages. The water was running…
…and I was turning pages, absorbed, and totally oblivious to the mechanics of reading.
Eventually, there was a bang on the bathroom door. “You dying in there!”
OMG. I’d been lost in the closing pages of McCammon’s masterwork. My wife was mad, I was filthy, and I was–COLD.
I found myself lying in a few inches of water–cold water. The faucet was still running, and the hot water was all gone. I’d forgotten to plug the tub.
I was doomed. Cold, and still stanky, and now with no hot water. What had happened?
A BATHTUB MOMENT.
And as embarrassed and stooopid as I felt, in the back of my mind, I was also full of admiration and gratitude. An author, by virtue of words and a bit of magic, had held me captive, clutched in the realms of another world, and that, by a book that I owned, that I could supposedly pick up or put down any ol’ time I wanted. And yet I couldn’t. The book, instead, called the shot.
And that’s what writers want. Am I wrong? No, I’m not. They want to hold their readers hostage. They want them, their audience, despite owning the book, or the e-version on a reader, desperate to get lost in the pages. They want readers to put off needed sleep–”I can get through one more chapter … hell, I have to”–and to go to work the next day, beat and angry for being too weak to hit the hay, and determined not to repeat the mistake, and yet, come nightfall, them doing it again.
After all, they have to finish the tale, and ownership of the work doesn’t matter. Oh, no. Only getting back into that world.
For writers, yes, make no mistake, it is what they want, for themselves when they read, and most definitely for those that visit their work(s).
And finally, yes, writers want RESPECT.
Fame, or reputation is something more geared towards a writer’s base, her readers, his subscribers. Those wonderful avid fans. And I’d be a liar if I came across that writing for these individuals wasn’t important, or not often thought of by the working artist. Still, as I get older, I’m more and more of the mind that writers want RESPECT from that most arrogant and opinionated of people–their fellow fabulists. Other writers.
And why? Because they know. They know it all. If not individually, then certainly as a collective. They know the craft, of what it takes to put together a winner, and yes, even a groaner. They know the pains and the joys. And though they don’t all agree, or should, each is convinced they know a good or a bad piece of work.
Not sure I’m right? Let’s find out. Ask a writer to read this blog and then ask if I named the top three things a writer wants.
Whatever they say, it won’t be: “I don’t know.”
All my best,