The Hard of Darkness

Sunny Frazier 5Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to talk about taking her professional life back for herself.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, will be released on January 24, 2015.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

 

Confined to a bed in a dark, silent room for five days, I found myself taking stock of my life. It happened between battles with a stomach bug, fever and four cats that wanted to give comfort in suffocatingly close proximity.

In these soul-searching hours I realized that my life has been hijacked for several years. At some point I started investing more time in the training and teaching of new writers. It was a great feeling to have something worthwhile to share. Mentor—has a nice ring to it, right?

I also got out of the narrow definition of “writer” and into the business, promotion and lecturing end of things. Blogging satisfied the need to communicate in ways one-way fiction doesn’t. The immediacy of social media brought new friends to my cyber doorstep.

But there’s a downside. I became too easily available. Not for hardworking writers seriously pursuing craft and career. They were respectful. No, it was coming from people who liked the idea of being a writer more than actually doing the work.

Not that they don’t write. They probably write more than I do. And re-write. And embellish. And come up with additional subplots. I have to take their word for it because I’ve never actually read any version of the never-ending masterpiece.

Some people are natural born storytellers with a bit of a performer in the mix. They should be on stage, not stuck in a room staring at a computer screen. What they want is an audience. So, they grab attention by asking for advice or bouncing ideas off me. They appear to listen but I’m just a sounding board for the echo of their own voice.

Then there are those who are at the brink of publication—and stall at the precipice. The next step is too much to handle. What if they fail? What if they don’t get massive sales? What if—God forbid—their work is ignored?

A Snitch in TimeThere’s only so much hand-holding I can do. Yes, writers make mistakes. I know very few, myself included, who’ve had an easy time in their first attempts at publishing. Mistakes do not make or break a career. What I want to do is toss them over the cliff and show them it’s only three feet high. They are not Humpty Dumpties. They will survive a few cracks.

And, finally, I’m burned to a crisp from being a role model whose experiences are ignored. New authors ask me how to get big sales then argue they can do it with less effort. Wealth and fame will follow once their brilliant work is discovered. The fantasy is so much more pleasant than reality but the bank account stays empty.

So, in my dark room I decided to take my life back. Dialysis demands I be frugal with my time and energy. My new book, A Snitch In Time, is coming out in 4 days. I didn’t run it through a critique group. None of my friends know much about the plot. I never felt the need for a second opinion. I’ll either fly or fail on my own power.

I’ve finally seen the light.

28 thoughts on “The Hard of Darkness

  1. Things will be better soon. As you know Mercury retrogrades tomorrow, that’s one of the reason you feel depressed. Many, many new writers do take your advice and learn from it. Don’t give up. Looking forward to tomorrow when I can order Snitch in Time

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    • Pat, I know you’ve come across these people too. They talk a good game, very convincing, but at the end of the day have nothing to show for it. And talking is so much more satisfying than learning craft and going through the boredom of slogging through pages of manuscript. Plus, it will never sound as good as they heard it in their head.

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  2. Thank you for posting this, Sunny. It’s important for all of us who write professionally to be reminded that there are limits of what we can do to help others. I’ve often wondered at the intensity with which new writers ask for help and the speed with which they cool when they listen to the standard advice. The idea of being a writer is exciting. The work of writing is, well, work. I’m glad you’re taking more time for yourself and your own work.

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    • Susan,
      Yes, professional writers don’t sit around giving plot details to each other. My writing friends and I feel that’s the last thing we want to discuss. Maybe it’s because we don’t need to convince each other that we have to be taken seriously. Whatever I have to share, it’s on the page just as I intended.

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  3. Good morning, Sunny, Your advice has helped me immensely as I plowed through new online stuff and I will always appreciate it. You’ve also helped me when I least expected it and I will always be grateful. I hope your decision to take time for yourself results in all the success you deserve. The new book sounds intriguing. Thanks for everything and feel better.

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    • Velda,
      You have been one of those people I was excited to meet and work with. But, you were pretty far along when we crossed paths. I never sensed any sort of disconnect between your aspirations and the reality of what it takes to get there. Imagination is good for writers but imagining a fantastic career without doing the real work it takes to get there just makes a person a day dreamer.

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  4. Sunny, your comments are so true. You’ve helped me a great deal over the years and I always appreciated that. In my case, I needed a critique group. Maybe not as much now, but I learned to write by paying attention to all the scrawl marks and criticisms. I believe critique groups can be valuable if you get to a point where you recognize recommendations you do not need as opposed to those that will mprove your work.
    I’ll be getting your book this week. One for my sister too. I look forward to reading it. I’m glad you “saw the light.” I hope you’ll get going on your fourth book if you haven’t starte it already.
    Good Going!

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    • I have started the next book, Linda, filed under “Cry Uncle.” I’m excited about it.

      I think it’s important for every writer to evaluate their critique group and weigh what is said. You and I were in a group together years ago and no one else from that group has ever published. In fact, i got thrown out (this after SOMEONE threw a box of pens at me!). And, with you Linda, I had to make you stop going on that endless ferris wheel with your book and jump over that 3-ft cliff into publication. You never even got bruised! You were ready so much sooner than you believed.

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      • Yeah, I remember the individual you upset in the group that threw red pens at you.

        Yeah, I had been holding out for an agent or to win one of the unpublished book contests by Malice Domestic, but every time I came in as a finalist, it was another year before I could enter again and I needed to find a home for my book. Thank you so much for recommending Black Opal. They are on all these approved lists (Crime Writers of America, International Thriller Writers). I think I told you that Black Rose was interested some years ago, but I didn’t go further with them. I had a bad feeling. I’ve since noticed they are not on the same accepted publisher lists as BOB.

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  5. Excellent post, Sunny. It feels good to help others, but at some point we need to remind ourselves of how much we’re NOT accomplishing when we’re too busy with others. It can be draining, which you’ve learned from experience.

    Can’t wait to read the new book! Congratulations!

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    • Marja,
      I’m always gullible. I believe these people are really bouncing ideas off me to progress in their careers. I don’t know whether to shut it down or maybe give them some “test” to see how realistic they are. And why should i be so cocky (as many readers are probably thinking)? Then someone like you comes along in Vegas, eager, fretful, with a game plan and my faith is restored. I know you were shocked when I recommended you get a contract on the day you pitched your Bogeyman mysteries. No, that never happens in the real world. But, I wasn’t wrong.

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  6. I’ve learned a lot and continue to learn from you, Sunny. I feel drained too, in a different sort of way due to work, family, and all of those seemingly fathomless commitment pits our life energy seems to get lost in, but every once in a while I get feedback on how much my life force has been appreciated. I hope you read that in this reply, not that for a minute did I think you asked for it. Laying sick in the dark does wonders for our morale, NOT! Hope you feel better soon. Am looking forward to a Snitch in Time. Hurrah for you!. A mentor is one who takes care of his or her self despite the drains and is a great power of example- just like you!

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    • Theresa, I’ve never felt a single word was ever wasted on you! And that’s what makes it hard to take this stance. You’re right, I was deservedly depressed stuck in that room and I couldn’t push the thoughts away. Feverish. Defeated. Being isolated pulls it in and I really couldn’t be exposed to the germy public (ah, the life for dialysis patients!) I had to try and get my footing. And then here’s the book I’ve been promising forever, finally coming out and making me aware of the writer I started out to be. The one that got sidetracked. Who underestimated the value of her own fiction.

      Hard facts to face. It could have been easier just rolling over and going back to sleep. Instead, I wrote the blog. Got it out of my system. Now, if this bug would just get out of my system. . ..

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  7. Oh Sunny – don’t I know what you are talking about! I’ve taught fiction writing for over 10 year at college. This passage says it brilliantly: “I’m burned to a crisp from being a role model whose experiences are ignored. New authors ask me how to get big sales then argue they can do it with less effort.”
    I have been thinking (and grumbling) about the same thing for the last year, and here, you say it so concisely, the words I’ve been struggling for. Kudos to you for all the aspiring authors you have helped though. I don’t want to downplay that.

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    • Sometimes the best comes out of me when I’m royally ticked off about something. Or when I’m in a feverish state. These thoughts have been brewing after conversations that accomplish nothing and i wonder why I waste my breath. Hard to put a stop to people when they are being abusive and I’m sure I’ll get hurt puppy dog looks that say “I thought we were friends.” Yeah, well friends don’t spin their wheels at the expense of others.

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  8. Sunny, I don’t have that problem with other writers but I do have it with people seeking free legal advice who NEVER do what I tell them and then come back to me looking for help after they’re in seriously hot water after failing to follow my initial advice. It’s hard to stop trying to help people, though, isn’t it, even those repeat offenders who suck the marrow from your bones. Thank God for caller ID.

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    • Most people want Expert Advice that tells them to do what they were going to do anyway. Doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, a lawyer or a plumber… except plumbers get paid more when everything goes wrong.

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      • I now believe it’s the most inexperienced writers who make the mistake of thinking the whole world wants to hear the plot of their prospective book. At conferences, I’ve seen big name authors glaze over when a newbie in the book signing line begins to relay their book plot. They simply aren’t taken seriously. And they come off just as they are: overblown with their own self-worth.

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    • That’s exactly the same situation. The thing is, we KNOW we can help. We go in with every intention. You ask and then you turn your back on all the advice I’ve given you? Maybe we should start the clock when the conversation starts and charge by the minute. Like a psychiatrist.

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  9. Sunny, I have had moments of dazzling clarity while I was sick like the proverbial dog. It’s as if a relentless survival system kicks in when our bodies are under siege and shows us what is essential and what isn’t. Take your epiphany seriously; it’s not selfish to avoid dissipating energy to people who prefer a fantasy and who won’t benefit from your generosity anyway.

    I learned that the hard way, which is why (with maybe two exceptions) I no longer critique people’s work unless I’m being paid to teach them, or to edit their manuscripts.

    Congratulations on the new release!

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    • Liane, I have had the same experience re ‘the hard way’: I have found that people do think something is worth what they paid for it. If they pay me to critique (as my college students do) then they respect my advice. If I do it for free, they don’t. Bloody heart-breaking.

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    • I stopped critiquing a long time ago. In fact, I warn them ahead of time that I will probably destroy their love of writing. It’s more than just words on a page. I demand excellence. Nobody wants to put in that kind of work. The ones that do are already hard at work accomplishing their goals.

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    • I argued with myself and nearly pulled the piece. But, somehow I felt it had to be said. Now i need to hold the line when those soul-sucking friends come around, manuscript in their heads, ready to tell me the next version. I’m not playing anymore.

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  10. Sunny, one of your comments reminds me of a story I heard where a lawyer and a doctor were talking at a party and the doctor asked the lawyer what could he do about all the people he met who, when they found out he was a doctor, asked him for medical advice. The lawyer told him to send them a bill every time he answered a question. The doctor loved that idea until the next week when he received a bill from the lawyer.

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