Sunday, June 17, 2012

On not being famous.

I have a confession to make.

My name is Jaclyn Dolamore and I am not famous. I have never greeted a screaming hoard of fans at BEA. My email is manageable (or when it isn't, it sadly has nothing to do with being overwhelmed with adoration and inquiries from foreign publishers). I have a curious dream of being mentioned in PW Children's Bookshelf and this dream remains unfulfilled. I'm fairly sure my royalty statement for Magic Under Stone, when it comes, might just be a piece of paper with a big sad face on it.

The thing is--this could all change. By next year things could be different. I have a new book with a new publisher that I'm super excited about. The Magic Under Glass movie could actually be produced and be an indie sensation or something. My career, far from being dead, feels like it's only just beginning.

But right now? You wouldn't know it. Things are pretty quiet around here. My Google Alerts usually just reports my own blog posts to me. Basically, no one is paying attention to me and it is a tiny bit scary, in a way, because I can see how quickly a career can die, three books passing into the mist, picked up occasionally by a child in the library, this moment largely unknown to me. Eventually it would just be an amusing story to tell future acquaintances: "Yeah, once I had some books out, even a movie deal. Check out the Spanish edition. Pretty wild, huh?"

This forgotten place can be a scary one for a writer. Even if, as in this case, I DO have other things lined up. I'd imagine it would be even worse if I didn't.

But I've often seen published authors tell the unpublished the following: "Enjoy this time while you're unpublished. Things will never be the same again."

It's true. They won't. And I found that nothing changed my writing like publication, and not necessarily for the better. I can't say I didn't have fun writing Between the Sea and Sky and Magic Under Stone, wasn't like the old days. Words did not fly from my fingers with joyous abandon. It was 1000 words a day, every day, under deadline, occasionally interrupted by a reworking of portions, and finally, a manuscript turned in on the day it was due. I often took breaks to Google-stalk myself. I watched my Goodreads ratings start out strong when a book was released and then drop and drop (apparently, the nicest reviewers are the quickest, and it's rather downhill from there). For me, the worst part was not nasty reviews. It was general apathy. It was the 3.52 overall rating for a book I loved a lot. It was the reviewers that were fairly nice but made a comment that hit a little too close to my own perceived weaknesses. It was the tormenting thoughts of "Maybe I am only a three and a half star writer." It was the circles in my mind of "Maybe if my tweets had just been funnier" or "Maybe if I was better at remembering book blogger's names..."

I tried to block out these feelings. I tried to block out the review websites too. But it trickles in. And sometimes it made me angry, even though there wasn't really anything specific to be angry at...except, perhaps, my own human folly, for wanting publication and validation so badly and then flailing when I actually got it. The innocence and sheer joy of writing in my teens and early twenties was gone and even with all the new joys publication brought (and I don't want to sound too mopey, there are MANY), a part of me was simply wrenched by the loss.

A funny thing has happened to me this year. I'm once again under contract and under deadline, but it feels different this time... It feels oddly free. I am just writing, not worrying about what my new editor will think of book 2. I'm not really worrying about what ANYONE thinks, at least, not much. I'm wondering if I'd be able to manage this if I was getting a lot of attention for my current books. Even positive attention has a definite effect. It's motivating, yes, but it's also distracting--like trying to write while having a buzz. There is no telling, now, if this feeling will remain after Dark Metropolis comes out. Maybe I've changed for good, by having gone through three books already and the whirlwind of highs and lows that comes along with them. But I know it's possible that I'll be distracted again. And I have a feeling that the more successful future books are, the more I will have to battle against this sense of distraction.

So, just like I would advise an unpublished writer, but with even more awareness of what I speak, I'm cherishing this time out of the spotlight. I'm reveling in the quiet and clutching my characters and worlds close, keeping them largely to myself and enjoying them immensely. I am grateful, in fact, for this time, for this chance to remember what writing means to me, and for me, and not for anyone else. I spent the week of BEA sitting quietly in my office, pounding out words, thrilled and excited by the way my new novel is clicking. Sometimes I forget for a moment, that this is what being a writer is really all about. Not reviews, appearances, fan mail, retreats, covers, foreign rights, movie deals, tweeting, blogging, Facebook fan pages, websites. None of that.

Just a girl.
Her computer.
And a story that makes her glad she is human, even though being human is hard, because humans can tell stories.

(Though next year's BEA, I hope to be there or be square. ^_~)


  1. I love this post. That is all. No, wait, that's not all. Here's one person who loves your writing and looks for your books. You are NOT a 3.52. THAT is all.

    1. You're sweet. Though I don't want to seem like I'm fishing for compliments. -_-;; Goodreads is Goodreads...I need to stay the heck away.

  2. I also love this post. Thanks for putting it all into perspective. Looking forward to your next books.

  3. Thank you for this! Glad you're writing with freedom.

  4. Did I ever tell you that one of my daughters wrote about Between the Sea and Sky in her school journal? (And pages and pages and entries about mermaids after that...) Kid "like" response, totally unprompted and unscripted.

    Glad your new novel is clicking!

    1. That is so nice! We know that happens in theory...I've seen a few inklings of it, like the girl on Deviant Art who drew a Magic Under Glass comic...and we know there must be more. But we only see the tip of the iceberg...

  5. This post hit really close to home, and I am so glad you were brave enough to write it. You have said things I have felt, but in a far more articulate way than I ever could have.

    Thank you for saying it.



    1. I'm so glad. It makes writing these posts worth it.

  6. I know how you feel. About the time Minions #3 came out, I discovered I'd completely stopped wanting to be famous. A tiny handful of people have told me that Zephyr and Reg are awesome, and for years all I wanted was to hear that from more and more and more people. But now I've decided that, yep, they are awesome. And that's my motivation now.

    Your characters are awesome too. They still live in my head. They deserve to live, but no matter how much success you do or don't have, they already live. And you get paid for it! Which is something I'm not really striving for, myself.

    I've seen your books at my local B&N and two nearby libraries. So that's another measure of success. Other people get to meet your characters too. Even if they don't send you fan mail.

    But I still know what it feels like to not be famous. Sometimes when we have a vendor table at a con, and people pass by with looks of mild interest but no recognition... when the guest of honor is another comic book artist, or people start singing the praises of Randy Munroe of XKCD fame... I've met Randy. He's ordinary, just like me. It's all right. It stings a little, but the sting passes.

  7. I've only just seen this, but Jackie - I feel you. I mean *really*. I get a lot of emails, but the vast majority of them come to be because they've Googled 'tips for young writers' and there my website is. Sad face royalty statements, irrational anger and dwarfing feelings of insignificance: I'm there. It feels oddly like being in a giant waiting room, I always think, being midlist. You're constantly waiting for someone to come along and call your name so you can move onto the room where all the Real Writers hang out...

  8. If it helps you to know, I'm a fan of your books and your writing.

    I've been reading your blog for a year or two now, but I've been too intimidated to comment (you're a real, published writer — and a darn good one, at that!). Plus, I've never written a fan letter to any author, mostly for fear of being boring and saying the same thing that a hundred people have said already. (Don't feel left out. ;)

    I'm sure you have other fans out there, too, who aren't brave enough to say anything. o-o

    I wish you all the very best on your upcoming (and distant-future) projects. So excited about Dark Metropolis! And thank you so much for what you've written already. You've certainly made a difference to me (for example, I'm now fascinated with automata).

    Also, the comics you've drawn for Between the Sea & Sky are so adorable.

    Right. Rambling now. But.

    Glad to hear you're able to feel a little freer while working on your current project.


  9. Wow, Jaclyn, you hit it right on the head, girl! Thank you! I LOVED reading this post.

    I think *most* of us feel these things every single day in some form or another and you've expressed it brilliantly.

    And it's nice to know I'm not alone as I finish First Pass Pages for my 2013 book (3rd with Scholastic).

    Sometimes in this day of so much 24/7 news and the internet and the constant bestseller headlines we forget that most of us are going to be mid-list authors. And it is not a bad place to be, really. We've worked hard, we've sacrificed, we've put ourselves out there, we've spent tons of money on our careers - and we can only go up from here, right?

    Thanks again, you're terrific.

  10. ... But your fans love you. When you answered my emails, I was literally screaming and jumping around the house with the upmost amount of fangirlism. :D