Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Believing In Happily Ever After Part 6 - The Writer's Lifestyle and Happily Ever After

Part 5 of this series is:

On this blog, I talk a lot about the business model of being a professional writer, about writing craftsmanship, and I talk a lot about the Romance story requirement of the Happily Ever After ending.

I talk a lot on this blog about fiction, fictional worldbuilding, and crafting a good story.

But let's take a moment to look at how a writer crafts the story of their own life.

On Twitter in February 2012, I sat in on one of my favorite chats, #litchat, where the topic was about a lawsuit (that seems to have merit as it describes egregious wrongdoing, but that seems to me to hold hidden threats to writer's freedom to create and communicate).

Here's the URL to a brief description of the issue:


So #litchat kicked around the issue of "truth in memoir writing" quite a bit, showing that many writers and readers have only begun to think about this topic, and consider it deeply.

In this particular case it seems a memoir writer fabricated actions and events that never occurred - on purpose - just to popularize the book and allegedly donate money to a charity -- which may never have occurred.

The facts of the case seemed to capture more attention than the legal principle I find alarming -- that a court can decide what is or is not factual in a memoir -- (not autobiography, not biography, but memoir). 

Since I'm in the midst of writing a memoir this intrusion of law into subjectivity gives me a different perspective.  Call a spade a spade, I was freaked out by this lawsuit article!

The next day I ran into a post -- I think it was on google+ -- on a blog by a teenager who wants to become a writer (and likes the kind of stuff I like) who was just as freaked out by a discovery on literary contract law that I've known about since I was younger than she is. 

The post was about L. J. Smith (author of Vampire Diaries) losing control of her product, and her byline, and all her titles, having the publisher hire writers to write more stories in her universe under her byline.

That sort of thing has been "business as usual" in publishing, especially YA, longer than I've been alive, so ho-hum-yawn for me but a major freaking-out-discovery for this young writer-to-be. 

When I learned about this standard practice in publishing, I already had decided I wanted to be a writer (not that I would, but that I wanted to) but was only mildly curious that some of my favorite novel series (Nancy Drew for example) were written by a lot of different writers under the same byline.  I just wondered how they managed that miracle and wanted to be part of it. 

Here's the post by this very talented teen writer:


Now, keep in mind the memoir writer who "sold out" for money, the idealistic teenager getting a taste of real life as a writer -- considering the biggest thing in writing news these years is Harry Potter, and the writer writing all her own story and benefiting from it all, she has a reason to believe writers keep what they earn -- and put this together with how L. J. Smith is being hammered for being successful.

Think about Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and her legal battle to keep hold of her St. Germain as a Vampire concept.  (she won, but just barely, and only after years of court battles during which she had to switch to writing about Olivia and other female vampires who were "made" by St. Germain.)

When I learned about multiple YA authors writing a series under a joint byline with the worldbuilding and byline being created by publishers, I also learned that Films and TV drama were written the same way, though authors would get byline credit. 

I later learned that byline credit could be extremely fictitious, too!  But since I wanted to 'be a writer' I was merely interested in how they managed all that and still got paid.  (I now know that sometimes they don't get paid!  Getting paid is a different issue!) 

I do hope you've been following the blog by one of my favorite Hollywood writers who "tells it like it is" in Hollywood from a writer's point of view:

Here's an example:

Yes, this is "The" Allan Cole!!! 

Here's the masthead of his blog:
Tales sometimes tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived Galactica 1980, with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate fix-it boys. How an alleged Mafia don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Why they don't make million dollar movies. And many more.

Now, with all this background in mind, I run into the following post on a blog that usually has very interesting, salient, and informative entries:


Here's the blog entry that caught my attention this time, just a quote in isolation from the context (which I am familiar with but don't think much about):

Screenwriting 101: Jonathan Lemkin
Posted on February 14, 2012 by Scott

“If you let your lifestyle expend your last check, you then say yes to a really bad project to keep the checks coming. The quality of your work goes down, your reputation goes down, and it’s harder to get the next job. I’ve definitely taken the wrong job a couple of times, and it’s very hard to do your best work if you’re feeling like, ‘Oh, this is the wrong job.’”

– Jonathan Lemkin (Lethal Weapon 4), excerpted from “Tales from the Script”

OK, now back to the main subject I blog about here, how to raise the reputation of ROMANCE GENRE - but in particular science fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance being a real focus (since I write vampires in love).

One of my followers on twitter @MiriamSPia (a writer, surprise-surprise!) commented on a guest post I did for another beginning writer who had asked on yet another blog post about the challenges of cold-pitching a project at an agent or editor at a convention (being SF fans, they are planning on being at the Worldcon in Chicago 2012 -- worldcon.org for info).

The Guest post was for @Madison_Woods and it's in two parts.  Here's the first part which discusses the origin of Genre showing how a new writer can use a particular understanding of genre to create a pitch that will sell.


It went up on Valentine's Day, at the same moment as the following post which I did for Alien Romances:


which discusses the TV Series ONCE UPON A TIME.

Miriam commented on twitter:
I think its that "happily ever after" may seem boring and peaceful to outsiders.

As I've established in my posts here about Happily Ever After -- and the other posts linked in those posts mostly about how a writer uses THEME to do "worldbuilding,"  my best analysis is that the ability to suspend disbelief and enter a world ( remember "liminal" from the Genre Guest post) where there is a genuine threat that a situation will finally resolve with a Happily Ever After Ending (yes, threat! - to some people happiness is more threat than reward) depends entirely on the ability to include GOD in your model of the universe.

That doesn't mean you have to be "religious" or "spiritual" or anything like that.

It simply means you need to be able to STIPULATE that maybe there could be such an extra-reality entity orchestrating events, creating souls.  Some people can't stipulate that premise -- it's just way to scary.  So they can't cross that "liminal" threshold that the Guest Poster prior to my Guest Post talked about in such scholarly terms. 

Here's the guest post about "liminal" experience:

To accept the idea that there is HAPPINESS in finding a SOUL MATE -- you need to accept the idea of SOUL, which means humans aren't just meat.  There's something else to us.

What that is, where it came from and how it works can be open questions, but they have to be questions somewhere in the reader's psyche.

Now, for those who have followed my posts here on Tarot and Astrology, you know that I've used these esoteric tools to show you how to do the worldbuilding (hopefully invisible to the reader) that supports the foundations of story upon which you can build a plausible relationship that hurtles toward an "inevitable" Happily Ever After resolution of the main conflict.

Here are index posts to those posts in case you missed them:





The sense of "hurtling" and the sense of "inevitability" of the Happily Ever After ending do come from using tools in those index posts, yes, but they also come from the way the writer herself lives her personal life, and her professional life.  Or maybe it's vice-verso -- that you live a certain way because you understand such tools.

As I pointed out, these aren't the only philosophical tools around that produce this effect.  Choose your own tools, but master them to the point where they are fully integrated not just into your novels but into your life.

Examine what this teenager writer-to-be has said, (and what the comments on that post add up to) about how precious L. J. Smith's "touch" on this Vampire Diaries material is.

Think about the severe shift in the "feel" of the Darkover novels after Marion Zimmer Bradley was no longer writing them -- that transition is less jarring because the turnover to her successor was gradual as she became too ill to do the actual work.

What exactly is that quality that we treasure so much in the VIBRATION that a particular writer injects into material?  We often term that the writer's "voice" and it's terribly illusive for new writers to get a handle on.

The truth is you can't hear your own voice the way others hear it (not even in recordings, and not when reading words you have written).

One vital ingredient in a writer's "voice" is how they live their lives, professionally and personally.

Look again at that quote from the screenwriting blog. 

If you take "the wrong job" just because you've let your lifestyle drive you into needing a check, you will find the quality of your work deteriorating and it'll be harder to get another job (by this, the screenwriter is talking about WORK FOR HIRE -the exact business model that is freaking out L. J. Smith's fans.)

Here's something I know about Marion Zimmer Bradley.  She did take just anything that came along, writing, editing, odd jobs, anything!  She had kids to feed and bills to pay and she scrambled and scraped for years before the career triumph of having one of her novels made into a TV miniseries.

If you've read the Darkover novels in publishing order, you know that the quality of her work increased over the years.

But she did what that screenwriter is advising writers not to do.

What's the difference? 

We'll look carefully at that difference next week in Part 7 of Believing In Happily Ever After.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

You can find my January 2012 release THE FARRIS CHANNEL and 11 other books in that series (some by Jean Lorrah), plus my other novels, 3 with audiobook versions at

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:59 PM EDT

    I'm beginning to understand! This is making sense to me, especially when you talked about how voice is animated by life and how quality can increase even when going against the advice of just taking whatever work you can get to pay the bills. That's the passage that did it for me - and I've been struggling with the concept of 'Happily Ever After'.

    My stories don't always wrap up with neat happy endings. That's not to say there won't eventually be a happy ending for the characters, but that it didn't happen in the time-frame of my story.

    My fiance' and I just had a discussion recently where I was explaining what I meant about 'passion' in life. He thought it meant the things I was passionate 'about', whereas what I meant was the spark of life that makes me passionate, what motivates me and keeps me interested and engaged, no matter what I'm doing. My point was that each of us needs to bring this spark to the table, as our contribution to the marriage and is a very important ingredient (in my opinion) of a healthy life, let alone marriage.

    So yes, this is finally making sense. Thank you Jacqueline :)