Monday, February 6, 2012

The Secret to Longevity

I didn’t get to see Madonna’s performance last night-or watch the Superbowl, for that matter because, well, I’m lame and live in France where the Superbowl doesn’t air until after midnight and had to work early this morning:(

I hope all of my fellow Americans enjoyed their buffalo wings and jello shots and yelling at the tv screen. *sniff* I swear- you don’t know whatchya got ‘till it’s gone… *wipes away a tear*

Instead of enjoying Superbowl festivities, I was curled up with the latest book from one of my favorite RomCom authors. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though her main characters are starting to meld together in my mind and share many of the same quirks and catch phrases- But the author didn’t fail to surprise me, make me laugh and even cry! (all great RomCom’s do, don’t they?)

Hearing about Madonna’s performance made me think about longevity. You always hear that when agents sign you on, they want to know you have more than one book in you- more than one idea.  They wanna know you have what it takes to sustain a career in the ever-changing market place.

I have to admit, when dealing with an author who has published several books in the same genre, it’s hard not to compare the book you’re reading with their past work.

I know that there have been some romance authors who I enjoyed up until the third or fourth book and then my interest wavered.  I felt like I was reading the same story over and over again- given in different settings with different characters.  Thus the dangers of using ‘a formula’.

And it made me wonder- how to authors like Meg Cabot and…um...uh…(nope, she’ s the only example I can think of right now just because she’s written so many different books, in various genres and each one of them is SO unique. But please feel free to give me any other examples that come to mind) are able to make it in today’s market?

Is it their name (already established in a specific genre) that gives them the freedom to jump genres and explore ideas that really ‘speak’ to them?  Are they setting the trends?  Or following them? – (like, does their agent or editor say ‘Hey!  There’s a demand for middle grade books about man-eating smurfs!  How ‘bout you write it?’ )

Or is it a little of both?

What do you think plays a roll in an author’s long-term success?

32 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

I think a writer's longevity depends on thier willingness and desire to keep writing.

Em-Musing said...

Writing great stories. And I did watch Madonna and was in awe...how much plastic surgery has she had? Her face looks like a mask. Aren't we authors glad we don't have to go through these procedures for our fans?

Laura Pauling said...

Good questions. When authors, good authors, jump genres maybe they had a few in one genre first?

I think if the story and writing are terrific then it doesn't matter! I think of Libba Bray who jumped from historical to contemporary.

Laura Marcella said...

Luck! Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time and wrote a great story exactly when everyone was ready for it and that's all there is to it. Okay, I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but it sure seems that way!

Tonja said...

I don't know. I definitely think the next novel should be different from the last - the characters should be distinct and shouldn't run together. I think that may be hard to pull off with romance.

Madonna was awesome. My daughter called her 'irrelevant' - yikes. Didn't realize you were in France.

Connie Keller said...

There's Nora Roberts who writes both women's fiction and murder mysteries under the name Robb. I like her mysteries a lot, but not her women's fiction. It amazes me how different the voices are.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Maybe jumping genres is the way to go, to keep it fresh. I can think of quite few authors who lose the creativity after a few books.

Anne Gallagher said...

I agree jumping genres definitely gives (especially) romance writers a break from their formulaic writing. Those who strictly write the same kinds of romance end up writing the same kinds of romance.

Susan Wiggs and Lisa Kleypas are just two romance authors who jumped into women's fiction, and I think their later romances were a lot better than the first.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

secret to longevity is adaptation, right?
who knows?
i'll tell you another author who knows!
mr. neil gaiman (collective sigh) the rockstar of writing himself. wildly unique ideas- many different mediums... that guy. sheesh. amazing.

Tracy Jo said...

I think it is a little bit of luck, their name & straight up perseverance. Plus, I think it is good to not follow trends...do what speaks to your heart...not what someone is telling us. :-)

Talli Roland said...

I missed the Madonna fiasco, too. I didn't even know the SB was on this weekend!

That's a great question. I wish I knew! I think it has to do with being able to take risks and being with an agent/ publisher who allows you to do that. Sometimes authors want to write something different and aren't able to.

Jennifer Lee Young said...

They must have good quality writing to keep at it, and also very versatile. And if they don't write with they love, reader would be able to tell. Great post - great questions Katie!!

LTM said...

Name definitely helps, but I think you just have to keep putting out good stuff. I mean, Madge's songs are not always great, but she has a good ratio of not great to great songs, which keeps her going. Plus she's a great entertainer.

I didn't watch the SB either... For me football season ended (til Sept) on Jan. 9~ :D <3

Marta Szemik said...

I know some authors write in different genres under different pen names. It'd be weird if an author wrote MG and also erotica under the same way.
I think longevity has to do with perseverance and really loving what you do.
I cannot imagine writing and not loving it. It does not feel like a job at all:)

Carrie-Anne said...

Shakespeare was a writer for all time because his characters and situations, when divorced from the Elizabethan language, resonate across times and cultures instead of only being written about things that would've concerned people of his own time and milieu. Just look how wonderfully Akira Kurosawa was able to recast MacBeth and King Lear as tales of feudal Japan in Throne of Blood and Ran, respectively.

It helps to not write to trends and just write in the genre you want to write in, with an authorial voice and style that's unique to you. A lot of books today seem so short and formulaic, like they were written for mass popularity and appeal instead of written for all time, not caring what people with short attention spans think of books with a slower pace and greater length.

Old Kitty said...

Well I love Terry Pratchett and he's been going on for years (and long may he carry on despite his illness!). I think it's the world he created. Discworld is a whole planet so many characters emerge, hence their many stories yet to come!

Take care
x

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm not really sure. Sometimes I think it's more about the way a writer tells a story than what actually happens.

Dawn Ius said...

I think it's a combination of things. Some authors do a great job of genre shifting. Others don't do as well BUT they make it based on their name (James Patterson, for eg...he has written for EVERY age category).

PS - I did watch Madonna and thought she was amazing.

JEM said...

Interesting post. To me, I don't mind repetition in a genre, but when someone breaks that mould (like the helpless, beautiful heroine in romance novels), then I perk up and pay attention. Even in writers I love I see repetition across their character types, and I think we as readers look for those patterns. Because they reflect the patterns in our own lives of people we know who remind us of other people we know.

Meredith said...

Such a good question! I guess it all come down to writing kickass books, no matter the genre. If you can do that, you can sell across the market.

Johanna Garth said...

I don't think Meg Cabot has kids. Seriously, I think kids take a lot out of you.

Other than that I think it's all drive and determination (and of course a little god-given talent).

Mohamed Mughal said...

The secret to longevity? Keep swinging!

Jay Noel said...

Here's the reality: they make it on their writing. And eventually, they've created such a following, that they live on their name for awhile.

Which is liberating because at that point, what else is there to prove? So writer's can take chances and venture into other genres they normally wouldn't try (i.e. Stephen King writing a baseball book).

Nicole Zoltack said...

I think there are a lot of factors but it all comes down to the writing itself.

Colene Murphy said...

Funny! I was JUST wondering how she does it the other day! I donno. I got nothin. But it's very cool, and If anyone finds out let me know cause that seems the way to go! Unless you do something CRAZY amazing like Rowling and then you just never have to do anything else for the rest of your life. You're set. (though I'm sure she probably does still write, cause really, what writer could just stop?)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I could've watched the Super Bowl, but didn't. I've never watched a single one, and hope never to be forced at gunpoint to do so!

As for authors, I agree that after reading several by the same author, I tend to get bored and move on to somebody else. I guess the trick to longevity is either to explore multiple genres ... or target an audience who likes reading what you write, no matter how many times you write it, lol!

Charlie Holmberg said...

Whoah.

Wait.

You live in FRANCE?

Christine Rains said...

I agree that authors need to be able to write different sorts of books to achieve any longevity. You have to grow and change, and keep up with the trends. As some people have said, too, it involves a lot of luck as well.

Shirley Wells said...

Good question. I think authors have to grow and always be willing to break down barriers. And of course, they have to write a good story. Sorry, I'm not much help, am I?

I missed Madonna and the Super Bowl too. :(

REINHARDT! said...

I think that change is the number one reason for how some authors and other creative people continue to captivate audiences. Madonna is a good example--it seemed like she changed from album to album. Some of her stuff stuck and some of it didn't. But listeners as a whole seemed to always be interested in her work because they wanted to know what she was going to do next.

Writers who challenge themselves are always better for it. Even if the individual work produced isn't that great, attempting to do different things (topics, styles, etc.) allow writers to grow.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I think a good story will sell, regardless of genre, but it certainly helps to have an established name and track record. :)

Steven E. Belanger said...

The writer needs to be able to produce work in different genres or formats AND have an obsessively loyal fanbase.

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