The Inspiration I Draw From I. M. Notariter

I read the other day that another celebrity with too much spare time and not enough respect for the writing profession has signed a contract with a major publisher to write a couple of novels.  I know, this happens all the time.  But in this case the novels happen to be in the fantasy/sf field, and so I took notice.  As far as I can tell, this person — let’s use the name I. M. Notariter — has no previous writing experience, but hey, that shouldn’t matter.  Nor should it bother me that I.M. probably received an advance for these two books that is greater by far than all my advances combined.

I find it inspiring, really.  In fact, I’ve decided to model my career path after I.M.’s accomplishment.  You often hear people say that though they’ve never written anything in their lives, they feel as though “they have a novel inside them,” and they’re just looking for the opportunity to write it.  That’s probably what I.M. was saying too, before signing that contract.  Well, I feel the same way.  Not about writing books, mind you.  I’ve already proven that I have a book or two in me.  No, I’m thinking about something else.

See, I’ve always thought that I have a thoracic surgery inside me.  I mean, I’m not trained in thoracic medicine or anything like that.  Who has the time and money for med school?  But I’ve had a thorax all my life, and I’ve always felt that it was one of the more important parts of my body.  Plus, I know people who have had that kind of surgery, and I know people who have performed it.  And none of them is any smarter than I am.  Well, okay, maybe one of the patients was.  But still, I’m pretty smart, and I carve a mean turkey.  And so, you know, I’ve thought that maybe, if the time was right and I could get a few months away from writing, that I could fit in a surgery or two.

Thoracic surgery isn’t my only unfulfilled passion, though.  Not even close.  Two words:  Space Travel!  Who among us hasn’t thought of being an astronaut?!  I grew up during the age of Apollo moon missions, I followed the unmanned exploratory missions to Mars and Jupiter with avid interest, and, like all Americans, I cowered in a bunker waiting for Skylab to land on my head.  Again and again, I’ve thought to myself “I have a space mission inside me.”  What?  Training?  No way!  Do you know how much math you have study?  And I have no doubt that those spinning things that they make astronauts do would have me tossing my cookies in no time.  But that’s okay.  I’m really passionate about it, and I have some great ideas of things I could do once I reached Romulus.  Yeah, if the time is right, and I can get a few months away from writing, I’m definitely going on a space mission.

Look, I can go on, but I won’t.  I think you take my point. There seems to be this assumption out there that anyone can write a novel.  And maybe I’m the one deluding myself into thinking that not everyone can.  But the fact remains that writing is hard.  It takes training and practice and dedication, and I find it infuriating when celebrity dilettantes convince not only themselves, but also major publishing houses that they deserve hundreds of thousands of dollars to write the novel that “they’ve always had inside them.” Especially when those same publishing houses are squeezing the rest of us for every dime and every royalty percentage point they can.

I have no business flying to Mars or performing thoracic surgery; I.M. Notariter shouldn’t be writing fantasy and science fiction.  Just my opinion.

Filed under For Novelists, publishing, the business of writing, writing humor, writing life. You can also use to trackback.

There are 21 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. JS Bangs

    “Writing” a novel in this case probably means “slapping his name on something penned by a ghostwriter”. Which, yeah, has ethical issues of its own, but at least the person actually putting words on the page is someone that’s worked at their craft and knows their adjuncts from their adjectives.

  2. 2. Bill

    David, you could just get an acting (or singing, as the case may be) gig. That would even things up, I’m sure

  3. 3. Mike

    It’s all just a marketing game. A crappy book by a big name non-writer is going to sell more books than a good book by a midlist author…and even some big authors. People love a train wreck and are willing to pay to watch (or in this case read) a train wreck. And the publishers love to buy books that people are going to buy.

  4. 4. David B. Coe

    That’s a good point, J.S. Thought of that way, at least there is a professional writer in the process getting work out of this. That does make it a little easier to swallow. I think part of my initial reaction is that this is such a touch market for those who make their living via the written word, and contracts like these seem anachronistic, not to mention unfair. But your point is well taken.

  5. 5. L. Jagi Lamplighter (Wright)

    I just finished Laura Resnick’s book of essays she put out a few yeard back (delightful reading, if at times painful and sad. I understand she wrote half of all your books, according to Amazon, David. I assume you got that cleared up. ;-)

    She had a whole essay that was on a similar topic, but reversed…people who said things like “why don’t you become a big movie star so that you can then…” fill in the blank. (I think this is the same essay with the bit I like so much of hers about friends asking, “Why don’t you just write a bestseller?”)

    But I think your point is a really good one. Writing is actually a skill. We don’t think about this because so many people can do it…but every now and then it comes out. John and I have had a few experiences where it’s become obvious that we could do a thing someone else could not do…they just couldn’t put their words together to accomplish what they wanted to say.

    One has to be careful judging to quickly, because occasionally you find out that a person who is famous for A has actually been pursuing B for years, we just didn’t now about it. But in general, when people dive into fantasy with little preparation, they just don’t do well. This upcoming book you mentioned may do well initially based on name recognition…but it probably won’t last…unless the person really is a writer underneath (or hires one… in which case, its the ghostwriter’s talents at stake. ;-)

    I think I’ll skip your surgery, David, for religious reasons, but do send me a note from Mars!!!

  6. 6. David B. Coe

    Bill, yes! I’ll enter this person’s profession. Turn the competition back on them. Excellent idea. (Although, I’m not sure anyone wants to see me do what this person does….)

    Mike, you’re right, of course. Marketing and money — that’s what this is about. And I think you’re correct in thinking that some books will sell simply because people will say “Wow, let’s see if this person can write….”

    Jagi, I had forgotten all about that Amazon snafu with Laura. It was hilarious, though I remember not thinking so at the time. You raise a bunch of good points, Jagi, not least that this person might turn out to be a terrific writer, in which case I’ll be happy to say that I was wrong. But I’m not expecting that to happen. And yeah, I’ll send you a post card from Olympus Mons…..

  7. 7. L. Jagi Lamplighter (Wright)

    >And yeah, I’ll send you a post card from Olympus Mons…..

    Cool. My day is made.

  8. 8. Moira Young

    Bahahahahaha. Thanks for making me laugh, David.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this actually goes, or if I.M. plans to hire a ghostwriter to “help” Notariter find their voice. :)

  9. 9. Alma Alexander

    Is this the same I M Notariter I already blew up about in my own blog a while back…? Or, god forbid, are MORE of them coming out of the woodwork now…?

  10. 10. Jana

    There are always more I M Notariters. Like the one who just signed to write a YA series about teen models. The writer is a top model, of course. Sigh. Fingers crossed it turns out to be something awesome. Jury is still out, however.

  11. 11. David B. Coe

    Glad you liked it, Moira. I think a ghost may be in the offing….

    Alma, this one is new as far as I know. I saw the contract announced in print in the last week or so, although that was in a monthly trade — the news might be a month or two old.

  12. 12. Rebecca

    Bless you for saying this, David. It has always bugged the bleep out of me when I tell someone I’m a writer and their reply is, “I’ve always wanted to write the great American novel.” First I want to say: “So tell me, what IS the great American novel?” Second I want to say: “Okay, just take a month off and write that novel, punk!”

    Yeah. What he said.

  13. 13. David B. Coe

    Jana, yeah, that’s the one that inspired this post….

    Rebecca, I get that response, too. And yes, it bugs me. I have the same reaction when I hear people talk about writer’s block. The presumption is that writing is easy, that it should just flow. I don’t believe writer’s block exists. I think that people who “suffer from writer’s block” are actually people who are discovering that writing is difficult.

  14. 14. Adele

    David, rather than trying to enter the modelling world as a model, perhaps you could get your vengence through your own endless series’ of reality tv? ;p

  15. 15. Saracen

    Though I agree that the top model in question doesn’t appear to deserve a book deal for YA science fiction novels lets not state that all people who are not formally taught/trained writers shouldn’t get into the business.

    If that were the case then should Joseph Wambaugh (former LAPD officer turned crime fiction writer), Jerry Boyd (Wrote as FX Toole, former boxer and trainer who wrote the short story “Million Dollar Baby” and others), Raymond Chandler (Corporate VP before losing his job and learning to write pulp fiction) and the numerous scientists who write in speculative fiction not been allowed to play because they didn’t necessarily formally “learn” the craft?

    The reality is there are quite a few people who start off in other careers, never took formal writing classes and then slog their way through and learn as they go until they become good.

    Quite honestly, TB might have been secretly taking online writing courses under a pseudonym for years and actually might have some talent.

    Also, this is like stating that someone who hasn’t taken acting classes shouldn’t be allowed to try acting. Or someone who hasn’t gone to art school shouldn’t pick up a paint brush, etc.

    There are cases of people with natural talent. Do i think she’s one? Probably not, but, to use a cliche, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  16. 16. David B. Coe

    Great idea, Adele. As a New York liberal Jew living in the Bible Belt, I’ve often felt that my life is sort of like a reality show….

    Saracen, you’re absolutely right. It could be that this person is an outstanding writer, and if that proves to the be the case, I’ll be the first to say that I was wrong and premature in my condemnation of her contract. And yes, we all have the right to pursue our dreams, to try something new and perhaps change the trajectory of our lives. I came to writing after training as an academic, so perhaps I should be less critical.

    But as I mention in another comment above, these are very tough times for writers, and there are people who have been toiling in this business for years, publishing quality short fiction but still waiting for that first big break that leads to a book contract. And this person comes along and — regardless of whatever talent she might have — gets a contract without putting in the time based in large part, I’m sure, on her celebrity. That’s a little hard to swallow and it’s where the the post came from. Hope you understand.

  17. 17. JJ

    In fact, not only there’s a whole lot of people who have a novel within them, there’s a whole f*cking lot who manage to get it published, even in Spain, where market is a fraction of what it is in the USA.
    That means that people indeed have a lot of business writing and getting things published. And their sales will probably be higher than you will ever dream. So what? Their (probably ghost-)writing and getting published and earning wads of banknotes do not diminish, in the least, the pleasure you extract for doing the same.

  18. 18. Saracen

    David,

    I understand and agree. I know it’s been tough. I’ve been trying to break in for years and I’ve got the training.

    With that said, anyone can write a novel, whether it’s good is another story.

    I just wanted to make sure not to discourage all the people out there writing in their spare time hoping to break in or make them think they have to go and start taking college writing courses to be able to be successful. (word to the wise, most college programs aren’t open to speculative, fantasy or horror writers.).

    In all honesty, I hope no one buys her novels so publishers won’t be encouraged to hand large contracts to names alone.

    But, if she does sell my only hope is that it brings in new readers who will buy fiction from legitimate writers.

  19. 19. David B. Coe

    JJ, your point is well taken, though actually, as a fraction of the population, the number who write and publish novels is pretty tiny. But you’re right — what they do shouldn’t impact my enjoyment of what I do.

    Saracen, thanks for the reply. I agree with just about everything you say here.

  20. 20. David Jace

    Considered from the perspective of a craft, yeah, it’s unfair and sucks and just plain wrong. Considered from the perspective of a business… Anything you put Notariter’s name on will sell. Look at the prices of some of the crap people buy, just because of the name on it: Air Jordans being an excellent example. Disney is another one. If it says Disney (or, currently, Hannah Montanna) on it, the price goes up- and still doubles in sales.

    So, the simple question is, are the people at the top of our industry businessmen or craftsmen?

Pingbacks

  1. You Can’t Teach Passion at SF Novelists

Author Information

David B. Coe

David B. Coe (http://www.DavidBCoe.com) is the Crawford award-winning author of the LonTobyn Chronicle, the Winds of the Forelands quintet, the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, and a number of short stories. Writing as D.B. Jackson (http://www.dbjackson-author.com), he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a blend of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. David is also part of the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), and co-author of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. In 2010 he wrote the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Visit site.

Topics

Archives

Browse our archives:

RECENT BOOKS