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The most detrimental problem for a writer, isn’t Failure – it’s SUCCESS.

The Mystery of the Missing Best-selling Authors.
-- You see it all the time. A hot new author puts out book after book, then suddenly the story quality drops, and those books aren’t so wonderful any more. But you keep buying them on the hope that what made them great (in the first 9 books,) will resurface. Instead, that author suddenly drops off the face of the earth; sometimes for years – sometimes forever.

What Happened?



BURNOUT

In the corporate arena, the wildly successful with nothing left to achieve, often turn to self-destructive behavior; drinking, drug use, extramarital sex, embezzlement... just for something to DO.

Authors, become self-destructive too, but internally, rather than externally. They destroy themselves and their relationships, rather than turn to actual crime. Burnout causes many authors to become mentally unstable, neurotically paranoid, and bi-polar, as well as secret drinkers, and prescription-drug abusers. (How many of you take Xanax already?) Authors typically end up in the hospital, rather than in jail.

What causes burnout?
-- One of the primary reasons for burnout in Writers (and high-powered execs) is tedium, ahem BOREDOM. While building your career, you're developing your skills, and experimenting with techniques. With every new revelation, ("Wow! This works!") you feel psychologically rewarded.

Once you have the techniques down, and are recognized for a specific ‘style’ of plot or characters, you become locked in to producing that ONE style, often by the publishing house that recognized you -- and don’t discount your adoring fans! To keep that recognition, you start replicating the same story, over, and over, and over... Dull, dull, dull…

Out of sheer self defense against the mind-grinding boredom, your brain shuts down into Writer's Block. And then your brain -- and your body -- rebels. Exhaustion, mood-swings, health problems that the doctor swears is stress-related...(and this can take YEARS,) until you get total mental and physical meltdown -- BURNOUT.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“I do a lot of work with white-collar criminals, and invariably -- and I mean invariably -- they're not doing it for the money. They're doing it because they're bored.”
-- Steven Berglas, corporate psychologist who deals with burnout among the ultra-successful.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

-----Original Message-----
Boredom began when I became bored with the sex scenes. (Yawn) Okay, you showed me how to fix that. Then, it was (writing) the series. Oh, yes, the series. That creativity-eating monotony of being locked into "What do I do now?" Oh, yes, how well I understand the series author's pain.

However, I will add one thing: Over-commitment.

Authors are, by and large, a hungry bunch. We love praise, and sparkle when we get it. We succumb so easily to flattery, especially when the publisher that made us successful asks for you to "squeeze in just this little story" for the themed promo, the continuity, or whatever. (I have managed to resist, but not without a modicum of guilt.)

Let's not forget the other form of overcommitment: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket/publisher." Two baskets are good. Three may be pushing. Four is a killer, at least for me.

Writing for different pubs allows the author to stretch their creative muscles, change voices, and even experiment a little. In theory, that's good.

Until they all want your time and effort.

Until you start saying, "I'm sorry, I won't start on the book for you for another three months." One publisher actually said to me, "The fans will forget you in six months!" (They didn't.)

Publishers have their own timetables, and are not above trying to push an author into working harder than they should by moving a deadline or deliberately misunderstanding you. If you say, "I won't start on this book until June," it's entirely possible they'll set the release date for June! It's happened to me three times.

I no longer give them any clues like that.

Lena Austin
-- Multi-published author

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What about money and success? Don’t they offer a sense of accomplishment?
-- At first, but to Keep that success going, to Keep those paychecks rolling in, you strangle your creativity to keep manufacturing the stories that made those paychecks happen in the first place – and put a time-limit on your whole writing career. Tick… Tick… Tick…

In most cases, the problem is NOT with the author, it's with the Publisher. The bigger publishing houses DON’T encourage Change. They encourage stasis -- especially with something that proves successful. They have no desire to fix what ain't broke.

To many of the larger publishing houses, authors are consumable product Manufacturers -- rather like the Pepsi Cola company. The last thing they want is a change in the recipe. But authors AREN’T factories, their work is NOT mass-produced, so this kind of thinking actually encourages author turnover, especially among the best sellers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“When you try to get people off that track, they say, "What am I supposed to do? Take my kids out of Exeter, move from Nob Hill?" I say, "Well, what are the alternatives? You loathe your job, and you're gonna take it out on them." This is why you get these flagrant burnouts. When jobs become constraining, we will often do things that will (deliberately) throw us off the fast track.”
-- Steven Berglas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Is leaving the Publishing House or Quitting the only option?
-- Nope. Leaving one publishing house for another is just as career-killing as quitting altogether. (The publishing world is VERY small. The editors are constantly talking to each other.) Rather than scrapping everything, your books, your publishers, your careers... EXPAND on what you are already doing. Add an interesting twist, or a change in locations.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“The paradox is that to prevent burnout you need more challenges, not fewer.”
-- Steven Berglas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What role does stress play in burnout?
-- Stress ISN’T the problem. Stress can actually help alleviate the boredom by making you work harder to get that story down on paper.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Stress and burnout are unrelated. Stress is being thwarted from a goal. A traffic jam causes stress. Burnout would be giving a canned lecture every day of the week for four months.”
-- Steven Berglas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Who is Least likely to suffer from burnout?

Those who are PASSIONATE in their work. The pains in the ass authors that constantly shift their style, their characters, and sometimes their genres, are never bored. These authors tend to avoid writing long-playing series, but instead, have a ton of good-selling, well-written, single-title books.

They’re the ones that publishers point to, and wince. “They could be superstars, if they only stuck to one thing.” And yet, they are far more likely to have steady careers that span decades.

Robert Heinlein
Poppy Z Bright
Andre Norton
Neil Gaimen
Dean R Koontz
Stephen King

These authors are usually passionately supportive of their fellow authors, (even if their fellow authors don’t want to hear it,) because they have a million ideas running through their heads, and aren’t afraid to share. They may not always play well with others, but they are NEVER accused of back-stabbing, or idea theft.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Throughout my career, I've noted that the most authentically motivated employees are the ones who will get in your face and get angry. I always counsel managers that the yes-man/yes-woman is the most malicious force in organizational life because they're the ones who are whoring, who are mercenary, who are talking behind your back.” -- Steven Berglas
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Who are candidates for burnout?
-- The wildly successful authors who made their success writing long-playing series of books.

Robert Jorden, for example, bored many of his more passionate readers to tears because his Wheel of Time series, stopped evolving -- and then he Died before he ever finished it. In all honesty, he was a One Hit Wonder. He only wrote ONE story, that story was over a dozen books long, but it was still only ONE story.

Laurell K. Hamilton, is fighting tooth and nail to keep her Anita Blake series going, by adding character after character and a lot of sex.

Jim Butcher is well aware of the danger, and intends to end his Harry Dresden series, and in fact, has already started another series. However, the big question is, will his Publisher LET him stop writing Harry Dresden books? Will his bank account?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Let's take an entrepreneur for example; Michael Dell. What did Dell do? He created a distribution system that was both economical and efficient. Ted Waitt, at Gateway, did the same thing. Those two men, I think, are in jeopardy of burning out because they're replicating and refining a single paradigm. When you're changing your product, that's when you're happy.”
-- Steven Berglas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What can you do early in your career to stay Inspired?
-- KEEP your Passion. If you are stuck doing a series, make sure that the fictional universe you’ve created is big enough to sustain radical shifts in theme, story-line, and characters. Fight boredom by giving yourself room to grow, and change.

“Easy for the fantasy authors, but what about us contemporary authors?”
-- For those of you trapped in the mundane world, try a Location change. Put your established characters in New places, and New situations. Send your characters to other cities, other countries. At least get them fired from their job, and have to deal with a new one.

Already stuck?
-- Try writing a new series, something different from your old one. Contract it with a new publisher, under a new name, if you have to. When a book in one series gets to be too tedious, you can switch over and write a book for the other series, to refresh your mind, body, and creative soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Stay angry. When you notice you're not committed to an organization anymore, when you don't need to fight for changes, take stock. When Bill Gates handed over the running of Microsoft to Ballmer, he said, "I'm going back to the drawing board." About five other CEOs did the same thing.”
-- Steven Berglas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How can Publishers & Agents keep from losing their Selling Authors?

STAY CONNECTED to both the authors you work with, and their reading audience.

With the advent of the Internet, the reading market changes faster than ever before. With access to email, instant messaging, weblogs, and fan-groups lists, Authors are no longer isolated. They’re directly connected to other Authors, as well as their fans, and their fans talk to each other.

USE THAT RESOURCE! Don’t leave everything up to the Marketing department. Marketing is all about Packaging --> Advertising. They don't have a clue about managing your bread-winning authors, or dealing with their fans. They’re ‘idea’ folks with a pile of sales numbers on their desks – and those numbers are DATED, usually by months. Authors are actually more aware of the fluctuations in their readers’ tastes than Marketing is. They are connected directly to the source -- the BUYERS.

> Want to know what’s happening in the reading market?
> Want to know where the trends are going?
> Want to know who has buzz -- and who is getting a bad reputation?
> Want to know if your Author is dealing with undue stress – or extreme boredom?

Get your answers straight from the source – the authors you work with, and the readers they talk to. Get a blog and encourage the readers to talk to you directly. Run a poll, ask questions and get answers before you lose that money-making author.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“If you're a manager and you don't have someone to tell you that you're a fool, then you're in big trouble. Hire a court jester. Just give someone carte blanche to say, "Berglas, you're an asshole." And "Berglas, this is (what’s being said on) the grapevine.

"What managers don't understand is that they will not know (what’s being said on) the grapevine unless they beg for it. The grapevine will give them the negative information (that they can’t get anywhere else)."
-- Steven Berglas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Business end is killing me!
-- Them’s the breaks. Publishing IS a corporate business. Dealing with contracts, filing taxes, convincing your family that you need to be left alone to WORK, and handling publicity, is part of the job – and not the fun part.

If you have an agent, you can shunt a lot of the legal crap on them, that’s what they’re there for. However, managing your time and handling Publicity -- going to conventions, book-signings, managing a fan-group, and a building a website to promote your work -- is ALL YOU.

Welcome to the world of Fame.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Extra reading:

Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout
By Steven Berglas

DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Date: 2011-05-21 12:03 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] randrews25.livejournal.com
now I can put a name to that feeling I've been having about my main fandom, the one I've been writing for for the past three years. I want to quit my main fandoms becuase my stories are always the same premise (canon) just different settings and ideas.

no matter what's happening: man meets boy, man molests boy repeatedly, boy denies feelings until he realizes he does in fact want man, then they end up happily ever after (viewfinder style xDD)

I have taken to writing for other fandoms, but like you mention, the demand from the fans is there, and I don't like to disappoint the people who stuck by me when I was putting chicken scratch up as stories, the same people who worked with me when I needed help and the people who made me felt important through varying times of my writing. I do in fact, have a set of friends who just waits for me to post something, no matter what and they always show me how grateful they are :))

But it is a bit mundane after so many years and I've learned that a break is indeed good. Thanks for putting things into perspective for me :))

Date: 2011-05-22 07:44 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
Yep, that definitely sounds like Burnout.
-- Break periods are NEEDED by those of us that rely so heavily on creativity.

Have you considered...?
-- Boy has waited for man to molest boy, but it never happened so boy molests man then uses it to blackmail man into letting the molestation continue until man realizes that what he's been feeling all along is love?

Date: 2011-05-23 01:49 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] randrews25.livejournal.com
that is a good concept, but would be ooc for the characters as they are in canon, except if it was AU :D

Date: 2011-05-23 09:04 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
LOL!
-- Why are you limiting yourself to only Fan-Fiction? MAKE the characters OOC then change the names too = Instant Original Story!

Date: 2011-05-21 03:41 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ekaterin24.livejournal.com
Gaiman definitely has the passion (speaking as a librarian who's read his speeches to us purveyors of free literature). And has fun trying different things, from his hilarious collaboration with Terry Pratchett in Good Omens, to comics to anime translation rewrites, to children's picture books.

I don't know if you read Lois McMaster Bujold, but I think she's a good example of someone who hit burnout with her Vorkosigan series in Diplomatic Immunity (which I think was a contractual obligation), left her publisher, wrote a new universe in her Sharing Knife fantasy series without a publisher hanging over her, and got back to Miles when she was ready.

I love your practical comments. As a would-be published author who doesn't have the drive or energy--at the moment--to push ahead but who works with would-be authors as well as complaining fans, I appreciate your detailed and straightforward posts!
Edited Date: 2011-05-21 03:43 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-05-22 07:48 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
Lois McMaster Bujold was DEFINITELY suffering from burnout caused by her publisher and her agent who pushed her into a contract that was much too large for her. (Way too many books far too fast.) I am thrilled that she got that back under her own control.

I love your practical comments. ...I appreciate your detailed and straightforward posts!

Thank you, I appreciate your appreciation!

Date: 2011-05-22 04:34 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] kita-the-spaz.livejournal.com
I've never reached burnout stage on my fandom (you know which one) because there are so many characters to play with and frankly more than half of them are unexplored. I've created my own head canon for several of them and am constantly adding more to it. With each character I add their interactions to others and get entirely new dynamics and new avenues to explore. While I will always have my OTP, there are so many others I can play with and their interactions to my OTP, which keeps thing fresh and keeps the ideas coming.

Now I admit a lot of people expect the crack from me because it's what I do and a lot of people think I'm good at it (see all the people who give me cracky prompts, like Kit, Mi and Durgas) but I like to leaven that by occasionally writing angst, or drama, or hell--even crossovers. Humor will always be a staple, because lets face it, if you can't find the humor in everything, your outlook is bound to suffer, but there is so much else out there to explore.

/end rambling rant (Pay no attention to the fanfic writer behind the curtain, please!)

Date: 2011-05-22 09:04 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
I've never reached burnout stage on my fandom (you know which one) because there are so many characters to play with and frankly more than half of them are unexplored.

A gigantic cast is also why that series has lasted as long as it has -- and for the exact same reasons.
See: Writing Serial Fiction: http://ookamikasumi.deviantart.com/art/Writing-Serial-Fiction-152948844

Now I admit a lot of people expect the crack from me because it's what I do and a lot of people think I'm good at it...

You ARE, which is why I asked you to write ME a tutorial for it. (I still have all the notes you gave me on file.)

...but I like to leaven [humor] by occasionally writing angst, or drama, or hell--even crossovers.

Which has the benefit of not letting what you actually enjoy writing go sour.

Date: 2011-05-22 10:21 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] kita-the-spaz.livejournal.com
ARE, which is why I asked you to write ME a tutorial for it. (I still have all the notes you gave me on file.)
...

Wha-what? Wait. You never asked me for a tutorial on that. You were simply bitching that you couldn't write humor (sans snarky one-liners)and I told you a way to look at it to write it. I do remember said conversation, and at no time was I asked to do a tutorial...

Or is this another case of looking underneath the underneath and inferring that I should write one without actually coming out and saying so? Because fair warning-- I'm slow on the uptake sometimes.

So I should look at my obsession as an exercise in writing serial fiction? lol

Date: 2011-05-23 12:14 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
...at no time was I asked to do a tutorial... Or is this another case of looking underneath the underneath and inferring that I should write one without actually coming out and saying so?

Um... Yes?
-- It's okay, what you gave me was more than enough to push me in the right direction. :) I just CALL IT a tutorial. (How-To = Tutorial)

So I should look at my obsession as an exercise in writing serial fiction? lol

More like a way to insure that you never get burn-out doing what you truly enjoy -- writing.

Date: 2011-05-23 12:21 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] kita-the-spaz.livejournal.com
~falls down laughing at your new icon~ I REMEMBER THAT!!!

Did you want me to make a tutorial out of it? 'Cause I'd need a copy of the notes, because while I remember the gist of it, I can't find where it was posted in the comments.

More like a way to insure that you never get burn-out doing what you truly enjoy -- writing.

You know me too well.

Date: 2011-05-23 12:49 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
~falls down laughing at your new icon~ I REMEMBER THAT!!!

You should! That story was the direct result of your tutorial and it was a HIT!

Did you want me to make a tutorial out of it?

YES PLEASE!!!

I'd need a copy of the notes, because while I remember the gist of it, I can't find where it was posted in the comments.

Here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14aIywlbaB7yGqVoAesoVwzvUuRRgBfbv32an6Yav22s/edit?hl=en_US#

Date: 2011-05-22 10:13 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] princedraco.livejournal.com
Luckily I'm starting to see a resurgence in my passion but that IS directly tied to my sales and marketing efforts. I'm not on the verge of burnout overall but if a story doesn't excite me then I toss it. It's tough but I'm no longer in a position with my health to fight a story just for money. As always, sound advice.

Date: 2011-05-23 12:10 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
For some strange reason, Sales and Marketing seems to be your first love. You take so much joy in it.

Date: 2011-05-23 02:47 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] princedraco.livejournal.com
Not so much first love but when you realize that what you're ultimately selling to the consumer is TRUST, then you have to have a background in sales. I do not. as you know, I was a tech god before this gig. But readers expect to get a certain experience from your books and that experience needs to be carried through the next book, and improved if not duplicated.

Date: 2011-05-23 09:01 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
...readers expect to get a certain experience from your books and that experience needs to be carried through the next book, and improved if not duplicated.

That sounds like something an agent would say.

Careful! Unless I've misinterpreted what you just said, that statement sounds like you're promoting writing the same thing in the same style over and over because the readers expect it.

THAT -- I do NOT approve of. THAT sort of thinking is what sets people up to make Burn Out happen.

If I DID misinterpret what you said, then you have just fallen into the pit of "Assuming the Reader knows what you're talking about," and That's just as bad, if not WORSE.

Date: 2011-05-23 11:51 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] princedraco.livejournal.com
Yeah I know what you're against ;) But no, I do not mean the same style etc. Let's take your work for example.

Your readers know to expect hot smex, great character development and to SEE the STORY, Damnit! They expect to read one of your books and FEEL at the end of it, regardless of genre you're in. If you put out a book with flat characters, less than your standard (and theirs ultimately) vivid descriptions, you've just broken the trust of some readers.

Does that make sense?

No you're right I keep forgetting you have a different knowledge base in business that I have.

I really should stick to my promise of calling you one of these days...

Date: 2011-05-24 12:03 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
...regardless of genre you're in. If you put out a book with flat characters, less than your standard (and theirs ultimately) vivid descriptions, you've just broken the trust of some readers.

Does that make sense?


That explanation was much better, clearer, Tighter -- and I agree. One should never offer sloppy work, especially when your readers know you can do better. The readers Not appreciate being cheated in that way.

I keep forgetting you have a different knowledge base in business that I have.

VERY different.
-- All my sales and marketing experience comes straight from the Internet porn corporation where I worked as a copywriter. I never learned anything actually legitimate. :)

Date: 2011-05-24 12:06 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] princedraco.livejournal.com
haha I remember and that's primarily the reason I have been at Cybernet expo the last few years with LA Jay and the crew.

Thanks babe.

Date: 2011-05-24 12:09 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com
Oh, LA Jay of YNOT News? I knew him personally! He sent me a t-shirt. However, he only knows me by my legal name, not my author name. I've been out of contact with him for far too long, so I doubt he even remembers me.

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