On Writing Fears, Blue Titles,
And Why 6-Figure Advances
Are Bad For Your Health

By PJ Parrish

When you read this, I’ll be somewhere over the midwest, 42,000 feet up, making the annual trek back to Tallahassee, and not a moment too soon since it’s snowing in Michigan now. So I don’t have any wise words from my own brain this week since it’s been hectic.   Plus, I sprained two fingers on my right hand on a DIY project that should have been left to professionals. Kids don’t do this at home. Keyboarding with fingers the size and color of concord grapes is hard. Don’t know how you index-finger hunt-and-pecking writers do it.

So, here’s some good stuff I found this week, by writers about writers or writing. It runs the gamut from an cautionary tale from a novice writer who got two (count ’em two!) six figure advances and was almost ruined financially — to a profile of Lee Child at home in Wyoming, where he owns two cowboys hats, but doesn’t wear them for fear of being laughed at.

Enjoy…Yours truly and my busted phalanges will be back soon.

How to Lose a Third of a Million Dollars Without Really Trying

A new-to-the-biz writer Heather Demetrios writes about how getting two six-figure advances right out of the gate almost brought her to financial ruin. She has great advice for those of you just starting out on paying attention to the work at hand and not letting your head get turned too fast.  Money quote for me: “Each new book is like a weekend in Vegas: maybe I’ll get lucky, maybe I won’t.”

After that second advance came through, I stepped into my dream life: I quit my day job to write full-time, moved to New York City, bought $15 cocktails, and learned (with astonishing speed) not worry about prices when ordering at a restaurant. I said yes to travel (often book research I wasn’t reimbursed for), concert tickets, new shoes, and finally being able to buy people the kind of presents I felt they deserved. I donated large sums of money to organizations I cared about, and delighted in the feeling that I was making a real difference….

Then she goes into what she would have done differently had she known what was going to happen. Here’s the link. 

Ready, Set, Write a Book

November if National Novel Writing Month. I’ve never tried it, but the NaNoWriMo challenge — writing a complete novel in 30 days — is now into its 20th year. If the thought of cranking out 1,500 words a day makes your blood run cold, this article’s not for you. But it does offer some tips for upping your output.  Here’s the link. 

Oh, Give Him a Home Where The Reacher Creatures Roam 

Speaking of writers who can crank it out, Lee Child has just dropped his 24th book Blue Moon. This feature finds our hero living the good life in Laramie Wyoming and waxing on the new movie Jack Reacher (yes, he’s taller than Tom Cruise), life in the slow lane and getting a new award — Commander of the British Empire. Link here. 



What’s In a $&%!? Title? 

Hey, we all know how hard it is to come up with a seductive title. But are today’s titles getting a little too…blue?  One editor makes a case for rethinking the current trend to using cuss words in titles. Let’s just say she’s not happy:

While a well-placed colorful word can pack a punch when used sparingly, resorting to vulgar titles is actually an easy, mindless, and lazy knee-jerk marketing approach. In an attempt to reach and speak to the masses, these word choices continue to dumb down book titles and subjects while discouraging any effort to strengthen thinking, meaning, or purpose—let alone a sense of integrity for authors, marketers, or the industry.

Here’s the link to the Publishers Weekly story. Link here. 

Fear Of Flying (As a Writer)

And lastly, I give you Chuck Wendig.  I love his writers blog Terrible Minds. It always makes me laugh — or cry less, depending on how strong a grip the work in progress has on my neck.  Here’s a classic Wendig — about how if you try to play it safe, if you travel the well-trod road instead of trying to find your own true writer’s path, you will fail. I think our own James recently wrote on this topic recently. Money quote:

I’m speaking about a specific kind of fear, which is, fear as the first step of writing. Fear about market. Fear about audience. Fear about how no one will read your stuff. Fear about how you’re never going to be as good as [insert other author name here]. Fear about voice, fear about genre, fear about ideas. You set out on the journey of being a writer and already you have a choice about what direction you choose, right? You get this instinctual pull, as if all your intestinal flora are trying to move you in concert toward something weird, something wonderful, something uniquely your own, but — that way lies grave uncertainty. The other direction, well, that’s more sensible, isn’t it? Other writers have trod those paths. What’s popular right now is [insert trend here, like “YA medical horror featuring canine protagonists” or “grimdark geriatric erotic fantasties”]. Your voice surely isn’t as good as other voices.

So, your foot wavers. And instead of pointing yourself in the unknown direction, into the dark forest, into the layers of fog — you set forth onto the well-lit, well-marked path. The worn path. The trod path. And it’s fear that put you there. It’s fear that’s walking you forward.

Here’s the full article.

I’ll try to reply if you leave a comment. I have a long layover in Charlotte and if I recall, there’s a decent bar in Concource E, owned by Dale Ernhardt Jr. Oh, show me the way to the next whiskey bar…

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About PJ Parrish

PJ Parrish is the New York Times and USAToday bestseller author of the Louis Kincaid thrillers. Her books have won the Shamus, Anthony, International Thriller Award and been nominated for the Edgar. Visit her at PJParrish.com

5 thoughts on “On Writing Fears, Blue Titles,
And Why 6-Figure Advances
Are Bad For Your Health

    • Thanks Jim. Youre the third person to tell me about arnica. Will get some as soon as I get home. Thanks also for your link…go re-read it, folks.

  1. Safe travels, Kris. That first article is quite a story, and a wise cautionary tale for those seeking six figure advance checks. We have enough pressure as it is. 🙂 Cheers to a speedy recovery!

  2. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-07-2019 | The Author Chronicles

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