Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Time out for a little fun

Maybe someone should invent an early detection system for gullible writers. Sirens and whistles would go off the next time we’re approached by a big talker who sweeps into our life with enough patter to sell vacuums to Kirby salespeople. You know the people I mean. The blowhards who convince us that we’re on our way to stardom and incredible riches because they recognized our talent and are ready to make great things happen. We see these people at conferences or any other place where writers gather. They’re surrounded by a crowd of rapt admirers who cling to every gilded word like barnacles on a boat.

I am not too proud to admit that I’ve been suckered in.

There’s the film director I met at a writer’s conference who was going to hand-carry my screenplay to the biggest producers in Hollywood. I should’ve realized that if he really had that kind of clout, he wouldn’t be in Houston, TX taking money from a bunch of starry-eyed scriptwriters. But he just smothered my ability to reason in an avalanche of words, “This is the greatest script I’ve ever read. You’re an f-ing genius. You’re gonna be rich...”

How could I not believe him? Except for the expletives, he was singing my song, ringing my bells, pushing my buttons. HE was the genius.

I called my husband in Dallas to share the good news and he threw together a celebration party. When I got home, I was greeted by friends with glasses of champagne and requests for tickets to the next year’s Oscars. I didn’t even need the champagne to be intoxicated. I really thought my barge had docked.

Within a month, the producer’s gusto dwindled to the merest draft, then was snuffed altogether. Based on his suggestions, I’d spent that time revising the script and called to tell him it was ready. After a frustrating hour of fighting my way through his voice-mail, I was finally able to leave a message. He called me back a week later to tell me he was sorry. He didn’t have time to be bothered. Perhaps I could send the script to some of the cable companies. They’re always hungry for product.

After that experience, you’d think I had enough sense to run like hell the next time someone like that approached me. But what can I say? I’m gullible. I’m still trying to get out of the tree I grew up in. And this guy actually worked at a big important production company in LA. I could trust him.

He was hot for the story idea I’d sent in, that eventually became the basis for my suspense novel, One Small Victory. Since it was based on a true story, he promised he’d contact the subject to acquire the rights. He also promised to bump my proposal to the executive in charge of production. And he thought I was a terrific writer. Why was I hiding out somewhere in the Midwest when I should be in Hollywood?

That was the last I heard from him.

So, okay. Is it just me? Am I the only one who attracts people like this? Please tell me I’m not. I need to see if there really is a market for this early-warning system. A guy just called from a manufacturing company...

Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest book is Open Season, which has gotten nice reviews from Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly. One Small Victory, is a top seller in the mystery bestseller list at the Amazon Kindle store. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. She will stop playing with her horse and work, honest.

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  1. Maryann:
    You touch on a very real emotion here that so many of us don't dare say aloud yet we want to believe in: the hope that we are just one step away from greatness. I think that yearning is what helps us carry on against daunting odds: of those who press on, someone has to make it, right?

    On another note, a screen popped up on my computer last night saying that of all the computer users in New York State, I had been chosen to win an iPAD. Yes, I know about such things, but... an iPad!! You wouldn't believe all of the automatic delivery services I'd to subscribe to (and not cancel) to get it.

    Oh never mind. Guess I'll earn my success--and my iPad--like everyone else. Thanks for your thought-provoking post.

  2. Nope, you're not the only one. lol It's all hype and bullsh*t. As a writer you get to learn that pretty quick. I was in my early twenties. The publisher told me what a genius I was. How he was going to publish my ms, fame & riches sure to ensue.

    Then: his wife read the ms and, oh boy, the promises (the contract & the advance) disappeared. The ms--for those days--was sexy (and also irreverent) Mrs. Pub was NOT amused.

    End of story. Beginning of reality (or whatever passes for reality in a world of hype & you-know-what).

  3. Thanks for sharing your stories. This could be fun seeing who is the most gullible. I, too, almost fell for the iPad deal. It sure was tempting.

  4. Maryann, all artists are hungry for a little recognition and vulnerable to anyone who blows smoke up our keesters ... it just goes with the territory.

  5. Maybe with those types it's attention deficit disorder. Whatever is in front of them with enough pizazz to catch their attention at that moment is IT, but the moment passes and something newer and shinier catches their eye. It's as if they're on a carousel.

    I'm sorry you had those experiences and pray a person with integrity, clout, the right connections and a passion for your work finds you and you her/him.

  6. Been there, done that. Submitted my first 50 pages to an agent who said, "I want to read more of this." So I went home and wrote and polished and got it ready-to-go, then contacted him with the "We met at X Conference and you said..." His response: "Not for me."

    Lesson - buy plenty of salt and steel wool at the store. Because you need to take everything an agent says with a grain of salt, and you need thick skin to stay in this business.

  7. We all get tricked, not just writers. I think, however, writers are especially easy to trick. Our writing is basically our souls, our beliefs, our hopes, our dreams. And those are easy to play on by the nefarious. Our only choice is to keep moving forward. Our skins may toughen up a bit, but we keep writing and aiming at a goal.

  8. I've never even been so lucky as you to have a con artist approach me.

    I feel unworthy now. (g)

    Morgan Mandel

  9. LOL, Morgan. You are doing just fine without the con artist's influence.

  10. I started writing rather late, and aside from one instance where my then agent said, "Oh, I've got someone in Hollywood looking for something like this" I haven't had much exposure to hype. And by then, I've heard to many stories about how movie rights, etc., just sit around and die, so I only laugh when Hubster says, "Tell me when they're going to make the book into a movie."

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  11. Sad but funny, Maryann. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think you are not alone!

  12. No, you're not alone, Maryann. When I was sending out queries after finishing my first novel, I received the kind of letter every writer longs to get: great story, a rare find, only a few receive this opportunity, etc., etc., etc. And oh yes, please send a check for $1500 to cover ta da, ta da, ta da. Wait a minute!

    The excitement that had almost overwhelmed me when I began reading flowery words that even I could hardly believe began to wilt. How could such an inexperienced writer (me) be deserving of such praise? By the time I reached the part where I had to send $1500 to make great things happen, I had become a skeptic -- and fortunately so. After checking the Writer Beware website, I learned the lady who had signed my letter was under indictment for her illegal business practices. The flowery words that had almost enticed me into her garden would have made me a blooming idiot -- and a broke one at that.

  13. I've always learned that if it costs money, it's fake. If you're that good you should be making the money before giving it away. Same thing happens with model agencies all the time.

  14. Good point, Anon and Linda. I have heard so many horror stories about writers and models being suckered into some scam because their eagerness overrode any inkling of caution. It is good that writers now have resources easily available online to check the legitimacy of folks who come at them with all these pie-in-the-sky plans.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.