Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Great Writer Myth

Posted by: Kathleen Collins
I was going to write about something else, had everything all planned out in fact and then I watched Romancing the Stone with my kids. For those of you that haven't seen this movie, the heroine is a romance writer. A best selling romance writer. (Also, see the movie. It rocks.)

It had me thinking about how writers are portrayed in movies and TV, even in books. Writers in the media always seem to take one of two extremes: Either they are best selling authors, who whip out a book and send the first draft off to their publisher without even glancing at the pages or they are completely dejected hopeless wrecks who wrote one great book and have never been able to duplicate it and now they are wallowing in depression.

Let's look at the more positive one first shall we? Now, this best selling author will be rolling in piles of money. They will also write ten books a year and their book will be released roughly six months after they turn it in to their publisher even if it's their first book. They do not suffer from self-doubt. They never miss a deadline.

And the second one, this would be the one that shows up in those movies where the writer can't get out of his pajamas. Where he frantically dives for the typewriter (because we all still write on typewriters, didn't you know?) when his spouse comes into the room so he can look busy.

99% of the time when I see a writer portrayed in any sort of fiction I get annoyed. There are some shows that get aspects of it pretty close. Others that flaunt their stereotypes (Castle, anyone?) But then there are shows like True Blood that show Vampire Bill, writing a book, getting it picked up by a publisher, getting it published and becoming a best seller all in a six month time period. Bill Compton might have super speed but the publishing industry does not. Oh, and let's not forget the book tours. Everyone gets a book tour. (Ignore my snorting laughter over here)

I think all of this does a disservice to authors. It leads others to have unrealistic expectations of what our lives are like. They want to know why we're still working a day job when we've published a book. (Because I like to eat. And my children aren't fond of sleeping in cardboard boxes.) They don't understand that it takes months (sometimes years) to write a book decent enough to publish. It's work, it's hard work. A lot of times it's hard work you never get paid for because no one will pick up the book your crit partners love. It's work that we don't dare divide how much we make by the number of hours we put in because the answer (in most cases) would just be oh so depressing.

Despite all that it's a fantastic job. We all think that or we wouldn't keep doing it. And it's not the money or the fame because god knows for most of us there isn't a lot of either. We keep doing it because we can't stop. We have to share our stories with the world. And, for me anyway, the best part of this job is when a reader connects with me to tell me what I wrote meant something to them. Or that they stayed up all night reading. That makes all the other crap worth it.

So, tell me what's your favorite movie, TV show or book with a writer as one of the main characters?
My choices: movie - The Dark Half; TV show - Castle; Book - Men in Kilts by Katie MacAlister

Kathleen Collins has been writing since Kindergarten. And while her ability has drastically improved, her stories are still about fantasy worlds and the people who live in them. The rare instances that she actually finds some spare time, she spends it playing with her two boys. Three if you count her husband. She is currently hard at work on her next book. Find her online at


  1. Oh, yes, the writer myth. I remember being especially annoyed by an episode of Mr. Belvedere in which he wrote a memoir, had it published, became a bestseller, went on book tours and discovered that fame was fleeting--all in one half hour episode. Ugh.

    My favourite Hollywood movie about writers is probably Stranger than Fiction. While not terribly true-to-life (I think most publishers would demand their advance back rather than send the author a personal assistant/nagger) I think it did show how terribly real our characters can become to us.

  2. There was that one alternate-timeline episode of Friends where Chandler was a writer and sold a story to Archie Comics, which didn't seem too far in either direction. On the other hand, there's the movie Gentleman Broncos, where we have the young author whose manuscript is swiped by the washed-up writer with a deadline, who gets it published as his own while the young author's friends are making an indie movie of it. (Hilariously featuring Sam Rockwell.)

  3. I love Stranger than Fiction. I'll have to catch Gentleman Broncos. Sounds interesting.


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