“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” (First lines of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, Simon & Shuster, 1972.)
An author knows they are having a bad day when (with great help from Steve, Bob, and Tamela, who each contributed to this list):
Your agent rejects all of your latest ideas.
Your royalty check is 90% less than the last one.
Your publisher decides they don’t want to publish book three in your trilogy.
Your publisher is sold to another company and everyone you knew is no longer there.
You get three one-star reviews on Amazon that specifically reference your lack of writing ability.
Someone else wins the award you were hoping to win.
You spend the money to attend a conference to meet a specific faculty member…that canceled at the last minute.
You discover that your offline backup wasn’t backing anything up…after your hard drive crashed.
When the pizza delivery guy seems so much like part of the family you are tempted to add him to your Christmas card list.
You misspell your own name.
You misspell mispell.
You spill coffee on the computer keyboard and it improves your work-in-progress.
A box of your first book arrives at the front door and it is someone else’ book. And worse, it was your next idea! You always thought about writing a dystopian book for children, but this other author beat you to it. Dag nab it.
You question your publisher about a royalty statement believing the payment amount is too low and discover instead you were overpaid. But they thank you for calling it to their attention.
Your agent calls you to tell about an offer on your book, and realize they called the wrong client.
When writing as a process of discovery, your favorite character is killed off in a freak accident, meaning the big climax must now be completely re-written. Don’t mess with the process.
The auto-correct function has been inserting profanity throughout the manuscript. Thank goodness for the find all/replace all function in Word.
You are 90% completed with your manuscript and you read an article about another more famous author writing on the same subject. Seriously? Famous roller coasters of Rhode Island? That’s my idea!
During a lightning storm, a bolt of lightning strikes the house and fries your laptop on which you are writing, destroying just one file…the manuscript you are working on. Makes you question God’s leading for your book.
Okay, these are starter ideas. Now it’s your turn to finish the sentence, “An author knows they are having a bad day when…”
When you have 30 new twitter followers, but they are all named things like AnimeForEva, SellUrBook, DJSpinsALot, and IFollowUBack
When your story finally comes alive but it involves changing main characters. And you’ve already written up to the climax.
When you actually do the math and find out how much you make per hour for writing a book.
. . .a week before your book is released, a book on the exact same topic comes out, authored by Tim Keller, John Piper, Max Lucado, Francis Chan, Beth Moore. . .you get the idea!
When you submit to the Genesis Contest and the team responds with one question. “Are you a man or a woman?”
Hey, I’m trying my best here folks.
(True story ?)
Damon J. Gray
… when you repartition your thumb drive only to realize after the fact that it wasn’t your thumb drive, but rather the external USB drive that had your manuscript and website rebuild on it.
You share a table at a book festival w/ a children’s author w/ an adorable 3- foot puppet & everyone rushes by you to get to him. Never compete w/ a puppet!
The book which an author just completed is published by another author on the same day your agent says he/ she wants to handle it for you.
Your first nonfiction book is published by a small press that then implodes a year after publication. Six year later, your second nonfiction book is published by a mid-level press (subset of a bigger publishing house) and that imprint implodes two weeks before the release date–so your book is printed, but marketing/promotion is zilch.
True stories, both of them:) That’s why for now, I’m sticking to writing romantic suspense!
You get a reply from a literary agent saying your book caught their attention straight away, that is was exciting, engaging and brought Africa to life BUT…..
When you are asked for your autograph and misspell (Grammarly says this is the correct spelling) your name (true story).
When you finally figure out your next scene, but you keep falling asleep on it and can’t read your own writing.
Yes, I have spelled my last name wrong. And though I don’t think I’ve ever done it, I worry about spelling my agent’s last name wrong, too. I hear some agents are sensitive about such things.
You’re 5 days away from home on a two-week cross-country vacation when the display on your 10-laptop fails, and you didn’t bring a backup. (Been there, done that, but uber-safety-trained me, in my usual obsession about anticipating problems before they happen, had another laptop along as a spare and all files backed up on a flash drive.)
When your wife reads your latest effort and says, “Oh, forgot to tell you…Ernest Henmngway called, and he wants his beard and cigars back.”
Wow. Tough audience.
They don’t come any tougher, Dan.
They are trying to email their editor a witty subject line and all they can think of is “yo”.
Erin Taylor Young
You’re on the subway, dictating your suspense novel, and the police are waiting for you when you get off.
OK…your’s is in first place so far today.
That wouldn’t be a bad day! I would take it as confirmation that you are good.
I busted up with this… they were all funny but my husband wondered what’s up, this time. 🙂
Ouch. A couple of these have happened to me. LOL.
When you open the cabinet and you’re out of coffee…and chocolate.
When you finally get that read through from a big author with connections, and they love your story, think it deserves the backing of a big 5 publisher (in fact the big publisher you had in mind is thinking too small), and they emailed an editor friend about it for you…BUT it won’t sell right now. Unless you have a following like Joel Osteen.
10/24/17 When the first words you speak to your bride in the morning are “I’m going to finish my manuscript today,” and you totally get distracted by Dan Balow’s post about authors having bad days.
Thanks Dan . . .
When the blog question they’re responding to uses the singular “they,” which sends them on a downward spiral questioning all their life choices on an existential level.
SOMEONE had to say it.
Yes, they did. 🙂
When you notice the cover letter to the proposal you just sent out is about your expertise in writing about the dessert instead of the desert. I am sure writing about brownies would have been much more fun than jack rabbits and cactus. Amazingly, the proposal was accepted and “Under a Desert Sky” was written. (Maybe I can do a sequel about strawberry shortcake.)
You wonder why you spent the last six years of your life on your writing project, the research you did clutters the small space you have, and you just want to throw it all away.
When you realize that the 60s are over.
Not until I throw away that one shirt…
So groovy not o be alone!
It’s a bad day when you research assault weapons and guns used by government officials, police, and ATF and the swat team arrives. (Hasn’t happened, but with all my research I’ve wondered if they were watching me.)
Just don’t have lunch with Erin Taylor Young and you should be OK.
Erin Taylor Young
LOL! No, the police are now at your door for suspicious Internet activity.
It’s a bad day when your husband attends a library event with you to support an author friend and he tells the author, “I’d like to read your book,” but he hasn’t yet read yours, which was released six months ago. 🙂 — In Hubby’s defense, he isn’t a fiction reader, and certainly not a women’s fiction reader. Still… 🙂
Now I know of at least three of us whose husbands don’t read a word we’ve written. Maybe we need to start a support group! 🙂
You appear at a very diverse book festival and find your table next to a cute, young African American lady with probably the best idea for a children’s book you’ve seen in a decade. As your day drags on in the 100-plus-degree heat in the new author’s tent, the young lady goes to her car twice to get more books, which she is selling for double what your books cost. Her final tally: $1600 in sales. Your final tally: barely enough to cover dinner and cab fare home.
Dan, ha. These were slightly depressing. 😉
My favorite is: You misspell mispell—which leaves me wondering how the dickens you spell it now!
Adding to the list:
An author knows they’re having a bad day when they’re interrupted a bajillion times in an hour that they have written the same word seven times in a row on the page, given their main character an alter ego that another was supposed to have, and stuck the baby’s pacifier in the refrigerator.
Not that *I* have done any of that … or a variation thereof.
Similar to Erin Young. My wife and I are in Panera’s discussing a scene about robbing and a shooting and people are suddenly staring at us.
You know you’re having a bad day when you realize you sent a partial query letter via email because your computer hates you. (true)
You know you’re having a bad day when the agency emails you and asks why you didn’t number the pages of those 1st critical three chapters. (true)
You know you’re having a bad day when, on the day you are scheduled for a lengthy medical test, you realize you haven’t showered that morning because you’re obsessed with writing. You end up canceling (not wanting to stink) and manage another appointment three months later. (true)
and… in the old days … you know you’re having a bad day when the publisher requests the simple stuff (spacing, etc.) but says ‘must send SASE.’ And you don’t know what SASE means (until days later after sensing complete doom for hopes of authorship). (true)