Lately on facebook there have been several posts, by several different writers of m/m Romance, about being hurt, disillusioned, and otherwise tired of the behind-the-scenes bullshit that happens in the genre. I commented, and added my sympathy and support, because I really do understand. But those posts, and the multitude of comments following them, got me thinking.

See, the past few weeks (months?) I’ve been struggling with a lot of those same feelings. Of course, me being me, I don’t blame the genre or the people involved, I see it as some kind of flaw in myself. But maybe it’s both?

I don’t post a ton to facebook, I’m more reactive there – commenting on other people’s posts. And I’m the same way in the blog-o-sphere, doing more commenting than writing. I do it with my eyes open, though, and I notice a lot of interesting stuff!

  • I see authors who are super popular on facebook or run really popular blogs, getting a LOT of 5 star, gushing reviews. I wonder in my lowest moments – are they popular because they write really well, or are they getting favorable reviews because they are popular? The ones I’ve read don’t seem all that fantastic. But it’s all opinion, I guess.
  • I see people post really silly status updates or blog posts, and then I see dozens of comments on them. Nice. So nice to see a person with friends, with a network of support. That makes me happy. But then I see other people post kind of serious status updates, or really well thought out blog posts, and get little or no response. Why? Is this whole thing a popularity contest? Am I just now figuring this out?
  • I also notice that a lot of the people who are most popular are men, and the ones who get less attention (even if they are better-selling authors with larger friends-lists) are women. I try not to be too paranoid about that. I’m sure it’s a coincidence.
  • I see little arguments, disagreements happen sometimes. Understandable. But then I see the people involved get low reviews from bloggers who were on the opposite side of the argument. That is sad.
  • Sometimes I reach out to people, if I see them having a tough time, maybe they posted something that really touched me or made me worry about them. I send a PM or an e-mail, and offer a word of support. It is amazing how few of them respond, even to say thank you or acknowledge they got my message. I wonder why people post about their troubles if they don’t want a response? Or do they just not want it from me? Hard to know. I try not to think too much about it.

Long story short: I have been trying to make real connections in a phony world.

But despite the fake-fest, I have actually made some real friends. In the midst of all the back-slapping/back-stabbing I have found a few people who, like me, were too naive to see the game for what it was.

So I guess I will keep doing what I have been doing. I do like going on facebook, and reading blogs. I like the distraction, I like the glimpses into other people’s lives and writing processes. I laugh a lot at jokes and silly pictures, and I enjoy interacting with people.

Maybe I have been disillusioned, and sometimes I am discouraged, but I will not disappear.



26 thoughts on “disillusionment

  1. About this time last year, I had a writer ‘friend’ bash my work so hard that I nearly gave up writing altogether. Don’t let others stop you from following your dreams, ever,

  2. When we had our Three Dirty Birds discussion Sunday, Ana, Kate, and I got way off topic at one point, wandering into the minefield of books we’d DNFed that we saw piles of gushing reviews for (not just in m/m, and not just in romance, but in general). Objectively we realize that these books (and/or perhaps these authors as personalities) are pushing the right buttons for their readers, and that we—perhaps because we’re writers, or perhaps simply because we’re wired the way we are—have different buttons (more “tight writing”- than “ooh favorite content” (or “ooh favorite personality”)-based) that need to be pushed. Objectively we know that, but emotionally it calls for adult beverages. One thing I said in the discussion was that if we all start writing what’s popular, in the style that’s popular, WHAT AM I GOING TO BE LEFT WITH TO READ? Because it’s rare that I enjoy the popular stuff, and when I do it’s because the rare atypical book became popular. (Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, for instance.)

    The men thing…I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

    The real friends make it all worth it, I think. I’m learning to just stop visiting virtual places that drain me in some way and focus instead on the ones that feel worth my time (in a spiritual sense, not a “this will be good for my career” sense). It gives me more energy to interact with the people I enjoy interacting with (and more energy for writing!). Also, I’m trying to trust my instinct more. Instead of thinking, “I feel about this new person in my life the way I felt about X, Y, and Z past people. Why do I do that? What’s wrong with me?” I’m working on, “I feel a certain way about this person probably for a reason.”

    But yay for you not disappearing. 🙂 I enjoy your posts immensely.

    • Thank you, and I enjoy yours too! 🙂
      As for the gushing reviews, I used to feel like maybe it was like you say, some writers just push the right buttons, and people respond positively. But the more I read, the more I don’t know about that. Like tons of comments about how great a character is, but I read the book and I think “what? there was literally no character development at all!” and then I think, well of course when you read a friend’s book, you go in with a positive (more forgiving) attitude, and so maybe you aren’t as critical. But then I think – should those people really be posting blog reviews for their friends then?
      So yeah, the disillusionment continues and compounds.
      It’s hard for me to decide to stay away from places like facebook, even though they are draining and sometimes hurtful, because there are people I love interacting with there. It’s like I have to take the good with the bad, or just keep my focus on the positive, I guess.
      *sigh* I should be writing, not complaining!

      • Writing is definitely more productive. (And it’s something we want to do (or so we think), so why is always so hard to turn off the distractions and DO IT???)

        I think, emotionally, I’m just carving out a sub-niche of the community, and trying to ignore the rest of it. Whatever’s going on—whether it’s just that people really like those books or they’re friends with the authors or it’s the cult of personality or whatever—I’m just setting it aside as a whole separate world that doesn’t have a lot to do with me.

        Every time I get an email or a mention or a review from a happy reader, it means the world to me (and even more so when it’s a complete stranger!…not to diminish the people I’ve already heard from (because they make my world go round too!)). When I’m tempted to look at all the 4- and 5-star reviews some book I couldn’t even finish got…it’s just better to go open my Fan Mail folder on Gmail. I know I earned that small collection, and that’s good enough for me.

        (Which is the long way of saying, “Yes! Just focus on the positive!”)

      • Truth!
        And I notice I feel the most upset about all that shit when I am doubting my own writing (like now). I guess it just makes me feel vulnerable and weak and so I am more sensitive overall.
        The thing that really bothers me about the fakey-reviews is that if the overly-generous friend-reviews are really happening (which they totally are) then I have to doubt ALL my blog reviews (even the positive ones) which makes me feel pretty bad. But you are right, focusing on the unsolicited reader reviews, and the few fan e-mails I’ve received, is probably the best medicine 🙂

      • Okay, bank run and mini grocery shopping chore done. Now I can astound (ha!) you with my theory.

        So a few months ago I watched a talk on YouTube by one of the authors of the book A Billion Wicked Thoughts. He and his co-author aggregated and analyzed depersonalized activity data from millions of users on all kinds of sex-related sites, from porn video hubs to fanfiction sites to forums and more, and the book is essentially about the conclusions they drew from all that data. Basically they were studying sexual desire, and how it differs between men and women. One of the things they found is that women are more likely than men to be “communal” about the things they find sexy. For instance, they share a lot of hot guy pics on social media. A conclusion they drew from that was that…and I’m really paraphrasing here because I’m too lazy to watch the (rather long, albeit interesting) video again…women (are more likely to) do sort of a validation thing: “I think this guy is hot. Oh, you think this guy is hot too? Now I’m even more invested in his hotness!” (Again, this is just their conclusion, which may or may not be accurate.) So, jumping from this conclusion to the fact that women are the majority of readers of romance, erotica, and m/m….it’s my (completely untested and unsupported) theory that the same kind of validation thing goes on with reading. And because of that, popularity becomes self-perpetuating. Or like a snowball. Or something. People start talking about a book or an author for whatever reasons—they’re friends supporting an author friend, or the book covers a trope that’s already got validation, whatever—and serve as pre-validation for it. And it more or less spreads through networks of women that way: friends of the author talk it up, and so friends of those friends talk it up, and friends of those friends. And then the next book from that audience comes out, and it’s already got this network of people ready to validate it, just because it’s already pretty much been pre-validated. (Which is a long way of saying, “I figured out how popularity works! And, um, I guess that was already obvious. *shame face*”)

        But, for me at least, it makes it that much easier to be less bothered by popularity. I think of it as a force of nature—hurricanes and rainbows and stuff that happen for reasons, but not reasons I can control. I mean, yeah, technically I could make snow if I really wanted to, and I could create popularity for my stuff if that’s what I wanted to dedicate myself to doing, but when I think on it for any amount of time, that’s not what I want to dedicate myself to doing. So I’ll just hunker down with my words and my characters, and if lightning happens to strike where I’m standing, awesome. But otherwise, at least I’ll be doing what I actually want to do. Which is, as we’ve talked about here before, writing the stories that are jumping up and down in my head—the ones with energy, the ones I’m excited about, the ones that make writing a refuge rather than a chore. (Well, I mean, it’s still a chore, but it’s not a drudgery.)

        (I hear you on it affecting you more when you’re already having doubts about your writing. That’s the time, though, that you most need to close the shutters on the outside world, because paying attention to it then just makes the self-doubt worse. I may have said it before, but whenever I hover my cursor toward Goodreads, I stop and ask myself, “Do I really want to be demoralized right now?” Generally the only time I go ahead and click is when the answer to that is, “Eh, I’m not stuck on any writing at the moment, so it should be okay.”)

        Also! (Because this comment isn’t long enough already—and how envious of you I am that your comment system doesn’t limit comment length (I need to see why mine does).) Take comfort in the fact that many readers skim right over those oh-so-glowing reviews anyway, looking for the ones that say something beyond “I loved this so much! The characters were great! I love them! [squee-y gif] So-and-so has done it again! I love her! [squee-y gif]” Because we’ve all read enough of those to not trust them.

      • I am extremely impressed with your theory 🙂
        I think it is probably correct, as well. And even if it seems to you like the obvious explanation for popularity, it is still good to break it down. If for no other reason than it reminds us that just because someone else is popular and we are not does not mean they necessarily did anything right, or that we did anything wrong.

        I spent a lot of time thinking about this about a year ago, when I read a book by a popular m/m author that I just didn’t understand. People kept raving about it, and so I read it. It was okay. Nothing special, the writing was decent but not stellar, and the plot had some major holes. The characters weren’t that believable to me, either. But people just kept posting about how great it was. Bloggers kept saying it was the best book they’d read! Then the author wrote a sequel, and that did even better. I was stupefied.

        So I really tried to break it down, in an attempt to duplicate the success 🙂 And I still could not understand it. From what I gathered, the positives were:
        1- the author is male.
        2- the author has a network of close friends who are bloggers and also m/m writers.
        3- the book was at least mediocre, in plot and language.

        And that is it. Nothing was interesting or unique about the story at all, he didn’t do any special marketing or promo that I noticed. It just got popular, and snowballed. The author is a nice guy, from what I know of him on facebook, but I have read a dozen better books that no one ever talks about.

        So yeah, I think worrying about it too much, or making unfair comparisons, or beating myself up, is not healthy and also completely unproductive. And like you said, trying to be popular is not how I really want to spend my time and energy.

  3. I’m sorry to hear about the lack of support and camaraderie among writers in your genre. There are fake people everywhere, though I suppose it’s easier to be fake in the blogosphere (where you can also be anonymous). Try not to let these people get in your way. Good luck!

    • Thanks 🙂
      I feel better about it now, I think after having given it a lot of thought today due to writing this post and a few resultant discussions. I don’t believe there is a lack of support or camaraderie, but more just that the genre is small and so the same group of a few hundred people are always interacting. Kind of like high school, lol. And just like back then, the feelings of community that you lean on when you need help can be stifling at other times, or even annoying.
      After turning this around in my head all day, I think what is really going on is that I am becoming more invested in the genre and in the community. You can’t feel the kind of disappointment I’ve been feeling lately without a fair bit of love fueling it. I care about these people, and so when they hurt me, or ignore me, it means something.
      I guess that isn’t really a bad thing. Almost like a weird kind of family, if that makes sense.

  4. I’m just dropping in a quick hi to thank you for stopping by/waving at my little blog.

    I’d say more about this interesting post and the other comments, but I’m about to get on a plane, which I’m TERRIFIED of, so my head isn’t working very clearly at the moment 🙂

    • Oh, man. Good luck with the plane trip. I’m not really afraid, but traveling is always nerve wracking. I suggest either alcohol, positive thinking, or really intense distraction.
      And have a great trip! The flight is only a tiny part of the journey 🙂

      • Alcohol, focussing on thinking about my friends and family instead of where I was, more alcohol, some more alcohol, and I was thoroughly dazed by the time we landed (I’m a lightweight when it comes to booze). The woman next to me said the wings sounded odd on landing, and I just smiled and said “How interesting.” Then I slept it off for about 5 hours. Tomorrow and Tuesday will be devoted to sitting in solitude on a balcony over a bay working on a YA manuscript, if I can get my mind out of m/m 🙂

        Having a mega-popular blog and spending energy to keep a seat at the popular kids’ table would be super. But I mostly write in a niche setting and I’m content over there. I especially liked what Zoe said: “I’ll just hunker down with my words and my characters, and if lightning happens to strike where I’m standing, awesome. But otherwise, at least I’ll be doing what I actually want to do.” I’ve decided to do what I actually want to do. Hopefully along the way I can pass on encouragement to someone else.

      • haha! Well, you got there with your sanity intact. I’d call that a successful journey 🙂

        I also think Zoe’s philosophy is a winner. I like doing what I’m doing, and even if I’m never a popular writer or a popular person, I’ll be happy if I can keep writing. And I like knowing there are so many people out there who are just like me, trying to write and make genuine connections with other writers and readers.

        Actually, I’m so happy I wrote this blog post now, because not only did it force me to think more carefully about what I’m doing and why, it also proved to me that there are a lot of people who share my feelings. It has almost reversed my disillusionment!

        I hope you have a great writer-vacation, and good luck with the YA manuscript 🙂

  5. I love your post, Amelia! I think you’re right. It’s very difficult to make real connections in a virtual world. I also think the fake ones are a large part of what dictates how long an author stays in the game these days. You can be incredibly talented but if you don’t also have a thick skin the ‘politics’ under the surface will drive you right back out the door because a lot of what goes on takes the fun out of being a published author. It’s the ugly truth they don’t tell you when you’re going to all the craft seminars to be a better writer. A good deal of your success will depend on how well you can take harsh, hurtful criticism by people who make those kinds of comments with the intention of tearing you down. I know a few sites where that happens more often than not and I avoid them at all costs. I publish the details about the book and the cover and then walk away. Catching a glimpse of people giving my book mediocre ratings before it even had a release date only validates my theory. I don’t need to deal with that garbage.

    I toyed with the idea of quitting publishing a lot in the beginning. I finally set a goal to give it a year. If at the end of the year the benefits hadn’t started outweighing the growing pile of negatives I would pack up my laptop and call it over because it wasn’t worth the abuse. My year is up in September and during that time I’ve learned the same thing echoed in a lot of the comments on your post. It’s much easier on your sanity to give that tangle of madness a wide berth. If you want to spend your time and energy playing the popularity game in the hope it will pay off in sales then go right ahead and play. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that just like there’s nothing wrong with writing stories that cater to the masses. If that’s what you want to do knock yourself out but if it’s not then you’re much better off writing what you want to write and doing it well. It might not make you the most popular girl in the M/M class but then how many of us only write that single genre? There are other things to consider like how the quality of your writing reflects on you as an author, not just as as person who sells books.

    When all the pros and cons are laid out I think the one that means the most to me is: can I look back at a story I’ve written and not just be proud of how well it did but also proud of the story I told and the way I told it? My mentors (even if they don’t realize that’s what they are) are authors who are at the top of their ‘class’ when it comes to crafting a story. They are stellar examples of what talent looks like in an industry where it’s sometimes subjective. As authors we can either write to prove we know how to sell books or we can write to prove we know how to write. If those two end up being the same thing it’s a happy day. If it doesn’t, I’d rather be a bit of an unknown with some very good stories.

    • All great points, DP. Especially this:

      “As authors we can either write to prove we know how to sell books or we can write to prove we know how to write. If those two end up being the same thing it’s a happy day. If it doesn’t, I’d rather be a bit of an unknown with some very good stories.”

      Such a good thing to remember.

      I know that one of the things that reassures me when a book doesn’t sell particularly well is realizing that it will be for sale for a long, long time. And even though it might not have sold thousands of copies the first month, it will probably sell thousands eventually, even if over a much longer time period.
      Also, I think back to my days as a reader, before I knew about the m/m facebook world or blog community. I just bought what looked good and I read it. If I liked it, I looked for more by that author. I never friended authors on facebook, or looked at review blogs, or “followed” anyone. And I think a LOT of readers are like that. So being super popular in the m/m writing community might not translate into actual sales, or satisfied customers, as often as we think.

      The whole thing is tricky because writing and publishing is an art and a craft, but it is also a business. So it is easy to spread ourselves too thin. Especially when self-publishing, when we do so much more and are solely responsible for our success (or failure). But certainly, the best thing to do is focus on the writing. Everything else will sort itself out if the writing is great. Great marketing, popularity, and the “cult of personality” can catapult a mediocre story up the charts, but it won’t turn it into a great story. And I know I want to spend my time trying to be a better writer, not a more popular one.

      • “If I liked it, I looked for more by that author. I never friended authors on facebook, or looked at review blogs, or ‘followed’ anyone. And I think a LOT of readers are like that.”

        Excellent point! The number of authors I “followed” on anything before writing was really, really small. (I think it consisted of Rick Yancey and Chuck Palahniuk. Just…kind of randomly.) And a lot of readers ARE like that. (I’M still like that, outside of following writing colleagues I connect with beyond being a reader.)

      • exactly. I think it is easy to get so caught up in this popularity thing and forget the only people we are impressing is each other. Most readers only care about the writing – which is as it should be!!

      • I agree, Amelia! I want to do the same thing. It’s a very tricky business and it’s easy to get turned around but I’m trying to follow two simple ideas and leave the rest. First, that there is a lot of truth in the saying: “the best marketing technique is to write the next book”. Like you said, just because it didn’t sell now doesn’t mean it won’t.

        Second, it’s far better to be known as a kind, generous author than as the head of a clique. I have a friend who writes romantic suspense as an Indie author and her sixth book just hit NYT Best Seller because she is a good writer who does a lot of networking but also because she’s warm, kind, and goes out of her way to do things for others. That comes back to you with far fewer negatives than being popular and winning arguments. She was kind and generous to authors she met along the way and as a result, others were kind and generous to her. She has a bright future without having spent a single minute on cliques, cat fights, or popularity contests. She steps around all that and keeps right on walking.

        I think that’s the way it should be done.

      • Absolutely.
        I try to do the same. I know I’ve probably pissed people off or offended unintentionally. But I’ve never been mean or petty, I’ve never tried to insult people or tear them down. I always try my best to treat people with kindness. So at least I can sleep easy! lol

  6. Great post. I know what you mean about being naive. Investing a lot of yourself into phony friendships. Been there, done that. And, I have made some wonderful friends as well. The hard part is figuring out who is a genuine friend and who just blows smoke up your ass.

    • Yes, I think one of the best and worst qualities of social sites like scrib and Facebook is that you feel close to people, especially on scrib where we have long conversations and share opinions and thoughts, not just photos and jokes. For me, when that combines with crit relationships (because let’s face it, letting someone read your rough drafts is pretty intimate,in its way) it certainly makes me feel close to people. And it can be awesome when it is reciprocated. But when the people in the other side aren’t genuine, its a shock.

      I try to follow the rule of treating everyone online as if they are a “real life” friend. So I don’t type anything that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face. I still overstep sometimes, but usually following that rule keeps me from getting in trouble 🙂

      It sucks realizing you’ve been using mental and emotional energy for a phony friend, but at least you know you acted kindly, even if they didn’t deserve it.

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