Friday, November 30, 2012

A Writer's Wish List

Welcome to December. Here is your official welcome package: a snowflake, a large pine tree, a candle, a snifter of brandy. Whatever tradition you're gearing up for, it's likely you've got gifts on the brain, and a shopping list as long as your arm. Here are some hints as to what the writers in your circle of friends and family might be longing for this holiday season. Some are DIY, some are even free! Only one is purely mythological.

No matter the genre or publisher, these are guaranteed to make any author click its little heels together with glee while smiling ear to ear. You might even see a little tooth sparkle, along with a charming *TING* of holiday magic. And if that isn't an image to go on a greeting card, I don't know what is. In related news, I'd like to know who's stuffing all those cats into Santa hats.

Quit it.

10. Sales.

Authors love sales. So I know that you, being a good and virtuous family member or friend, have already bought the book. But now, you can buy your friends the book. Buy your kids' teachers the book. I remember at my book launch, several dear and marvelous friends actually said, "I'm doing my holiday shopping right now!" as they toted away an armful of copies. I have now erected large, permanent, ostentatious statues in their honor in my driveway. Yes, it's hard to get the car out, but these people need recognition.

Many authors are happy to mail you a signed bookplate, for even more palpable specialness.

9. Reviews

It is free to review your author friend's book on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LibraryThing. A thoughtful few sentences, a handful of stars, a couple of tags checked, a "Like" button clicked: these might seem insignificant to you, but they are beautiful gifts to an author.

8. Stories

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Interrupt the novel, and I will destroy you.
A truth: Authors often chuckle to each other about how people come up to us saying, "I've got a great book idea for you. You write it, and we'll split the profits!"

Another truth: Most authors are walking around with 87 book ideas in their heads, and their only lament is not being able to crawl into a cave, dig a tiger moat at the entrance, and crouch over a laptop for the next six years, writing them all down. Did I mention the cave has wifi? And that someone occasionally tosses a turkey dinner across the tiger moat? Is this just my fantasy?


This one is tricky because not every story makes a good gift. Long ones usually don't. Ones involving the death of grandmothers, or adoptees finding birth parents, or really special, amazing animals... usually don't. What constitutes a literary treasure? Odd little snippets. Nuggets maybe. Sometimes whole book ideas emerge from tiny little bits of overheard conversation, or sometimes those little nuggets can fit into our books in weird ways.

Example: My friend Tina was chatting with me and some other people and casually mentioned she had a cousin or uncle or something who had escaped from prison by riding a cow through a river. I swear, it was as if the ceiling ripped open, a beam of light shone down on her face, and time slowed. I pulled up a chair and begged her to keep talking about this beautiful, magical cousin from god. Turns out he killed himself playing Russian roulette. WHAT? Was there NOTHING this cousin could not do? Turns out this backstory went like a puzzle piece directly into the past life of one of the minor characters in my WIP. It went in so perfectly, there was almost an audible click. Share your stories. Then get ready to read all about it.

 7. Social Media Love

Easy to Tweet: Hey, I read this book and it's awesome. If you loved Eat Pray Love, you'll want to get this one. It's like Eat Pray Love but IN SPACE!

Easy to share on Facebook: Hey, this book totally changed my mind about panthers. Turns out they're really lovable pets! Check it out. 

Post the cover on Pinterest. Microblog it on Tumblr. Pass the link around. Boost the signal.

6. Blog Posts.

If you have a blog, post a review or an interview! Relate the book to something personal to you, to give awesome content to your own readers while spreading the word for your author friends. If you don't have a blog, consider submitting a guest post to a blog you love. Starting a blog just to pimp out your friend's book is probably a bad idea, although I can see it working as a publicity stunt, if you were able to sustain it on a daily basis for several years. You can do that, right?

Image from
So many to choose from!
5. Booze. 

Note: This should also be on the wish lists for architects, bottle washers, chefs, dog walkers, educators, firefighters, grooms, hospital clerical workers, infographic makers, jewelers, kick boxers, loom weavers, magicians, nickel stampers, obstetricians, physicists, query critiquers, rocketry specialists, specialists of all kinds, truck drivers, unitarians, vets, white house interns, x-ray technicians, yak worshippers, and zebra inseminators.

What, my spell check doesn't like the word "inseminators"?

4. Encouragement. 

You can do it! Your book is freakin' fantastic! Are you kidding? Of course you can write another one just as good. Better, even. You are killing this author thing. 

As much as you feel like you've already stroked this needy author's ego quite enough, consider the fact that probably right now the soundtrack in their head is something along the lines of this: "That last book was a fluke. Nothing you say makes sense. You couldn't write your way out of a tiger moat. The things that are important to you aren't important to anyone else. That character's not likable. That idea makes you certifiable. Coffee is starting to taste bad, WHY? You're going to get a hole in your favorite sweater. The hole is coming. The groaning abyss that is your absence of talent will suck you down through that hole and annihilate you."

So you know, some cheery words are never amiss.

3. Time

If there's any way you can facilitate your author friend or family member getting more peaceful and uninterrupted time to write, this is a treasured, hallowed, beautiful thing. Loan your summer house. Babysit. When you're thinking of asking your author friend/family to volunteer for some lengthy, time-consuming activity, or get them involved in some really great idea for a project, or join you in a new hobby, reconsider. Think of someone else. Don't recommend new TV shows. Don't say, "You know, we should really go hiking on the beach once a week, for our health!"

Note to my personal friends: This is not a call for help. I have everything under control. Just send tigers. 

So, I was trying to think of what I would include for #2, and I told my husband what I was considering, he said, "What? That has nothing to do with gifts. Don't you want a gun/flyswatter? Or a robot that sharpens your pens?" It's true that I do want those things, but I feel a responsibility to be honest and deliver a true list, of real desires, and the list would not be complete without this:

2. Magical Plot Solutions. 

There's probably nothing you can really do here, and there's nothing to buy. But this is what authors really most want: plot solutions. We want to experience that sudden strange, unexpected brain-twist that results in a smooth, blissful unraveling of a huge plot-knot.

I want one really bad, this month. I'm praying and dreaming and hoping. I know it will come to me while driving, or while in the shower, or while reading someone else's book and thinking about something completely different, or while knitting, or while telling my dog to stop scratching his junk so luxuriously on the carpet -- I know it will come.

Like most writers, I'm an optimist. Even though we crank about the world and write books where everyone inexorably dies in despair, we all believe in magic, much like the kind that gets talked about in December. Writer magic comes in the middle of writing books. It comes when you're 16 chapters in and it's dismal and clanging and nothing works. It's like a special weapon that only becomes available when you've committed yourself to a battle you can't win. You can't predict or explain it, or make it happen, or find it by looking, but if you didn't think it was coming, you'd never start chapter 2. When it comes, it's the best, best thing ever. When you're waiting for it, the night can be long and dark.

I know I said it wasn't for sale, but if anyone's seen the devil, can you give him my mobile #? Thanks.

Note: My husband's next suggestion was "Sexy muse." But we all know what the #1 gift idea should be, right? It's not a brilliant cover or getting on year-end lists (although Book Pregnant authors have been killing it on that front, yo!). 

1. Sales

See #10.

Lydia Netzer is the author of Shine Shine Shine, which the New York Times Book Review just selected as one of 100 Notable Books for 2012. It was also chosen by Amazon as one of their Editor's Picks for the Top 100 Books of 2012, by Library Journal as one of five Top Women's Fiction Titles of 2012, and by Nancy Pearl in Publisher's Weekly as one of her ten favorite books of 2012. Written over ten years, two attempts at Nanowrimo, and many despairing moments, it's a novel about robots, motherhood, space travel, true love, and the perils of fitting in. Find her on her blogFacebook, and Twitter


  1. You are too much, youknowthat? This is just marvelous. Love it. The tiger is in, send turkey...

  2. Great post Lydia! I'm waiting for some writer's magic too!!!

  3. I'm reading Shine Shine Shine right now and really enjoying it. I won't say more than that because I plan on writing one of those reviews described above when I finish it.

  4. Laughing hysterically as I type. SALES! Are my friends all listening?

  5. Love this column. Am reading Shine Shine Shine right now. It's wonderful.

  6. Yes. Yes, yes yes yes yes yes.

  7. Wonderful, funny, honest post, Lydia. Love your humor!

  8. This is so funny, Lydia. Love it, love it! And I'm going to add all of these things to my wish list RIGHT NOW.

  9. I love you so much Lydia. ^_^ you're a true inspiration. I always/will look up to your work. c: I hope your days are filled with bliss. Take care.