Loree Lough

At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had 70 books, 59 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Dubbed “edgy, heart-tugging adventures” by reviewers, her stories have earned dozens of “Readers’ Choice” and industry awards. A frequent guest speaker for writers’ organizations, government agencies, book clubs, college and high school writing programs and more, Loree has encouraged thousands with her comedic approach to ‘learned-the-hard-way’ lessons about the craft, and 600 (and counting!) of her former students are now published authors. Loree splits her time between an Allegheny Mountains cabin and a home in the Baltimore suburbs, and shares both with her husband and a formerly-abused, now-spoiled Pointer whose numerous vet visits inspired the nickname ‘Cash’. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to write her at loree [at] loreelough [dot]com. “And please,” she adds, “visit my blog (www.theloughdown.blogspot.com) and my soon-to-be-improved web site (http://www.loreelough.com) where, if you’re patient, you’ll hear some hauntingly beautiful music.”

Complaining, Criticizing, and Carping, Oh My

Amazing, isn’t it, just how often those three words are used to describe the wild and wacky publishing industry. Just as amazing, it seems that almost everybody—readers, writers, and an assortment of industry professionals—has at least two cents to toss into the discussion.

Let’s begin with a few examples of reader grievances:

Unrealistic dialogue
Unbelievable conflict
Story’s too dark
Plot’s too violent
Wishy-washy hero/heroine
Hate the cover

And add to the list a couple of the objections cited by reviewers:

Flashbacks . . . ick!
Dream sequences . . . ugh!
Backstory overload!
Lack of character motivation
Story doesn’t start in the right place
Novel has a sagging middle
Rushed ending

Now how about if we take into consideration what editors might add about authors to the pre-existing list:

Routinely misses deadlines
Has prima donna tendencies
Refuses to accept editorial guidance

And let’s not forget that agents have a thing or three to tack on:

Author expects molly-coddling
Line edits
PR/marketing services

On the other side of the coin, authors’ gripes sound something like this:

Without authors and our books, nobody else in the industry would have a job, so why are we at the bottom of the totem pole?

Publishers’ advances are way too small.
Print runs are way too small.
Royalty percentages are way too small.
My agent/editor doesn’t return calls/e-mails.
My publisher isn’t doing enough to help me market the book.
My family won’t cooperate with my crazy schedule.
I hate writers’ conferences.
I hate booksellers’ conventions.
I hate hearing envious “other” writers’ comments about my success.
I hate hearing “other” writers’ attitudes toward my genre.
I hate hearing “literary types” who think all genre fiction is trash.
I hate book signings!

I could go on . . . and on and on. But you get my drift. And while most of these points pertain primarily to writing and publishing fiction, much the same can be said about nonfiction, as well.

So whether we’re writers, distributors, librarians, wholesalers, bookstore managers/owners, agents, editors, marketing gurus, Web site designers, or a family member of a published author, we’ve heard the disgruntled din.

But if you listen closely, you’ll hear a noise that’s far more pleasant . . . and just as common.

Every day, as I read my e-mail or visit one of my social-networking sites, I’m reminded why I love this business. Because there, in crisp black-and-white, is red-hot proof that happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment is even more widespread than the whimpering:

Writers share the good news of a recent sale.
Writers share “learned the hard way” lessons to “lessen” our writing pals’ hardships.
Writers share tips about which company wants what types of stories.
Writers talk up their pals’ books.

Reports of publishers sending chocolates to their authors abound.
Editors thank authors for a job well done.
Agents thank editors for contracting their clients.
Clients thank agents for believing in their talents.
Readers write authors to praise their latest novels.
Writers write readers to thank them for their support.

It’s sorta like what so many of us have remarked after reading the newspaper or watching the TV news: Though millions of teens work hard in school, obey their parents, and contribute to society, the media chooses to focus most of its attention on kids who aren’t doing the right things.

We can choose to ignore those negative stories and put our attention on the positive ones, instead. And the same can be said for “publishing industry bellyaching.” Next time you hear someone complaining or criticizing or carping about some facet of the publishing industry, you can decide to get caught up in the bleating, or you can center your mind on all the wonderful, uplifting, supportive, industry-related things taking place all around us.

Each of us face hundreds of choices every single day of our lives, from whether we’ll put in that thirty minutes of exercise (like we promised on New Year’s Eve) to what to have for lunch to how we’ll react when someone cuts us off in traffic. The immediate and long-lasting results of those decisions have the power to change our moods, set the tone for the day, affect how we interact with others, and determine how we’ll approach our work.

Human instinct guides us away from those dark and dreary souls whose negativity threatens to drag us into their doldrums. We avoid in-laws and neighbors who greet us with a whine fest or browbeat us with so-called constructive criticism.

So why would we choose to dwell on depressing dialogue, whether live and in person, printed in an industry magazine, or typed into the body of an e-mail? Negativity is magnetic; each off-putting thought invites another, and pretty soon our heads are swirling with pessimism that paints frowns on our faces, turns our voices growly and our words sour. We take that attitude to the keyboard, and it shows up in our characters, in our descriptions of scenery, in the interactions between characters.

Our agents pick up on it as they scan our manuscripts in preparation for submission. Editors feel it as they decide whether or not to contract the work. Readers pick up on it—if indeed the book makes it that far—and though they may not express their views in a letter to you, you can bet your sweet external hard drive that they’ll spell it out, loud and clear, to their reader friends.

Call me Pollyanna, but I’d much rather view the Writing World through rose-colored glasses than see it as the setting for “a dark and stormy night.”

Keep a good thought, kiddos, and keep those fingers on your keyboards. Happy writing!

Love Finds You In Paradise