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November 1, 2011


November, the month of turkeys, giblet gravy, CORNBREAD stuffing, cranberry sauce, family and football. Yes, that's right you can't have Thanksgiving dinner without a good football game playing later that afternoon when all you want to do is lie around and snooze off that tryptophan. Then there is always that one family member that you suddenly remember why you only see them once a year. So how many of you have had holiday disasters?

The first time I cooked a turkey, I left the paper bag of giblets and the neck inside the turkey. I also didn't put the turkey on to cook until about ten o'clock that morning, so we didn't eat until three that afternoon. Not my best planned meal. But I'll never forget the look on my grandmother's face when she pulled out that sack of giblets. She started to giggle and soon we were all laughing.

So what do turkeys and writing have in common? Have you ever read a book that you wondered what was the author thinking? Was the writing bad or the storyline predictable? I had a friend call me up and tell me the publisher made a typo on page 15 and I should make them reprint the entire print run. That caused an extreme giggle. Like I had any control over making the publisher reprint the entire print run.

No author ever wants to admit she's had a bad "turkey" experience with a book, but somehow I think every author has a book that either she wished had never gotten published or she just didn't love. Sure we think they're our babies, but some babies are cranky, whiney and cry a lot. Some books just don't turn out quite like we want them to. Even the ones that get published.

So what happens when our stories don't come out quite like we wanted them to? As an author have you ever had a book that you wished you could take back and do over? When you're on deadline, you often don't have time to flesh out the characters more, to give the plot an extra twist or to go back through and read the story one more time. And in today's publishing world, you can't depend on your editor to point out the glaring things that need fixed.

The book comes out and the reviews are suddenly less than stellar. So what then? We all dream that when that book hits the shelves everyone will love us. They'll see past the flaws and love our babies, but oftentimes that's not the case.
Do you ever wonder if the big writing names have these same issues? Do you think Susan Elizabeth Phillips worries that the book will be a turkey or that Nora will have a book disaster?

My second book sold/printed -- which was really my first -- was a "turkey." God love the editor who bought it, but it should have remained under the bed. Even today, I will never indie publish this book. It's a turkey, a dud, a writing disaster. But how many of us are willing to admit to having at least one turkey book somewhere in the closet.

So now it's confession time. Do you have a turkey lurking somewhere on your computer? Have you read a turkey book that made you cringe?


Pamela Stone said...

Hi Sylvia. I've only sold two books and it took awhile before that happened. However, I've written many more books than two.

My problem before, and maybe even now, is not knowing when to STOP writing. I have one old book that is 760 pages. Eeek! The sad thing is that I love the characters. It's just that as written, the book is page after page after page of nicey nice. Maybe someday I'll pull them out, dump the first 2/3 of the book, and torture them a little. See what happens. Ha!

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

I don't know if I've ever written a turkey. I have read some, though.

Phyllis said...

Hi Sylvia,
Nice post.

I've haven't got to the published turkey stage yet. I sure have read a few. Interesting enough, when I read those, I think "I can write better than that!" those books motivate me to do exactly that.


Kathy Ivan said...

As I only have one book published at this point, I definitely don't consider it a turkey! But I have definitely written a few things that will never, ever see the light of day again they were so boringly awful!

I have read a few books I would consider turkeys, too. But reading is so subjective, what I would consider to be a really dismal read others may think is absolutely fabulous.

That's one of the great things about writing and reading. It's up to you and you alone to decide whether it's good, bad, or indifferent. :-)

Great post, Sylvia, that gets you thinking. Thanks.

chris keniston said...

I'm sorry - I can't get past the first turkey for thanksgiving - LOL

First time I cooked a turkey it was twenty pounds and so round I couldn't figure out which was the top because the legs stuck straight out to the back -

Nowadays I wouldn't have that problem - partly because they tie the feet together over the breast - lol- but still -

When called my mom - who wasn't a cook either - she said stand it up and see how it would walk- i swear!! LOL - anyhow the turkey turned out great - for all I know I cooked the dumb thing upside down!! lol- and I've used that scene / line in my most recent WIP -

which thought not necessarily a turkey has certainly been my most difficult book - : )

Jane Wakely said...

Hi Sylvia!

I haven't published one, but I have started many a turkey. When I read one (I have read a few), it has prompted me to take another look and work on edits.

I've done craft fairs too, and have learned that just because I don't like something, doesn't mean someone else won't. I always sold what I considered to be a "dud!" LOL

Great post!


chris keniston said...

lol- Jane - just thinking about your 'dud' comment

that eye of the beholder thing is so true for so much-

I helped a friend do a garage sale a while back and I kept pulling things out of the trash - they'd say - no one will want that - and sure enough - we sold every single thing I pulled out of the trash- LOL

books are like that too - there are so many NYT best selling authors who I simply don't like- shrug- and yet - clearly someone is buying them - LOL.

Sylvia said...

Hi Pam,
Sorry, I was late getting to the party. I was in physical therapy today. Oh boy.

I always seem to have the opposite problem. I come up short on pages. But 760 pages, wow!


Sylvia said...

Hi Vicki,
You'll know you've written a turkey, when the reviews come back really bad or the book just doesn't come together. And the list of turkey reads is long.

Sylvia said...

Hi Phyllis,
I think the reason I started writing was I read a turkey book. I thought I could do a better job and the adventure began.

Sylvia said...

Hi Kathy,
I read your book and it's definately not a turkey. But I had one book that never should have seen the light of day.

You are so right about reading being subjective. One of my critique partners liked dark romances and I am a light-hearted kind of girl, so we never enjoyed the same authors. We just had different tastes.

Sylvia said...

Hi Chris,
Glad to hear your first turkey turned out well. Mine--all I remember is pulling out the little package with all the parts that had been cooked inside.

Also glad to hear your recent book is not a turkey. I'm sure you've read a few though.

Sylvia said...

Hi Jane,
Welcome to the party. You made me wonder how many other writers do crafts? I use to go to craft shows, but found them unprofitable for me. Love to knit, use to do ceramics and flower arranging.

Keep working for that first publication.

Sylvia said...

Amen books are like that. We all are unique individuals with different tastes in reading, crafts and men! Ha! Yes, men. I like the warm cuddly type, not the alpha dominating male.

Linda Steinberg said...

My first book, or rather, my first attempt at writing a book, was 600 pages--single spaced!

It was too thick to even fit under the bed.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Linda's comment has me holding my sides and laughing.

Sylvia said...

That was good for a giggle. Six hundred single pages? Could you make two books out of it?

Liz Lipperman said...

Sorry, I'm late. Having only published one book so far, I can't say I have a turkey. However, I do have one book that will probably never see the light of day--not because it's a turkey but because it's a YA that when written was too gritty and now-not gritty enough.

I have a feeling, with the jump in self publishing on Amazon, we might find a few turkeys there. Sometimes, it's hard to kill those suckers!!I say that with a grin as I'm fixing to put one up myself!!

Hop your recovery is coming along nicely, Sylvia.

Sylvia said...

Hi Liz,
Can already see much improvement in the ankle, though the darn thing does seem to tighten up at night. Started therapy again today, so I'm back to exercising twice a day.

Yes, I think we will see plenty of turkeys out on Amazon and I refuse to put my turkey out there. That sucker has been buried. I would think anything YA right now would be hot. Well, I'm off to sit down and watch some TV. Just came in from work and I'm beat. No, I didn't get 5 pages done tonight. The brain is fried.

Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Sylvia,
Great post! Yes, I've written a turkey. It's lurking in the closet never to see the light of day. I call it a learning experience. :) And the original Magical Lover manuscript was a turkey. My editor politely choked on it and nicely returned it. I reread it (it had been idle for some time) and choked too. I asked if I could redo it and did. Several times. :) I no longer think it's a turkey.

I've read plenty of turkeys too. Makes me wonder if sometimes the turkey quality is in the eye of the beholder.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Sylvia, I have read all of your books and certainly do NOT remember thinking one was a turkey. I have read real turkeys by other authors, though. Have you read a book and thought, oooh, too close to deadline and she/he had to pound this one out in a hurry? I used to finish every book, but now I feel no obligation to read all of a book if the author cut corners. There are simply too many good books to plot through a turkey!

Elizabeth Essex said...

Syliva, what a thought provoking post. And yes I have to confess, I worry that ALL my books are turkeys! I especially feel that way about my second book, which was the first manuscript I ever wrote under the gun for a deadline. I wish I could go back and make some changes, but that's life.
All I could do was listen to the criticism and apply it constructively to the next book and try, try, try to make it better!

Janice Seagraves said...

The first turkey that I ever cooked was still raw in the middle because I didn't know how long to cook it. But that was years and many turkeys ago. I know better now and put it behind me.

And I think the best think to do once you realize your "baby" is a turkey is put it behind you once the contract is finished.

And yes, I believe the big names do write an occasional turkey. I'm sure they want to put those bad boys behind them as quickly as possible and write the next one.

Kelly L Lee said...

You are not alone on leaving the bag of giblets in the turkey. :O It's shameful to admit that I've done it more than once. I swear they hide it on purpose!