Watching other authors succeed in ways you can never dream of isn’t easy. Life isn’t fair and that goes double or triple for the writing life. There’ll be plenty of times in your career when you wish you could hire Olivia Pope and her Scandal team to just shut—them—down.
But speaking out about your feelings isn’t a good idea. Not so long ago, Lynn Shepherd got lambasted all over the Internet for having urged J.K. Rowling to stop writing. In Shepherd’s view, Rowling is a literary Mount Etna whose magma is burying way too many other authors. Cap the volcano, whatever it takes!
Whether she was kidding or being serious, I think she chose the wrong way to express herself. As an author of crime fiction she had obvious, wonderful tools she should have used, and it’s a path any author who wants to even the score can easily take.
Write about it, but disguise the people involved. Channel the emotion and use it to fuel fiction of some kind where you can balance the scales in any way you want. Take control of the situation by turning the “offending” author into a character over whom you have complete control. Their fate is now completely in your hands. Make it brutal, gory, grotesquely funny–whatever works, whatever gives you catharsis.
Turn the author’s latest book into a joke or a disaster. Mock the title, the theme, the reviews, whatever gives you pleasure. I’ve done that at least once and it didn’t matter that I’m sure the quite famous author never noticed. I had a ball because I thought he was so over-praised by the reviewers and I couldn’t stand his work.
When you channel your frustration this way, you’ll not only end up rising above the feelings weighing you down, you’ll also be extra productive. Better still, if you do a good job of disguise, nobody but you, your agent, your editor or whoever else you let in on the secret will know.
Masking the situation as fiction, you have the chance of not seeming mean-spirited and be far less likely to incite other people’s fans to shout Bansai! and launch their planes at your fleet.
A veteran of university teaching, Lev Raphael now offers creative writing workshops online at writewithoutborders.com. He’s the author of the forthcoming mystery State University of Murder and 25 other books in a wide range of genres.