FictionPress and Jealousy

25 Feb

FictionPress and Jealousy

by Savannah J. Foley

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Hey all! Real quick — we decided to start posting our pictures by our articles, and will be adding them to our prior posts throughout the week. We’re also doing a little bit of site renovation, so bear with us while we’re under construction! The site will be fully functioning–but we just wanted to give everyone a heads-up in case some things look a little wonky.

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When the Let The Words Flow team first got together and started to get to know one another, one thing we were all startled by were our feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, sometimes even caused by each other!

Once upon a time we were all new writers, and especially new to FictionPress. We all posted our first stories, not really knowing how the process worked, both terrified and excited for our first reviews.

Some of us eventually grew a following. Some of us did not. All of us felt the sting of jealousy at one point or another.

Take me, for example. I published most of my Woman’s World series (since retitled to Antebellum) on Fictionpress. I have over 1,000 reviews on the first book, 900 on the second, and 300 on the third. Every time I posted anything I was sure to have my inbox flooded with comments. I had a small fan club. My stories were often chosen to be in Fictionpress contests. One of my friends mentioned Woman’s World to a friend of hers at school and it turns out the other girl had heard of it!

To a FictionPress writer who gets maybe 2 or fewer reviews with each update, I seemed wildly successful. But it wasn’t enough for me. You see, I had big competition, like my now-friend and fellow LTWF contributor, Sarah J. Maas. Her book, Queen of Glass, had over 6,000 reviews! She had an even bigger fanclub, and every time she and I went up against each other in those contests, she trounced me.

I didn’t hate her, because I was secure in my own sense of superiority, lol. ‘She doesn’t deserve all those reviews, or all those fans,’ I thought. ‘My story is better than some stupid Cinderella-remake’ (I have since been enlightened as to how awesome retellings can be). My reviewers would tell me about Queen of Glass. I even read a few chapters. Which made it so weird when Sarah emailed me out of the blue, just to say hi, and we began emailing back and forth, and eventually she asked me to be a founding member of LTWF.

This was a girl I had been jealous of because she was far more successful than me on FictionPress! I had never dreamed we could be anything close to friends, or that we were even so oddly similar (both relatively the same age, same hair color, same first two initials, and got our agents in consecutive months).

Which brings me back to this article’s beginning: There we all were, recently introduced to each other, and suddenly it was all coming out. I swear our conversation looked something like this:

“I used to be jealous of you!”

“Well I used to be jealous of you!”

“I used to be jealous of all of you!”

We marveled at how silly we had been, and how things can change so radically. We realized we had learned an important lesson that needed to be shared with FictionPress writers:

Someone will always have more reviews than you, more subscribers, more fans, etc. When you get published, someone will always get a better review, sell more copies, or get more highly rated.

Always.

But you know what? You’re not competing with them. You’re really not. You’re competing with yourself. Consider runners in Track. Sometimes it’s not about being the fastest runner, it’s about running the fastest race you’ve ever run before. It’s about your personal best. If someone is faster than you, but you beat your personal best and they didn’t, then who REALLY won in that case?

If you focus on the success of others, all you’re doing is taking away from your own success. Hating someone and being jealous of them won’t do anything to make your own writing better, or increase your number of fans.

And yes, I admit it’s not always as easy as that. I’m guilty of being a very jealous person, and not even just of my friends at LTWF. I’m jealous of J. K. Rowling (If I could only be as successful as her!). I’m jealous of Stephen King (If only I could write as many books as him!). I’m jealous of Chuck Palahniuk (If only I were as original as he is!). I’m jealous of Toni Morrisson (oh, if only I could write like her!).

I’m also jealous of writers I don’t like, like Stephenie Meyer and Christopher Paolini. I’m jealous of their success, particularly when I think it’s so undeserved.

But none of that jealousy is going to help me do any better. EXCEPT if I use my jealousy for a  positive purpose. I think Toni Morrisson is the most gifted writer I’ve ever heard of. My jealousy of her writing style inspires me to improve my own. I’m so jealous of Chuck Palahniuk for his mind-blowing story lines, and that inspires me to work hard on my own stories to create my own brand of originality and mind-blowingness.

I’m jealous of J. K. Rowling. Well, okay then, I better write something that can appeal to everyone if I want that much success. I’m jealous of Stephen King, so I better focus, focus, focus and write constantly if I want to have as many books out as him.

(Please keep in mind that you shouldn’t copy others, but instead strengthen your own style)

You can use your jealousy for a constructive purpose, or you can use it to hurt yourself. Please, don’t hurt yourself. 😉

Remember, if you want to have any measure of success, you must take the attributes that you admire in others and use them to inspire you to improve your own writing. Don’t let jealousy consume you, instead let it fuel your desire to be the best writer you can be. If your jealousy is targeted at someone really good, let them be an inspiration, not a source of hatred and self-doubt.

I think that we at LTWF still struggle with jealousy and self-doubt, especially when we’re at all stages of the publishing process, from just finished first novel to already published. But, when one of us has good news, we’re there to cheer, and when one of us has bad news, we’re there to sympathize and encourage.

I believe that we will all make it. And I believe that you will, too, if you don’t give up, and if you focus on your own writing, and not how much better someone else’s is.

Best of luck,

Savannah J. Foley

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

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37 Responses to “FictionPress and Jealousy”

  1. Sarah J. Maas February 25, 2010 at 1:26 AM #

    First of all, I AODRE that picture. You look regal.

    Secondly, I’m so glad you posted about this, as I think it’s a topic that goes unspoken not just on FictionPress, but also in publishing in general.

    You’re 110% right about how we should use that jealousy to fuel our fire to succeed in a positive way, and not let it become an obstacle.

    There are some mighty inspirational words in here, lady!!!

    Fantastic job–as always!!

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 8:04 AM #

      Thanks you Sarah! *blushes*

    • Rowenna February 25, 2010 at 9:42 AM #

      Agreed about the picture! You look like a Waterhouse painting!

  2. Rachel S February 25, 2010 at 1:38 AM #

    Um is it bad that its like 1:40 AM and I am kind of crying about this article? In a good, awesome way. Because its so true. Jealousy is something all writers — all people — have, and it can either destroy us or we can use it (like you said) to better ourselves.

    Also, Can we go back in time and send this to me, 13-year-old self’? She would need this article (and also baffle at it).

    Like Sarah, I also love that photo. You look gorgeous! 🙂

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 8:04 AM #

      I wish I could send it to my 15-year-old self! I probably would not have listened though, lol.

      • Rachel S February 25, 2010 at 9:34 AM #

        My 13-year-old self would be like, “Haha. You’re FRIENDS with sjmaas and svonnah? That’s a joke right?” And then gone off cursing…

        But I think, often, we are supposed to have pieces of our past to be better in the future. Like, if I had read QoG and WW (or well, more of them), maybe I wouldn’t have joined LTWF. But because I was free of anything (except 13-year-old jealousy lol), I was able to put that behind me to realize that jealousy for FP stories is stupid. ‘Cause everyone writes in their own way. No one is exactly the same when it comes to writing; everyone has their own style and likes/dislikes.

        So in other words, Savannah, its probably better my 13-year-old self never read QoG and WW and/or never saw this article (although time travel would be wicked sick, just sayin’).

  3. Samantha February 25, 2010 at 1:42 AM #

    Thank you so much for this post 🙂 It made me feel.. worth something I suppose. I suppose not only jealousy but you also tend to feel bits of worthlessness when you glance at people’s FP page and there are like a GAZILLION reviews.

    On Stephenie Meyer’s defence, I would like to say that while Twilight was over publicized and has soon lost its spark, Stephenie is an awesome writer. She writes well and yeah.

    Twilight? Not so much anymore. (though I agree with you on C. Paolini)

    You were totally right about how (well this is how I interpreted it) we shouldn’t waste this kind of passion on jealousy – channel it into our writing!

    Cheers! Keep rocking

    🙂

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 8:05 AM #

      Ooh, I think you hit on something I didn’t mention: worthlessness. That was definitely a feeling I was trying to talk about, but I focused too much on the ‘jealousy’ bit. You are absolutely write; I felt jealous and worthless when I saw other people with a gazillion hits.

  4. Vanessa February 25, 2010 at 2:00 AM #

    Gorgeous much, Sav? That picture is amazing!

    I loved this article. Do you know what I started telling people when I first joined the LTWF crew? I was telling everyone that after YEARS of admiring someone like Sarah (and, of course, being super jealous of her), I found out that she was the sweetest person ever. And that the rest of you were equally as awesome.

    I’m certainly jealous that everyone else at least has a full manuscript written, while I’m still trudging away – but I use that as motivation to keep writing, so that ONE DAY you guys can read it and think, “Yeah. She can write!”

    Fictionpress can breed a lot of jealousy. I’ve had instructors (who are authors as well) talk about being jealous, having awards “stolen” from them by other authors – all in good fun. But certainly, jealousy can come in many forms, especially concerning the arts. I completely agree with competing with yourself to make your work better! I love (and at the same time hate) looking back at all my old work and seeing how much I’ve improved.

  5. Angela February 25, 2010 at 4:54 AM #

    This is one of the most honest articles written on LTWF so far. I can seriously relate about jealousy.

    I’ll be honest and say that I have serious jealousy issues. I’m jealous about other students at school who get better grades or are more popular, and the same applies to fictionpress. I used to get depressed about how my story wouldn’t get any reviews while other stories had 200+ reviews even though they weren’t that good, in my opinion.

    I remember when I first read Sarah’s Queen of Glass. I was insanely jealous, not because she had so many reviews, but because she managed to take a children’s fairytale and rewrite into this epic YA novel.

    Now, I try not to be so jealous anymore. I’ve pretty much used a lot of that jealously in the past as a way to motivate myself and improve when it comes to school or even writing.

    Thanks for sharing though. Your article has certainly reminded me that I should spend less time grouching and being jealous and more time actually trying to improve myself.

    By the way, that picture looks so awesome and professional, like something that would be above “about the author” on the inside cover of the back of a hardcover novel.

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 8:07 AM #

      Yeah, poor Sarah, everyone totally hated her! (We love you Sarah). Thank you for the compliments, Angela.

      • Sarah J. Maas February 25, 2010 at 11:16 AM #

        Haha, my eyes are like this O.O reading all of these comments about how you guys were jealous of ME. I’m insanely flattered and disturbed at the same time.

  6. Victoria Dixon February 25, 2010 at 8:00 AM #

    Thanks for the reminder, Savannah! This was a good kick in the pants. 🙂

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 8:07 AM #

      Anytime, lol!

  7. Catherine February 25, 2010 at 9:14 AM #

    Wow, wonderful article! And very true. I was somewhat popular on Fanfiction many moons ago (aka, I’d get a flooded inbox every time I updated my legomance story that was pretty horrible!), but it wasn’t until I started writing on fictionpress that I really got jealous of other writers. Kind of a “I’m freaking AWESOME why don’t people SEE that?” kind of way (I may be a little too confident in myself there…).

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this. Also gave me some food for thought, trying to outdo myself instead of outdo anyone else. It’ll be a lot more honest in the long run, I think. If you catch my drift… Anyway, thanks for the great article!

    -Aurette/Catherine

    P.S. You’re beautiful!

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 10:57 AM #

      Glad to be inspiring! Thanks for the compliments!

  8. Rowenna February 25, 2010 at 9:45 AM #

    You hit it–it’s so important to have writer-friends who get what you’re going through writing, submitting, rejected…suceeding. Because non-writer friends are supportive, but they don’t get it. But it’s hard to build and maintain those friendships because of the jealousy and feeling of competition and “deservedness” (mine is better than his, why is his getting the accolades? kind of junk). You’re so right that it’s vital to overcome that and build those relationships.

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 10:58 AM #

      I’ve found it’s incredibly important to have writer friends not only on the jealousy and inspiration issue, but also for the wealth of knowledge and advice. If I had known all the LTWF ladies way back when, I would have had a better manuscript and not made so many n00b mistakes when querying either.

  9. Corona February 25, 2010 at 10:00 AM #

    I’m a bit of a noob with words (sure I’ve written some fanfics an even started a story at fictiopress) but my writing speed is 2 words a minute (wonder how long it would take to write a book 😉 I’m not really jealous of authors as much as I am jealous of other illustrators. But your post makes as much sense to that area! Indeed, there will always be someone better than you, but you shouldn’t let that fuel your own insecurity, but use that fuel to get better. And do it your own way. I am also guilty of putting people who I admire on pedestals, like they (you all 😉 aren’t in essence normal people.

    Guys I feel like I’m visiting Olympia and I’m just a mortal!

    • svonnah February 25, 2010 at 10:59 AM #

      That is so true — jealousy extends to other crafts, definitely. I couldn’t stand to be an illustrator; I’m decent with art but not THAT good, and would just feel inadequate and hopeless all the time.

  10. gabydasilva February 25, 2010 at 1:02 PM #

    Oh jealousy. Envy – my favorite of the capital sins, along with Ire, and I’m not even religious.

    It stems from the inside, doesn’t it? I’ve tried to control it and been successful to a certain degree. As Savannah wrote, whenever I feel jealous of someone (internet or “real-life”), I either use those feelings to propel mysellf to better my writing OR concentrate on my advantages.

    Also, think of the reader I aspire to. I’m not really interested in, say, the kind of girl who only reads Twilight. She and I don’t have much in common. So I don’t feel threatened by Mayer, nor jealous of her. I feel “jealous” of Tolkien, however, as one feels jealous of a teacher one never got to meet…

    ALSO I feel jealous of you American girls. You get to have agents and pretty stuff 😛 Man I’m SO moving there.
    (I’ve just been reading a lot and am amazed at the publishing infrastructure. Seriously, like whoa.)

    • Angela February 25, 2010 at 6:05 PM #

      I know what you mean. I’m just as jealous of those American girls as you are. Haha.

      • Caitlin February 26, 2010 at 12:48 PM #

        What is publishing like in other countries? Man I would love to read an article about that.

    • svonnah February 27, 2010 at 6:05 PM #

      I think the concept of a targeted reader is really, really interesting. Sarah J. Maas and I were chatting about it the other day; my target reader is always aspiring writers, while hers are actual readers. I want to show writers what they can do with words and feelings, while Sarah wants to entertain and provide a great story.

      You make an interesting point about Stephenie Meyer; the reason her success bothers me so much is that people admire her work, and it’s the admiration I am jealous of.

      I always assumed that other countries had their own publishing industry; I never knew I had anything to be grateful for. 🙂

  11. Steve T February 25, 2010 at 4:24 PM #

    This is a great, honest post. There’s a wonderful book called Glittering Vices that was a real eye-opener to me along these lines.

    • svonnah February 27, 2010 at 6:05 PM #

      Thanks, Steve! I’ll be sure to look up Glittering Vices.

  12. Myra February 25, 2010 at 7:00 PM #

    Ah, jealousy… a universal human emotion. Whether it’s in writing or school or life in general, everyone gets jealous sometimes. But like you said, it can be used positively, and that’s what I try to do.

    There are good days and bad days, of course–the latter in which I lament that I am worthless and could never ever compare to amazing people like Neil Gaiman or just about any writer I really admire. And I am right: I never could compare to them.

    Everyone has a different writing style, everyone is unique, and it’s useless to make comparisons. We should all concentrate on making ourselves better writers and people, and use people we admire as our inspiration to do so. You’re absolutely right that turning jealousy into a positive thing is something we should all do… especially the super competitive people.

    I mean, I used to think comparing my writing with others was a good idea, but in the end, I just sort of crashed and burned and stopped writing for a while. It was partially the stress of NaNoWriMo and its competition, and partially the stress of pushing myself so much every day for a long time when I was not used to writing so much. It was also being jealous of those who were always getting higher than me, in word count, or in progress. That got me down for a while, making me doubt myself and then apathetic to it all. Thankfully I got over my long bout of doubt/apathy towards my writing. ;p

    • svonnah February 27, 2010 at 6:06 PM #

      That’s a wonderful philosophy to have, and I wish I had expanded on it more in my article; you can never be ‘like’ someone, you can only be yourself. And maybe your writing style will fit into a hole the publishing industry didn’t know it had. 🙂

  13. Biljana February 26, 2010 at 1:09 AM #

    Well, I’m personally jealous of that picture ;). I don’t know if focusing on my ‘beauty’ will help :P.

    Great post. This is always important for people to hear. Jealousy is something that everybody goes through at some point. I’m pretty sure there’s no way around it. You just have to let it pass and get on with your life.

  14. Caitlin February 26, 2010 at 1:09 PM #

    Okay, firstly you all sound a little but like my pre-med friends here so jealousy and feelings of worthlessness in comparison are universal.

    Secondly, I definitely wasn’t in the jealous of Sarah pile (mainly because I’m not an aspiring author writing on FP I think) but you can definitely count me in the “Woah, she’s so amazing it’s like she’s not even human!” pile, it’s what I love about following her blog and following all of you here, it makes you all seem a little more human (which is something I like about Stephenie Meyer too, she’s so personable.)

    Thirdly I’m going to start by saying not only am I not an aspiring author but my future aspirations don’t really have anything to do with the publishing field, unless I’m lucky enough to be like James Herriot and then I think I’d just die of happiness, so take all of this next with that grain of salt. I stopped thinking my writing was all that when I picked up an essay written by my 2.5 years-younger sister and realized that no matter how hard I tried I could never write something as beautiful, ever. That was 6-8 years ago now, I think, anyway it ended up being one of the best things that could’ve happened to me because it forced me to stop thinking of my writing as just awesome and really define what it was that was good about it. I realized that people like the essays I write (which is my strength, essay writing, good for school not so hot for FP) not because I’m like the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, but because my personality comes through so strongly in my essays and they like me. (This led to a minor freak-out when I applied to colleges, but I guess I have a universally appealing personality? I don’t know maybe they just liked my grades.) Anyway the point being that when you read something by Sarah or Monica or whoever and are just blown away by how good it is and are jealous, it shouldn’t just motivate you as Savannah talked about, but it should also make you take the time to sit down and really define what makes your writing yours and what your strengths are because different readers like different writing styles.

    Lastly, speaking from a reader’s standpoint there are a million reasons we might not review. We have a huge test today we already put off studying for, we don’t want to just gush but we have nothing constructive to say, your story grabbed our attention only so much, whatever, none of them are really good excuses, but yeah readers are weird like that. honestly I’m moved to review if either I feel the person really needs a review (I once wrote a 900+ word scathing critique of historical accuracy, yeah I suck), they did something so right I feel compelled to tell them, or I have a reader-writer relationship with them (something you guys do particularly well.) I also tend to read the other reviews before I review and make my decision accordingly.

    So yeah, that was ridiculously long, sorry, but I’m very glad you wrote this Savannah and I also really like all the discussion that’s gone on in the comments, it really adds to the article as a whole.

    Caitlin

    • svonnah February 27, 2010 at 6:10 PM #

      Hi Caitlin! I’ve never thought Stephenie Meyer was personable… if anything I thought she seemed removed and protected. Those who work for Twilight and its associates have certain things they’re not allowed to talk about in concerns to her, like her weight, and her religion. I guess I always assumed she put on a good front.

      That’s excellent advice that writers should identify what works in their writing, and what doesn’t.

      I’m also a terrible lurker… I rarely review anything unless it totally grabs me and I feel like the author should know. Or if they piss me off!

  15. Praya February 27, 2010 at 1:21 AM #

    First of all I want to say THANK YOU to all the LTWF team for having such a fantastic blog. I’ve been reading you for a while, and the dedication you guys have, plus all the fantastic tips you share make me feel like I’m not the only one facing these difficulties and even better I have a better idea of where to head from here. Reading your posts are definitely a highlight of my day, and remind me why I love to write.

    Second- Savannah this is a brilliant article. I can relate, ooooh I can relate. 🙂 It’s so easy to look at a story with a massive review count and either hate on it in a self-defence kind of way, or drive yourself crazy feeling insecure and probing yourself with useless questions like ‘What do they have that I don’t? Why do people like them so much? Why do I feel the need to be validated by reviews?’ So thanks for brave enough for just being honest and putting all that out there. What I liked best was how to be constructive with your jealousy- and I guess that’s the whole point of life, isn’t it? (haha) as in using your set backs, and your insecurities to identify your weak points and work to over come them, to become a better person- or writer.

    Fantastic. Love LOVE LOVED IT! 😀

    • svonnah February 27, 2010 at 6:11 PM #

      Aww, thanks Praya! That was our goal exactly!

      I know exactly how you feel, ‘driving yourself crazy feeling insecure’. Thanks for the compliments!

  16. Sandy Shin February 27, 2010 at 6:21 PM #

    Don’t let jealousy consume you, instead let it fuel your desire to be the best writer you can be. If your jealousy is targeted at someone really good, let them be an inspiration, not a source of hatred and self-doubt.

    I love this post, but especially that quote. Unless you are a saint, jealousy is something unavoidable in writing: Even when you are successful, there will always someone you perceive to be more successful than you are. It’s difficult, but the most productive thing is to use jealousy to move onward, rather than let it consume you.

    Thank you for the post!

  17. Eileen March 24, 2010 at 11:25 AM #

    that was wonderful, we’re all a victim of our own making, this piece was reallly true and honest, i appauld you for that. On woman’s world, i reallly wanted to read that but its taken off fp now, unfortunately, but with any luck. maybe it’ll be on bookshelves soon~!

  18. NyNy February 5, 2013 at 6:11 AM #

    I can’t believe you were jealous of another when you had so many reviews that anyone can dream about!! :O Your work must be really good if most of your stories get higher than 300+ reviews.

    What I’ve noticed is most people like to upload their fiction on their blogs but there are plenty of places for them to upload them. One place in particular I’d recommend is ReadWave. You can build up an audience around your story by starting small writing short stories now and allowing your readers to download and share. Please check out the site here: readwave.com

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  1. Savannah J. Foley » Reactions to Jealousy Article - April 2, 2014

    […] I posted an article about Jealousy and Fictionpress over at Let The Words Flow, and it’s gotten some interesting […]

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