I want to introduce a new writerly acronym: WAFWing. But first, let me backtrack a bit.
I have a mental list of Things Writers Do That I Admire, aka, When Writers are Brave. You probably do, too.
I always admire people who manage to have writing careers in addition to a day job. People like Stephen King and Danielle Steele who wrote in laundry rooms while the family slept. Or most everybody I know these days. Me, when I first started. Probably you.
I also admire people who saved up enough or made an arrangement with their partners/providers to take a year or two off the day job to launch a successful writing career.
Now I’m adding a third category of writers I admire—WRITERS WHO WALK AWAY.
- Maybe they burned out on the writing, the prolific-ness required for success these days in commercial fiction,
- Or maybe they had with the narcissist behaviour of the publishing industry,
- Or maybe they just couldn’t take the marketing. It’s hard to scream, “Give me money! Buy my books!” all the time.
Once self-publishing came along, we felt that we had more options: traditional publishing, e-publishing, self-publishing.
But lately I see more and more writers taking the final option: the option of walking away.
One friend shared with me that she enjoys writing, but not editing or marketing. She’s a born storyteller; she cannot stop writing. So she writes the best first draft she can, then saves them to her computer. Maybe she even shares her work with friends and family. But she doesn’t do anything else with them at this point. She thinks she might someday. But right now, no harsh edits, no rejections, no scathing reviews, no bad sales numbers.
Nice to have options. This one is starting to appeal.
Back in my fandom days, we called it “gafiating.” According to Wikipedia, it stood for Getting Away From It All. Originally it meant turning away from real life and burying oneself in fanfic and other fannish activities, but by the time I became active in fandom (~1997), it had reversed to mean a fan who walked away from all things fannish.
So now I’m waving goodbye to some long-time writer friends as they gafiate back to real life. Or more specific to writers: Walking Away From Writing or WAFWing.
Here’s the problem. When I first saw Jersey listed in the fall TV guide, I recognized immediately that it was inspired by one of my fave book series, the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. So I looked forward to it eagerly.
First off, Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter, while Jersey’s main character is a lawyer. This was probably a “marketing” decision on the part of the suits (those people who decided airing Firefly’s third episode first was a good idea) to make the series “more accessible” or else they ran afoul of some copyright issues. But if that were the case. instead of giving her another unusual, exotic profession, they went with lawyer.
So now we have “just another legal drama.”
Sometimes you can take something old and make it new again by giving it a different spin. How different was House than every other medical drama before it? And they did give her a Jersey background complete with a Jersey family.
Here’s where they went wrong. The main character was perfect. She never set a foot wrong. Never said the wrong thing, never did the wrong thing. Even when it looked like she was going to, it all worked out without any fallout. Stephanie Plum? Not so much. Stephanie is constantly screwing up. She says herself that she’s a lousy bounty hunter and the only reason things work out for her is luck. At least once per book she is covered with guck, handcuffed to something and left there, almost blown up, or loses a car. Our Jersey gal? Never a hair out of place.
The Jersey heroine’s family was warm and supportive, if a little invasive. Stephanie Plum’s friends and family are over-the-top wacky, complete with strange habits, inappropriate behaviours, and everybody carries a gun. Her friends include an ex-“ho”, a straight transvestite, her crazy grandmother, and a boss who’s rumored to have had inappropriate relations with a chicken. On Jersey, the boss is strong, handsome and supportive. Agreeing with all her suggestions, although he does hesitate a beat or two over the wilder ones.
Stephanie has two love interests–a good cop and a good security guy who does bad things as well. On Jersey, I couldn’t tell who the love interests were, but all the characters were warm and supportive and never made a pass at her regardless of how beautiful she was.
In short, Hollywood took the wonderful Stephanie Plum books and sucked everything that made them work right outta there. It’s a lesson on how not to turn a great premise into a TV show.
In contrast, let’s look at True Blood. It may not be following the plotline of the books, but it continues to capture the dark-yet-fun feel of the books.
Still, despite it’s flaws, I liked Made in Jersey and I’m sorry it got cancelled.