The Superstitious Writer

A short time after I finished reading a wonderful book called The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, I accepted an offer to make my thirteenth sale. Thirteenth novel sale, that is, of a romantic thriller I'm called The Salt Maiden. Strange coincidence or woo-woo moment? I'm not normally superstitious -- I'm about as grounded in reality as one can get -- but for some reason, I was feeling particularly nervous about sale #13.

Many athletes and actors are said to have off-beat superstitions, from lucky socks to ritual meals to you-name-the-oddity. Perhaps we're susceptible as writers, too, because so much that is important to us remains outside the bounds of our control. Maybe that's the reason I feel compelled to read a book with the number fourteen in the title the next time I'm up for contract -- or perhaps J.D. Robb's fourteenth Eve & Roark book would suffice.

Do you have any writing-related superstitions? If so, I'd love to hear about them.

Comments

Many of the great stone rings of Britain were originally 13 in number. Methinks Christians came in and took away some of the stones and said 13 is bad. The Templars' misfortune added to that, but I have found 13 to always be an empowering number.

GOOD things always happen to me on Friday the 13th. 13 is a prime number so is always a strong force. So, I am predicting it will be lucky for you and your maiden.

Odd superstitions? Being Scot, I am riddled with them. However, I have one peculiar penchant - hurricanes!! Seriously, while Katrina blew through the Big Easy I was selling A Restless Knight and In Her Bed to Hilary Sares at Kensington.

A couple weeks later, Ophelia was threatening the East Coast, and my agent started negotiations with Chris Keeslar at Dorchester. I laughed because Ophelia sort of wandered around. So did the terms and discussions. Along comes Rita. As it pounded Florida. My agent, Roberta Brown, who lives there, was putting done deal to my sell for The Invasion of Falgannon Isle and Riding the Thunder.

Last year I didn't have any contract talks--not needed--and it was a mild hurricane season.

BEWARE--I will be going into new contract talks with Kensington and Dorchester this summer.....
Billie Chai said…
I have a lot of superstitions, only a few connected to writing. Ok for peace of mind, they are all connected to writing. Who can write when their sandwich is misaligned. Yes, misaligned. The proper way is to take two slices of bread, open them in the center like a book (see writing reference) and make the sandwich. All is then right with the world.

Second consideration is the proper writing conditions. I can't write unless I have music playing. Further I can't write in an area that is too big. I prefer the linen closet at home. It also keeps out too many characters and allows concentration.

I am particularly superstitious when buying a house. Our first and second homes had a fire hydrant in the front yard and a dead tree in the back. The third and fourth did not and we chose to sell when the neighborhood proved to be less than ideal. Our current home did have a dead tree, but the fire hydrant is in the next yard. Close enough.

Time to return to the writing closet.
Sandra Schwab said…
It's not really a superstition, but I put a unicorn in each and every of my novels. It's a habit I started 11 years ago with my German fantasy manuscripts (and only one of the unicorns was actually a living one! :-) )

In order for a novel to become good, I apparently have to feel really bad about it. (And I mean really, really bad! As in, "boohoo, my poor editor will drop dead when he reads this"-dead.) Should I ever not start to whine about the general badness story after chapter 3, it will certainly be cause for worry!

Cheers,
Sandy,
heading back to her desk to feel bad about her story and worry for her editor *g*
ShanaGalen said…
I'm not superstitious so much as I am ordered. For example, when I run or walk around Memorial Park, I can't cut corners, and I always have to travel the same way. I don't know when I made these "rules," but it bothers me if someone I'm with wants to deviate from them. I might not have ever noticed them, actually, if others hadn't tried to deviate.

Since writing is such a solitary thing, I'm not sure what rules I have. Maybe I'm more superstitious about the industry--like no news is good news or if I start scanning Bookscan from the top, I'll see my name sooner (instead of starting from the bottom and expecting it to be lower).

Last week I saw this show on Dateline that secretly videotaped men watching football. There was this one guy who wouldn't let his wife get up from the couch because he thought it would jinx the team. I doubt it helped the team, but it made him feel better!
Great response. I loved the history of the 13 stones, Deborah, and Billie's sandwich fixation had me ROTFL. Sandra, I have to put a dog in each of my books. Twice, I used other animals and those books didn't sell as well. (Love the unicorn motif, though.) Thanks for sharing your Bookscan tip, Shana, and I esp. love the story about sports fans, which puts it all into perspective.
Jen said…
I'm not especially superstitious, but sometimes I get thoughts that, if I do this, something good/bad will happen. But I think that's my OCD, not superstition.

Everybody has such great responses here. Loved the info on the number 13, Deborah. Billie, the house thing makes me nervous...my boyfriend and I are in the process of buying a house.

The unicorn thing is adorable, Sandra, and I have a similar thing to the thinking your book is bad for it to be good...it seems, if I worry about something, it usually turns out to be good, whereas, if I don't worry, something bad happens. (Drives me nuts when people say, "See? You worried for nothing. Everything turned out okay." They just don't get it!

Shana, I didn't see that Dateline. I don't watch them all; I watch those kinds of shows if the description looks interesting, so I either didn't think it looked interesting, or I missed it. But that's so funny, the wife can't get up for the whole football game (guess she uses the bathroom beforehand).
Vicky said…
I had a superstitious ritual with my first MS. Everytime I sent it out to a contest, I would play Palchelbel's Canon on the way to the post office. If the song ended, I played it again. When I arrived, I had to wait for the song to end before I could get out of the car -- this was supposed to help me final. It proved lucky through 5 contests and several agent/editor requests for partials. But eventually, the book I'd rewritten for an editor got rejected. Now I'm too superstitious to have a ritual!
Joni Rodgers said…
When I send a ms, I kiss it, press it to my forehead and say, "God's hand on you." (A little ritual I modify slightly for electronic submissions, of course.)
Diana Groe said…
I don't know if you'd call it superstitious. Maybe more ritualistic. I can't seem to get a story completely off the ground until I've settled on the theme music.

I write the entire manuscript (all 400 pages over 4 months) listening to the same movie soundtrack (every single day so I'd better like it.) I choose soundtracks because they have a good mix of emotional content and usually don't have words, which would be too distracting. It's also useful to get me back into the story when the revisions come and I've moved on to something else. The theme music programs me back into the mindset of the story. For MAIDENSONG, an epic adventurous romance, I listened to Lord of the Rings. Braveheart, with its sad Gaelic melodies, was the theme for ERINSONG, my Irish love story.

Maybe I should do a contest at www.dianagroe.com sometime to see if my readers can guess what music I listened to while writing my next release SILK DREAMS . . .
Rowena Cherry said…
Does watching one's horoscope count at all?
It's not exactly a superstition, is it?

Here are two examples.
Yesterday:
"A competitor recognizes a shared philosophy and joins you."

So, I thought about that for a bit, and invited an author with whom I blog (although it's stretching the truth to call her a competitor) to join me in a podcast.

Today:
"Your reseach and study pay off..." so I'm putting aside the "Forking Book" (next after Insufficient Mating Material and Forced Mate) and putting together my remarks for a couple of Research workshops that I'll be giving at the RT convention.

In general, if my horoscope looks ugly, I will make a point of not talking to my editor or any other VIPs.

If Lady Luck is supposed to shine, maybe I'll make an extra effort.

You might say, my horoscope is a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Best wishes,