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Shadow_Ferret
04-08-2010, 06:57 PM
Related in a way to the "how long did you try before giving up? (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=175347)" thread, I was thinking long and hard about something.

Let's start with an analogy. Everyone has either watched, or knows about, American Idol. The first few episodes are the auditions, where people come to sing to see if they are good enough to be selected to go to Hollywood.

Many of these singers are just plain AWFUL! They couldn't carry a tune in a briefcase. They're so bad that with training and years of practice they might rise to mediocrity. And yet, they believe they're the greatest thing since Caruso. Some how, some way, they've been convinced by their friends and families that they can sing.

Now what about writing? What if you've been plodding along for years --decades -- accumulating nothing but rejection after rejection? Does there come a time when you have to admit the dream is unattainable, or do you keep fooling yourself, keep writing, keep submitting, despite the mounting evidence that suggests you can't write a publishable story?

Like an American Idol reject, we've deluded ourselves, and our family, our friends, have been enablers, telling us how good we are. Sure, we can write, but can we tell a story? Talent will out, so they say, but what if it doesn't? Someday we have to face the fact that we'll never be a success, never make it on the NYT Best Seller list, never even be published, and will probably always just be an "aspiring" writer.

I'm not suggesting you quit writing... for many of us it's an ingrained part of us, we could no more stop writing than we could stop dreaming... but submitting? Should we ever admit to the futility of submitting?

There's an expression that a writer first writes for himself, then for a few close friends, then for money. But what happens when the money never comes? Should we go back to just writing for ourselves?

We're like a flasher who keeps getting laughed at. Do we finally admit to ourselves that it's not just shrinkage and slink home?

So... does there ever come a point where you admit to yourself that you really aren't very good, or do you keep on keepin' on despite the rejections, despite the self-doubt?

Sorry, didn't mean to take my Pity Party public. Just needed to get that out of my system. Thanks for listening. Carry on.

CaroGirl
04-08-2010, 07:09 PM
I dunno. Maybe tomorrow?

For me, I think it's time to set a goal. If I can't sell my latest novel, I'll give up submitting. I say that now, but if I write another, I might have sufficient enthusiasm, against all semblance of sanity, to try again. Isn't the definition of insanity to try the same thing over and over again and expect a different result? Or something.

I'll see your Pity Party and raise you a Wallow in the Mud.

Shadow_Ferret
04-08-2010, 07:13 PM
:)

The problem with being a writer is you need a very short memory, which I do. Yesterday's pain from rejection, is today's new story written and a chance to annoy afresh all the editors who rejected you yesterday.

Amarie
04-08-2010, 07:20 PM
The analogy with American Idol works for writers who stay stuck in the first stage of writing with Golden Words syndrome, where just because they have written something, it must be fabulous. If you are questioning yourself, then you've moved beyond that stage, which is great, because many writers never do.

I read the threads on talent versus hard work, and never know the right way to respond, because there are so many factors involved. I've never read anything you've written, so my thoughts below are more just general thoughts on why some writers don't find success even after years of trying.

Call it what you may, but I see at least at three factors that need to come together for a writer to have a shot at publication:

1. Skill/talent at weaving words together in a compelling way-It's basic, and only the first step, but many people don't get there because they are stuck at the alter of Golden Words.
2. Skill/talent at storytelling-Even if you can put words together beautifully, you have to engage the reader in the story by mastering the art of pulling a reader in and keeping them there. So many writers don't get beyond this point, because they are convinced they should get to tell the story the way they want to tell it, without understanding what a reader wants. If you are writing for publication, this attitude won't get you far.
3. Skill/talent coming up with a plot you can present in a new and intersting way. Every plot's been done to a certain extent, but you have to come up with an interesting character or a twist to take the leap out above the rest.

I stuck too long with one manuscript, revising it over and over. It helped me learn to write, but it wasn't until I put it away and wrote something else after really studying the business of publishing, that it all came together.

kaitie
04-08-2010, 07:25 PM
Well, that's not really true. The only people who read my stuff are my friends/family, and I have one friend who didn't read my last story because he wasn't a fan. I don't think the people who do would be reading it and laughing at my stupidity, even if it wasn't very good. In fact, I think they'd be offering help. And honestly, those early things on Idol are one of my least favorite things there just because of the public mocking aspect.

So I'm not really being laughed at by everyone. The question for me is do I enjoy it? I used to live next door to a girl who loved to sing. She was always singing along with the radio, and she was terrible. The worst singer I'd ever heard. But did that stop her? No, and it shouldn't have. Honestly, I always thought it was cute because she was clearly enjoying herself.

For me it's about doing something I love. Yes, I want to get published and my dream would be to make a living at it, but what it comes down to is that I enjoy myself and that's what matters the most, and I know the odds of the dream ever working out.

Another note about the people on Idol who think they're all that, which applies to writers as well. A lot of people think they're all that and a bag of chips out of sheer narcissism, and those people will never see anything as a fault of their own. If they're rejected, it's because of the unfair industry or the agents who just can't understand the "vision." These people will never work to improve, and if they ever do quit, it won't be because they doubt their own ability so much as because they're convinced they'll never be given the opportunity or the system is too corrupt, or whatever excuse they've developed.

I think for me, though, the main question would always be "do I love doing this enough that my love of it outweighs the difficulty?" As long as that answer is yes, I'll keep it up, no matter how many rejections I receive.

Chris P
04-08-2010, 07:28 PM
To give up trying to publish means that in 50 or so years my kids will toss every word I have ever written, still unread by anyone but me, into the dumpster when they clean out my house after my funeral.

I want to write because I love the stories and the characters, and I want to publish because I want other people to love them too. Writing is therapeutic for me; getting the ideas out of my head allows me to focus on work (or school when I was younger) and to sleep better. In that respect, writing for only myself is worthwhile, but to keep my "babies" in boxes forever is like never letting my real kids learn to ride a bike, drive a car, or leave home to make their way in the world. Faced with that, I just don't think I can ever stop trying.

Cathy C
04-08-2010, 07:30 PM
I think there's some truth to the Idol analogy. But I like to think that it's all a matter of learning the skills. There's talent involved, yes. But much of our craft is skill. As individuals, if we're willing to take the bumps and bruises to look hard at ourselves, we can overcome at least 80% of the obstacles that are keeping us on the "aspiring" side of the line.

I know that's what it took for me. To be told just how bad I was and what specifically I was doing wrong. Then it was just a matter of fixing it. :)

DeleyanLee
04-08-2010, 07:33 PM
We're like a flasher who keeps getting laughed at. Do we finally admit to ourselves that it's not just shrinkage and slink home?

That's just priceless, Ed. Love that.


My story: At the turn of the century, after twenty years of personalized rejections and only one small-press "success" (good reviews, publisher went under in 6 months), I took a serious look at this writing gig that I'd dedicated my life to for (at that time) 26 years.

What was all this writing stuff about anyway? Why was it important to me? What did I really WANT out of it--not what everyone told me I should want, but honestly, deep down, what did >I< want out of all this work?

They weren't quick and easy answers. Digging what >I< wanted out of decades of other people's expectations and assumptions was difficult. So difficult that I almost gave it up a few times, because I'd become so ingrained with the weight of it all.

What I realized was that I got into the writing gig because I like telling stories. Getting them into the written format was difficult, and I realized that I'd skipped learning a lot of necessary skills, but the bottom line was that I really like telling stories.

I also realized that, from the time I was a kid, I was constantly hit with the expectation that the only thing worth doing with a storytelling desire was getting published. It was the only "validation".

I also came to realize that was bullshit. I didn't need "validation" to do something that had personal meaning for me. In fact, trying to constantly write something that would win that "validation" had pretty much sucked all the joy and energy out of the writing process. The only validation I needed for my writing has to come from ME first.

So starting in 2001, I started on a massive learning curve to cover all those areas of writing that I'd neglected (mostly out of hubris) previously. I'm learning how to edit. I'm learning about cadence and syntax and word choice. I'm learning about the synergy between all the elements of a story and questioning just what a story really is. Even more, I've been discovering, slowly, what a "Dele story" really is. In short, I've been falling in love with writing all over again, reclaiming the activity for myself alone.

This does not mean that I won't seek publication. I've sent a few stories around since then, gotten the standard round of full requests and personalized rejections. But, y'know, I don't give a shit anymore. If I'm satisfied with the story, then that's what matters. If someone wants to pay money for it at some point, that's the ala mode. Wonderful, but what I really want is the pie--and I did that myself.

Maybe I'll never sell. That's fine. That's marketing. That's totally out of my control what happens with that. My ego is not in marketing. My ego is in getting down on paper the story I wanted to tell in the first place. To meet the challenge of words to my imagination. As long as I feel I've done that, I'm good.

Publishing is a business aimed at getting a product out to the masses. Wouldn't change that for the world. However, I've also realized that the stories that really excite me to explore and write down might not appeal to those masses. Regardless of how well I do the work, I might never be published. That happens. A lot. There's so many factors that writers cannot control, or even understand and it's HARD to come to grips with the fact that you can't do what people expect of you. It's hard to realize that you can't please those who believe in you, who get your story, who enjoy your work. And, sometimes, you've just got to readjust your comfort zone so you don't drive yourself into a massive depression and become unfunctional in all aspects of your life.

It doesn't mean that I don't still dream of publication, of being the next Dan Brown or JK Rowling. But dreams are dreams because they're beyond the scope of control that goals demands. I'm much happier since I've realized the difference and put my energies into goals.

Hope that makes sense.

Calla Lily
04-08-2010, 07:36 PM
I think there's some truth to the Idol analogy. But I like to think that it's all a matter of learning the skills. There's talent involved, yes. But much of our craft is skill. As individuals, if we're willing to take the bumps and bruises to look hard at ourselves, we can overcome at least 80% of the obstacles that are keeping us on the "aspiring" side of the line.

I know that's what it took for me. To be told just how bad I was and what specifically I was doing wrong. Then it was just a matter of fixing it. :)

This.

Shadow_Ferret
04-08-2010, 07:36 PM
Hope that makes sense.

Perfect sense.

Snivscriv
04-08-2010, 07:43 PM
:)

The problem with being a writer is you need a very short memory, which I do. Yesterday's pain from rejection, is today's new story written and a chance to annoy afresh all the editors who rejected you yesterday.

I think you answered your own question. The pain of rejection comes from the desire to be published. The more you want to be published, the greater the pain of rejection is. If you let go of the desire, you can still submit your works without suffering any pain if they're rejected. The hard part is letting go of the desire.

Let's say you do that. Then you can ask yourself how much satisfaction do you get from writing itself. There are lots of writers who enjoy writing but are too sensitive or embarassed with their story to show it to anyone else. If you enjoy writing for its own sake, the answers easy. Write your brains out and shove each finished manuscript into a box in the basement.

If you can accept the realities of modern publishing without suffering too much from rejection, why not keep sending out new submissions and maybe a miracle will happen. The publishing business is incredibly random and the people in it are freaking out in slow motion as their world crashes down around them, so they make lots of mistakes. They are particularly frightened of taking on new authors when they find it harder and harder to sell the books their existing authors are writing. Be glad you aren't in their shoes.

If you love to write, and you hold out the hope that others will enjoy what you've written, then you can bypass agents and publishers. Self-publishing is surprisingly cheap these days, and while you're not likely to make much money off of it, you can put your stories out to the public yourself. It's a great solution if you're main interest is in writing, not publishing.

cate townsend
04-08-2010, 08:39 PM
Okay, Shadow, it's time for you to take a trip to your local bookstore. If you find yourself picking up a book and saying to yourself wait, I write better than this, then you need to understand that it has nothing to do with talent, and absolutely everything to do with determination.

MsJudy
04-08-2010, 08:51 PM
The problem with the Idol analogy is that Idol isn't all there is. Thousands and thousands of people are singing. Only one will win the competition.

My 72-year-old mom (born Jewish, raised Episcopalian, later a Unitarian minister) sings with a Gospel choir. Is it Idol? No. She's not even a soloist. But she's singing in front of the congregation and she loves it.

People can make a living as a singer without being the next Idol. Or they can sing professionally without making enough money at music to quit their day jobs.

It's the same with writing. Some people have bestsellers. Some people don't. But the people who get published in one way or another usually have a combination of talent, skill and DETERMINATION.

A while back, I read an interview with Ira Shulevitz (hope I spelled that right). He has illustrated/published about 40 kids' books, won all kinds of awards. The interviewer asked what his next book would be. He said he hadn't started a new project yet, but was working on his drawing because you can never draw too well.

THAT is the kind of perfectionism that matters.

So the question isn't really, Am I fooling myself and I should just quit?

The real question is: Have I reached my full potential? Is this just the best I'm ever going to be able to do?

I suppose if the answer is yes, then it probably is time to pack it in and call it quits.

But if you think you can still learn something about the craft, and the next story you write will be better than the last one was, then I guess you should keep going.

ink wench
04-08-2010, 09:46 PM
So... does there ever come a point where you admit to yourself that you really aren't very good, or do you keep on keepin' on despite the rejections, despite the self-doubtI'm gonna go against the optimistic flow in here and say yes. Yes, I did reach that point.

When I was querying my fourth novel (the 8th one I'd written), I made the decision that if I couldn't find an agent by novel #10 it was time to quit. (Ten just seemed like a good number.) I figured that whatever ingredient was missing was not one I could find/learn/get lucky about. It hurt, but continuing to do the same thing over and over again and getting the same results hurt my ego worse, especially when I looked at some people who found agents/got published/hit the bestseller list and wondered wtf.

Granted, I did find an agent with that novel, so I don't know if I would have had the resolve to follow through with it, but at the time I fully intended to.

Snivscriv
04-08-2010, 11:00 PM
Granted, I did find an agent with that novel, so I don't know if I would have had the resolve to follow through with it, but at the time I fully intended to.

Do you feel that your writing improved that much between books 9 and 10 to justify getting an agent? Or was it simply Lady Luck finally favored you?

cate townsend
04-08-2010, 11:03 PM
Thanks for sharing your story, Ink. This should inspire us. Nobody is allowed to quit in here!

DeleyanLee
04-08-2010, 11:07 PM
Nobody is allowed to quit in here!

Sorry, but I find this borderline offensive.

What I choose to do with my time and talents is my choice. No one else has the right to "allow" me to choose.

That statement also doesn't allow for the individual to define what is quitting because it's up to the individual to decide what "failing" and "succeeding" are.

My success might by your failure, but that it doesn't mean either of us should "quit" if we don't want to.

(and I offer pardons if my Asperger's is rearing its literal head again)

shadowwalker
04-08-2010, 11:22 PM
As I'm just starting out on the publishing road, I can't really address when one should or shouldn't pull the plug. But I think there's a point when one needs to say, "Okay, I need to drop back for a while. Get myself centered again and then decide whether to start fresh or just enjoy the hobby." Decisions like that need time to simmer, give one's psyche time to focus. If you feel you've given it your best shot, spent enough time on agents and publishers and rewrites and thinking it through, and then decide enough is enough - that's not quitting. That's redirecting. And everybody does that throughout their lives, in every aspect of their lives.

ink wench
04-08-2010, 11:33 PM
Do you feel that your writing improved that much between books 9 and 10 to justify getting an agent? Or was it simply Lady Luck finally favored you?Well, I got the agent with #8 (the one I was querying when I made the decision), and I really don't know. I think it was a combination of things: mainly that I stopped writing for myself and started writing for the market, and luck.

I never discount luck. ;)

emilycross
04-08-2010, 11:46 PM
I get what the OP is saying with the Idol analogy, I've often thought about it myself. I guess you just want someone to read your stuff and say you have POTENTIAL, whatever about anything else. You want someone, whether a fellow writer/teacher etc. to say that they see a potential in you, that someday if you work at it, you'll be a decent writer.

For me, I understand that writing is 90% perspiration 10% inspiration, that it might be years before i get anywhere if I get anywhere, but I do want that external validation that i'm not delusional and one of those sad people who don't see that they have no natural talent and are completely fooling themselves. I often think, when I watch programmes/read books about famous artists/actors/writers, there is always someone (like a teacher) who recognised something in them before anyone else.

And then i think, where is my teacher?? LOL.

Sad, i know!

CheyElizabeth
04-09-2010, 12:07 AM
I'll keep submitting until I drop dead.

cate townsend
04-09-2010, 12:25 AM
Sorry, but I find this borderline offensive.

I didn't mean for my statement to be offensive. What I wrote was meant to be in the spirit of encouragement for all of us struggling with this question, not because I felt as though I had the right to allow.

xiaotien
04-09-2010, 01:20 AM
i think you should stop if you don't feel passion
for it any longer. i do think that writers improve with
every new writing project or novel they tackle. so if
they are persistent, the dream is always possible.

but you really have to want it. because it takes
a lot of courage (hope and optimism) to keep
(picking yourself up and) going.

blacbird
04-09-2010, 03:32 AM
Should we ever admit to the futility of submitting?

Already done.


So... does there ever come a point where you admit to yourself that you really aren't very good,

Yup.

caw

Lucy
04-09-2010, 04:14 AM
I think if you are getting absolutely nowhere, it is okay to give up after a certain amount of time. Meaning: if you've been writing and submitting for decades and you can not get an agent, it is likely that it's you, not the system. If that is the case, enjoy writing but don't bang your head on the wall about it. Find something else that you're better at doing.

If you make progress but it is slow, then just keep making progress. Meaning: if you get an agent but she/he can't sell your work, write something new. If you write something new and it won't sell, maybe check your agent. She might not be the best person to represent your work.

There are a lot of variables here. Your work, your agent, editors, timing. You have to get them all lined up to fall in the correct order in order to be successful.

Starting with Step One: writing the book. Do people tell you that a 500,000 word ms is too long? Then listen to them because they are right. Do they tell you when it is melodramatic, has too many exclamation points, exposition, or backstory? Listen to them. If you can get your work in shape enough to get to a good, reputable agent who has sold stuff before, you're on the right track.

But like I said, if these decades you speak of have been fallow, and there's not an agent in a hundred miles of NYC who will take your calls or respond with more than a form letter, maybe you should try something else.

To use the OP's original analogy of American Idol: we know they sound awful. They can't believe they do. But once they go back home, their lives aren't over. There are other things they can do. Maybe they're great actors or maybe they play the sax like Miles Davis or maybe they can paint or run a mile in 2.5 minutes. Point is, it's not the end of the world. It's just that they were doing the wrong thing before they found the right thing for them.

Phaeal
04-09-2010, 05:50 PM
Here's my theory: Why not submit? It's free on the Internet and cheap through the post, and you can't win if you don't play.

That's assuming that you enjoy writing for itself and would do it anyway. If it's YOUR work, do it. Then let the rest of the world have a shot at it.

So far, so upbeat. There IS one more factor to consider, and that's whether (after an initial expletive deleted and/or crying jag and/or wallow in melted chocolate) you can shrug off rejection. If not, then you may do well to take a break from subbing.

cate townsend
04-11-2010, 08:32 PM
I found an interesting post by A.S. King over at Backspace's STET blog that relates to this discussion.

http://backspacewriters.blogspot.com/

Scroll down to the post dated April 5, 2010.

Jamesaritchie
04-12-2010, 01:41 AM
The American Idol analogy is a common one, and yes, it holds up perfectly. It's nice to believe that we can all be good writers, but this makes no more sense than think we can all be good singers.

The simple truth is that when someone tries to sing, everyone but them hears all the sour notes. When people try to write, they don't hear the sour notes, and darned few other people are capable of hearing them, either.

Does anyone out there have beta reader who all tell them how terrible their writing is? No? Then either most new writers are going to be quickly and widely published, or already being widely published, or their beta readers are tone deaf.

Every wannabe writer I know has beta reader who may point out an error here and there, but who still say you writer have talent, you write well, we want to read more of your work.

Problem is, I've seen the slush piles, and just about everything that comes in is bad. Pretty much all of it has gone through beta readers, who praise is like worshippers at a throne, but most of it remains so bad you wonder if English is the writer's first language.

Most writers you see in the slush sound exactly like those first round singers on American Idol. And darned few of them get better with time and numerous submissions.

I'm all for dedication, perseverance, stubbornness, and hard work. But at least nine times out of ten, none of this is going to matter in the least.

"Never, ever give up" is also a wonderful sounding phrase, but people need to realize that when you take this literally, it will most often mean you'll wake up old, gray, tired, and with the realization that not only did you fail at writing, you also failed to find whatever else it was that you really did have a lot of talent for doing well.

Life is short, and spending the only life you'll ever have pursuing what is, for you, something that stands no chance of happening, is not an admirable trait, it's just foolish pride and stubbornness.

There's something out there we can all do well, but no one can do anything just because they want to do it. There's a time to try hard, to work you ass off, and a time to say "Okay, this is not going to happen. What else might I be good at."

Jamesaritchie
04-12-2010, 01:43 AM
for it any longer. i do think that writers improve with every new writing project or novel they tackle. so if
they are persistent, the dream is always possible.

.

I wish this were true, but it isn't. Writers with talent get better with each project. Writers without talent do not. I've seen too many wannabe writers who were worse after writing ten novels than they were when they started.

Jamesaritchie
04-12-2010, 01:47 AM
Okay, Shadow, it's time for you to take a trip to your local bookstore. If you find yourself picking up a book and saying to yourself wait, I write better than this, then you need to understand that it has nothing to do with talent, and absolutely everything to do with determination.

You can say wait, I write better than this all day long, and it still means nothing. Most new writers say exactly this. Trouble is, almost none of them actually do write better than this. Most of them don't write a tenth as well as whatever book they're holding is written, and never will.

You either have the talent, or determination will only guarantee that you not only fail, but that you will probably waste twenty years in the failure.

mccardey
04-12-2010, 01:54 AM
We're like a flasher who keeps getting laughed at. Do we finally admit to ourselves that it's not just shrinkage and slink home?

Just so you know, that line made me laugh while I had a mouthful of coffe, and now instead of saying something positive and bolstering I'm gonna have to go clean up my desk, so you kind of shot yourself in the foot, I'm afraid .... ;)

simplyaven
04-12-2010, 03:38 AM
I know that's what it took for me. To be told just how bad I was and what specifically I was doing wrong. Then it was just a matter of fixing it. :)

Then you were lucky because I haven't found even one person willing to point that for me. I had betas - half loved the same things others hated. No consensus. I heard from agents totally controversial things. The last one today wrote me he would keep what is wrong with the novel a secret because it is not his job to name it. It killed me finally. Apparently, there is something terribly wrong but it is so ugly that he doesn't even want to share it with me! A disaster.

Snivscriv
04-12-2010, 05:29 AM
Then you were lucky because I haven't found even one person willing to point that for me. I had betas - half loved the same things others hated. No consensus. I heard from agents totally controversial things. The last one today wrote me he would keep what is wrong with the novel a secret because it is not his job to name it. It killed me finally. Apparently, there is something terribly wrong but it is so ugly that he doesn't even want to share it with me! A disaster.

I find it hard to believe that none of your betas agreed about anything. Where they did agree, those are the easiest fixes to make. You ought to have a darned good reason for rejecting their advice.

Where they didn't agree, it's time for soul-searching. You have to decide what you want. If you want to be published, then you're going to have to conform to the expectations of the marketplace. Look carefully at the most popular writers of the genre you're interested in. That's what the public wants and expects, and that's what you better provide unless you truly are the next great literary phenomenon. If you're not sure who to listent to, listen to those who are already successful the way you want to be.

simplyaven
04-12-2010, 06:34 AM
Hard or not, I'm not willing to argue. I did make all changes that were common in people's responses but they were very very few and quite insignificant compared to the whole plot/characterization/theme, etc. I also asked for a professional evaluation - did those changes too (none of these were pointed by betas but let me tell you that I didn't find many betas and didn't have tons of opinions). Finally, the manuscript as it is now - it is not the manuscript I loved. And I think I may have made a mistake making those changes and not saving the first draft. Because the new draft, despite the critique, is not selling either and, in addition, I don't like it. And you know why - because it sounds much more like the books in the bookstore. Which brings another question - where the writer should set the boundary before own writing turns into someone else's writing?

cate townsend
04-12-2010, 09:16 PM
This is a great thread (thanks Shadow), and it's brought up a lot of interesting ideas from writers here. I think the bottom line is this, though: if it's not fun anymore, don't do it.

Mystic Blossom
04-12-2010, 10:22 PM
Hard or not, I'm not willing to argue. I did make all changes that were common in people's responses but they were very very few and quite insignificant compared to the whole plot/characterization/theme, etc. I also asked for a professional evaluation - did those changes too (none of these were pointed by betas but let me tell you that I didn't find many betas and didn't have tons of opinions). Finally, the manuscript as it is now - it is not the manuscript I loved. And I think I may have made a mistake making those changes and not saving the first draft. Because the new draft, despite the critique, is not selling either and, in addition, I don't like it. And you know why - because it sounds much more like the books in the bookstore. Which brings another question - where the writer should set the boundary before own writing turns into someone else's writing?

If you want my opinion, I think it's your mindset that's killing your chances more than anything. The second a writer thinks anything along the lines of, "I need to get published because my stuff is better than what's in the bookstore," that creates a sort of bitterness that will reflect in your writing and deter editors and agents.

I don't know you, your writing, or your revision process, but from where I'm standing right now, it seems like you're just taking your betas' advice blindly, without thinking too much as to whether it will benefit the piece. Nobody's perfect, and sometimes, you need to take advice with a grain of salt, or consider it less literally. I take advice I get seriously, but I don't just make changes (unless it's something immediately obvious) until I've spent some time to think about how it will affect the piece. Ultimately it's your writing, not theirs. A beta is there to help you fix your piece, but the majority of the work, 99.9% of it, in fact, is still your responsibility. Believe me, I've gotten plenty of advice that made no sense and would have hurt my pieces, but I don't say that out of over zealousness. I say that because I truly believe that you have to be your hardest critic, not your biggest fan.

So the question of whether or not you should continue is a tough one, but all I can really say right now is, it depends entirely on your drive and your faith in yourself.

DeleyanLee
04-12-2010, 10:33 PM
Hard or not, I'm not willing to argue. I did make all changes that were common in people's responses but they were very very few and quite insignificant compared to the whole plot/characterization/theme, etc. I also asked for a professional evaluation - did those changes too (none of these were pointed by betas but let me tell you that I didn't find many betas and didn't have tons of opinions). Finally, the manuscript as it is now - it is not the manuscript I loved. And I think I may have made a mistake making those changes and not saving the first draft. Because the new draft, despite the critique, is not selling either and, in addition, I don't like it. And you know why - because it sounds much more like the books in the bookstore. Which brings another question - where the writer should set the boundary before own writing turns into someone else's writing?

You do know that getting a critique is supposed to be the opening of a conversation between the writer and the beta(s), right? That it's not like getting a paper handed back from a teacher with your grade and what you did right or wrong.

The majority of beta readers are really good at noting what they didn't like about what you wrote. IME, 90% of beta readers really suck at identifying what really causes those problems and 98% are totally off at what to do to "fix" it.

The reason for this is simple: The beta doesn't know what story you were trying to tell. They can only know what story they read. If the writer didn't do their work well enough, the comments are likely to be across the board, unhelpful and confusing.

This is why conversation is necessary. Can the beta pinpoint where they started having this reaction? Down to the scene, to the sentence or even word is better. Can the beta be specific about what reaction they're really having? Are they quoting "rules" (aka Turkey City Lexicon) they've learned or is it more their reader's gut reaction?

The most important thing to do with comments is to look at what taking that advice will do to the story you're trying to tell. Does changing this improve the telling or totally derail it? Anything that derails your story isn't part of your story, reject it. Even if the advice comes from the one person you most admire in the business, they're not writing their story. Be seriously cautiously about any advice that starts with "The way I'd do it" or any form of that sentiment. It's not their story, it's yours.

Writing is a solitary process. Dealing with commentary has to be a coversation, or else why bring in someone else into the process at all?

CaroGirl
04-12-2010, 10:39 PM
Which brings another question - where the writer should set the boundary before own writing turns into someone else's writing?
This is easy: never make a change you don't agree with. If it won't make your work better, don't do it. If you don't know whether it would make your work better, you have a bigger problem.

Snivscriv
04-13-2010, 01:21 AM
Finally, the manuscript as it is now - it is not the manuscript I loved. And I think I may have made a mistake making those changes and not saving the first draft. Because the new draft, despite the critique, is not selling either and, in addition, I don't like it. And you know why - because it sounds much more like the books in the bookstore. Which brings another question - where the writer should set the boundary before own writing turns into someone else's writing?

Yup, the one think I'm sure about is that saving drafts, saving lots of drafts, is important. The rest is subjective, but here's my take.

Even if you're a fantastic writer, if you want to have your books in the bookstores, you need to write something that readers want to read. Basically, they want to read more of what's in the bookstore already. The one thing bookstores do well is to display books that sell. Shelf space is valuable. If your book doesn't sell, no matter how well it's written, they send it back to the publisher. Then, they fill your slot with a book that does sell, no matter how crappy it is. Unfortunately, these days even established writers have to prove themselves with every new book they write. They get the benefit of the doubt in initial distribution, but if their latest book isn't selling, it's returned to the publisher too.

If your tastes in literature differ from the public's, maybe you can take solace in thinking about all the great writers who died believing no one would ever read their work. Just don't expect the publishing world to change how it operates to reflect your tastes.

There's nothing wrong with writing exactly the book you want to write, and that's no doubt better than writing a book you dislike to try and sell something. You can self-publish, and that's great. If your taste is different from the public's, that's what you should do, but don't write anything you'd be embarassed to have your name on simply to sell a book.

Anyway, I hope you can find a copy of your first draft. I'd like to read it myself after hearing how much you liked it.

Mystic Blossom
04-13-2010, 02:44 AM
And if you happen to enjoy writing what sells, you're two steps ahead. :)

Drachen Jager
04-13-2010, 03:27 AM
And if you happen to enjoy writing what sells, you're two steps ahead. :)

I enjoy writing and I enjoy making money... :)

I don't think I'd have started spending so much time in front of the keyboard if I didn't plan on selling. I have very little desire to write a brilliant book that 99% of the world would fail to, "get", leaving me in obscurity until decades after my death when it's discovered to be a hidden masterpiece by the newly enlightened people of the 22nd century.

I intentionally picked a genre that sells well and then picked themes within that genre to enhance my chances. Call it mercenary if you like but I'm in this thing to quit thinking about day jobs entirely.

Cathy C
04-13-2010, 05:22 PM
The reason for this is simple: The beta doesn't know what story you were trying to tell. They can only know what story they read.

This. Totally agree. I've given critiques on numerous occasions, both as a favor and as a donation of my time, and this is the single thing that's hardest to overcome when offering comments. I simply don't know what the author was trying to accomplish.


I don't think I'd have started spending so much time in front of the keyboard if I didn't plan on selling.

And this. Again, totally agree. But MOST writers aren't like this. But, as you say here, simplyaven:


Because the new draft, despite the critique, is not selling either and, in addition, I don't like it. And you know why - because it sounds much more like the books in the bookstore. Which brings another question - where the writer should set the boundary before own writing turns into someone else's writing?

The boundary is in your own mind. Like the others have said, you have to do what YOU think is right for the book. But remember that publishers are all about the money. It's what they do for a living. What's on the shelf is what the READERS are buying and if you make the book totally unlike what's on the shelf, there's a strong chance that publishers won't take a chance on it---especially with the economy in the state it is.

Our first mass market book was a similar coin toss but the publisher was starting a new line, an experimental one (for that publisher) so they were willing to take the risk. But if they'd considered starting it today, in this market, they probably wouldn't have done it. My writing has necessarily changed to suit the readers and what they want. If you're writing for them, for THEIR entertainment and enjoyment, rather than for your own enjoyment, you'll have no problem selling. If you're writing for your own enjoyment, that's cool too. You just have to decide whether selling the book is that important to you.

Oh, and BTW---most every author who's sold will tell you that by the time the edits are done, we ALL hate the book. It's the nature of editing and seeing it over and over. By then, we just want to move on to the next thing and forget we were even part of the process.

Just my .02

Good luck.

simplyaven
04-13-2010, 10:18 PM
Thanks guys :) Sadly, I don't have any other draft than the last one. Next time I'll know betetr. But about the rest - even here in this thread it seems we can not find the golden middle. I was making the changes because I was afraid of being too arrogant, too self assured that the writing was good. Namely because I wanted people to like it - other people - I did all these changes. I disagree I'm obsessed with publishing but I definitely won't play the "poor and artistically misunderstood" role. Yes, I would love to see my book published but it's not the meaning of my life. I did post whatever is left of the first chapter in Share Your Work again although, frankly, I can't even remember how the riginal first chapter sounded. Anyway, thank you all, I'll keep going, maybe rewrite in a while again. Right now I just don't feel like it. I went back to a cookbook I staretd long ago and I'd very much like to finish. :)

Mystic Blossom
04-13-2010, 10:39 PM
Not taking someone's advice to the letter isn't always arrogance. A lot of times you shouldn't take certain advice because it would alter what you're trying to say. For example, let's say you have a character who never uses contractions, because there's a certain tone you want him to convey. If someone told you that character should use contractions, you shouldn't take that advice because it would completely negate what you're trying to say.

You need to find your own middle here, find the spot where you know you can take advice but not blindly, and your fiction will improve. There is no universal golden middle, there's just yours.

DeleyanLee
04-13-2010, 10:48 PM
I was making the changes because I was afraid of being too arrogant, too self assured that the writing was good.

1. Being arrogant about what your story is is totally different from being arrogant that the writing is good. The writing can need work even when the story's fantastic.

2. Of course you're arrogant. It's part of the writerly psyche, especially if you're seeking publication. You're making the assumption that people will be willing to pay you money to tell your stories. If that's not a (health) arrogance, I don't know what is.

Shadow_Ferret
04-14-2010, 12:40 AM
I'd prefer to think of it as confidence rather than arrogance. You're confident the story is good enough to sell.

MsJudy
04-14-2010, 02:41 AM
Shadow: LOVE the ferret with a handgun. That makes MY day, anyway.

DeleyanLee: I agree 100% about the 98% don't know how to fix it. That has been my experience every time. The best beta reader/coach I've worked with didn't even try to suggest the fixes. He just asked the questions. "Tell me more about this character." "Why is this element here in the story? What deeper purpose does it serve?" "Can you add more about the setting to the very beginning? I'm having trouble picturing where we are."

In the end, I felt so inspired with his comments. It didn't feel like I'd been critiqued, and every change I made came from me and where I wanted the story to go. But the funny thing is, I did a HUGE, COMPLETE, TOTAL rewrite because of the questions he asked. And, because I'm a stubborn person by nature, if he'd made "suggestions" instead, I would have resisted making any but the smallest of changes.

Being a good beta reader is almost as much an art form as being a good writer is. It takes a lot of patience to find them, and a lot of skill to know which ones to listen to.

Twizzle
04-14-2010, 04:51 PM
Life is short, and spending the only life you'll ever have pursuing what is, for you, something that stands no chance of happening, is not an admirable trait, it's just foolish pride and stubbornness.


Yes, I suppose were we all to JUST pursue dreams we were sure of succeeding at we'd be better off.

Ah-huh.

Because dreams are just that-things we choose because we can and must for sure accomplish them. Not, you know, something usually unattainable we dream about. Hope for. Work towards.

No. We must not dream those dreams then.

Only people who can achieve those dreams should be allowed to dream them.

For pete's sake.

Look, have your dreams. Dream any dream you want. But know it's a dream-you can't ever be sure you'll get there because it's not just about you being determined enough. It involves luck, timing, talent, skill and all that crap. It's, for the most part, out of your control. And guess what-like all those out there seeking a dream, odds are you ain't getting there.

What you do control is your goals. The steps you take to attempt to get to your dream. Because those are what you succeed at. The trying.

BIC. Sub. Study your craft. Work toward your dream.

But you have to understand, that's all there is. That's it. You may well cross off those goals and never reach your dream. But reaching the dream was never the guarantee and never the point. It was the journey to get there.

(Oh, man. I sound like that cheesy Hannah Montana song. *sigh*)

And as others have said, if working at those goals on the way to trying to fulfill a dream doesn't fulfill you, doesn't make you happy, then find a new dream and set new goals. Because life is too short to pursue the wrong dreams-not just those you won't accomplish. Surprise. Most of us never accomplish our dreams. Most of us don't have a chance in hell and knew that from the get-go. And it's completely wonderful anyway.

Cathy C
04-14-2010, 05:14 PM
although, frankly, I can't even remember how the original first chapter sounded.

Ahh... lesson one in my own writing education (after a very similar event) was: "Keep each set of changes as a separate document." Computer memory is cheap. Remembering the original order of words is expensive. There's not a thing wrong with keeping ten copies of a manuscript. Just make sure you number them somehow to keep them straight. I use shorthand like: BloodSong.v2, BloodSong.afteredits, BloodSong.v3, etc. :)

DeleyanLee
04-14-2010, 05:18 PM
I'd prefer to think of it as confidence rather than arrogance. You're confident the story is good enough to sell.

I offer that confidence is only arrogance proven to be correct. ;)

Mystic Blossom
04-14-2010, 06:26 PM
Life is short, and spending the only life you'll ever have pursuing what is, for you, something that stands no chance of happening, is not an admirable trait, it's just foolish pride and stubbornness.

I'm sorry, there really just is so much wrong with that statement. I really don't care how much experience you have in the field, or how naive you think I am for doubting you. There's a difference between being a realist and being judgmental.

So what if it "stands no chance of happening?" And who are you to decide that? Can you see into the future? Lots of people devoted their lives to things that were supposedly impossible, and some of them succeeded, and some of them didn't. The bottom line is, I don't think anyone wants to go through life wondering, "What if? What if I had spent just a little more time on that novel and shopped it again?"

Does this mean they're guaranteed success? No, absolutely not, especially not in this field. But for all that people in this thread disagree on, I think most of us agree that if you enjoy writing, you should keep doing it. And if you don't enjoy it, don't do it. Period.

Shadow_Ferret
04-14-2010, 07:25 PM
I offer that confidence is only arrogance proven to be correct. ;)

Well, to be honest, I have neither.

When I send something out my thought is always, "They're going to hate this. Why do I bother?"

But I keep doing it.

Isn't that the definition insanity? Doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result?

Mystic Blossom
04-14-2010, 07:35 PM
Well, to be honest, I have neither.

When I send something out my thought is always, "They're going to hate this. Why do I bother?"

But I keep doing it.

Isn't that the definition insanity? Doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result?

Doing an identical thing, yes. I mean, it kind of conflicts with the publishing routine, which is to send something out again and again and hope for a different result, lol. But I think what would make it not insane is that at some point, if it's not getting picked up, you improve the piece and try it again. That way it's not insanity, it's progress.

Snivscriv
04-14-2010, 07:45 PM
Well, to be honest, I have neither.

When I send something out my thought is always, "They're going to hate this. Why do I bother?"

But I keep doing it.

Isn't that the definition insanity? Doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result?

In addition to what Mystic Blossom said, sending the same manuscript to the same agent over and over would be insane. But this business is so subjective that sending the same manuscript to different agents is smart. I have heard too many stories to count of published authors who had to send their manuscript to dozens of agents before one of them was perceptive enough to say "yes." There are a lot of successful authors whose careers never would have begun if they weren't reasonably persistent.

That doesn't mean you should be a damned fool about it. Take advantage of every opportunity to improve your manuscript, but don't stop submitting until you run out of agents who might be interested.

Mystic Blossom
04-14-2010, 07:56 PM
In addition to what Mystic Blossom said, sending the same manuscript to the same agent over and over would be insane. But this business is so subjective that sending the same manuscript to different agents is smart. I have heard too many stories to count of published authors who had to send their manuscript to dozens of agents before one of them was perceptive enough to say "yes." There are a lot of successful authors whose careers never would have begun if they weren't reasonably persistent.

That doesn't mean you should be a damned fool about it. Take advantage of every opportunity to improve your manuscript, but don't stop submitting until you run out of agents who might be interested.

Right. I think it's really meant to be a literal statement. Like, if you went to the same restaurant, every day, and ordered the same dish that you hated, always prepared by the same chef under the same conditions, and expected it to taste different every time. That would be insanity. On the other hand, if you ordered that dish at another restaurant, it wouldn't be insane to expect it to taste different.

Sorry for posting so much. I'm avoiding work...

Twizzle
04-14-2010, 08:44 PM
Isn't that the definition insanity? Doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result?

No. Insanity is expecting a different result. Expecting that if you just whatever long enough, it will happen.

There are very good reasons to quit. But knowing you suck and will never get there isn't necessarily one.

Because there's always the chance you're wrong. (I bet if I asked Mrs. Ferret she would say you have been before. :O ) And if you're enjoying the ride...*shrug* who gives a crap even if you're right.

But if you're not enjoying the ride, get off now and go find something else. Life is far too short.

MsJudy
04-15-2010, 06:19 AM
But if you're not enjoying the ride, get off now and go find something else. Life is far too short.

This. QFT.

One of the reasons the tenure system in the US sucks is that teachers don't want to quit such a secure profession. So they keep teaching even though they can't stand the little twits one more second.

I am determined: When I hate teaching, I will find another career. When I hate writing, I will find another hobby.

Until then, I'm not hurting anybody, and maybe I'm getting better. So why stop just because I've been rejected a few (hundred) times?

Nya RAyne
04-15-2010, 06:25 AM
Okay, Shadow, it's time for you to take a trip to your local bookstore. If you find yourself picking up a book and saying to yourself wait, I write better than this, then you need to understand that it has nothing to do with talent, and absolutely everything to do with determination.

I soooooooooooooo second this!! There is really some trash out there, but because they never gave up, their books are on the shelf.

If you want something bad enough, drink your way through it. That's my motto, anyway.

blacbird
04-20-2010, 08:18 AM
Okay, Shadow, it's time for you to take a trip to your local bookstore. If you find yourself picking up a book and saying to yourself wait, I write better than this, then you need to understand that it has nothing to do with talent, and absolutely everything to do with determination.

Unless you bump up against the logic of: This is horrible, but it got published, and my stuff can't get even get read, let alone accepted for publication, so, Jesus, just how awful is it?

caw

RainbowDragon
04-20-2010, 11:40 PM
It would be a whole lot easier if agents would be 100% honest in their form rejections.

Probably half of them would say something like:

"I have a full client list and I'm only accepting queries in case the next [insert bestseller in my preferred genre] comes along."

Then you'd have more that read something like:

"Thanks but I really prefer previously published writers with huge sales."

and a few:

"This looks good but I doubt I could sell it in the near future."

Unless you're part of the blessed masses who think publishing is easy and you're sending out your first draft MS and query (if you're reading AW posts, you're probably not), no one (not even agents) can know whether your book is "good enough" (except, if you're lucky, you).

Especially based on a query and a few pages they may or may not read before rejecting.

If you're getting requests for your work, chances are it's perfectly publishable if the stars align properly.

I don't believe anyone who says luck isn't a factor in publishing. A "hot" MS is often one that happens to be marketed when the trend is in its favor. It may or may not be the best writing around. Subjective.

A published book is the result of a MS that someone believed in at the time it was presented to her or him. No one ever said there was perfection as part of that equation.

Determination is important because it keeps giving luck a chance to strike.

Some writers might love submitting. I'm not one of them. But I do it anyway and try to smile through the rejections.

:)

Like that. :)

Mystic Blossom
04-21-2010, 01:28 AM
Unless you bump up against the logic of: This is horrible, but it got published, and my stuff can't get even get read, let alone accepted for publication, so, Jesus, just how awful is it?

caw

The problem that a lot of people in this thread have is thinking that a ms being good is the only factor it needs to get published. Just because your stuff isn't getting read, doesn't mean it's not good. There are plenty of other factors that have been listed here and in numerous other threads, such as whether it fits the current market, length, whether the query grabs the agent, and a million other things.

RainbowDragon
04-21-2010, 03:17 AM
The problem that a lot of people in this thread have is thinking that a ms being good is the only factor it needs to get published. Just because your stuff isn't getting read, doesn't mean it's not good. There are plenty of other factors that have been listed here and in numerous other threads, such as whether it fits the current market, length, whether the query grabs the agent, and a million other things.

Exactly! We keep running in circles thinkiing our story's not good enough, our hook's not good enough, our query's not good enough.

Eventually, we make it good enough, and the rest is still out of our hands.

It's frustrating, isn't it? :)

Mystic Blossom
04-21-2010, 03:20 AM
Exactly! We keep running in circles thinkiing our story's not good enough, our hook's not good enough, our query's not good enough.

Eventually, we make it good enough, and the rest is still out of our hands.

It's frustrating, isn't it? :)

I think that's why people get hung up on the question, "Is my writing good?" Because it feels like the only thing we can control. Except, when you think about it, it's not. Yes, there's plenty we can't control, but we can control who we query, our query letters, and our understanding of what makes a book popular.

Shadow_Ferret
04-21-2010, 05:46 AM
I...but we can control who we query, our query letters, and our understanding of what makes a book popular.

I'm supposed to understand what makes a book popular? Why?

Mystic Blossom
04-21-2010, 06:24 AM
I'm supposed to understand what makes a book popular? Why?

Because if you understand what the reader of the moment wants, even if your book isn't exactly it, it'll help you bend your query letter in that direction. Knowing current trends, even just by looking at the bestseller list, is extremely helpful.

Lord of Chaos
04-21-2010, 07:12 AM
The world of art and literature is so subjective it isn't insanity in my opinion to keep going even through rejections. We shouldn't forget people like Dr. Seuss (who if I remember right was turned down by somehting like 30 editors because his work wasn't realistic enough). Luck is always a part of getting published, from finding an agent, to having finding an editor, to hitting the market at just the right time to sell well.

It seems like in our world, those stories where a person goes from the brink of destruction to suddenly being incredibly successful are more common. As long as I enjoy writing, I will keep trying to improve myself and maybe get published.

blacbird
04-22-2010, 12:34 AM
The problem that a lot of people in this thread have is thinking that a ms being good is the only factor it needs to get published. Just because your stuff isn't getting read, doesn't mean it's not good. There are plenty of other factors that have been listed here and in numerous other threads, such as whether it fits the current market, length, whether the query grabs the agent, and a million other things.

If it doesn't do any of those things, by any objective standard, it isn't any good.

caw

RainbowDragon
04-22-2010, 01:36 AM
If it doesn't do any of those things, by any objective standard, it isn't any good.

caw

The only objective standard is whether you can spell. The rest requires vision.

Vision requires perception. Perception is subjective.

In some stories even the spelling errors are intentional.

:)

MsJudy
04-22-2010, 02:57 AM
The only objective standard is whether you can spell. The rest requires vision.

Vision requires perception. Perception is subjective.

In some stories even the spelling errors are intentional.

:)

Certainly James Joyce proved you don't need grammar to succeed.

blacbird
04-22-2010, 03:45 AM
The problem that a lot of people in this thread have is thinking that a ms being good is the only factor it needs to get published.

My point about "objective standard" was the counterpoint to the above: The only objective way you ever know a manuscript is "good" is if it actually does get published. Until that happens, it's crap.


Just because your stuff isn't getting read, doesn't mean it's not good.

Refer to preceding comment.

caw

Mystic Blossom
04-22-2010, 07:46 PM
My point about "objective standard" was the counterpoint to the above: The only objective way you ever know a manuscript is "good" is if it actually does get published. Until that happens, it's crap.


I'm sorry, I'm confused. Are you saying that to be serious or sarcastic? Because I really hope you know that the statement is bunk.

blacbird
04-22-2010, 10:35 PM
Define "good" in a manuscript that is unpublishable.

caw

Mystic Blossom
04-23-2010, 06:29 AM
Define "good" in a manuscript that is unpublishable.

caw

Well, aren't you a little ray of sunshine. "Good" and "unpublishable" are two words without solid definitions. Is it unpublishable because it's absolute crap, which, yes, is possible. Or is it unpublishable because it's something weird and strange that publishing houses are unsure will sell? Or perhaps it's not "unpublishable" at all, and the writer just hasn't found the right market for it yet.

It's good to be realistic in your writing, but man, looking at all your posts, it seems like you're just determined to bring yourself and everyone else down with pessimism. We're having fun with what we do. If you're not, what's the point?

blacbird
04-23-2010, 11:04 AM
I'm a realist. I detest platitudes. I admire precision in words. "Good" and "unpublishable" (the latter not synonymous with "unpublished") are mutually exclusive adjectives.

caw

Mystic Blossom
04-23-2010, 05:49 PM
Okay, you're arguing that if a manuscript is unpublished, then it isn't good. Conversely, if a manuscript is published, then it is good. I agree with you that there has to be something "good" about a manuscript to get it published, but I'd like to know if you take "good" to mean that the writing is good, and that is the only factor necessary to get it published, or do you think in broader terms?

I'm not really for the idea of making yourself feel better by going to a bookstore and looking at all the "crap" on the shelves, because it makes you forget that there is always a reason these books were published.

Take something most writers generally hate, Twilight. We hate it, and yet, millions of people are absolutely obsessed with it. Why? Is the writing good? Not by our standards. Characters? Flat and unoriginal. Story arc? Absolutely unbelievable and ridiculous. Yet, it got published, the author's now rich, and it sold a bazillion copies. Does that mean we should automatically go, "Oh, my stuff can't get read, and Twilight got published. Therefore, my stuff is worse than Twilight." I mean, where's the logic in that? Twilight got published for a single, very good reason: The premise, while silly, is highly marketable. So, the reason for publishing, from a fiscal standpoint, was good, but this doesn't automatically make the book good.

I agree with some of the things you say, blacbird. After thinking about it, I do agree that there has to be something good about a manuscript to get it published, and if it has no redeeming qualities, it probably won't see print.

MsJudy
04-24-2010, 03:39 AM
blacbird, there are too many examples of writers who were rejected a bazillion times but eventually published.

Dr. Seuss was so discouraged by his first rejection that he didn't write again for years. Are you telling me his work is crap?

Steven King wrote three novels before Carrie was published. After he became a household name, those novels were published. Did they magically become great novels? No. They were the same stories. He just had name recognition and they sold.

Brett Hartinger is a YA author who had something like 6 novels rejected that have since been published. They were good enough, but they dealt with edgy things like being gay or being in foster care. It took a while for the market to open up to those themes for young people. Now, of course, his stuff is considered tame. It wasn't his writing skill that changed. It was society.

Or go google John Kennedy O'Toole, author of Confederacy of Dunces. He killed himself. His mother kept submitting the book, and 11 years later it was not only published but won a Pulitzer Prize. If that doesn't disprove your premise that "if it isn't published, it must not be good," then I don't know what more you require.

blacbird
04-24-2010, 06:56 AM
If that doesn't disprove your premise that "if it isn't published, it must not be good," then I don't know what more you require.

Note my previous post about the difference between "unpublished" and "unpublishable".

Although the two commonly coincide.

caw

Mystic Blossom
04-24-2010, 08:32 AM
Note my previous post about the difference between "unpublished" and "unpublishable".

Although the two commonly coincide.

caw

Unpublishable is a completely unprovable term. If you say something is unpublished, it just means it hasn't been published yet. By saying something's unpublishable, by saying it will never be published ever, you just can't prove that. Even Kafka's stuff got published after his death, and he was absolutely sure it was unpublishable.

MsJudy
04-24-2010, 07:11 PM
Yep. What Blossom said.

Mt Everest was unclimbable until someone climbed it. A black man was unelectable until someone got elected. Human flight was impossible until someone figured out how to accomplish it.

If a book is badly written, it can always be revised. And maybe the tenth or twentieth revision turns it into something the world will hail as a classic.

You might want to take a class in logic. Because you base your arguments on faulty premises, and treat unprovable things as absolute facts.

Unpublished is a fact, a state of being. Either a book has been published or it has not. In the future, that state of being may change.

Unpublishable is a statement of evaluation. An opinion. A perception. What one person considers unpublishable, another person may hail as a masterpiece. And though the state of that manuscript may change--it may become published--people's perceptions/perspectives may not change. I have read things that I believe should not have been published, and if I were an editor, I would have labeled them "unpublishable." But someone else disagreed.

blacbird
04-24-2010, 10:34 PM
Even Kafka's stuff got published after his death, and he was absolutely sure it was unpublishable.

Channeling VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen, to paraphrase something my inner editor told me once:

"I knew Franz Kafka, and you're no Franz Kafka."

caw

Shadow_Ferret
04-25-2010, 02:45 AM
Unpublishable is a completely unprovable term.

No it isn't. It's completely provable. Just read it. Just as it's easy to identify the bad singers on American Idol by listening to them, an unpublishable novel is just as easy to identify by reading it.

Toothpaste
04-25-2010, 03:57 AM
No it isn't. It's completely provable. Just read it. Just as it's easy to identify the bad singers on American Idol by listening to them, an unpublishable novel is just as easy to identify by reading it.

Oh yeah?

I would have said TWILIGHT was unpublishable, I could barely get through it and only did because I was reading it for research. I don't need to hear why TWILIGHT is a success (and I'm not turning this into a bashing thread), I'm just being totally honest. If I'd read it in an MS form I would never have thought that book publishable. Which I think says more about my judgment and why I shouldn't be an editor, than it does about Meyer.

However the point is, how do you know, as an author, you have that editorial judgment either?

blacbird
04-25-2010, 08:04 AM
Oh yeah?

I would have said TWILIGHT was unpublishable, I could barely get through it and only did because I was reading it for research.

Yeah. That's the really scary part, isn't it?


However the point is, how do you know, as an author, you have that editorial judgment either?

A big pile of uninterrupted responses from agents and editors to that effect will push things pretty damn far in that direction.

caw

Drachen Jager
04-25-2010, 09:11 AM
Steven King wrote three novels before Carrie was published. After he became a household name, those novels were published. Did they magically become great novels? No. They were the same stories. He just had name recognition and they sold.

Wrong on two counts actually.

1) He re-wrote them, admitting himself that they needed it, both were in his later opinion quite rightly turned down but he felt the core of the idea was salvageable and after gaining some experience he re-visited them. So, no magic involved but they did get better before being published.

2) King is the guy who proved he could do just fine without name recognition. In his early days he was writing 'too fast' for the publisher's taste, they didn't think he'd be taken seriously if he published at the rate he was writing so he published a half dozen novels under the name, "Richard Bachman" one of which was, "The Running Man".

Don't fool yourselves. The ones who get rejected a lot before having great success are the exceptions. There are hundreds of good agents out there, if they ALL turn you down you are probably doing something wrong. That doesn't mean your work is BAD, it just means it's not good enough or, more importantly it's not marketable enough. Don't think you can keep doing the same things you've been doing and get published if you've failed consistently in the past.

If you're failing you need to change something. This advice I see so often to just keep plugging away at it is just encouraging people to continue failing.

Cranky
04-26-2010, 07:13 PM
I honestly don't know what to say to you, Eds, except that I hope you're just having a momentary pity party. :) I think there's always room for improvement, but I don't think that fact in and of itself ought to be a discouraging thing, at least as far as trying to be published goes.

That said, if you can take a close look at why you're not getting the success you want and pinpoint what/why it isn't happening for you, then you can fix it. If you can't figure it out, even with help, then maybe stepping back is the best choice. *shrug*

I know that personally, I don't have the storytelling chops. Took me awhile to figure it out, but better late than never! Whether or not that means that I won't try again later remains to be seen. And I certainly don't feel bad about it either way, because I can still write for funsies. There's certainly no law against that, lol.

Cassiopeia
04-26-2010, 07:45 PM
Writing is quite a bit like a lot of things in our lives. Sometimes, before we can move forward for the success we desire, we have to stop resisting obstacles in our path. It just might be that they are placed there for some personal growth to be had before you can move forward. If it looks bleak and you can't see through it, jump into the void because the sooner you get that over with, the sooner you will come out on the other side. You aren't powerless no matter how much it may feel like it.

If I might make a suggestion. Don't let fear and discouragement push you into any decision you might make right now. If you want to quit writing for publication, then quit. If you don't feel like writing at all, quit writing. Pick up some good books and read. Or go find a positive activity that will relieve that negativity you are experiencing. It might be that you need a break from too much pressure all around. Just take a step back, look around you to where you are in this moment right now and remind yourself of those reasons why you wanted to be a published writer. Be teachable.

If you think people around you are enabling some sort of delusion, then ask yourself if you have been open enough for them to give you negative feedback. If you honestly think they aren't being up front with you, then perhaps they are afraid to disappoint and hurt you. So turn to others who have no invested reason for enabling you. Post your work in the SYW forum and let people give it a go here.

It's at least a place to start.

arkady
05-11-2010, 07:23 PM
I don't believe anyone who says luck isn't a factor in publishing. A "hot" MS is often one that happens to be marketed when the trend is in its favor. It may or may not be the best writing around. Subjective.

Yes. So many times I've read that "there's no such thing as luck in this business." I don't believe it any more than you do. Your manuscript has to cross exactly the right desk in exactly the right agency at exactly the right time, in order to be published. And to that, you might add exactly the right editor at exactly the right publishing house.


Determination is important because it keeps giving luck a chance to strike.

That sums it up nicely.


Some writers might love submitting. I'm not one of them. But I do it anyway and try to smile through the rejections.

Same here.

Shadow_Ferret
05-11-2010, 07:36 PM
Oh yeah?

I would have said TWILIGHT was unpublishable, I could barely get through it and only did because I was reading it for research. I don't need to hear why TWILIGHT is a success (and I'm not turning this into a bashing thread), I'm just being totally honest. If I'd read it in an MS form I would never have thought that book publishable. Which I think says more about my judgment and why I shouldn't be an editor, than it does about Meyer.

However the point is, how do you know, as an author, you have that editorial judgment either?

And you were wrong. :tongue

There are a lot of novels I don't like for whatever reason, that doesn't make them unpublishable. Just not my cup of tea.

But I think recognizing unpublishable isn't that hard. Typos. Grammatical mistakes. Meandering, illogical story lines. 2 dimensional unlikable characters. Unoriginal ideas or worse, plagiarism. Put them all together and you probably have what? 50% of the slush pile? The totally unpublishable works. I think it is very easy to recognize these.

DeleyanLee
05-11-2010, 07:49 PM
But I think recognizing unpublishable isn't that hard. Typos. Grammatical mistakes. Meandering, illogical story lines. 2 dimensional unlikable characters. Unoriginal ideas or worse, plagiarism. Put them all together and you probably have what? 50% of the slush pile? The totally unpublishable works. I think it is very easy to recognize these.

So, having read your book, I have to ask--why do you count your work as unpublishable?

And I'd say that it's closer to 80-90% of the slush pile, honestly.

Shadow_Ferret
05-11-2010, 07:54 PM
I don't think I ever said it was unpublishable, just unwanted. :D

DeleyanLee
05-11-2010, 08:54 PM
Fair enough.