Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It is a truth universally acknowledged ..

... that a writer in posession of a completed novel must be in want of an agent.

The real quote's about a single man being in want of a wife, but my edited version has a purpose. Everyone wants a literary agent, right? Everyone wants to see their novel in print, right? Hence the "it is a truth universally acknowledged" bit.

Maybe, and hear me out, the truth's not as universal as we might think.

Take the grandmother writing her life story for her grandchildren. Does she want to see her memoirs in widespread publication? Probably not, because she's convinced no one outside her family wants to read about growing up in the 1940s, or how her mother coped with having a husband fighting off in Europe (or the Pacific). Now, despite the fact that many people probably would love to read that story, our fictional grandmother has no intention of pursuing publication because that's not why she's writing the story.

There are some people I know that are natural storytellers. They can weave tales so vibrant you can see them happening in your head like a movie. And they have no desire to write them down and attempt to publish them (although let's face it -- spoken word skill isn't the same as written word skill).

Then there are people who write down their stories and get a few copies self-published to sell at their church bazaar. Maybe the churchgoers love it, but no one outside that community would understand why the book is so engaging. This time, the novel really doesn't have a wide audience appeal.

Does the lack of desire to be published make these storytellers less skilled? No, of course not. It just means that they have a different focus than someone like me or my fellow Alliterati. We're willing to put months (and years) of our lives into composing the best, most vibrant, most engaging book we can. And then, if it gets rejected a few times, we move onto another project and keep moving forward until we hit the provebial sweet spot (if it ever happens).

So what's my point here? If you want to write, then write. The road to publication's tough, and I'm sure the published authors among us will quite willingly say it wasn't easy. But, like Bane said yesterday, if you have the will to stick around, then you've got a better chance of hitting that sweet spot.

Stil write though. No matter what your plans. Just take joy in the words.


fairyhedgehog said...

I think I'm more at the writing for the family level.

These days you can just print off a few copies of a book if you want to share it with friends.

JournoMich said...

Purpose is definitely something one should decide at the outset. It helps mold a book. And a timeline.

There are benefit and glory to each type of writing!


Stephanie Thornton said...

I've never shown family my book so I'm definitely not at that level. I honestly don't know what I'll do with my book if it doesn't get picked up. Self-publish?

Joshua McCune said...

Amen. And to those natural storytellers, I envy you :)

Natalie said...

Yep. I wish I could be happy with just sharing stories with my family. It would be so much less soul crushing. :)

Matthew Delman said...

fairy -- This is true. Printing costs have dropped drastically enough that you can run off a few copies at the local copy shop or at your home printer to share with friends.

Michele -- Yes! That's it exactly. You have to decide, before you write what you want to do with the story. The content and style will change with each focus. And there is definite glory to writing a story to share only with family.

SD -- I know of a few folks who self-pubbed, but you don't strike me as the type of person who'd settle for that. And yes, I do see self-publishing as "settling" in a lot of cases.

Bane -- I'm very good with telling stories on paper, but have never done well with doing so verbally. It's odd the way my brain works. So yes, I envy people who can tell stories well verbally too.

Natalie -- The way I see it, the people who write for publication have a different mindset than those who write for their families. Writing for your family can be soul-crushing too though -- at least with the publication route you can at least be assured a rejection isn't a judgment on you as a person.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm far more terrified of having my family read my works, than any agent or crit partner. My family really doesn't pull the punches.

I'm only half-joking about that. :)

I'm so glad to see this post, because I don't think it can be repeated often enough that you have to know why you are in this business, before you invest years of time and effort into it. Not only will you be more likely to be happy with the result in the end, it will help you to make decisions along the way.

Like, do I need an agent? Would a small publisher work better for me? Can I go with an e-publisher, or do I want to do mainstream print? There's always self-publishing, but even there, your goals will determine what works best for you.

Sheesh. Publishing is complicated. I think I'll go back to the writing.

L.T. Host said...

I write because I have all these stories with sharp edges bouncing around in my head. I'd much rather they come out (and maybe I can share them with other people) than keep them to myself.

I want my stories to touch someone. Have them think about something they might not have thought about otherwise. I write for that.

Anita Saxena said...

Great post. Love the opening line.

Margo Berendsen said...

I am still laughing over your improvisation on Jane Austen.

Here's to the future when our writing finally hits its stride and knocks over an agent with its sheer "must have this" quality!

Matthew Delman said...

Susan -- I tend to not show my work to my family as well, but that's mostly because what I write isn't their typical genre of reading.

L.T. -- Besides, if you keep to yourself you might get hurt.

Anita -- Thank you. I was quite proud of that improv.

Margo -- Here here!

Davin Malasarn said...

Thanks for writing this post! I'm liking my writing more and more and caring about publishing less and less. So, this really rings true for me.

Unknown said...

This is exactly why I chose to self-publish my first book. Writing is my focus.