Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Limits of Hope

Not every writer cares whether he is published or not.

I do. My hope of having a published novel is what keeps me writing. But what is the right amount of hope? Hope isn't limitless, nor should it be. It has to be tempered with the right amount of realism, which sometimes sounds a lot like cynicism.

It's easy to be cynical when I see how this business chews up some writers. I've seen writers agented, unsold, then ditched. Writers with published debuts that dropped like trees in an empty forest, who then couldn't get another deal. Writers whose books were sold but who had their contracts canceled before publication. Writers who almost had deals, only to have them snatched away when the imprint closed, or their editor left the business or just changed jobs.

And those are the almost-success stories. Others don't get that far.

The more hope you have, the more crushed you are when things don't work out. But when you don't have enough, you stop.

So what's the right balance between hope and cynicism? I'm still working on it.


Katrina L. Lantz said...

Well said, Kelly. I just wrote a blog post linking to Larry Brooks' article on what NO really means in this industry.

Everybody talks about the long journey--and we all know it's worth it--but it's hard to know how to feel along the way.

Guarded hope seems to be the answer for most. Optimism tempered with a long-road perspective.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this very real post. No answers here. I'm still working on it, too.

Kittie Howard said...

Bravo, Kelly! Gone are the days when an agent spotted talent an editor could develop. Too bad! E-books are here to stay, with lots of great talent that can feel a sense of nourishing achievement.

Angela Ackerman said...

Almost all of my original crit partners have given up on writing. It breaks my heart, because several of them were very talented and almost certainly would be published by now had they kept at it.

It does come down to how much you want it I think, and how ready you are to go to the mat. Certainly too, you have to be able to take the bad with the good. Not everyone is willing to sacrifice what it takes to be published, and that is no slight on them. This is a tough business, and happiness should always come first.

Angela @ The Bookshelf MUse

Jennifer Hillier said...

The hope of publication kept me going, too. I do write for myself, but it was the dream of seeing my work in print that pushed me through revision after revision. But, it's not for everyone. What I've learned so far is that writing has to make me happy on a personal level first. It's only way to handle all the rejection and disappointment that comes later.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, I'm not even close to being agent worthy. The thought of publishing a novel (though it's what I want) seems so remote, I can't even envision it.

Somehow I keep going--I think that's the hope part. Intangible and undefinable, but totally there. ;)

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, but it's the praise I get from those I've allowed to read my manuscript that upsets me the most. (no family members were included. Therefore, no family members were harmed) The ones who read my manuscript can't believe that it WON'T get published, and by praising me, believe they are giving me hope. What it ends up doing to my psyche is on the level of "Yeah. Sure. Now where's an agent that believes as you do."

Yes. I'm finding ways to get depressed that have long evaded the most cynical, clinically depressed people of the century!