Sunday, June 10, 2012

Acknowledging Acknowledgments

I've been getting ready to write my acknowledgements for Deadwood, and it's harder than I thought. It's not as if I haven't been drafting them in my head for the past five years that I've been seriously working towards publication, but the text is always changing.

As I writer, I do pay attention to acknowledgements, but I pulled out a few books to see how they're usually done.  The basics: Some acknowledgements are on the copyright page, some in the back. Some are brief, thanking editors or spouses. Some read like bibliographies of sources. Some resemble a Who's Who on recent best seller lists, and some are more like Who's Who among the writer's relatives and babysitters.

Wrong Assumptions
A lot of my assumptions about acknowledgements didn't hold up. I figured that historical fiction would have the longest acknowledgements and that contemporary novels, with fewer expert sources, might have brief ones.  I thought first novels might have the longest acknowledgements, theorizing that debut writers might want to clear their artistic debts in case they didn't get another chance. I thought more confident, multipublished writers would be more matter-of-fact about their success, and probably less effusive.

None of these were consistently true. For example, Libba Bray's acknowledgements for her debut historical fantasy, A Great and Terrible Beauty, are a succinct one page, while for her recent contemporary satire, Beauty Queens, they stretch to 3 1/2 pages -- with footnotes!

It may be that publishers indulge popular (and witty) authors with more space. But maybe that's not the only reason acknowledgements grow.

Add It Up
Gratitude is cumulative. If my first novel had been contracted on its first round of subs, I would have had only my husband and my agent to thank -- my only two readers until that point. But it wasn't published.

So I still have those debts to all those who supported me and helped me getting better throughout the sub process for my first unpublished book, added to all those writers and readers who have helped me with this one, plus all the other projects I've written since. All those critiques, encouragements, and even rejections have gotten me here.

That's a lot of people to thank. My hope is that for my next book, the list is even longer.

Do you write acknowledgements in your head? Who do you credit for helping you continue and improve? What style of acknowledgements do you prefer? Do you pay attention to the acknowledgements in the books you read?


  1. I've thought about who I'd like to include, but that's it.

    I actually like reading the long awknowledgements, where they detail what someone did for them.

    Thank you to: a list of people just doesn't mean much to me. Although I'm sure it does to those people.

    How cool would that be to be on someone's awknowledgements page.

  2. My roommate (also a writer) and I were just talking about our tendencies to write our acknowledgements in our heads at night. We decided that since we're putting in the work to one day being pubbed we're allowed to fantasize.

  3. I've been on a couple of acknowlegdement pages for members of my critique group, and I have to say that it feels so COOL to be remembered. You want to cheer those people on even more!


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