A popular post from December 2007
by Annette Lyon
When it comes to the dream wagon, I'm one of the first on board. I held onto my dream of publishing for many years through a large number rejections, and even though I have some publications under my belt, I still dream big.
I love cheerleading fellow writers, especially those who haven't seen their name in print yet. It's exciting to encourage and inspire others to keep going even after another rejection, to never give up. It's one of my favorite parts about speaking at conferences.
But this week I read something that stopped me in my tracks. It was a letter to the editor of a writing magazine, wherein the aspiring writer discussed how many decades (I think it was four) he/she had been working on a book, revising, submitting, getting rejected, and trying again with the same (theoretically improved) manuscript. "I'll never give up my dream" was the point of the letter.
I had a two-fold reaction to this:
1) Good for them for keeping at it and never giving up.
was quickly followed by:
2) How pathetic that they've put all their eggs in one basket for forty some-odd years.
Had this writer been regularly coming up with new ideas, writing new books, and following publishing trends, for forty years, I wouldn't have had this reaction.
But they've been working on the same book for forty years? Where is the logic in that?
Almost every published author I know has several manuscripts gathering dust that will never see the light of day, books that they cut their writer's teeth on. You learn to write by doing it. Many times. On different projects. In different ways. It generally takes writing a few books, going through the entire process, before you're good enough to be published.
Revising the same book forever isn't going to do that for you.
Additionally, there's a good chance that this person's book will be horrifically unmarketable; assuming for a moment that their idea was hot back in, oh, 1967, I'd bet my birthday chocolate that it wouldn't sell today.
And then there's the element of productivity: A publisher doesn't usually make much money on a first novel. They hope to eventually make a name for you and sell more with each book. If you can't promise that you'll produce more than one decent idea in forty years, you won't be on their happy list.
Cling to your dreams. I'll never tell anyone to give up. But I will tell them to be a tad realistic. Write your way toward your dream. That means doing everything it takes to be cross the finish line.
Don't kid anyone; circling the practice track forever is not called "pursuing your dream."