Feeling too happy? Read "What I'm really thinking - the failed novelist"

Stable

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I do like the response. Obviously we don't know Failed Novelist's full story, or how many books they had written before, but it's common for published authors to say that your first 5 - 12 books never get anywhere. Seems they may not have had thick enough skin to get that far.
 

Toby Frost

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Mine certainly didn't - and the better and more "important" I thought they were, the worse they seemed to do! Here's another response.

Do two unpublished books make you a failed author? No, you're a quitter

Yes, there are those hip young writers who get picked up for a three-book deal on the basis of a single chapter – but they make the news because they are the exception, not the rule. They’re the ideal we’ve been conditioned to think of as the measure of authorly success. But think of them like models at a fashion shoot; we’re never going to look as good, but we can still wear the same clothes. We might never make that million-pound debut, but we can still be published.
 

Biskit

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So, I've just been unwinding on the 'Makes you smile, brightens your day, lifts your mood' thread, and found Failed Novelist's main point of reference:

https://www.sffchronicles.com/threads/560388/page-323#post-2132754
35809
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Forgive me, anyone who has heard me say this before, but most "failed" writers give up too soon. And the reason they give up is unrealistic expectations, which very often lead to bitterness and giving up. The woman who wrote that article is an excellent example of unrealistic expectations.

And I wouldn't say it was 99.9% luck, Stephen. Luck is a big factor, of course, but persistence is an even bigger factor.

You don't even get a ticket in the "will this book be published" lottery without an immense amount of work. And since so many people don't want to put it in that amount of work (often the people who howl the most about how much work they did), those who do keep at it and keep working have much better odds than it might appear.

This woman attracted an agent. If she'd kept at it, it's likely she would have been published eventually. But I have a feeling she still wouldn't have been satisfied unless she sold a million copies and won a prestigious award or two.
 

Steve Harrison

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I think if your reason for writing is solely to become a best seller and/or make your fortune, quitting is an essential weapon in your armoury and, if your mission is not accomplished in your time frame, it should be employed.

But if, like me, you can't not write, quitting is a strange and unfathomable concept. And it took me more than 25 years to get my first novel published, so I know what I'm talking about!
 

zmunkz

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The woman who wrote that article is an excellent example of unrealistic expectations.

I agree with this, but I think it's more than that. The woman said her mistake was thinking publishing was her fate... which to me signals the problem. Nobody is going to make it in writing if they are doing it just to be published.

That is the wrong reason and the wrong motivation.

It is like picking up a guitar because you want to be a famous musician, not because you have music to share with the world. I think anyone who is writing only with an end goal in mind is missing the point. It is the process that matters. Write because you love it. Write because you'd do so anyway, even if you'd seen the future and knew nobody would ever pay you a dollar for it.

I think that is the mentality most likely to bring success.
 

The Big Peat

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Or at least happiness. You can't necessarily have success writing, but you can have happiness. Success is between you and the world; happiness is between you and, well, you.



Anyway, I read it and I shouldn't, as now I feel grumpy. I understand creating high expectations for oneself and a lack of resiliency all too well, so I have some sympathy, but not much. Anyone who hangs around writers must surely know that this happens. They must also know that they do not have to accept this answer if they don't want to. Write another book, self-publish, submit under a male pen name (ouch but...), gatecrash editors' lunches and start reading until they sign you (okay, maybe not that one...) and etc.etc. If someone wants to say they've lost and that's it - or their own inner demons give them no choice - fine. Sorry to hear it. But don't go on about it like no one else ever knew... in fairness, those Guardian articles aren't aimed at writers.

But when these articles do get to writers, I feel like The Princess Bride has it best.

"Get used to disappointment."
"'Kay."
 

The Big Peat

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Not your fault old horse - entirely mine for clicking on something I knew would annoy me :)

edit: In similar vein, I'm now reading the FF article that Toby posted, and I'm bristling a wee bit because anyone who doesn't think there's a link between failed creative efforts and mental health only has to look back as far as Douglas Hulick's recent abandonment of The Kin novels to know that, yes, this stuff happens. Maybe I've misread the words, but I don't think I have.

I should really know better than to look into these threads! :p
 
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Lumens

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I would treat the original article as click bait. No reason to feel much at all since it is just a clever ruse for emotions. I liked the response though, and I admit didn't think about click bait until I read it there. The discussion is an interesting one nonetheless, and I find myself more inspired because I feel compelled to write. I'll worry about pulishing when I find it is my next step.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I imagine, Peat, that there is a link between mental health and people in all careers who have suffered crushing disappointments. Think of all the people who go to college for four years and get a degree, only to find out that it is nearly impossible to get a job in their chosen field. But creative types often act as though nobody else suffers quite as much as we do.

Having had some crushing disappointments of my own, I might feel sorry for that woman, if she weren't doing such a superior job of it herself.
 

Toby Frost

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While I sympathise with the writer, I do think that lots of people don't approach writing in the same way that they would any other art. Nobody picks up a blob of clay and expects to be a great sculptor; nobody's first painting is genius*. You have to have a good knowledge of the mechanics of writing. I don't see why it should be any different for writing a novel, even if you do quite a lot of writing in your day job, one way or another.

This feels especially true where the novel is "literary". The criteria for success in that area are probably so vague, and the definition of what is "good writing" and what's just purple prose is so variable, that luck probably factors in even more than it does in SF. And yes, serious persistence is called for.

But I do feel sorry for her, if only because her dream didn't come true. To be honest, I'd suggest that she just self-publishes the thing and tells everyone she knows. The fame and fortune can come later (if at all!).


* The only three exceptions I can think of to this are Shakespeare, Mozart and Da Vinci, but as they lived a long time ago, it's hard to be certain that Shakespeare and Da Vinci didn't have a few weaker early works that we don't know about. Mozart seems to have just been a genius from infancy.
 

AlexH

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I don't get why this article is getting so much traction (I've seen it posted all over the place). As it's "Anonymous", it might not even be written by an author of two novels - it could be a journalist.

I liked one of the comments that mentioned something along the lines of thousands of athletes spend their whole lives training for the Olympics, but only a very small number win a medal.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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This is the part that stood out for me:

But I’m scarred. I still read, but stick to the classics. I have next to no interest in contemporary fiction and avoid literary debuts by British female writers, which all seem so safe and samey.

It seems so envious and mean-spirited. A certain amount of envy is natural—it's not nice, but it's human nature, and all we can do is prevent it from taking over our thoughts and influencing how we act—but when someone feels enough that they feel justified in parading it, then there is a problem.

And if she isn't reading their books, then how does she know they're all safe and same?
 

Brian G Turner

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And if she isn't reading their books, then how does she know they're all safe and same?

Yeah, that part stood out to me, too.

I don't get why this article is getting so much traction

I get the feeling that it's linkbait. It's very short and generic, lacking any actual details.
 

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