Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Let me crush your hopes and dreams. I live for it.

Sometime back there was a cris de coeur from an author who said agents lived to crush author's hopes and dreams.

Given I make my living from finding good writers and helping them get published, that statement sounded exactly right. So, I adopted it for my catch phrase, and often times now I'll sign off on Twitter with "off to crush authorial hopes and dreams" accompanied by a .wav of an evil laugh.

Thus it was with delight that I read this question over at Editorial Anonymous.


Paul Neuhardt said...

Sooo am I the only wannebe-published author that expects to be rejected time after time?

Oh sure, I expect to get published someday, hopefully with my first novel. I'm vain enough to want my "debut" novel be the first I actually wrote.

But I don't expect it.

Does that make me weird? It's beginning to sound that way.

gael lynch said...

You crack me up, Janet! (And I mean that!) What a sad lot we are if we're sitting around waiting for our hopes and dreams to be answered that easily! Such drama! I've stopped telling people I'm a writer...young adult/children's or otherwise, b/c the inevitable response is..."I've always wanted to do that." They then proceed to nauseate me with their hopes and dreams aka the "big idea." Or worse yet...they want me to write their "big idea" for them! I don't mean to demean them, they're entitled. I think about my first own hope and dream novel. Like learning to paint using a paint by number set! No want it, you earn it! I get that now...but it's taken TIME, hard work, leather skin and a relentless spirit of commitment. And if and when my day ever comes...I will certainly savor that surprise!

Dana said...

Paul- not weird... I agree.

I would love to have my debut novel be the first novel I wrote. Unfortunately, the first novel I wrote is a nearly autobiographical odd literary piece. Do I think it's great? Yes? Would Oprah think it's great? Maybe. Is it going to be my first published book? No. As much as writers would like to blame agents and editors and polar bears and whoever else for killing literary fiction, none of those people are the problem. If we have to name names, the public killed literary fiction. Was literary fiction ever alive outside of high school lit classrooms? That could be argued.

As we all know, but tend to forget, money makes the world go round. You're trying to get published because you want to make money. Maybe you just want your work out there, but let's be honest. If you just wanted your work out there you would self publish, or blog or whatever and thumb your nose at all those dumb NY types.

The general population doesn't read lots of literary fiction, thus it doesn't sell. Editors aren't going to buy what doesn't sell. Agents aren't going to rep what doesn't sell. And if your goal in writing is to get published and make money you shouldn't be sending out manuscripts that aren't going to sell.

I understand that manuscripts are often the author's blood and guts and tears poured onto a page, but just because they're your dreams doesn't make them good writing, or marketable. You don't get a cookie and a NYT Bestseller sticker just because you tried really, really hard and it's your dream. If the world worked like that I'd be able to stay super skinny while eating a diet of melted cheese and bacon.

Now... I'll get off of my snarky soapbox because I need to go work on my Urban Steampunk Vampire Religious Conspiracy Suspenseful Romance... you may send my cookies and stickers starting tomorrow. :)

Gilbert J. Avila said...

Of course it's not weird. Usually an author's first book is perhaps the third finished, submitted, and finally picked up (God willing /Insh Allah). I expect that like most authors you have a couple of "desk novels" mouldering away in drawers like Miriam Blaylock's ex-lovers in Whitley Streiber's "The Hunger." In time you may want to dust them off, revise, rewrite, or shred them, depending on what you see through the more experienced eyes you will have.

DebraLSchubert said...

Thanks for the link to Editorial Anonymous.

Being the mean, vicious, Dream Killer that you are, I've got just one question. Like John Lennon wrote to Paul McCartney: How do you (Ms. Evil Dream Crushing Shark) sleep at night? ;-)

Suzan Harden said...

LOL - If it helps, Paul, I tell a newbies that the first novel is just practice. For some strange reason, most of them never talk to me again.

Marsha Sigman said...

I love the 'crack-induced fantasies', that's just funny.

We know some people have to find others to blame because they can't bear to admit failure.

Redhead Writing said...

Thanks for the link to EA, Janet. It's not unlike the Evil Boss, The Government, The Damn Bank, The Suits...It's the age-old argument of The Man keeping people from that which they're entitled - "entitled" being the operative word. When more writers start treating the process as a business and those involved in the process like colleagues as EA states, I expect your collective days will be less riddled with airline peanut packet peltings of "dream crusher!" and more with those elusive "thank yous."


Dana King said...

I spent about half my adult life working to be a professional musician. So it goes.

During my musical years, I used to think musicians were whiners, never happy about their lot, lamenting the Great Conspiracy that kept them from attaining the acclimation and success they deserved.

The more closely involved I become in writing, the more I realize musicians are comparative stoics.

Margaret Yang said...

Editorial Anonymous said: "Here's the thing we'd like more authors to be aware of: we don't hold your dreams in our hands. You do.

What we hold in our hands--what you've sent us-- is your work, not your dreams."

I once had a critique partner tell me I'd crushed her dreams and taken away her will to write. And I wasn't even an agent, just a fellow writer who was trying my very best to help.

Why would anyone want to give away their power like that?

Dana King said...

Anyone so easily deterred was in the wrong line of work. If your friend did, indeed, lose her will to write (assuming she didn't just say it to make you feel bad), you may have done her an inestimable service.

BJ said...

My dreams? Nobody even really knows what those are (including me), let alone holds them in their hands.

My goals, on the other hand, are to write a great novel, get an agent, and get published. And as all writers should know, there are many obstacles in the way of the hero's goals. Even if the writer is the hero. Without those obstacles, a novel -- and life, in general -- would be pretty boring.

Malia Sutton said...

I once read an interesting publishing blog post about the difference between dreams and fantasies. It stated that no one can crush a dream, because dreams do and can come true. But fantasies rarely materialize.

That's about as deep as I get on a Tuesday night after being shoved and pushed on the subway for an hour.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I believe it's possible that when my agent isn't agenting for me, she could possibly be out crushing other people's hopes and dreams. I mean, it's not like I have a camera installed at her desk or in her car or on her chihuahua's collar (don't ask me how I know it's a chihuahua, I just *intuited* it, okay?) For all I know, she could be all "Maggie, that negotiation is going along great" and then turn right to her desk and send an email that says "Dear Author, thanks for querying, but you're a loser, and here are your dreams in a trashbag, I let my chihuahua pee on them and that's about what they're good for. Best of luck elsewhere; opinions may vary. Signed, Laura."

But I do not know that. Because I am one of the few and the elite who knew the secret handshake to get into this rarified business. And that is a handshake I guard very, very closely.

Anyway, for those fellow writers who are being crushed by my agent, I'm sorry. If this is indeed the case. It's possible.


a former slush pile surfer.*

*in my head, this is amusing, after a day of work and not much sleep and dreams involving the word "torticollis" (yes my father's a doctor, why do you ask?). It may not be funny in the morning. I better say sorry for that as well.