The Incredible Race

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » July 3rd, 2010, 10:15 pm

Username,

I'm finding there's something slightly at odds in your two points here. On the one hand, you're saying they should tell it like it is. If a writer sucks, tell them they suck. Be discouraging. Get these people out of the game! And yet in the second part you're upset that the agency is doing just that... being unwilling to accept submissions from people they've rejected. In other words, getting them out of the game (at least in terms of that agency). So on the latter issue you're sort of championing the possibility of learning and change for a writer, and yet in the former you're advocating laying down the harsh and discouraging reality - but professionals telling writers they suck will push out these writers, and some of them might have learned and developed as writers, and gotten good enough to be published, just as you seemed to predict when disparaging the agency policy.

The problem is that the business is subjective. Telling it like it is... would only be one professional's opinion, and perhaps one that does not properly reflect the breadth of opinion in the field. Though I agree, in a sense, that they could do a better job of showing the reality of the situation, of showing the odds. But there's money in hope, and in encouraging it. Why kill the cash cow? But the basic fact is that this hope will bear fruit for a few writers. Not for most, yes, but for a select few. And the trick is you never know if you'll be one of those few if you don't try. So why shouldn't they be encouraging? Why scare away the potentially great writers? It's very hard to pre-select for them. We'll encourage these ones, and be brutally honest with these ones... but what if they select the wrong ones? That very possibility of change you mention is the reason for such pushing optimism, in my opinion. It's damn difficult to predict a winner. Fifty bucks on Horseshoe Heaven in the fifth...

Personally, I don't mind hearing the odds. I like a challenge. I like difficulty. I don't respect my accomplishments if they come too easy. So, for me, I try to embrace that challenge. If it's one in forty thousand... well, I want to be that one. But different writers are made differently. Laying down the harsh truth, without encouragement, may cost the world a generation of fine writers.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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J. T. SHEA
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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by J. T. SHEA » July 4th, 2010, 5:25 pm

I was joking, Username, paraphrasing Mrs. Malaprop, a Richard Brinsley Sheridan character. Hence the word 'malapropism'.

Are you saying DGLM refuse to consider queries for a new and different book from a writer they've rejected regarding a previous book?

I second Bryan's points. The odds are indeed against successful publication. They always have been. The odds are against almost anything worth achieving. The odds are against life itself. From conception onwards, each of us battles the odds, outliving those who die before birth, or as infants, children, teenagers, young people, and so on.

Would you really have stopped writing twenty years ago, if you knew then what you know now? By the way, may I recommend the memoir WE CAN'T ALL BE ASTRONAUTS by Tim Clare, a British writer who struggled with many of these issues. I found it both funny and enlightening.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » July 5th, 2010, 10:21 pm

J.D. Salinger, after the publication of Catcher In The Rye, submitted a novel that was deemed to be 'unpublishable'.

The people who read it said it was god awful. Of course a published novelist can generate a masterpiece, and then a clunker, or vice versa - and so can an unpublished author. DGLM's policy is just plain ridiculous.

Bryan, I never said that Jim McCarthy should go around telling writers that they suck! I was simply agreeing with him that he should 'tell it like it is' - specifically, that he shouldn't sugar coat how difficult it is for an unpublished author to get published (the organizer of that event was clearly suggesting to McCarthy that he do just that... at least the organizer wanted him to avoid mentioning the difficulties).

If one is going to make it, then obviously one has to keep it real. It can't be a fantasy. You know that, and I know that. I'm not sure that all of the people attending that event would've known that. I don't believe that it's discouraging to tell people the basic facts, even if the facts are pretty harsh. I would argue that true courage comes from having the foresight to look ahead and see that the road is troubled, and yet proceed in spite of that. Any fool can rush in blindly - that's not courageousness at all, that's just stupidity. The more you know about the obstacles ahead, the more likely you'll be prepared to face those obstacles when you reach them.

Surely, you agree with this?

J.T., I believe you didn't realize that I was joking about you joking. Your obviously an intelligent person... you're obviously an intelligent person... and I wouldn't have expected you too... to have mistaken an alligator for an allegory. Is that what you thought I thought, or have I got it wrong again?

Let's keep this discussion going though... for the obvious reason that it keeps on bumping this thread... actually, nobody seems to want to read this story of mine, dash it?

People are going to love my next novel though. It's about a vampire who marries a zombie in a post-apocalypitc... appoleptic... apolet... in a world devastated by nuclear war. The vampire and the zombie must travel across country to the ocean... I'm not sure why... the ocean just seems like a destination that a lot of people want to reach? The newly married couple stop at the side of the road every now and then to engage in deep and meaningful discussion. Also, I believe that the next hot subject for writers of fiction will be golf - yes, golf (remember, you heard it here first) - so I'm going to try to work in eighteen holes as well. That is what I am talking about, my friends.

(See what I mean about keeping it real? I've got a head on my shoulders, boy - let me tell you.)

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by J. T. SHEA » July 5th, 2010, 11:14 pm

Dystel & Goderich's submission requirements do not say a writer who has a project rejected by them cannot query them with a different project.

'I would argue that true courage comes from having the foresight to look ahead and see that the road is troubled, and yet proceed in spite of that. Any fool can rush in blindly - that's not courageousness at all, that's just stupidity. The more you know about the obstacles ahead, the more likely you'll be prepared to face those obstacles when you reach them.' Bravo! I agree 100 percent!

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » July 6th, 2010, 7:20 am

Yeah, that's a lot clearer. And certainly I, at least, want to know the obstacles ahead of me. But I'm wondering if, for a lot of writers, ignorance is bliss? I've got a feeling that a lot of writers would rather just face each obstacle one at a time, as it arises, rather than know every one at the beginning. Less daunting for some, that way? I'm guessing people take a lot of different paths to the endpoint.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » July 6th, 2010, 5:23 pm

Bryan, regarding ignorance:

If I had known twenty years ago what I know now, I would never have invested as much time and energy as I did in teaching myself how to write fiction.

I would've focused, rather, on becoming a copy editor.

So why don't I do that now? It's because I've committed myself to this. I think... and yes I could be mistaken about this... but I think that I've taught myself a thousand things about writing fiction (one never stops learning, of course). To give up now would be to give up on my life almost. It's one thing to spend a year working on something, and then to admit defeat, but it's entirely another when you've spent a good fifteen years doing it. Also, I still feel that it's my purpose in life to become a novelist - as foolish as that may be.

Nobody in my family understands why I'm doing what I'm doing. My older sister, in particular, has taken a hard line, and won't even allow me to talk to her about my writing anymore. If I ever mention what I'm writing she'll say: "I'm not prepared to have this conversation with you right now." (I believe that her psychiatrist friend told her to say that to me - the words just don't sound like they're hers). I'm unpublished, meaning I'm not making any money from this, meaning (at least in my sister's eyes) that I'm not successful. I'm an embarrassment to her. If she and her husband have people over to their home they'll invite all the other family members but they won't invite me (at a previous social gathering, somebody asked me, in front of everyone else, what I did for a living, and I said I was trying to become a novelist... I was then asked how I was able to make a living... and I said that I was living in abject poverty... an uncomfortable silence descended, and then everyone started talking about something else... hardly anybody spoke to me for the rest of the night, and those that did were obviously just trying to be polite... my sister was just embarrassed by it).

I was watching a video on Google video the other day, and Thomas Keller, the great American chef, said: "If I had known how difficult it was going to be start The French Laundry I never would have attempted it. I succeeded partially because I was ignorant."

I would argue that, as a novelist, unless one gets very, very, very, very lucky, very, very, very, very quickly (can anybody say J.K. Rowling) then ignorance is not only bliss but a necessity for continuation.

Also, to those individuals who might be reading this - I was only kidding about the golf thing. Don't start writing about golf. I do not believe that golf will be the next hot topic. Ballroom dancing. That's what's going to catch on next. Remember, you heard it here first.

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