Tuesday, 7 September 2010

IN WHICH I MEET A DELUSIONAL WANNABE

It is a truth fairly universally acknowledged that amongst the many trying to become published there lurk some delusional wannabes. Here's one I met earlier.
DW: "But my book is as it is. And besides, it isn't really my book"
NM: "Oh?"
DW: "No, the idea came to me from above, as a gift. It's the story I had to tell. I have to tell it."
Fine. So tell it. Just don't expect anyone to read it if it's not good enough. And you are not the first or last person to tell me that your book came as a gift from above. To be honest, that's what it often feels like when an idea hits a writer. It's called inspiration. It should be followed almost immediately by a lot of perspiration.

That was a shortened version of a very LONG conversation, during which I was trying to help a woman who claimed to have been rejected by many dozens of publishers. (I believe her. There is evidence.) She wanted to know why she'd been rejected. No, actually, she didn't want to know why. She wanted to blast the stupid publishers who were being so obtuse and ignorant that they didn't recognise a gift-horse when they saw it. This woman was not a writer; she had no idea of the craft and graft involved.

Writing is not channelling. Actually, perhaps the first draft often is - and, yes, I do know that wonderful feeling when you go into some kind of altered state and the story just flows. But the second and eleventy-millionth drafts are not channelling. They are proper hard work, needing skills which must be applied ruthlessly.

I could name this woman quite safely because she won't be reading this. How do I know? Because when I asked her whether, in her thwarted quest to become published, she read any blogs or books about writing, she had a confident answer.
"Oh no, I don't have time for that. Anyway, as I say, my book is as it is."
Struggling a little, I tried another tack.
"So, what are you writing now, while you're waiting for responses to this one?"
She looked at me blankly. (This was the first time she'd looked at me at all, so even blankly was a start.)
"Oh, I'm not writing anything else. This is the book I've got to write."
"But that will be a problem for a publisher," I said. "You need to show that you have more than one book in you. Besides, don't you want to write more?"
"God, no. I'm not doing that again!"
And she then went on and on about how it was ridiculous that all the publishers had said no, how there was nothing wrong with her book, and that it was important that it be published.

Sadly for her and frustratingly for me, neither of us achieved anything during this conversation. I gave away at least twenty minutes when I could have been speaking to other genuine writers who actually wanted advice. To be fair to her, she hadn't asked for my help. But I knew from a comment that she needed good advice and I stupidly thought she might welcome it, free and warmly offered. I was actually incredibly patient and really did want to help, but she was, without doubt, the most unhelpable person I have ever met.

(Edited to add: because so many of you seem to be worried that YOU might be delusional wannabes, I am now going to do a separate post in which I define one!)

Why am I telling you this?
Because, after many months of you saying nice things to me, I want to say something nice to you. I want to say that I hugely appreciate that none of you have fallen into the trap that this poor woman was stuck in. You have shown, by your comments and contributions that you are damned hard-working writers, seeking the best and most undelusional ways towards publication. Many of you are already published and you know how hard the business is. Many of you have been rejected many times, as I was and as most writers have been, and you believe that hard work and talent are the most likely ways through that.

So, I want to say well done, thank you and huge good luck, too. May you all find exactly the right book and write it in exactly the right way. SOON!

Why am I being so nice? I don't know. Anyone would think it was my silver wedding anniversary today or something. OH! IT IS! Better go and check the champagne's on ice.

27 comments:

Hannah Stoneham said...

Congratulations on your anniversary - I really enjoyed your blog...

Elen Caldecott said...

Yay! Happy anniversary. Wishing you chilled champagne, new boots and chocolate! And, of course, many more happy years.

Alison Morton said...

In which I breathe a sigh of relief it wasn't me you were talking about ;-)

Happy twenty-fifth, silver anniversary 'twin'. We'll think of you two when we're drinking our Laurent Perrier... (Well, just for a moment!)

charlotteotter said...

Congrats on your anniversary! And thanks for the lovely words; they mean a lot. *glows*

Damyanti said...

Happy Anniversary!
-----

Wow you had the patience for a long conversation with this writer?

sheilamcperry said...

... and I echo Alison's sigh of relief.
Happy anniversary! (pity about the weather though)

fairyhedgehog said...

Happy Anniversary!

People who only want you to agree with them and won't learn can be very annoying.

One thing I've learnt from the writing community is to hold my writing lightly - anything can be changed, deleted, added. A first draft is just raw material.

Anyway, I hope you have a lovely day!

Thomas Taylor said...

I clicked this post as soon as I saw it in case that delusional writer was me!

:)

I think this woman could bring a lot of business to some lucky vanity publisher. But I don't get how you can be both patient AND crabbit.

Happy anniversary.

HelenMHunt said...

Happy Anniversary. Much chocolate and champagne to you x

Nick Cross said...

I like how we're all worried that we could be delusional too - sometimes I'm not sure where to draw the line between being a committed writer and just being plain fit to be committed!

Enjoy your day and celebrations.

simonmarshalljones said...

Unfortunately, I know of someone very close to the person you have just described - the only difference being that said person writes on a regular basis and has self-published two books. His problem - he hates criticism - ANY criticism, constructive or otherwise. If you offer it, after reading his drivel (and, being a book reviewer, I can categorically state that it IS drivel). as a way of helping him, he just gives you that 'How dare you criticise my writing' look. He appears to believe that by having two books on a certain self-publisher's website and a continuing serial on a social-networking site, that a malor publishing house are going to knock on his door and offer him a book deal.

Now THAT'S what I call delusional.

simonmarshalljones said...

Oh, and VERY happy anniversary!! =D

KP said...

Happy anniversary! What legends. May you spoil each other rotten all day. And thanks for the positivity in this post. Good stuff.

Catherine Hughes said...

Happy Anniversary! Many congratulations.

I've always likened the inspiration thing to channelling, as if, somewhere out in another universe, my stories were real! (Don't laugh - it was the best way I could find to describe it!)

But the effort of getting those stories down on paper has been enormous. I'm at the point now where I am struggling, despite some very real inspiration and a story I really believe in, to continue to put that effort in.

After three novels (I am just waiting for the last of the rejections to come in on the third one) and a fourth and fifth almost completed but stalled, I have, over the last few months, started and stopped a whole host of projects. I think the one that I began this month might just actually get written, but only because I've annoyed myself so much with all the wasted effort on the other four ideas and am now feeling distinctly cantankerous and bloody-minded!

I know everyone who comments here will recognise this frustration-desperation-and-vanished-motivation stage I'm at and will understand how very hard it is to work through it.

I often suspect that I am delusional - and perhaps I am as maybe my work would be published by now if it were any good! - but I carry on anyway. Perhaps the difference between the writer you describe and me is simply a question of our reaction to our delusions. I work very hard to try and prove that I'm not delusional. She refuses to accept that she might be!

Becky said...

I think the "gift" bit was when I began to bark with laughter...

Happy Anniversary!

Phillipa said...

Happy Anniversary to you and lukcy Mr Help I Need A Publisher! - and thank you for brightening my day with the tale of a DW.

Mark said...

If I write rubbish I hope people tell me. I don't want to waste my time producing drivel. Always surprises me when people can't accept helpful criticism.

catdownunder said...

Oh miaou! Late to the party! Happy Anniversary and many happy returns of it. Champagne? Good. Chocolate? Good. The pink boots or the purple ones or the new boots? Good. I think you are all set for a purrfect day!

zornhau said...

LOL!
Robert E Howard said that when he wrote the Conan stories, it felt like channelling. However, it's fairly clear that he abandoned or threw away the ones that didn't work.

Nicola Morgan said...

You are NOT delusional, any of you! In fact, I am about to do another blog post to explain mny definition of a DW. And by the way, Catherine, you are among the least delusional and most hard working writers I know. And by the way again, we're all wannabes - I'm a wannabe, too. I wannabe more successful; I wannabe published again, lots. I don't think I'm delusional, but I might not succeed.

Thanks for all your congrats on the anniversay! And congrats to Alison, who was married on the same day!

I am off from Thursday for a few days, at which point chocolate and champagne may well prevail. Cheers!

re the being patient AND crabbit - I get very very crabbit inside but usually very patient outside. (I don't mean when I GO outside...) On this occasion, I did become a bit crabbit but I don't think she noticed. :O(

Spider Griffin said...

Warm congats on your wedding anniversary, to you Nicola and your husband!

----

Reading your post, I came to the conclusion that self-belief has its limits, I guess.

Writing the first draft as a type of "channelling": the closest I've got to that was just past the middle of my second novel in the 80's. Tapping away, it suddenly felt like a tap had been turned on inside my head, and I couldn't type fast enough, to get what was flowing out of my head onto the pages. It was only an exhilarating feeling after the event. I've never experienced that again since, but I sure want to! It was almost as though the novel was writing itself, but I draw the line at considering there were any supernatural influences!

:-)

Catherine Hughes said...

*Blush* - thank you!

I think that the hardest thing is to perservere when there is a good chance that you are, in fact, delusional. Because, until an agent or a publisher - or perhaps even both - support your work, you can never really be sure that you have what it takes.

I mean, you may be a fantastic writer. You may have fabulous ideas. But, unless you can also demonstrate dedication, panache, verve and - dare I say it?! - a little bit of luck, coupled with persistance and hard work, then you may never make it.

And, until you do, you just don't know if you can. You may be delusional.

womagwriter said...

Congratulations on your wedding anniversary, and thanks for an enjoyable blog post, from a non-delusional wannabe.

Sarah Callejo said...

This post made me laugh out loud. Was I meant to cry? Well, at least that delusional wannabe had blind faith in her product.
Happy anniversary Nicola.

Tyler Tork said...

Happy anniversity!

badas2010 said...

Happy Anniversary and many more of 'em.
I think I'm a bit delusional, or maybe a lot, but I'm a hardworking one so I hope I don't qualify too well.

Elizabeth West said...

Aww! I'm sorry I didn't get to this post sooner. Happy Silver Anniversary to you and your spouse!

"God, no. I'm not doing that again!" That made me guffaw. Then I kind of felt bad, but it was funny, even though it was kind of pathetic.