Tuesday, 7 September 2010


For clarity and for your own peace of mind after my blog post earlier today, In Which I Meet A Delusional Wannabe, let me define what I mean by a DW.

The woman in the story was a DW not because she thought her idea had come as a gift from above. Brahms also described the advent of an idea in those terms. But Brahms then said that "by sheer hard work I make it my own." (Except that he said it in German.)

The main reason she was a DW is because she was under the delusion that having an idea from above and then writing a novel was enough. She believed that publication was owed to her because she thought her book was good. She would not accept that it was not good enough in some way; would not accept that a hundred publishers had made a valid decision and that this should tell her something. I'm not saying she couldn't write - I haven't a clue, not having had the pleasure of reading her book. I'm saying she was not doing the right things, asking the right questions, opening her mind to the possibility that her book lacked something that might make it worth publishing. She was not prepared to work hard.

So, my definition of a DW goes like this: a delusional wannabe is someone who desperately wants to be published, falls sadly short in either ability or a publishable idea or both, AND is not prepared to work as hard as possible to find out exactly how and why she falls short in one or both of those things. A DW will never be successfully published. A DW will usually not write another book, because writing another book when your first hasn't been published is hard, very hard. But it makes all the difference between delusion and determination.

You, by virtue of the fact that you are here, that you keep coming back, that you agree with me (very important) and that you will do anything in your power to make your writing work better, are not DWs. Hooray!

That's the good news. The bad news, I'm afraid, is that NOT being a DW is not a guarantee that you will be published. But it's a very good start and underpins the whole philosophy of this blog. I try to unpick delusions and show you sensible ways to achieve your dreams. So, carry on letting your ideas comes as gifts from above, but remember that it's the sheer hard work afterwards that makes you a writer.


Ebony McKenna. said...

I think I saw two of these on X factor.

David John Griffin said...

There's a difference between being a delusional wannabe and having confidence and hope, of course. THe worst one is when the writer considers they are "the best thing since sliced bread" when in fact, if they did get published, they would be a small fish in a very big (and old) pond.

Talking about hard work, I think I've worked very hard (and still working) on my second novel to get it right. (I think, I really think, that this time is the last time, though). What I'm hoping though, is as I gain experience as a writer, although future novels will involve a lot of work, including multiple edits, it won't be quite as much work as the ones before.

But there must be a floor to that; I mean there's always hard work, no matter how experienced an author is.

Thank you for these posts; for me, it's given me more confidence, strangely!


Kittie Howard said...

I think a DW lacks the confidence needed to make necessary changes to move her life forward, not just the book.

Sarah Callejo said...

I wonder who's happier though, the delusional writer who "knows" she's the best and everyone else is wrong, or us realists who know all the hard work we've got ahead to get somewhere.

Anonymous said...

DWs are the direct result from this new notion that mediocre is good enough, that we can't be too critical lest we damage someone's fragile ego and send them directly to therapy, and that anything we want, we should get it now - regardless of talent.

With the vast numbers of writers turning to vanity and POD publishing options, this instant gratification society is slowly leeching out the idea of hard work and excellence.

And lots of vanity and PODs are making a killing off their mediocrity. Sad.

Lauri said...

@Kittie-it is fine if it is lack of confidence, but the WORST DW is the one who is all confidence. Best to just walk away.
@behlerblog- and on to that the idea that hard work is not needed. Crappola.

I just signed contracts for books 13 and 14 and I live ONLY on my writing income. It is not because I am a brilliant poke-your-eyes-out-with-a-stick writer- I work hard. Damn hard. I get so tired of DW who just don't have any elbow grease. BLAH!

Jill said...

Nicely put. I like that--that the inspiration may come from above, but its never handed out on a silver platter in perfection. We still have to do the hard work to make it a reality.

Jayne said...

Well said, Nicola! And happy anniversary. :)

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Great post. I agree.

behlerblog: "And lots of vanity and PODs are making a killing off their mediocrity. Sad."

Not sure where you're getting this from, but it's not true. Most vanity and PODs - and self-published authors, which can include the former, but don't have to - make a loss. Even those with decent products tend to make a loss. The only ones who earn money from it are those who have something genuinely publishable, albeit niche. Or those who have an awful lot of rich, tolerant and generous friends and relatives.

You've still got a point about the instant gratification thing though. Although I wonder whether a lot of publishers are delighted with the ubiquity of vanity publishing, as it lessens the stream of dross through their letter-boxes!

(I wonder if it does? Would be very hard to find out).

CC MacKenzie said...

Happy Anniversary Nicola, may you have many more.

Great post as usual and so true. Perhaps you could do a post on people who are very talented but don't believe themselves to be.

Just read a first draft by one of my critique partners and I didn't get to sleep until 4.00am because it was so good I couldn't put it down! The task now is to persuade her to keep working on it, polish and submit.

It's not easy this writing game is it?


Christine Fonseca said...

Great post! And BTW, I left something for you on my blog...http://christinefonseca.wordpress.com/

Nicola Slade said...

Great post. I've lost count of the people who say they wouldn't let an editor alter their work. Sigh.
I'm halfway through my 10th full-length novel: Book 7 was the one that got accepted first, followed by Book 8, then Book 10. Book 4 comes out next year, after a major rewrite and bringing up-to-date & I'm going to take another look at Book 3. (Books 1 & 2 must stay hidden in a deep, dark, dingey drawer!) It takes hard work, persistence, pigheadedness and a willingness to listen and learn. That's only part of it...

Nicola Slade said...

Duh, can't count. I meant Book 9 got published, not Book 10: I'm still writing that one!

Julia Crouch said...

@Nicola Slade: So glad you made a mistake. I was worrying about what had happened to book 9 that made you give up on it...

Jane Smith said...

Beleaguered Squirrel wrote,

"Not sure where you're getting this from, but it's not true. Most vanity and PODs - and self-published authors, which can include the former, but don't have to - make a loss."

I understand your point, but you've got it a bit wrong: most of the authors who publish with vanity publishers and POD publishers make a loss; but the vanity and POD publishers themselves, who put those authors into print, are making a packet. It's not nice at all.

Thanks, Mrs Morgan, for another excellent post.

Nicola Morgan said...

thanks, all. In haste but thanks to Jane for coming along and saying what I couldn't say as was on trains and in events all day and making comments on a blog post is very difficult on a phone. Yes, the authors don't make the money on those things - it's the vanity and POD companies that Lynn (behlerblog) meant. Very rarely does an author make much on those systems as they are geared to making money from the author not for the author. Genuine self-publishing, ie by the author for the author, can work when it works and when the author has written the right book and sells it in the right way. And then I take my hat off to them!

bookfraud said...

excellent, excellent post. i think you looked up my bio when writing the definition of "delusional wannabe."

not to turn the discussion to the abstract, but you reminded me of a discussion i had with a writing teacher a long time ago. i was discussing wanting to get my work published, how i'd like to be a "man of letters" and other pretentious b.s., when he interrupted me and said, "do you want to be a 'writer,' or do you want to do the things that writers do?" then proceeded to tell me that all that really matters is the work itself, both the noun and verb.

publishing is important, and is worthy of great effort and persistence, but since my discussion with my writing teacher i've seen many writers who only care about getting published, and therein lies their doom. as you note, they write one thing, fail at publishing, and give up--they don't love the process of writing enough.

just my thoughts.

Sally Zigmond said...

I was a DW once. I think we all were. The difference between a persistent DW and a 'serious' writer (ie serious about being published) is that the latter listens to and learns from those, like you, Nicola, who actually know what they're talking about. DWs either don't listen to anyone because they know it all already or they only listen to other DWs. I've met far too many of both--and been insulted for my pains.

Jo Franklin said...

Whenever I stop by here, I find your words inspirational and supportive, Nicola. I've often wondered if I am a DW but your definition reassures me.

In every writing community I belong to, there is a mixture of the Good, the Bad and the Mad. I'm sure there have been times when I have qualified for all three but hopefully I vere towards the Good more often these days. Unless I'm deluding myself of course.

siebendach said...

OK, now you have to tell me which work Brahms was referring to when he made that quote. I must possess that piece of music as soon as possible. Please tell me what to download.

If you don't know, it's okay to just pick your favorite thing by Brahms ... after all, it helped inspire your latest blog post.

Failing that, just make something up.