There are times when you just don’t want to know the truth, times when the truth will kick your *ss and leave you curled into a ball on the floor, wimpering. The truth, or Truth, can be a harsh mistress to live with.
Writers, especially beginning writers, have all sorts of tricks to avoid the Truth. Even when we think our eyes are open and we’ve done our research, we’re often deluded. Diana Peterfreund talks about her own misconceptions here:
Back in the early days, I even had a list somewhere detailing exactly when I xpected my first book in each Harlequin category line to be released. I was not one of the people who failed to research the category lines. Oh no, I read all of the paragraph-long descriptions, then matched them up to each of my (unwritten) story ideas. At last count, I think I was going to be writing for Temptation, Blaze, American, Special Edition, Desire, and Superromance. And then, Red Dress Ink. Of course, that was just at Harlequin. And it was going to be all unagented. And within two years. After all, it took a year from the time of acceptance for my book to come out, would probably take me a month or so to write each book, and they’d clearly accept it right away, seeing how good it was.
Diana references another post, a fabulous one by Maureen McGowan that you should also go read.
I can’t remember the depth of my delusions when I first started, but I was pretty certain I’d be published with that first novel. I didn’t know that first novels were practice novels. I also believed that mine would be so good that obviously those shorter word counts wouldn’t apply to me. Heck, I could count, and I’d counted far more than 100,000 words in many of the historical romances I loved. If X author could do it, why couldn’t I? Clearly, word counts were designed for people whose stories weren’t BIG. I had a BIG story, one that I believed that old cliche applied to: breathtaking in scope (I didn’t know it was a cliche).
Now, folks tried to tell me different. Some gently suggested I needed to cut the size of my tome. Some told me I needed to keep writing new books while polishing and querying the first one. They were right, but I wasn’t in a place to accept it. I’d pinned everything on selling that first book — my self-esteem, my concept of who I was, my future, my career — though I had no idea that’s what I’d done.
I avoided the Truth like it was a poison that could kill. And maybe it was. Maybe we need those delusions to get us through the first stages (like Maureen talks about). Would you spend months, maybe years, working on a first novel if you knew it would never get published? I wouldn’t. Some might think that’s the wrong answer, but the answer is different for us all. I’d still write, because I enjoy telling myself stories, but I’d probably not bash my head against the wall and go through the pain of writing a book that would never sell. Or maybe I would, because if I knew it wouldn’t sell then I wouldn’t worry about what I said or if it made any sense to anyone but me.
What about you? Did you have delusions? Do you still? Would you still write if you knew you’d never publish the book?
Interesting things to think about.