Literary agent Nathan Bransford put up a post last week posing a hypothetical question (click here for the post): If someone could tell you the future, would you want to know if you will be published, and if you found out you wouldn’t, would you still write?
The post got a lot of people talking, 186 and counting, according to Bransford in a later post (click here for that post). And in that later post, Bransford answered one commentor’s suggestion that writers want an agent to tell us whether we’re any good or if we should just pack it all in. Bransford’s answer is a great one, I think: “Who knows, anyway?” (He gives a couple other answers too, but you should read the post. It’s good. In fact, the whole blog is good.)
Bransford, while a great agent and very knowledgeable, I’m sure, is one person, and his likes and dislikes are very different from yours and mine. Everyone’s are. I hate licorice and love mushrooms, but my husband is the opposite.
So, no one person can read another person’s work and say, “You’ll never get published.” (Now, sure, there are some things that will help make that a reality, like bad grammar and spelling. Writing is a skill and an art. It needs to be nurtured, practiced, perfected — as much as it ever can be perfected, of course — and writing shouldn’t be sent out to agents, editors, etc., until it’s ready.) If the work doesn’t interest this one agent or editor, it might interest another.
Remember, even the most successful writers were rejected before they got published — often plenty of times. In his “On Writing” book, Stephen King describes the 3-inch nail where he used to hang his rejection letters. The nail was completely filled before he got his first acceptance. Alice Sebold’s first book was rejected roundly, and it wasn’t until “Lovely Bones” became a hit that her first book was published. And even the giant among children’s novels, “Harry Potter,” was rejected before someone asked to see the whole manuscript.
Who knows if any of these rejectors thought, “This guy/gal will never get published.” The point is, they didn’t know. All they knew is, the work/the writing didn’t speak to them enough for them to think it was a viable business proposition for them — but that doesn’t mean it would’t be for someone else.
My answer to Nathan Bransford’s hypothetical question was that if I had to be told whether I had the stuff to be published and I was told no, I would still write, because writing is more than getting published. Writing is a journey, something us writers have a need to do, a desire to do. The getting published part is a fabulous bonus. The getting paid part and making a living off it part is a dream come true.
But the best part, is when you’re sitting in front of your computer/notebook and the whole world around you has disappeared, replaced with the characters in a new world formed in your head, and you get to spend a few minutes, hours, afternoon, whatever, living in their world, creating, imagining. That’s the best part.
What do you think?