The Changing Shape of Dreams

A lot has changed in publishing in the last six years.

Six years ago, when I was busy working away on my novel (the same novel I’m still working on to this day, no thanks to a six-year writing hiatus), I dreamed of someday being a published author.

This dream had a distinguishing look and feel and smell, as the most vivid dreams often do:

It looked like a hardcover book on a bookstore shelf.

It felt like thick, fibrous paper with ragged-cut edges.

It had that new-book smell; it sounded like my mother bragging to all her friends that her daughter’s book new book was destined to be a bestseller.

It tasted of sweet success.

The steps I had to follow to realize this dream constantly knocked around in my head like the chorus of a song: query, agent, revision, submission, contract, revision, revision, revision, release.

This, of course, was assuming I’d actually made it past steps one and four.  It was an assumption I was all too happy to make, for if I didn’t, the dream would be dead before it even fully began.  This was the only path to publication.

Then, everything changed….

A new road opened up.

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On Validation, and why it’s okay for writers to want it

"I've wanted more than anything to have your respect....  And I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" (from actress Sally Field's 1985 Academy Award acceptance speech)

“I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect…. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” (from actress Sally Field’s 1985 Academy Award acceptance speech).

 

This issue of validation keeps coming up within the traditional vs. self-publishing debate.

For some time now, I’ve been reading various blog posts and articles discussing the merits of one form of publishing compared to the other, particularly as related to the aspirations of unpublished writers.

This debate is nothing new – indeed, it’s been going for so long now as to be almost institutionalized, complete with its own special vocabulary: “gatekeepers”, “credibility”, “the gauntlet”, “vetting process”, “the old guard”, “the new order”, “the publishing revolution”, “the Big 6, 5, 4, etc.”

However, over the past two weeks, a new vocabulary word has appeared on the scene, predominantly in disparaging reference to writers seeking a deal with a traditional publisher:

Validation.

Or better put: the desire for acceptance by and praise from the agents and editors of traditional publishing as opposed to the potentially greater monetary rewards of self-publishing.

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Don’t Talk About Fight Club: A writer’s paranoia in discussing a WIP

“What’s your novel about?”

Four simple words that never fail to strike terror in my heart.

Part of this is because such a simple query is seeking an equally concise reply – the dreaded “elevator pitch”, which is an art form of brevity on par with the haiku and the perfectly witty Tweet.  Plus, I’m almost never as glib a speaker as I wish when put on the spot like that.

As well, I dislike stating definitively that my WIP is the story of XYZ, when the end result may well come to be significantly different.

Stories are like life: more possibilities and purpose emerge the further along you go.  And just like life, it’s rather invalid to summarize the meaning of it all before it has approached its ultimate end.

Finally, I fear opening myself up to premature criticism of my plot through my inability to properly explain it while still in progress.  Or conversely, premature interest, and subsequent probing questions.

As a result of all this, when Australian historical fiction author Debbie Robson asked me to participate in the blog meme known as The Next Big Thing, I said, “Sure.”

Because why be consistent with one’s own personality traits?

Admittedly, I did offer the caveat that my answers would be vague, superstitious, and paranoiac since I am indeed all of the above.  Furthermore, having since put my blog on its 600-word diet gives me even more of an excuse to be equivocal.  Thus, without further ado:

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Blogger/Author 2.0

Historically, my track record for blogging is not that good.

My old, now defunct was called Through the Keyhole.  It was all about my writing life while I was hard at work on a novel back in 2006.  I actually did fairly well with that blog: I posted to it every other day; I assembled a decent blogroll, and received comments regularly from other writers whose blogs I followed.

But Through the Keyhole only survived four months.  I just couldn’t keep up the pace of posting “every other day” on top of writing, and job searching (I was unemployed at the time, and living back at home), and trying to hold together my relationship with my mother that the stress of a year-and-a-half of joblessness and my return to the once-empty nest had frayed almost to the breaking point.

Just when all hope seemed lost, I finally landed a job.  I moved four hours away to a rural community where my residence had no internet connection.  So, I quit blogging, and quit writing altogether for the whole year-and-a-half I held that job, and the four-and-a-half years, two provinces, and three jobs that followed.

And now I’m back.

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