Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Crushing Dreams

In my new novel, there's a man who tries to crush Marcie's dreams. Not her husband Shawn, he is a sweetheart and very supportive of his wife, when he remembers LOL. But since I finished House of Diamonds and sent it off, I have been thinking of all the ways one's dreams can be crushed. Who knows why I'm taking the negative end of it, maybe I'm just tired at the end of the day.

There are a few effective dream-crushing statements I've run across. For instance, I remember a blogger who had run out of agents to query and decided to go the self-publishing route. This was a year or so ago. When she wrote a post about it, people commented: "No, don't give up!!" Which is a back-handed way to say "You are making a mistake!" Well, some of those people may still be querying agents, while Mary McDonald has sold over 20,000 copies of her book No Good Deed on Kindle.

Sometimes when one gets a contract with a small press, there are those who throw out all kinds of scare tactics, in the name of trying to protect the writer who may get ....I don't know.... published?

Watch out for these kinds of dream-crushing statements-- "I've never heard of them. Are you sure they're ok?"  "Aren't you afraid to sign a contract without an agent?"  "If your book doesn't do well, it could ruin your chances of ever getting published again."  Many of these statements just don't make any sense, but people still throw them around like something really bad will happen if you veer off the beaten path.

I dislike scare tactics like this. It has writers worried into paralysis, afraid they will "submit to the wrong publisher" or "ruin their career" or whatever. When someone gives me advice about my career as a writer "for your own good," I run the other way, because it's like they are wearing a sign that says Dream-crusher ahead, detour for your own safety.

32 comments:

  1. I think there are so many different things at play with people who say and do these things - their own fears being projected onto you, or often, their fears that you will actually succeed. It's about them, not you/us - and we have to remember that. I'm with you, I just don't let them in anymore. Besides, I don't think there is such a thing as "ruining your career." There are things that go well and things that don't go so well, and we learn from it all.

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  2. Melissa, brilliant comment. And why are writers so afraid of a misstep? The worst day in publishing is better than the best day working at McDonalds.

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  3. One publisher told me I'd never get another offer as good as there's. I'm so glad I didn't cave under the pressure because I did get a better offer. The intimidation tactics in the publishing industry need to go!

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  4. Interesting post. It's so true. And these people think they're being supportive.

    It's hard enough to try something different when all of your "friends" respond with things that make you rethink your plan to go ahead. It's scary enough without hearing of all the other things that might/could go wrong (especially if you didn't think of these on your own).

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  5. There is a difference between scare tactics, and a genuine concern for your welfare. You need to trust yourself, and your research, but you need to consider what your friends say. Not be driven by your friends comments, but consider them.

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  6. I would never say 'I've never heard of them, are you sure they OK?' but if I haven't heard of them, I ALWAYS find out if the writer has checked them out.

    And I always will. That question saved one of my oldest friends from getting scammed. If I hadn't Googled their name and advised her to do the same, her wallet would be a lot lighter and she'd be just as unpublished.

    But there are nice and nasty ways to do it. You can ask what else have they published, are there any other authors they work with that I might know, etc. These are natural questions anyway, if you don't know a house ('oh, awesome! What have they done?') but I think we should always ask that one somehow.

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  7. There's no excuse for an author not researching a publisher or agent to make sure they're above board, but I'd never judge anyone for choosing self-publishing or a smaller publishing house. Everyone has their own path to take in this industry, and they need to find the best fit for them.

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  8. I'm all for cautious level-headed advice. I would hope that those who ask these questions are not deliberately out to crush one's hopes and dreams but rather to caution, well caution! I guess writers have to be very brave, realistic, well armed with research and everything else to realise their dreams!! Yay! Take care
    x

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  9. Everyone has a different path and different expectations of success.

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  10. Great post and great comments. Personally, I just want people to read my stories. I don't care how it gets out there. I know my genre (mysteries) isn't as popular as SF or Fantasy or even YA/MG but I know there are fans of mystery out there and I write for them.

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  11. This is such a great post. I've never understood why some feel the need to make cutting comments about another person's dreams, but I've seen it happen so often. I have family members who are working in different performing arts fields, and I can't count how many people have told them they will never get anywhere, they're not being realistic, etc. It's been a good education for me, and I think Melissa is completely right about the projection.

    Great post!

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  12. Not all writers want the same thing. That seems like an obvious statement, but sometimes we forget that. Some want nothing less than fame and fortune, and God bless them, I hope they get it. Some of us would be happy to see our names on the spine of a decent-looking book before we go to that great big library in the sky. Some self-publish just to prove they can write a book, like it's one more thing to mark off their to-do list. But whatever our individual goals, we should try to support each other. Another writer's success does not diminish our worth or talent. So why not rejoice each success, and encourage each other as best we can? (There's no room for sour grapes at the writing banquet!)

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  13. There are so many new paths to publication that really would have been career enders a couple years ago. However, there are still - and probably more than ever - scammers out there who prey on writers' dreams. A nicely said word of caution really can protect a fellow author from great financial loss and a true crushing of their dreams. I've seen many scammed and it breaks my heart to hear their stories. So it's not always about someone being a Debbie Downer.

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  14. By the way, I say this as someone who went indie before it was cool. So yes, I'm a big supporter of different writer roads. I'm NOT, however, a fan of all the scammers out there and what they've done to writers and the industry.

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  15. I give a great big 'boo' to all of those dreamcrushers. Totally lame. This is a community where we should support the decisions our writer friends make and cheer them on, even if they choose a path we wouldn't. For me, it's actually more exciting to read about different paths to publication. No journey is the same.

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  16. Your post made me think about my dreams when I was an undergrad. Ten years ago, when I told my professors that I wanted to be like them, several of them tried to discourage me from pursuing a Ph.D. It wasn't that they didn't think I could get a Ph.D.; it was more about the fact that they were aware of all the obstacles and hardships that grad students face, and they didn't want me to become disillusioned and disappointed as a result. But I went ahead to grad school anyway because that was my dream; now I am VERY well aware of all the obstacles and hardships that they told me about. And even though I've wanted to quit a thousand and one times, I still haven't given up yet because letting go of my dream would be even worse.

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  17. Neurotic Workaholic, There are dream-crushers everywhere, in every profession. I was 42 when I got pg with my youngest son. So many people gave me the scare stories-- you will be 60 when he graduates from high school, yadayadayada. I heard it all. He has turned out to be the joy of my life, and he has the most special bond with his dad, which has been such a blessing to my husband who was too busy working all the time when our older kids were young.

    Hooray for you for sticking with it, I know it has to be tough to go after a Ph.D. Kudos and I'll celebrate with you when you walk after it's all done!

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  18. Excellent post, Karen. The main thing is to write that good book. From there, anything can happen, but we do have to be alert. Taking that "other" route the way Mary McDonald did tells us that there's more than one route to travel successfully. She has worked VERY HARD at this (even harder, I suspect, than writing the good book), and I think what she has accomplished is remarkable.

    (Re: your comment on my blog just now: I love my Blogger FRIENDS, but I love my WordPress BLOG. I'm elated that I figured out how to link the two blogs so my Blogger friends wouldn't panic!)
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

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  19. Good for you Karen. The world really is too full of dream-crushers and I like the fact that you posted about it so eloquently.
    Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

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  20. Often, when people say these kinds of things, they're voicing their own fears. It would probably be more helpful to just offer the best advice you can think of for the person.

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  21. There are so many paths right now what's right for one isn't always right for someone else.

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  22. It's such a tricky balance between being careful / protecting yourself and putting yourself out there, like the one between well-meaning advice and projecting your own fears and inhibitions on someone else.

    Still, I think even that kind of advice has its purpose: if we allow ourselves to be put down by it, maybe it means we need to ask ourselves once more if we really want this. If the answer is still yes, we should just do it.

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  23. I've run into those dream smashers and I try to avoid them. There as many avenues to chase your writing dream down. Hopefully we can all avoid those throwing up blocks.

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  24. Love that last line. We should never give up on our hopes!

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  25. fantsatic post. The statement that scares me the most is: If your book doesn't do well, it could ruin your chances of ever getting published again. lol.

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  26. Hey Karen. Great post and now I'm going to have to go back and find my post from a year ago. lol. I only vaguely recall it. I guess that's where a blog comes in handy.

    Things have changed a lot in the last year in regards to self-publishing. JA Konrath's influence was just beginning (yes, he's the one who influenced me with his blog posts)so I think there was still a harsher view of self-publishing. FTR, I would love to be able to do a mix of traditional and self-publish. Wouldn't it be great if we all had that choice without losing our credibility in either camp? I think that time is coming.

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  27. There's a lot of support among writers, but I think there's also a lot of envy. People are both happy and jealous when another author succeeds.

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  28. My wish is that dreams are never crushed by a comment. Instead, may the author rise above and become stronger in his/her decisions. Sharing the success stories is so important. Great post!

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  29. And a word about the biggest dream-crushers of all that Kristie Cook mentioned: the SCAMMERS!!! Because they promise one thing, telling hopeful writers what they want to hear, and then deliver not at all, after taking your thousands of dollars. They are the WORST kind of dream-crushers.

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  30. I really enjoyed reading this one. These are things that I've been hearing from people in my life that don't write or even know what they're talking about. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that it's my dream, and their words can touch it :)

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  31. So true. A lot of people think that they're helping, but in reality they're just standing in the way.

    It can be really annoying and, if the person pays attention to the crushers, potentially damaging.

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  32. I love the phrase 'dream crushers'. I wonder if any of those people who made the above comments realised they were crushing dreams.

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