Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Have a Little Faith

Mike Reznick of Jim Baen’s Universe writes about the importance of having faith in one’s own work. Excerpts:

[L]et me give you a little hint: if you don’t have faith in your story, why should anyone else -- like, for example, an editor? First impressions are important . . . but it’s last impressions that count. I’m not saying that every rejected story is a misunderstood gem, but a story that remains in a desk drawer or a computer file (or gets wiped) never has a chance of being understood or misunderstood. …

Every publisher, major and minor, in the science fiction field turned down Frank Herbert’s Dune. Every one, without exception. You know how it finally sold? Sterling Lanier, who had written some science fiction in the 1950s, was editing at Chilton, a company that specialized in, so help me, books on motorcycle maintenance. He had hardly any budget to spend on such a flyer, but Herbert had reached the point where he was happy to take hardly any money for it. And the rest is history: a perennial bestseller, with something like 40 million copies sold worldwide, five bestselling sequels by Herbert and a batch more by his son Brian in collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson, two movies already made and a third in pre-production. All because Herbert believed in his book, and despite all those editorial first impressions that it was unsaleable, it was the last impression that counted.
Read the whole thing. I don’t exactly know all that separates a professional author from an amateur. Surely uniqueness of vision, command of the language, and the ability to create engrossing plots and people all play a part. But as time goes on, I’m becoming more and more convinced that much of it comes from simple determination, a dogged willingness to soldier on when you get no encouragement from the gatekeepers or friends and family. Or sometimes even from yourself.

(Picture: CC 2008 by
s~revenge)

10 comments:

Tony said...

This post is especially poignant for me today: Josh and I have a 7-issue series that's currently sitting on the desks of several intimidating comic book gatekeepers. We've been keeping our fingers crossed and basically praying to every God we can think of in the hopes that someone will give us a shot at a series publication.

Anyway, thanks for that Loren!

Loren Eaton said...

I hope you guys get it, Tony. I've really enjoyed Tuna.

B. Nagel said...

Maybe I've read too much mythology, but I've always seen gatekeepers as obstacles to overcome. And like you allude to, the most obdurate gatekeeper can be yourSelf.

Loren Eaton said...

I see so many talented people fall by the writing wayside after a handful of months without success. It baffles.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

The most amazing story I've seen lately is Rothfuss. His first book came with a letter from the editor, saying it's the best fantasy novel in the last ten years (it is, btw). It came with raving quotes from everyone in the field--LeGuin, Martin, Card, Hobb, Williams, &c. &c. In short, this wasn't just a great sleeper hit, or eventual success. It was a no-holds-barred Next Great Book, as everyone could recognize.

And it was rejected by everyone the first time around. Everyone.

The moral: Keep writing. Who knows if you're any good, but certainly the rejection letters mean nothing. (Other than a lack of money, recognition, or being-read-by-other-people.)

Loren Eaton said...

I worked for an entertainment magazine for a couple years. We would get CDs from various publicists. We would listen for thirty seconds to each one, and if we liked it, we'd give it another go later. If we didn't, it went into the circular filing bin. I know there were a number of good albums that I overlooked because I was tired, having a bad day, something about it just didn't click with me, et cetera. The same surely happens with slush readers.

ollwen said...

Dune? Really?! Wow. . .

Loren Eaton said...

Yeah, I thought that was interesting, too.

Samuel D. Smith said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

Confidence. I think I can, I think I can.

Loren Eaton said...

It did help a certain little train, after all ...