Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Novelists: Beware

If you're a novelist, perhaps this isn't the blog to read today. This is not the good news or encouragement you're probably hoping to find.

Nonetheless, it still may be worth knowing.

According to Fairfax Digital's The Age, novelists might want to focus more on achieving fame than on the quality of their work. According to that publication, The British Sunday Times recently tried an experiment in which they sent off the first chapter of a prize-winning novel penned by the 2001 Nobel prize winner for literature -- changing only the author's name and the names of the characters -- to 20 literary agents and publishing companies. All of them passed on the opportunity to publish the novel.

If the work of a Nobel prize winner isn't good enough to make the cut, then what chance does your novel have of taking New York publishing companies by storm?

Still, novelists write, and still, they submit their manuscripts to major publishing houses, and it's a good thing they do. We need to read great novels the way we need to see great paintings.

And, by great novels, I'm afraid I don't mean the work of a few famous romance or crime authors whose names are far larger than their gifts for creating prose. I mean novels that are created by fresh voices and talented people whose perceptions, ideas, and life experiences beg to be shared with the rest of us.

So novelists: keep writing, and keep submitting, and keep hoping. But please don't take rejection personally, and don't ever succumb to the temptation to believe you're unworthy just because the movers and shakers in the publishing community told you so. Their feedback is unhelpful because their credibility is suspect, as the British Sunday Times has proved.

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