Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
The most common lie is that which one lies to himself. –Friedrich Nietzsche
Writers–fiction or nonfiction–are billed as truth-tellers. But they often lie to themselves. The lies writers believe are so commonplace that those who have been in the industry for any length of time recognize them from a distance.
Have you been susceptible to any of these lies writers believe?
My book is the only one ever written on this subject.
This lie can be far more harmful than mere arrogance. It can keep an author from conducting due diligence to research what’s already on the market and how their book is or can stand out from the crowd.
Because others have written on this subject, there’s no room for my book.
Has only one author written about fear or grief or leadership or kindness? What makes room for another author to write on that subject is a unique perspective, a compelling link, an intriguing twist on a common theme. It is the corporate wisdom, the chorus of voices on a topic that creates the strongest message.
If I don’t find an agent or publishing house editor interested in my book in the first couple of weeks after finishing the manuscript, there’s no point in trying.
The process works by calendar pages rather than seconds on a watch. It’s noteworthy but not a uncommon as a new writer might think to hear a story of an author who heard nothing from an editor for more than a year and then, a contract appeared. Writers conferences ring with swapped stories of the article the author forgot about until a check arrived in the mail four years later. It’s not ideal. But it’s not uncommon for the process of publishing to take months or years. There is a point in trying. Each thing written exercises writing muscles that are one day strong enough to pull off a published book.
The words I just wrote are the worst dribble ever created.
A lie heard most frequently immediately after a writer hits SEND on his or her latest project. When a new writer confesses the feeling, veteran authors nod knowingly. They’ve entertained the same lie, eventually realizing that if all authors hear it, that alone proves its fallacy.
The words I just wrote are the finest prose ever created.
That lie fades quickly. Or it should.
If I change the names and their hair color, my aunt/uncle/cousin/boss/neighbor will never know I’m writing about them.
Yes. They will. They’re better detectives than they’re given credit for. And the ones you’re sure will never read your book either will, or they’ll hear about it secondhand from friends who can’t wait to point out the similarities to your characters.
If my publisher doesn’t offer me another contract, I must have done something wrong.
Not necessarily. Publishers want to keep their authors, if they can. One of the heartaches editors face is having to turn down excellent projects. Another is having to trim their stable of authors. And publishers despise the word “budget cuts” as much as any other business.
If I hit the NYTimes bestseller list, I have it made in the shade.
Reaching a bestseller list is an honor accompanied by pressure to stay on the list, to write another book that surpasses the first. Whether winning the lottery or holding a spot on as a bestselling author, the high doesn’t last. And the honor is no guarantee of a continual upward trajectory for a writer’s career. No honor has the power to maintain perpetual happiness or success.
Inflating my social media numbers, past sales, experience, or bio is expected. Besides, no one ever checks those things.
Big ole’ lie. One of the first things agents and editors and marketing departments do is check an author’s social media numbers and presence, verify the information in a bio, and look up past sales. All the good ones look. They need the information–and as accurate as possible–to make an informed decision. They also need it to convince the rest of the publishing team that yours is a project worth the investment.
Publishers and agents will understand that my book has great cross-over potential. Everyone everywhere will love it.
When editors and agents see words to this effect in a proposal, red flags pop up like inquisitive prairie dogs. Reading audiences have different tastes. Even the most popular books ever published haven’t been universally accepted. And although some books do cross over–appealing to both general market and inspirational audiences, for instance–they are rare. The books with strong cross-over possibilities are usually the ones that surprise even the publisher.
If an editor or agent asks me to change something I’ve written, it must mean they’re out of God’s will, because I basically took dictation from heaven on this project.
The truth is that editors and agents will ask you to change many, many things. God gifted them with the ability to know what needs editing, trimming, or polishing. You may have felt “in the zone” when writing, but typos in the proposal are a dead giveaway that it wasn’t written by the finger of God.
Some of the lies writers believe are based in self-doubt, or self-aggrandizement, or misinformation about the industry. Knowing they exist increases a writer’s ability to disarm them so the truth can propel the career forward.
What other lies do you know too many writers believe? What lie have you had to conquer in your writing journey?