Peering over the edge

September 15, 2010

I have a confession.

I don’t have a thick skin.

In this business, that’s a problem. No matter how much you write, no matter how often you submit, no matter how long you practice and edit, you can’t escape a simple truth.

Not everyone is going to like everything you write.

That’s a scary idea for me. I like people. I like people to like me. The thought that someone will loathe something I’ve written sends shivers down my spine. Even if they don’t think it’s garbage, I’m terrified that they’ll find the plot hackneyed or the characters flat.

And you know what? Eventually, someone will. There is no writer, living or dead, who has ever gotten wholly positive reviews. Some people will hate my characters. Some will be bored by the plot. Others will disagree with what I’m trying to say, and naturally, there’ll be those that look at the fact that it’s fantasy and sneer, “Pulp!”

I know this. In my rational mind, I accept this. Thinking with a clear head, it is a risk that I’m willing to take.

Because the act of submitting is all about risk. Writing difficult scenes in the privacy of your own head is hard. Knowing that someone else is experiencing it, someone who’s not you? That’s even harder. You’re parading your soul on the page. Of course it’s risky.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time now. The writing, I can do. I can stick to a project. But since I made the decision that yes, this is how I want to make my living, actually submitting has been in the far-away age of “someday.” You know, when I’m good enough. Well, “someday” is creeping closer and closer. Very soon, I will have a finished manuscript on my hands. And then I’m going to have to decide if I want to toss it in a drawer with all the others, or take the first step on the road to professionalism and start querying some agents and editors.

The difference between the potential and the actual crops up in Project W, and I think it’s applicable here (maybe that’s why it came through in my writing… yay for the subconscious). Before you submit, everything is potential. Agents may love it, it may do very well, you may be able to keep this whole writing thing going. There’s the possibility it’ll bomb, but you don’t know that it will.

Once you step over the edge, that’s when you have to deal with the actual. Cold, hard reality. It got rejected. Or it garnered awful reviews. So, you slink home, tail between your legs. The problem with the potential is that the actual almost never lives up to it.

Unfortunately, that’s a problem we all deal with. Right now, I can still dream about “what-ifs” and “imagine thats…”, because “someday” isn’t today. But I’m fully aware- that day is coming. And if I really want this, and if I want it as badly as I think I do, I’m going to have to stop peering over the edge, and plunge into the waters.

Thin skin and all.




  1. What’s scary is that the potential doesn’t end with acceptance and publication. Then you have to deal with the responsibility of promoting your book in public (what I’m facing in the next 60 days), and to be effective you have to let go of all those insecurities. Oh, and by then you’re expected to come up with another book that’s even better than the first. The pressure’s never off, but living with that pressue is much better than living with the fact that you could have and did not. Your attitude is serving you well!

  2. Arvik ~

    I have many, many posts on SLTW which might help you proceed full steam ahead:




    Go for it!

    The risk of stubbing your toes increases the more you walk, but it’s better than going nowhere by standing still.

  3. nrhatch and mlknudsen:

    You are amazing. Seriously. Thank you so much for all your feedback; I’m so glad you’ve decided to stick around! 😀

    And you’re both right. It’s definitely better to go for it than to wonder what might have been. No regrets!

    nrhatch: I particularly love that quotation (the stubbing your toes one). It was just what I needed to hear.

    mlknudsen: Thanks for the insight… I’m shaking in my boots realizing I have to write a real query letter. I can barely wrap my head around promoting a book. Best of luck for all your endeavours!

  4. Robin Sharma, in The Top 200 Secrets of Success and the Pillars of Self-Mastery: “Although the chance of stubbing your toe increases the more you walk, it is always better than going nowhere by standing still.”

  5. Adding my humble opinion to the great stuff Michael and Nancy said, part of the whole getting published is gaining confidence in your work. Many don’t understand or appreciate the complexity of working in fantasy and sci/fi (it’s not everyday you get to create a world!). They are not your audience and that’s ok. There are hundreds of thousands of people who do and it’s your job to rock their socks off.

    I admit I still cringe on the inside when I explain to others that I work in fantasy, chances are they don’t read it and will never understand. But if I find someone who does – it’s like BANG instafan!

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