Friday, 26 November 2010

The Joys of Being Unpublished

Yes, it's true. There are a ton of good things about not being published. Why not join me as we skip hand-in-hand through the roses of Slushpile Meadows?
  • With No Power Comes No Responsibility
    I know I stole that off a recent superhero spoof, but that doesn't make it any less appropriate. An unpublished writer has no masters except themselves. Want to stop writing that incredibly commercial sci-fi action thriller and devote yourself to an eight-volume epic fantasy about sentient rocks in Guatemala? Be my guest. Want to stop writing altogether and pursue a new career as a primate psychiatrist? There's sure to be a course at Bolton University to suit.

  • You Can Take Pleasure in Others' Award Success
    I must admit to the odd pang of envy at other people's book deals. Book awards, by comparison, fill me with nothing but admiration. I don't have any books out there to compete at the moment, so I can enjoy everyone's success. SCBWI British Isles is having an absolutely sensational year and I'm so, so pleased (and a little teary) when I think about all of my friends who are out there kicking ass and taking prizes.

  • It Only Gets Harder From Here On
    The business of publishing is tough. Not, like, Hunger Games tough, but still hard work. You will be forced to meet tight (and sometimes arbitrary) deadlines. You will be pushed harder in your writing than you ever have been before, making and justifying creative choices that were completely implicit in your earlier work. You will be driven past the point of tedium by endless questions, rewrites and copy-edits. At some point, you may get paid - but don't bet the farm on it.

  • Writing is Supposed to be Fun
    When I started writing, it was entirely for myself. And I think that can get lost in the blizzard of rejections, the endless agonising about titles and genre and covering letters and where the market is going and are there even going to be any actual books around when I get published?
    This doesn't affect everyone - I know plenty of published and semi-published authors who retain their complete affection for the creative process. But for the rest of us - don't forget why you started out and who your number one consumer should be.

  • Being Published Will Not Make You Happy
    Shock horror newsflash! If you are a naturally dissatisfied person, no publishing deal in the world will make you happy. Honestly, it won't. Becoming massively successful and critically respected did not make Kurt Cobain happy. Or Tennessee Williams. Or David Foster Wallace. Only you can make yourself happy. And I'm sorry if that sounds like self-help B.S. but it's a truth that's been creeping up on me for a while.

  • You are Not Alone
    You may think you know a lot of published authors. That is because your friends are all writers! Out there in that place they call The Real World, mostly everyone is unpublished. And worse than that, a lot of them are undistinguished, unambitious and unaware - like a Cro-Magnon with better shoes. Just by trying to write a book, you have climbed further up the evolutionary ladder than they have. Yes, that's you, outside the cave right now, rubbing two sharpened pencils together to make fire. Plus, if you are attacked by sabre-toothed tigers, you can throw your netbook at them.

  • There are Worse Things Than Being Unpublished
    You could be dead. Or Gillian McKeith.


  1. Fab post, Nick. Very funny - and very true :)

  2. Nice one. I needed to smile today.

  3. Or camping in the jungle with Gillian Mckeith.

  4. Makes me smile, and yet, so very true...

  5. Great post. Powerful writing from powerful sentiments.

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  7. Refreshing to hear about the positives for once, Nick. Thanks for posting this.

  8. Melissa, I was partly inspired by your marvellous comment on Facebook about your fantastic rejection. So thank you!

  9. You little flower - made me smile and laugh and want to hug you xx

  10. Good one, Nick. The hug will have to wait - but I did grin!

  11. Great article Nick. However, WHEN your publishing contract does finally land on your doormat, I do hope it raises a smile and adds a little happiness!

  12. very funny and true. before publication all you have to worry about is rejection and growing as a writer. after publication you still worry about rejection and growing as a writer and a whole host of other things you've never imagined! I'm learning a lot about the publishing industry now that I'm on the published side of the page!