September 2, 2011

Giving Up the Dream

Three years ago, when I started my first book, I had a dream.

At night, lying in bed, I'd stare at the ceiling unable to sleep because my brain wouldn't stop humming, like a little engine going and going and going. I'd plot out my novel. I'd create new characters. I'd drum up ways to make my little book more exciting, more action-filled, more everything.

I daydreamed in those wee hours of the morning. About agent offers and publishing deals. About print runs and book tours. Even though my little book was far, far from perfect, I dreamt and I wished and I really, really hoped. In the morning, after I brushed my teeth, I'd stare at books like Percy Jackson and Gregor the Overlander and I'd tell myself:

One day. One day my book will be in stores and kids will love them and I'll meet them because I'll go on book tours and other nice author-y things. Maybe, probably, I'll be a bestseller. Maybe, probably, I'll  live off of my writing. And I'll be happy, happy, happy because this dream of mine will have come true.

Ah, the naivete! I wish I coud pinch my cheeks.

There were no bumps in the road when it came to my dreaming. No hiccups. I'd get an agent, easy peasy, and a handsome book deal. Then, perhaps a year later, my novel would come out in bookstores and it would sell well. Kids would love the novel, and I'd write sequels that they would love too.

It was a lovely, lovely dream.
It still hovers in my mind actually, humming its familiar sound.
But the humming has grown fainter as of late. Its wings don't beat as fast as they used to.

And I'm okay with that.

In the past year, as I've experienced the roller coaster of submissions, I've had to let go of my dream a bit. Bestsellers list? Book tours? Yeah, those are hard to get! Hell, it's tough enough just to break into traditional publishing, much less land on the NYT Bestsellers' list. I've come to learn that becoming one of those authors---with book tours and those other author-y things---requires a bit of luck. It's not only about writing a good book, it's about selling the book to the right publisher at the right time. It's about marketing too. And being fresh in a crowded market. It takes, well, it takes a lot.

And in this past year, as I've gotten to know other writers, I've also come to see that publishing isn't always the smoothly paved road I once hoped it to be. Sometimes a book series gets canceled. Or it doesn't get picked up by Barnes & Noble. Sometimes a publishing offer doesn't go through. Or an established author can't get another deal. This road gets bumpy and it makes sharp turns and, sometimes, it breaks hearts.

It's a business, after all.
So we have to put on our business faces.
It's an odd road to walk---with our dreams on one side and the realities of business on the other. And there we are, bouncing between the two.

This is why my post is called "Giving Up the Dream." I"m not giving up on writing---nope, my brain won't let me---but I'm letting go of the part of me that thinks about book tours and bestsellers' lists and big advances. Sure, all of those things would be awesomely nice, but I can't really control any of it. All I can do is write and edit and edit some more. So I'll work on that. Maybe those nice author-y things will come my way, but maybe they won't. It's okay either way. As long as...

#1 I'm happy with my writing.
#2 I get to hold my books in my hands.
#3 Somewhere out there, I can make a kid smile 'cause of my stories.

And #4 I can buy a yacht with my book earnings.
(Kidding, kidding!)

But yeah, #3. That makes my heart squeeze.

That's why I started writing in the first place, and it's a dream I'll always have.

It's a dream I'll never give up on.


  1. What a lovely and true post. Can I frame this and hang it next to my writing desk? :)

  2. I hope you never give up on that dream as well :)

  3. Great post - concentrating on what we can control is a good plan. I am always happier when I focus on the book itself, instead of those hopes of deals and bestseller lists and other things I have little (or no) control over.

    But I still plan to hang out on your yacht someday and toast your bestselling series with $200/bottle champagne!

  4. I think we all have dreams like that that simply have to be let go. But like you said . . . that's fine as long as we keep the important ones.

    P.S. I saw you'll be at the Mid-Atlantic conf. Can't wait to meet you!

  5. I so understand. I haven't given up either, but like you I'm more realistic now and focused on enjoying my writing.

    Your point #3 is particularly poignant - I was breaking my heart that although my book had been read and enjoyed, it was all adults: I wanted a child of the right age to meet my characters and inhabit their world. At last I got some kind of closure on my first book when it was read by a 10-year-old boy, and the review he wrote for me is much treasured.

  6. Excellent Post... I've given up my dream too! And... that's okay! Writing is really all that matters.

  7. Great post. And you're right, moving other people with your stories is what it's all about.

  8. Jeez, you gave me a scare! Glad to know you are not giving up on the dream, just changing it around a bit :]

  9. I love this post Caroline and I know you will move many people with your stories.

  10. Wow. I want to put this post in my pocket and carry it around with me everywhere. :)

  11. Fantastic, fantastic post and what a goal to aim for. Sometimes things don't exactly look like we expect they will--but it doesn't mean they aren't just as awesome.

  12. Rebecca, Aw thanks! You are more than welcome to hang this wherever you wish! *Blushes* And hey, I totally want a writing desk! Right now I just use my lap.

    Lori, thank you! I don't think my husband would let me give up on this dream, even if I wanted to!

    Lynn, wahoo! Champagne! But hey, we could totally be celebrating your book deal on your yacht! :)

  13. Janet, no way! That is so awesome that I'll get to meet you at SCBWI Mid-Atlantic! Where will you be volunteering?

    Sue, the review you mentioned sounds so amazing! That validation from a reader must feel incredibly wonderful. Now I need to find a 10-year-old boy to read my book! Haha.

  14. Brian, I love that! "Writing is really all that matters." I couldn't have said it better!

    Christine, thank you for posting! I need to remind myself of that more often too, that moving other people with my writing is what my main goal is. It's so easy to get caught up with other things!

  15. Vicki, I don't think I could give up this dream even if I wanted to! Haha. Maybe it's my stubborn streak or maybe I just can't think of anything else I want to do with my time. Do you ever feel like giving up on art? Is this something that all creative people go through?

    Alexa, thank you so much! I really hope people will get to read my books one day! Here's to hoping. :)

  16. Pam, awww, thank you so much! That comment just made my night!

    Laura, I really like your point! It's so true--sometimes things don't turn out the way we'd thought but it doesn't make things less meaningful. Thanks!

  17. Oh Caroline, this is so honest I love it. Lovely post. It reminds us of the differences between reality and the idyllic version of what we want.