Humility Has Its Limits

My routine on a writing week and a reading week are pretty similar. Spend an hour on the commuter rail either reading or writing. Spend 20 minutes on the subway reading. (Writing on the subway is very difficult, and I do it very infrequently). While I have a number of samples and one novel on my nook I still need to finish, I opted for this week to take a book off my bookshelf that I never finished.

Really, I only got a couple pages in and put it down. Having bought CORDELIA'S HONOR for the first time when I bought this other title, I switched to that and then promptly read Bujold's entire catalogue. Clearly it got left behind. But I'm back, aware of what I didn't like and trying to soldier past to get to the meat of the story.

The book fell open at one point and I saw the acknowledgments. I decided to give them a read. Ever since Nathan Bransford posted a link to another agent's blogpost saying that it was dangerous for writers not to include their agents and editors in the acknowledgments (and their assistants!), I look to see if they are included.

Thus, I've been reading a lot of acknowledgments lately. And while agents and editors do always appear, I've noticed another trend: over–self-deprication. It's one thing to acknowledge the people who made your work better. I certainly do. But it's another thing entirely to spend a page enumerating all the different ways you suck as an author. If you are incapable of forming coherent paragraphs, crafting related scenes, or in any other way forming a story that is capable of moving from beginning to end without other people performing life-saving surgery, what the fuck are you doing writing a book? No wonder editors never have any time. They take incoherent pieces of shit and rework them into books. Or so these acknowledgments would have me believe.

Humility has its limits, people. At some point you stop sound modest and start sounding lucky. You're lucky that a bunch of people took pity on your ineptitude and let you leech off their talent while still slapping your name on the front cover. Do you have talent? Do you have skill? These are not things to be embarrassed by. Did they make your work better? Give them the credit they've earned. But don't tell me, your reader, that you aren't any good. If you aren't, I'll return your book and go find someone more worthwhile.

And as an aspiring writer, this is even more frustrating. What the hell, people? Look at all these talentless hacks getting multiple books published. I wouldn't have thought them talentless hacks, but then I read their acknowledgments page and they told me so. It simultaneously offends me that talentless hacks are getting multi-book deals while I'm still getting rejected AND kicks me in the junk because talentless hacks are getting multi-book deals while I'm still getting rejected. You'd rather spend all that time working with a talentless hack than me?

Unless, of course, they aren't talentless hacks, in which case they really need to chill out on the acknowledgments page.