OK, aspiring authors, here’s the thing they don’t tell you.
You won’t learn this on the creative writing courses. You won’t hear this from your agent, or your publisher, or your e-book self-publishing formatter. You won’t learn this from all those earnest blogs with titles like ‘Twenty-Five Things an Author Should Do Before Breakfast’.
There’s one fundamental question which has to be answered by all those who aspire to Author Nirvana.
Now, you might be an aspiring author with the apocryphal ‘one book’ in you. A book that’s struggling to get out, a voice that demands to be heard. But let’s face it, most of us are greedy. We don’t want to write just one book – we want to write many books. Perhaps we hope that they’ll rake in as much money as a JKR or a DB, but actually, that’s not really the point. If we’re true authors, if we’ve really got the bug, there are countless stories bubbling away inside us, just waiting to burst out all over Amazon and the shelves of obscure branches of Waterstones. And that truly is Author Nirvana – to have more than one or two books to our name.
But then we hit one of the most basic problems that authors confront: who on earth do we dedicate all these books to?
This is a question that’s been around for as long as books themselves, and there’s even a very funny blog devoted entirely to the subject of weird and wonderful book dedications.
For many authors, dedicating tomes one and two is easy: ‘significant other’ and parents, either in that order or vice-versa. Ah, but then you sign on the dotted line for number three. If you have children, of course, number three (and potentially four, five, six, etc, too) will be no problem, although it’s highly likely that over the years, not all authors’ dedications to their children have been entirely honest: if they had been, they’d be along the lines of ‘To Poppy, whose quite staggering incontinence kept me awake at night for several years and led me to completely lose the thread of several potentially promising stories’. But if you don’t have enough children, and/or don’t have a ‘significant other’ (or else a sufficiently regular turnover of ‘significant others’), and/or don’t have extant parents, and you’re about to publish (say) book six – well, then you have a problem.
Yes, there’s always Great Aunt Doris. But should she really get a book before Cousin Arthur, who always seemed to be hovering in the background of photos taken in your childhood, for no apparently obvious reason? And if Doris gets one, won’t Vaguely Related Ermintrude be offended?
Ah, you say, surely one can dedicate books to one’s friends. Yes, indeed one can – assuming you have any friends left, for being an author is a sure way to lose them – but will friend X be mortally offended if friend Y gets the dedication in book 7 and s/he only gets the one in book 8?
Fortunately, there’s one eminently sensible solution to this conundrum – simply invent your dedicatees. Who will possibly quibble with ‘To My Beloved Astraea – just one night was better than a lifetime?’ Who can take issue with ‘In Memory of Bernard, taken from us in such tragic and remarkably unhygienic circumstances?’ And can anything possibly trump the seriously enigmatic – ‘For F’ – or the positively surreal, such as Cornell Woolrich’s dedication to his typewriter or Agatha Christie’s ‘to all those who lead monotonous lives’? (I dedicated one of my books to all of my former students, which was essentially the same thing.)
In case you’re wondering, I’ve just published my eighth book – four fiction, four non-fiction – and so far, I’m in no danger of running out of dedicatees, although the delicate question of the ‘batting order’ is another matter. In the meantime, though, this happens to be the one hundredth published post in this blog. I can’t quite believe that statistic – taking my first tentative steps to put the first one online seems like only yesterday! But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and continue to do so. Consequently, this post is dedicated to you, my readers, for your loyalty and support, and in many cases for the lively and informative comments you’ve made on some of my posts. Here’s to the next hundred!