Monday, March 22, 2010

On acknowledgements

Boy, I wonder if Hillary Clinton knew what a buzz phrase she'd create when she first commented, "It takes a village?"

Of course, the original saying comes from the title of her book, which itself came from an African proverb.
But, IMHO, the statement also fits the act of writing a good book. Or, at least, a good book that sells.

As I find myself getting closer to the time I'll have to write acknowledgements for The Pull of Gravity, I find myself faced with an ever-growing list of the people who have helped me over the years. From early readers of OTHER manuscripts who encouraged me to keep writing, to early readers of this manuscript who helped me hone this particular story; from family members who believed in me, to my husband who went out every day to earn our main living so that I could sit home and write a majority of the time; from my kids who inspire me every day, to other people's kids who helped me with bits of information to make the voice more authentic or the title sing; from my first agent who may have ultimately failed me in some regards, and did not sell the book for me, but in other regards succeeded in ways that can never be forgotten, like believing in me enough to want to take me on and try to sell my writing (putting in endless hours without up-front pay trying her best to help me to make my stories more marketable); to my current agent, who takes late night phone calls, weekend emails, and who, in a short time, has taught me so much about how to write a better, more satisfying book. And, to my editor, who will be an integral part of making my book whatever good it is.

So, back to those pesky acknowledgements. Do you list everyone and pray you don't leave somebody out, or do you make a blanket statement and hope that those who you appreciate know it; and that you know it takes a village?


  1. Personally, I'd try and thank everyone. From my family to the music groups who inspired me to write. If you forget someone, hopefully they will understand that as humans we are fallible. And then they can remind you to thank them in the next book. :) I guess it's just what is best for the individual writer.

  2. There are no rules. Do what is comfortable for you. Everyone is different. But I certainly expect some gratitude for encouraging you to swim whenever possible. ;)

  3. I lost a lot of sleep over this one. I think that if I'm lucky enough to have a next time, I'll name only those who had anything to do--directly--with the writing process (readers, editors, agent)and use the blanket approach with the rest... except for nuclear family, who of course deserve a loving shout out.

    Rule of thumb: Someone's probably going to be pissed.

    If you get a chance, check out Pete Dexter's nine pages of acknowledgments at the end of his latest novel, "Spooner." Hilarious.

  4. I finished my acknowledgements last week...and I just about drove myself crazy by re-writing them so many times. I went from including everyone I could think of... to finally minimizing them to the handful of people who've helped me the very most, and a blanket statement for everyone else. I think it's a very personal decision that can lead to lots of headaches if you over think it too much (like I did). Good luck and keep us posted on what acknowledgement route you decide to take!

  5. I'm not at this point yet, but have face the very real probability that my biggest overall 'Becoming a Writer' helpers go with my FIRST book, which will probably NOT be my first one published, which creates a grand dilemma, doesn't it? They ought to go on the book they helped with, but they ought to be acknowledged as soon as possible?

    Does the book have a website? Maybe have an extensive, all inclusive list there, and in the book just point out a couple, then the categories "first readers" etc.? I feel like if you are exhaustive, then forgotten people will take larger offense compared to if you are spare, and a website list can be easily fixed when you realize someone is missing. The book is permanent.

  6. um, you could do it in emoticons. (:(O) for Megan. <:) for me. %:( for...oh, I do forget. And then various <# and ~<3~<3~<3 for all those that have helped. oh, and <3<3 for the kids. <3<3<3 and $$$ for David. (notice that already, I'm putting some of us ahead of the family??)

    Don't listen to me. >:(


  7. Jim, gonna check that out. For you that don't know Jim, his blog is always chock full of great writing stuff. And his book Bill Warrington's Last Chance (winner of ABNA2!) comes out soon (August, right?);

    Amy, as it was "try to get to some blogs" day, right after this post, I went to yours and saw your funny and on-point post called Acks and Deds. Was relieved to know there was a name for what I've got. (Check out Amy's blog!);

    Hart, yes, good ideas. (all you, check out Hart's blog called Watery Tart - Yes sheer good luck that her blog has Water in the title and that I am (well, in my head at least) a bit of a tart; and

    Tracy, you are always so chock-full of silly brilliance. Maybe I just will. (check out Tracy's blog too if she ever gets it reall yp and running. Is it, Trace?)

  8. It's a tough decision and I tend to go with the others who will do a mix of specific and then toss a blanket over it all.

    Just counting myself lucky to HAVE this problem in the first place :D