“So, here are two pervasive reasons that people write novels: (a) for the approval of others and (b) for the sake of writing itself. Nobody does it for either reason alone. There are easier ways to get approval, and the novelist who works in isolation, never publishing, is not a true novelist but a hobbyist.” Donald Maass
I’ll admit, he had me through the first line. By the end of the quote, I was slightly put off. In case you don’t know, Donald Maass, is a literary agent with his own agency in New York. He wrote a book, which is where I obtained the little gem of wisdom above. So, my question is, are you telling me Emily Dickinson was not a true poet? In fact, here is a list of other works that were published posthumously:
- Douglas Adams — The Salmon of Doubt
- Shmuel Yosef Agnon — Shira
- Isaac Asimov — Forward the Foundation
- Jane Austen — Northanger Abbey and Persuasion
- Georg Büchner — Woyzeck
- Mikhail Bulgakov — The Master and Margarita
- Charles Bukowski — over twenty books of poetry and short stories after his 1994 death.
- Samuel Butler — The Way of All Flesh
- Albert Camus — The First Man
- Angela Carter — American Ghosts and Old World Wonders, The Curious Room
- Agatha Christie — Sleeping Murder
- Roald Dahl — Roald Dahl’s Guide to Railway Safety
- Rene Daumal — Mount Analogue
- Philip K. Dick — Gather Yourselves Together, Radio Free Albemuth, Humpty Dumpty in Oakland, Voices from the Street
- Charles Dickens — The Mystery of Edwin Drood
- Emily Dickinson — Virtually all of her poems, as well as her letters.
- Ralph Ellison — Juneteenth
- F. Scott Fitzgerald — The Last Tycoon
- Gustave Flaubert — Bouvard et Pécuchet
- Ian Fleming — The Man With The Golden Gun and Octopussy and the Living Daylights
- E. M. Forster — Maurice
- Anne Frank — The Diary of a Young Girl
- Julius Fučík — Notes from the Gallows
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — Faust Part Two
- Robert A. Heinlein — For Us, the Living, written in 1939, but not published until 2003, 15 years after his death.
- Joseph Heller — Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man
- C. L. R. James — American Civilization
- Franz Kafka — The Trial, The Castle and Amerika as well as many short stories.
- Robert Ludlum — The Janson Directive
- Niccolò Machiavelli — The Prince
- Walter M. Miller, Jr. — Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman
- Jessica Mitford — The American Way of Death Revisited
- Irène Némirovsky — Suite française
- Flann O’Brien — The Third Policeman
- Wilfred Owen — almost all of his poems, the first edition being 24 Poems (1920)
- Karel Poláček — There Were Five of Us (Czech Bylo nás pět)
- Carl Sagan — Billions and Billions
- Dr. Seuss — Daisy – Head Mayzie
- Yaakov Shabtai — Past Perfect (“Sof Davar”)
- J. R. R. Tolkien — The Silmarillion (published 5 years after his death), The Children of Húrin (based on a tale in The Silmarillion, published 35 years after his death)
- Leo Tolstoy — The Living Corpse, Hadji Murat
- John Kennedy Toole — A Confederacy of Dunces, The Neon Bible
- Jules Verne — Le Phare du bout du monde, Paris in the 20th Century
- Virginia Woolf — Between the Acts
So, tell me again how being published makes me a ‘serious’ novelist? Maass actually has a great deal of good advice in his book. However, it was clearly written by someone who has more of an eye on the market than on the craft of writing.
In the opening chapter, he remarks that there are a good many ‘novelists’ out there who write because they feel they must…who adopted the identity of ‘writer’ in adolescence and never learned to let it go. I have worked closely with teenagers for the past decade, and I’m afraid I disagree. There are a myriad of psychological reasons why someone who has the desire to write, cannot.
It has always come easily for me. Though I have never felt forced to pen my thoughts, I have known others who struggle with it daily. It has nothing to do with their want to write, more with an inability to say what they mean or the reluctance to come to terms with their own emotions. It isn’t just because they’ve likened themselves to angsty, reclusive writers … but nice try, Maass. I’m sure many people thought that was a brilliant insight. Perhaps it is. I just fail to believe that those who consistently publish soulless drivel are any more true in their endeavors than those who don’t care for the scrutiny of the likes of agents, editors, etc.
I mean, even a blog can get you blacklisted these days…