I'm a big fan of Miss Snark's First Victim blog. If you don't know it then please come out from under that rock and check it out!
This past Monday she announced which entries from aspiring authors qualified for her Baker's Dozen Contest (think critiques and more exposure). One non-recipient said the rejection made them want to give up.
First of all, did they not see the WriteOnCon video from NYT bestselling author Beth Revis? Or my posting of it earlier this year? If not, here it is again just in case the third time's a charm!
YES! This NYT bestselling author wrote not 1, not 2, but 10 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) manuscripts before she got to where she wanted to be. You know why? Because she had a dream, and a dream coupled with fierce determination means there's nothing you can't do.
We hear too often the instant success stories. The author that wrote their entire manuscript in a month or who had 6 offers of representation and barely a rejection letter to their name, or their first book sale was a three-book deal with movie rights optioned. WHAT?! That happens?
Yes, it does, but not often. These are sensational stories about rare individuals. Would I love to be one of these individuals. Hell yeah. Wouldn't you? Are most of us? Sadly, no. But we learn from all of this and we move on, move forward, or move further into edits.
For me, you may know that I recently finished my second manuscript. I wrote the first, queried RIGHT AWAY (big no, no), received my fair share of rejections and requests, got waaaayyyy too excited about my full manuscript submissions, and ultimately nothing came of it. Did I give up? Does it look like it?
I do think there's an important distinction, however, about giving up on writing and the pursuit of a dream versus giving up at least temporarily on a story. I had the option of doing the kind of edits I should have done the first time around and querying new agents or starting from scratch. Yes, it's scarier to start from scratch but for me, I was already cheating on my first manuscript with my second. I couldn't help it. Something told me I had a much bigger and better idea this second time around and now, I had the lessons learned from that first manuscript under my belt to ensure I did right this time.
While there's not guarantees, one good sign is that I haven't sent a single query letter out yet and after a writers conference I have 2 full manuscripts and a partial request and now I've been admitted to Miss Snark's Baker's Dozen Contest.
This reminds me of the worst interview question I was ever asked. The HR person said, "If you could describe yourself as smart or hardworking and you could only be one, which would it be?" That day I chose hardworking. There are a lot of smart people out there that never do anything with it. I'm a firm believer that success doesn't happen by accident. Hard work has to be part of the equation. So don't give up. Ever!
Maybe the manuscript you're working on isn't THE ONE, and maybe the next one isn't either but that doesn't mean it won't happen. My old writing teacher used to say, "If you don't want to read your work, what makes you think anyone else will?" Well my question to you is, "If you don't believe in yourself, what makes you think anyone else should?"
It's a SUBJECTIVE business. I never knew how true this was until I attended my first writer's conference earlier this month and heard a query letter get kissed and courted in one session and absolutely torn apart in another.
Believe in yourself. Study the books you love and pull apart what it is that makes them work. Write and rewrite and read aloud and rewrite some more. Pull in tons of eyes to take a look and encourage them to be as brutal as possible. Reach out to local writers groups, and most of all, believe that one day it will happen.
I do want to preface however that framing the dream is an important step too. Are you writing for you or for publication? I think this is a big distinction. Yes, we'd all love for our work to be published but at the end of the day if we find joy and solace, reprieve and excitement from the characters in our heads and the words spilling out in the pages then maybe that's enough as well. It doesn't mean to stop trying, it simply means that our own personal joy is what's most important of all. And maybe, just maybe, when we stop pressuring ourselves and writing for others, we have the most fun of all...and write that sparkling manuscript we always dreamed possible.