Friday, January 25, 2008

Getting There Is ALL the Fun

Maven Jacqueline BarbourNote: The Maven Valentine pick-your-adventure starts Feb 1! Vote for genre/time period on the left.

Let's face it: Publishing is an industry that wears people down. We collect rejections, we make endless revisions, a request raises our hopes and then that hope is dashed by yet another rejection. As a friend of mine observed in a private email the other day, it can seem a distinctly profitless enterprise.

And yet, we all also know the conventional wisdom: What separates successful, published authors from the unpublished ones is mostly perseverance. We've all heard how many rejections luminaries like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling piled up before finally attracting an agent and selling their first book.

Still, on the days when the prospect of ever finding that one agent or editor who loves your book seems slim, fat, and none all at the same time, it can be awfully difficult to keep the faith.

So, if you're having one of those days, remember this:

No matter where you are in your writing career--whether you're just getting started on your first novel, seeking publication for a completed manuscript, or even atop the New York Times bestseller list--you always have the same two choices. You can keep writing or give up.

We're all in the same boat, we writers. We're all rowing along the same river. Enjoy the journey. Because getting there is the fun part.

YOUR TURN: How do you keep the faith? Have you ever considered throwing in the towel? What do you consider the low and high points of your writing career?


B.E. Sanderson said...

I think about giving up at least two or three times a year. I did give up once, back when my first book was accumulating rejections. I stopped cold in the middle of my second book and I couldn't write a word for 9 months. One day I just slapped myself around and told myself to get over it. I don't know how I keep the faith - maybe it's the memory of how much not-writing sucked for all those months, maybe it's the memory of a man who told me I would never write a book and more importantly, of the man who told me I had to write (my husband). So far the only high points have been completing books. I've got 5 under my belt now (okay, three of those are in editing stages, but their whole books).

In the words of Dory the fish (Finding Nemo): Just keep swimmin'. Just keep swimmin'. Just keep swimmin'. ;o)

lacey kaye said...


The advice. Great job, Jackie!

Bill Clark said...

Excellent advice that can never be repeated too often, Jackie!

Another one for the refrigerator door. :-)

Vicki said...

This is such a great post for all of us. Being in the middle of revisions is crazy for me. This is the first time I've done this part. The other three book? Wrote them and stuck them under the bed in dust bunny land. I am learning tons doing it though.

Yes, there are those few times when I think, can I really do this? They don't usually last too long since I can't imagine not doing it. :)

Another post to be printed and read again. Especially on those down days.

Kendra said...

I consider giving up two or three times a year, too. Last March was probably my lowest point ever. I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I felt I was ignoring my kids and would never get pubbed. And the highs and lows of writing were extremely hard for me emotionally. I'd even said the quitting words out loud to my sister. That was a dramatic step for me. Most people around me don't even know I write.

Then a week later I got my Daphne entries back with a note from the coordinator that said I'd nearly finaled and that I should read the comments from one of the judges. This judge signed her name, swore she loved it, and asked me to contact her directly. Her last book made NY Times top ten. I met her in person and she got the MS on her agent's desk. The agent rejected it but gave me a great revision list. Needless to say, my inspiration went through the roof. I've been riding on that moment for nearly a year now. It's still going strong.

Jennifer Linforth said...

I thought of throwing in the towel recently. Editing is just too much sometimes, but it is the end result that keep you going. No writer likes to see their work torn to shreds, but we all go through it.

My lowest point became my highest. An agent suggested I scrap my series. Put it on a shelf and move on--it would be too hard to sell. She encouraged me to try my voice in historial fiction and write something totally new. I did. I have never loved writing a book more than that one. Looking for a home for it now. A few months later that series she told me to shelve, sold. (At least book one did--hoping they will pick up 2 and 3)

It is my writing friend and blog friends that keep me going!


Erica Ridley said...

When I fall into a tequila shooter of depression, I try to ask myself, "How bad do you want it?" because I know I can never have what I want if I don't work for it, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, through rain sleet and snow... (Yes, that's a bastardized mix of marital vows and the U.S. Postal Service motto. Sue me. *g)

Bill Clark said...

(Yes, that's a bastardized mix of marital vows and the U.S. Postal Service motto. Sue me. *g)

*Bill drops to his knee and sues Miss Erica for her hand*

Bill Clark said...

From Webster's Unabridged:

Sue v.t. 1. to institute a process in law against... 2. to woo or court...

Marnee Jo said...

Bill you're so silly. :)

Jackie, this is wonderful advice. Simple, yet so true it's almost painful.


Diana Peterfreund said...

Great post, Jackie!

I'm sure I haven't had my lowest lowest point yet, and I hope I haven't had my highest highest. Probably the first lowest was when I was getting scads of rejections on my first agent search, in the middle of a slew of hurricanes hitting my house. Almost quit then, but my friends forced me to pack up, leave my no-electricity-or-hot-water house nad go to a conference where I'd finaled for an award.

I won.

Second lowest was right around the time my book was coming out, I discovered there were a group of people online saying nasty things about me, my book, and how it got published, all anonymously of course, and planning their bad amazon reviews. OUCH.

First highest was the day I sold my first book. Second highest was when I sold my YA.

Writer & Cat said...

Now that I have little ones, I contemplate it on a regular basis. Never do it, though. One time when I was particularly frustrated trying to balance new mommyhood with writing, I got in a fight with my sister, who expressed her opinion I was neglecting my kids.

I burst into tears (hey, postpartum, man) and put the laptop upstairs. For a week. Until my sister went back to my mom's house :).

Jody W.

Anonymous said...

An excellent way of putting it! Every time I think I could give up on writing, I very soon find out I can't, because it has to come out somehow. I think the only way I can keep writing now is just focusing on the story and not the potential for rejection, because then I'm afraid that I'm wasting all this time and emotion on an effort that will fail, and I freeze up. So, focusing on the story, and full steam ahead...

Jill James said...

I gave up once for ten years after my mother tore my manuscript apart. It was sad really, but an important lesson as well. I will never give anyone that much power over my joy of writing again. I can't control if I get published, but i can control if I write or not.

Carrie R. said...

Great post and comments! I did stop writing for a few years a while back -- it was for a stupid reason which is a long story :)

Now, I can't imagine giving up. I promised I'd give it 10 years and that's what I'll do. It's actually very freeing to have a time span like that -- I'm committed, I can't second guess.

Like Diana, I don't think I've had my lowest lows yet. Even when I was getting rejected on my first book I knew I'd keep plowing forward.

I truly believe that those who do not give up will get there.

Bill Clark said...

C'mon, MJ, there's nothing "silly" about about having a ginormous crush on Miss Erica. In fact, it's just the opposite, and an obvious tribute to my impeccable good taste. :)

And's let's not forget that the theme of this post is perseverance. What better forum in which to press my suit, as it were?

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