Although this applies to many people, in many fields, I’m talking about the need to persevere with your writing. It’s one of the few occupations where you’re flying blind, all on your own, most of the time. Feedback from others helps, but essentially it’s down to you. It’s all too easy to give up when the going gets tough – especially if you don’t have anyone you can turn to for support.
But remember – it’s extremely rare for first attempts to get published. Most writers have a drawer full of manuscripts that they haven’t been able to sell. It’s part of the process, and the only way to learn is by doing. Write, write, and write some more!
It takes time and practice to build your skills. This is the same for every occupation. You wouldn’t want a doctor chopping bits out of you if they haven’t been properly trained first, would you? And even when first-time writers do get accepted, they usually have to approach several publishers before that magical day, when they finally find the one that says yes.
Famous writers who had many rejections
If these great writers gave up first time, the book world would be a much poorer place. Actually, I don’t think much would get published at all!
JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel was rejected 12 times, before a small publisher took her on. Not so small now!
Stephen King’s first novel Carrie was rejected so many times, he threw the manuscript away! Temporarily, of course …
Even Agatha Christie’s first attempt was rejected 20 times. Her books are still selling, long after her death.
The list goes on. John Grisham, Dr Seuss, Louisa May Alcott, Stephenie Meyer, spanning all genres and all generations. Would you believe F Scott Fitzgerald purportedly received a rejection letter saying, ‘You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.’ Tee hee! Unless you’re already a celebrity, don’t expect instant success. Persevere – you’re in good company.
Giving up before you begin
Some people are so scared of rejection, they never even try. They start a project, get to a certain point, then give up. The manuscript never crosses an editor’s desk, never has a chance of publication. If you let fear hold you back, then you’ve rejected yourself. Which is much worse!
Giving up your day job?
Okay, we do need to be practical. Not everyone has the luxury of dedicating themselves full-time to developing their writing skills. Bills have to be paid. And I won’t kid you, it’ll be a long time before writing earns enough to keep you going. Even if your book is taken up quickly, you’ll have to wait to see the money. Advances for new writers typically aren’t huge and it’s a long time until the royalty cheques start to roll in.
So yes, do what you need to do. But fit your writing in somewhere. Small amounts on a regular basis is best. I met an author at a writers’ conference who used to write on the train to and from work. He now earns enough to write full-time, but he only managed to get there because he persevered through the hard patches. If you can manage an hour a day, most days, you’re in with a good chance.
How to handle rejection
It’s hard, I know, but the only way is to keep going. Don’t dwell on rejection. Learn your lessons and move on. Keep telling yourself ‘maybe next time’. And remember, rejection lasts a few minutes, acceptance lasts forever!