Stop reading this blog

Do tell me, Kindly Miss Snark:

When a writer is most certainly not a nitwit; when she has done her research ad infinitum and ad nauseum; when she would never dream of blind copying 250 "Dear Agents" or sending a query to "Ms. Snark's blog" or any such writerly faux pax...

When she has written her first novel, thrown it out there to beta readers (not her mom), thrown a page to the crapometer and gotten chewed up and spat out, worked on it some more, queried intelligently, got some requests for partials and a truckload of rejections...

When she's quietly tucked the first novel in a drawer and labeled it "training novel;" when she has written a second, superbly better novel, born out of the pain of experience, revised until sweat turned to blood...

When she queries this new novel -- again, intelligently, carefully, by-the-rules -- and receives more rejections; when she tweaks the query (as per sage advice gleaned from agent blogs) and re-queries, and is still continually rejected...

When she KNOWS that she can write, dammit, and she's not among the "stupid," though obviously among the "uninteresting" or "unpublishable" or whatever it is she has been tossed among...

When her genre is considered "hot" (young adult) and she has been told (and told and told) to "write what she loves" and "write what she knows," and she does just that -- and it happens to be young adult fiction, something about which she is passionate...and it's still Not Good Enough...

What is then left for her but to quit?

She is not a Quitter by nature. She is feisty, determined, passionate, driven. She has grown her Thick Skin and receives Publisher's Lunch daily and takes criticism with an open mind and ready pen.

She is not a "wimp."

But she is tired. She is discouraged. She can't take this anymore.

She really, really can't.

What does Miss Snark say to her, when "Don't give up" now sounds trite?

She barely has the strength to listen.

She cancels her subscription to Publishers Lunch.

She stops reading Miss Snark's blog.

She doesn't cancel her internet service but she sets her "do you want to stay connected" timer for 20 minutes.

She thinks long and deeply about what brings her joy.

If writing is your joy, you will be able to go on.
You don't need me to tell you this.
You know it already.
I'm only reminding you to remember what you love.


Maria said...

Try writing a couple of short stories. There are not a lot of markets for them, but it is a break from the long work required of a novel--you can also explore themes for use in later novels.

Short stories provide ample opportunity to tighten your work too.

Check the markets you think you're interested in before you start because the word counts are brutally low. It's a good exercise and allows you to get some submissions out to a different set of people. If you write five or six of them, you'll feel better because your goal isn't tied up in a single novel.

It's just as hard to get published in the short story market, maybe harder if that is possible, but changing up the goals and focusing on something shorter and newer could be a very positive thing.

Kimber Li said...

I agree with the Divine Miss Snark. If writing is your joy, you'll keep writing. That writer you describe sounds like almost all her focus has been getting published. But, that's not where it's at for a storyteller. For a storyteller, telling the story is just about everything. Getting published is secondary. That comes to the forefront at some point, but being a storyteller has to be in your heart to begin with or you'll never survive. I'd advise this writer to stop it. Just stop it. Stop having anything to do with the publication world. Have fun. Explore Real Life to its fullest. If you're a storyteller at heart, the joy for that will come back. And, seriously, if the joy isn't in the storytelling, then it's going to show in the story and that is probably why this writer has not yet published. Tell her to get her joy back before she does anything else.

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice from Miss Snark.

I add this, from my own experience as a published YA author--a manuscript either has a certain ting! factor, or it doesn't. It's hard to explain, but agents and editors know when an manuscript goes ting!

I have happened to write manuscripts that go ting! I also have written a manuscript or three that don't go ting! and my agent said mmm, better not show this one. (Of course, once an author has a bestseller, than all subsequent manuscripts will shine).

In other words, don't put all your self-esteem into just one story, which might be perfectly fine writing but for some reason or another doesn't have that ting! factor. Write another.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my dog, that sounds like me. Except for the subscription to Publishers Lunch, which I can't afford.

Do what the lady says. I am.

Anonymous said...

If writing is your joy, you will be able to go on.
You don't need me to tell you this.

You are so right, Miss Snark. All of this poster's comments ask the question: How do I publish? Been to the bottom of that trough a thousand times and have come to one conclusion: Writing is not about breaking into the market. Market is comprised of whims and fashion and only sometimes has something to do with quality. Writing is a creative art, and the the love of the art is what gives the writer the strength to go on.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Right on, fearsome dragoon. Right on.

I've gotten to the point where I've quit trying to quit. It'll either happen or it won't, but in the meantime, I've got one hell of a great excuse to explore the world with eyes wide open, questioning, wondering. And because of that, I've had some amazing experiences (Have members of the world's biggest rock band ever shown up at a party YOU threw? Do you wear clothes made of bamboo?). Maybe it won't amount to more than stories to tell my grandkids.

Or maybe one day, I'll make a hell of an interview as I push my latest best-seller.

Senile in St. Louis said...

I'm somewhere inbetween thinking I could actually get published some day, and thinking it will never happen. And so one day I said to myself, hey self, who cares? I love to write and I love to go back and read what I wrote. I write humor, in my own special and strange way, and I happen to think it's funny. Maybe others don't and that's okay too. So I offer my humble recommendation to go ahead and write for the pure joy and pure hell of it. Is getting published really all that important? In the end I think not. On the other hand, if an author happens to crank out a doozy and catch the eye of an agent and then a publisher, well then so much the better. I repeat my humble recommendation: Write for the joy and the hell of it!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

WannabeMe said...

There are lots of things in life I don't *have to* do. Like wash my face, exercise, brush my teeth, google George Clooney photos every five minutes. Then there are the things that I just must do - eat, breathe, use the toilet, watch every Johnny Depp flick ever made, and write.

Miss Snark's right. You just need a little encouragement. Don't give up.

Anonymous said...

*sigh* Regretfully, my Creative Writing class is gradually draining the joy I have of writing. The class should be titled "Do busy work while the instructor grades papers for another course." I still hit the keyboard each night to work on my stories and I still have that love, but there's very little I put into such prompts as "describe your childhood room." He's published but that doesn't mean anything.

Thanks for listening to me rant. Hopefully I'll make it through this semester all right.


Laurie Wood said...

She takes a month off - no more, no less. She starts a third novel. NOT a YA novel. Something that she likes to read - I'm assuming that this author is not a YA herself. Perhaps a suspense, a thriller, a paranormal, a fantasy. She tries something new. The most important thing is; She - tries - something - new - and - she - writes - another - story. Why? Because maybe YA is not her fit, just because it's a hot market doesn't mean it's really her fit. If you don't believe me, try it anyway. Don't even wait a month - start tomorrow! I'll bet you'll be surprised. :)

McKoala said...

Write a third? I hope that doesn't sound crass, because it's not supposed to. But if you love it, keep on going, and maybe the third or the fourth or the fifth might be the one. And in the meantime, you'll be having fun.

So, Susan, tell us about the party. Inquiring minds must know more!

Anonymous said...

I think that sometimes it's a good thing to walk away from the whole writing gig, the publishing world, and the writing community and go do something else for a while.

I did that for about a year and it was a life saver. I came back knowing that I'd write when I wanted to, that I didn't "have" to write every day, that I didn't have to do BIC because everyone said I did. I came back to it with my own clear vision of who I am and what I write and it isn't affected anymore by what anyone thinks.

I was also able to shed my need to "belong" to the world of the big advances, big publicity, multiple sales, bestsellers, Amazon ratings (who cares?), successful writers, and everything else that haunts you when it's not yours.

This is a world where we see the whole range of what can happen from the worst failure to the brightest success.

Find out what success means to you and live that. Screw everything else. When you wake up in the morning you only have to look yourself in the mirror. You don't have to answer to anyone for what you do. Only you know what you want and what has meaning in your life. Don't be pushed into accepting anything else.

Zany Mom said...

I have to write.

It's the only way to get the voices inside my head to shut up. They're not happy until their story has been told. Period.

Or maybe I'm just undermedicated.

Kanani said...

You want to write? Then do it. But don't limit yourself to the novel. Write everything: essays, poetry, short stories, articles. Submit them to magazines, journals, newspaper, press releases, newsletters (oh! is there such a thing anymore?). Submit locally, nationally and to publications in other countries.
There are many ways to do what you love.

Anonymous said...

It sounds as if you just need to get away from writing for a while. Do something entirely different. Take a Chinese cooking course or a foreign language class at the community college. Do anything that doesn't involve writing. And when you go back to it, remember that the real joy is in the writing itself. The publishing process can be truly awful. I was happiest when I was unpublished and working on my first really horrible novel. Publication brings all kinds of distress. I can't remember who said it, maybe Miss Snark. Don't let your writing define you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we have to keep writing and illustrating because we love it; I especially could not stop drawing even if you put a gun to my head.

But...few of use are completely immune to the need for validation. Especially in the form of a publishing contract. And in the children's lit world, when you see so much blech right up there with and almost obscuring the good stuff, it is hard to not feel the bile rising from time to time. It makes me think of that song Rufus Wainwright sings that goes: "Is this heartbreak or is this heartburn? Have I been played or do I need a Rolaids?"

When it really gets to me, I try to tell myself "It's just heartburn. Either that or menopause."

And FYI: Vodka works better than Rolaids.

Anonymous said...

What ur feeling will pass.

Sometimes people displace their feelings on other objects. Maybe its not ur writing that is making u feel so sad. Maybe something other than ur writing is setting u off. Well thats what I learned in my psyc class.

Yes, Miss Snark some of ur snarklings r actually edumacatedz:P

GutterBall said...

I have to write, or my head will explode. But I don't have to be published. Sometimes it feels like I must, but I won't die if I don't get published.

I think I will die if I stop writing.

So, my advice to Her is to walk away for a while. Take a breather. Watch a few bad zombie flicks, listen to some Meatloaf, play pranks on the neighbors. Cut the dog out of the will and have the kids put to sleep. Whatever takes Her mind off of getting published for a while.

Once She remembers that She used to write for fun, for life itself, She will remember why She must continue putting words on the page.

We do it because it's wonderful to see our words come to life. It astonishes me to go back and read what just puked out of my head. I did that? Holy monkey!

So yeah. Step back. When She has some perspective, She'll be back. No fear.

Anonymous said...

Have a talk with some of the published authors who are at the next writing conference you attend. Or evesdrop on their conversation. You'll find that being published is very very rarely this big great milestone thing you think it is. It's a tiny bit of money and a huge bucket of stress.

It's not about getting published; it's about getting good. Just write another book. That's what you want to do with your life, right? Write books? You'll get better each time. Getting published will take care of itself.

Anonymous said...

As always, Miss Snark, You Rock!

Jenna Black said...

Perhaps my story will inspire you to keep fighting and writing. My "first" novel just came out on Tuesday. It was the 18th novel I'd completed. I'd been trying to get published for 16 years when I sold it. I now have 4 books under contract with Tor, and 2 books under contract with Bantam--all within the last 18 months.

Writing for publication is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a lot of stamina, and you have to fight through the pain. Only you can know if it's worth that level of effort.

Kimber Li said...

Oh, zany mom, you're so right.

Anonymous said...

If after all the hard work, I can't get my work published in the traditional manners, then I intend to vanity press enough copies to give to friends and family and stick on my bookshelf and one day my kids can read it and say "Well, at least she tried."

And if I have another story to tell, I'll go the same route so even if I never get published and sold in bookstores, I will at least have a leather bound set of my own books in my own bookcases.

Don't give up, remember who you are writing for, for yourself. Don't tie success in writing solely to publishing. Have pride in what you did cause you've accomplished what many could never do. There is a statistic that of the pool of wanna be writers, only 10% actually ever complete their novels. And you've completed two. That is a big accomplishment. Don't despair. Keep writing.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a place in my writing where I needed to hear all these wise and wonderful comments. And I'm grateful that so many snarkoholics share their thoughts on this exceptional blog.

Miss Snark,you may well expect an award some day for your writerly public service.

Write on. Yes, indeed. Right on!

Anonymous said...

May I just say that you are all incredible. Absolutely incredible.

Yes, I am "she." And I'm humbled and feeling validated and supported beyond what I've felt in...oh, I don't know how long.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for your encouraging, inspiring words.

And thank you, Miss Snark, for posting my letter and answering so thoughtfully.

You all rock.

Anonymous said...

Vacation therapy. Break your routine. Sounds like a great time to go places you haven't been, see old buddies, learn new skills, get more exercise, start volunteering at your local food bank or art museum or some other place where every single thing you do will be hugely appreciated.

Then when you come back to the manuscripts [next month or maybe in 10 years], you can do wild strange things to them. You did the safety version and it didn't quite fly, so now you can shoot for dangerous and edgy. Take it as a liberation and write from the very very limits of your comfort zone or perhaps a bit beyond. Why not? Now you're free to bend your genre, break rules. Violate more laws of physics & biology. Add more voices and scoundrels. Make it a movie or play, not a novel. Set it in a different era & different part of the world. Make it a spoof or a horror story. Etc. Etc. Or start a great new project very unlike these two.

astrologymemphis.blogspot.com said...

If publication isn't the end all and be all of our world, what are we doing here?

I believe you can write. The evidence is in your letter. Maybe the problem is something else. Maybe there's something structurally wrong with your story that you're not seeing. Do you have a critique partner or group? Has anyone beta read your ms and offered any suggestions?

Is it too long? Too short? Need a newer, eye-catching, ear-ringing title?

Woe is me, too. Do something constructive toward your goal at least once a week. Query again. Read a book on the subject of writing. I'm reading a great one now called The Art of Fiction - Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner. Join the Friends of the Library. Introduce Miss Snark to George Clooney.

Anonymous said...

I could have written that letter almost word for word. Some days it just gets to be too much, and all I can do is stop thinking about getting published and just write whatever the hell I want to write, just because I want to write it. Then the desire to be published kicks in again and I start querying. And I get a couple of nibbles. I wonder why I haven't heard a word from the agents who are reading my full manuscript, two months after asking for an update at the four month mark. I get frustrated and think I'll never hear back from them, ever. I doubt my abilities but I keep going. I doubt my luck. How does everyone else do it? I consider getting a job, just so my husband can stay home for a while. I consider giving up, just because I think no matter how hard I try, it's never going to happen. But I keep writing.

Miz Treeze said...

"If writing is your joy, you will be able to go on.
You don't need me to tell you this.
You know it already.
I'm only reminding you to remember what you love."

Yes, listen.

Anonymous said...

gutterball said:

I have to write, or my head will explode. But I don't have to be published. Sometimes it feels like I must, but I won't die if I don't get published.

Ditto! That totally sums up what I was going to say.

Jenna Black, you're my new superhero.

Anonymous said...

I'm with southern writer. It is SO about publication - at least for me.

I love to write, too - you have to, no-one would put them through the amount of work it takes to be good at this if they didn't, surely. But I am not just in it for the love. I am here working my arse off to be be published and published repeatedly.

I am not saying this to denigrate those who write just for the love - I admire you more than I can say. But I don't want anonymous girl (you are a girl, right?) to feel as if she is inadequate if she doesn't feel that way.

I'm with Miss Snark though, and all the others who said to take a step back. Don't quit, but maybe stop investing so much in THIS novel. I hate to say it, when you have done so much work on this one, but I think it's time to write another. This one's time may yet come, but it might not be until after the next one, or the one after that, or after 5 or 10 years, and you pull it out again and all of a sudden what is wrong with it is glaringly obvious, you re-write it to fix the problem and 'overnight' (;>) you become the next JK Rowling.

And in the meantime, do some things that feed the creative soul that aren't writing. Go to a gallery, go to the theatre, or the movies, play stupid board games with your friends, or just swing in a hammock and commune with the clouds. Inspiration comes from many places.

You don't have to give up your dream of publication. You just have to take the pressure off so you can re-find your joy in the stories.

Good luck with and have fun.


PS - and to the person whose creative writing class is stifling you - quit it! There are only so many writing hours in a day. Don't waste yours on stuff that bores you!

Gone said...

Keep writing! I tried writing just for fun - then decided I really liked the start of my new story and was going to work at making it right! Telling stories and trying to get published are two different things and somethimes you need a break from the second (because it is the most intensely confusing and frustrating activity) to enjoy the first. Keep at it and enjoy as much as you can!

Anonymous said...


I've written FIVE.

Learning this business takes a long time.

But that's not why we're at it day and night, is it? My husband says I love to write because I'm the first person that ever gets to hear that story. He's a business-type, but he's right.

My neighbor reads my books and loves them. My critique group tears them up and tells me someone should buy them. Good enough. I'm going to try to sell them, of course, but in my heart, I know I've already told my story.

Zappadong said...

All I can say is "keep going". I'm in YA as well, love it and want to stick to it. But still, why not try something else in between?

My story: just when I thought I'd give up an write just for the fun of writing, I sold my story. Take the pressure off yourself, let go ... maybe you want to publish so badly that you're not your real self any more (believe me, I know how THAT feels). Tell yourself that you don't have to publish, set up a blog, a website, find the pure fun in writing again. Experiment. It's like starting from scratch - exciting, new, challenging and at the same time going back to where you'll feel good about things again.

Anonymous said...

I have four training novels under the desk. The fifth is being published next year, first here in Australia, then in France, Germany, and ...? We're still waiting to hear.
You never know what will happen when you don't give up.

Sherryl said...

I have two young adult novels - one of which two agents (in two different countries) loved but could not sell. I went off and wrote other things for younger readers that did sell. Will I rewrite those YA novels? I don't know.
But the excitement of writing, of exploring new ideas, keeps me going. I have plans for a new YA.
What I have learned (another story) is that I have to write what works for me. Second guessing the market is a waste of time and energy. I believe (rightly or wrongly) that one day I'll find an editor on the same wavelength who loves my YA as much as other editors love my chapter books.
Along the way, as I write more, I learn more.
Keep going - keep writing - because you have to write, not because you have to be published.

Anonymous said...

I got the letter three weeks ago. The one that says they'd like to represent you and your novel X.

It took me eight years, four books, and hundreds of articles to get to the letter. I was tired, but I was also prepared to keep going.

Writing is life. Don't quit writing unless you're ready to quit life.

Stacia said...

The time to quit is not after only your second novel!

Keep trying.

Keep going to the Crapometer or the Share Your Work forum on AW r wherever you go to get feedback.

Two books is nothing.

Alley Splat said...

I'm amazed by you all and especially by Miss Snark; you're just so knowledgeable about writing and what it entails. And compassionate too. For someone like me who's just happened on this blog and, who, though amazingly old, is really a new writer it's a relevation. This site really does rock. Thanks everyone.

Unknown said...

Wow, I can't add anything that hasn't already been said. I've written a dozen books. I have three that are polished, revised and queryable (I know -- that's not a word). While I query and paste polite R's on my wall, I'm working on my next book until that is queryable. This will go on and on and on and on for the rest of my life. Because, I love to write. It's my passion. I can't imagine life without it.

With a life already full to the rim with responsibilities -- raising teens, raising my husband, raising dogs, raising cats, raising money -- to hell with raising...let me write!!!! And I do. Maybe not everyday, but most days. Part of writing is allowing yourself to feel discouraged then getting over it. I say shoot Self Doubt and knock his sorry ass off your shoulder. And Mr. Procrastination? Don't even get me started on him. He's the one who insists the kitchen needs repainting when I'm in the middle of trying to figure out the proper placing of blood spatter for a crime scene. Nope. Mr. Procrastination will not win. Down with paint and Up with blood. He's a gonner, too. No painting this weekend...well, maybe just a little. That wall to the left of the fridge...

If this is your passion, you won't be able to stop. Not now. Not ever.

Anonymous said...

To the discouraged writer, hang in there. YOu won't be able to quit...just try it, you'll be back. I've quit writing several times after discouraging episodes. Once for a week. Once for an hour and once for the amount of time it took me to email my main critiquer that I was quitting. By the end of the email, I was plotting my next novel to her. Let it go, see if you can quit. I bet the answer's no. Let us know what happens...

Anonymous said...

My first published novel was rejected almost 50 times.

I've had 9 books published. I have at least 5 in my dead file. That doesn't count any that I abandoned before finishing, and several of them I've written since I began selling. You can write duds (marketplace duds, I mean, not necessarily bad-writing duds) even after you've gotten an agent. See anonymous #1.

Everybody here is right on. Give yourself permission to take a break from novels. Go live life. Read what you love to read. Enjoy the smell and touch of books. Try writing something short -- a short story, an easy-to-read book, poetry, personal experience pieces. The novel I'm working on right now has "ting," I know it does, but it's driving me crazy and I'm having a ball with an easy reader on the side.

In all kindness: try quitting. If it works, then you probably don't have the drive to succeed, because the road is way longer and bumpier than anybody outside the industry thinks. But if writing is your passion and joy and what you do best, quitting won't work. You'll be back and ready to go on.

Anonymous said...

This is so scary, yet so inspiring. Thank you for posting the question and for answering it.

Anonymous said...

Publishing a novel will not validate you. You will still make the oatmeal in the morning, still do the laundry, still drive to the Annoying Day Job. If you never publish a single word, you are special, unique, and a delight to God.

Take some time off. You are allowed not to write, yanno (pp/tm). Don't re-start 'til you're fired up again, when that urge to get the idea down on paper is consuming you. When the time is right, you'll sit down and do it.

THEN, and only then, will you know you're a writer.


Linda Maye Adams said...

You may still have more to learn how to create a book. Writer Steve Berry, a best selling thriller writer, had to write ten books before he learned all the skills that got him published.

Meanwhile, see if you can get into a critique group. One of the things I learned was that they could spot things that I, in my inexperience, missed completely. And they were all important things that were obvious once they were pointed out--and would have shown in the query letter and in the first three chapters.

Anonymous said...

A famous singer once said, "Just when you think you can't do anything else; do one more thing."
It works.

Anonymous said...

Jenna Black, I don't read your genre, but you can bet I'm going to my book store and buying your everthing you've written because I adore your spirit. And I won't be a bit surprised if you convert me. Big congratulations!

And dear writer, Archer Mayer wrote !7! manuscripts before he got published. Now he's a multi-award winning author.

It's hard as hell to believe in yourself when no one else does, but remember what Churchill said, "Never give up. Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up."

Anonymous said...

Wow! I identify with this post today as well. Thanks Miss Snark for the advice! I'm with zanymom - the voices in my head just won't shut up until I write!

Anonymous said...

A contrary viewpoint here. I am a fairly successful and well- published novelist with several novels in print, and I earn a reasonable living writing fiction. I also have a lot of experience teaching in various undergraduate and graduate writing programs as well as writing conferences.

To put it bluntly, some people do not have what it takes to get published. As Miss Snark knows better than anyone here. No amount of love for the act of writing, no amount of dedication to working at the writing may make the difference.

It's a cruel world. YES -- people with less talent than yours get bad books published all the time, while people with more talent than yours go unpublished forever. It's true. Just as it is true that the bottom echelon of students accepted at Yale may well have been less qualified than the top echelon of those who were rejected.

The cold, hard, bitter truth is that loving writing and being convinced that you DO have what it takes is necessary but not sufficient in order for you to see your work in print.

Knitty Yas said...

this post gave me the chills because so many of us have been here!

thank you miss snark!

Lisa Cohen said...

I also could have written this letter. Just about word for word.

It's easy to be discouraged. There are always a thousand reasons to stop writing.

I have written 2 novels in 2 years. The first racked up a ton of rejections, some constructive, most form letters. The second book is different in genre, voice, and target market. I've just started querying for it. I'm 13K into novel number 3.

Yes, I hate getting form letter rejections and yes, they make me doubt my skills and my vision. At least for a little while. Then I pick myself up and dust myself off.

Bottom line--if I quit writing, I have no chance of being published. That's a given. Everything else is a mixture of hard work, talent, and luck.

I know I am a reasonably good writer. I work hard. That's already 2 out of 3.


"If writing is your joy, you will be able to go on. You don't need me to tell you this. You know it already."

Thank you for those words, Miss Snark.

Sometimes we just need the reminder.

BradyDale said...

I disagree. You totally can quit. Many, many have succeeded. I know how easy it would be for me.

I think we all have to go on on the basis of Emily Dickinson. She only ever published like, what, 7 poems?

She left all her stuff in an attic and it was found later. We all just have to go one believing when we're dead we can donate our unpbulished MS's to a university library for a scholar to unearth one day when the world is 'ready' and we live forever in the people's memory, unknown and obscure our whole lifetimes.

Anonymous said...

All I can offer is platitudes.

Some of us don't get what we want. For whatever reason, some of us will never be published,

But it's better to have a dream & a sense of purpose than not to have one. Really, it is. Life seems to make more sense & to be less random that way. A little self-delusion about one's chances of attaining fame or fortune is good for one's soul.

Even if you hear or read something brilliant, and realize: "I will never be that good, no matter how hard I struggle, it's just not in me." That's most likely true, but what if it isn't? That's what you have to gamble your life on. It's sort of the American way, isn't it, not to simply accept one's allotted place? To strive mightily to make a difference?

Jude Calvert-Toulmin said...

> Oh, my dog, that sounds like me. Except for the subscription to Publishers Lunch, which I can't afford.

Ha ha ha ha ha! :D PML, brilliant, chumplet :)

The key is, as Margot Fonteyn so wisely said, take your work seriously, but never take yourself seriously.

Whenever I am tempted to take myself seriously (for example, by saying things like "I breathe, therefore I write") then I fart loudly or something. In the bank queue.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Seven novels in the closet BEFORE I got my first contract. If I'd quit before that time, I never would be where I'm at today: writing three series for a major publisher and 8 nonfiction books in my past.

You have to want it bad enough to go on without a cheerleading section (though it's nice to have one!).

Each day you say, "I haven't sold yet, but today might be the day--and if it isn't--then surely it will be tomorrow."

Just grit your teeth, realize that it takes years for the majority of people to break in--just like it takes years for most people to get a degree and set up shop in medicine or law. Meanwhile, you write...and write...and write...

Bugwit said...

I often feel exactly the same. Then I try to remember:

(I'm probably not getting this exactly right, but...) Isaac Azimov submitted nine different MS's before getting published. Ray Bradbury estimated that one must write 1 million words before becoming a good writer.

I'm halfway there!

Inez said...

Dear Miss Snark:
The question is from so many of us, and the answer
so kind--
five novels and three agents later this unpublished
author has been trying to quit this sick addictive
habit called writing, and has decided there
is no joy in her life without it. What the heck,
maybe there will be an editor out there who
will love novel six.

aly said...

Wow. I haven't been here in a while, but I'm so glad I stumbled upon this entry. Lots of encouraging comments. My situation is similar to the anonymous writer's, with this added twist: I have gotten past the "I HAVE to get published or I will die!" phase, but now I cannot even write. At all.

I have been fiction-dry for nearly an entire year, and that scares me. I once thought I had what it took to be a novelist, published or never published--and now I feel I've lost all ability to tell a story. I've taken up blogging and grad school, for both of which I do plenty of writing. But no fiction. I know part of my problem is discouragement.

I wonder if maybe I'm not meant to be a fiction writer after all. Sometimes characters still pop into my head, but I cannot for the life of me frame any plots to house them. At this point publication is far from my mind. I just want to write fiction again. If I ever recover this ability, I hope I can be happy enough just to write.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

"A touch of realism never hurts" may be a good guiding principle for a fantasy writer, but in life it's not true. Reality can be very painful.

Realistically, I'm an average writer. I am momentarily flattered by kind words from editors and agents, but I know I'm only average. And realistically, I'll join John Brown in moulderin' in the grave before I'm anything but average.

I give up at least once a week. Sometimes I mean it; sometimes I don't. It's okay to give up the idea of being published. I'm not sure it's okay to give up writing. Writing for self or friends does good things for the psyche.

One learns, sometimes with a hard slap, that there are many more important things than writing. Continuing as a sentient creation is high on the list. Never take life or breath or the day's blessing for granted. Cherish those things more than writing. If writing interferes put your quill in the drawer. It'll be there for you later.

Anonymous said...

"If a fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise." William Blake

mahukey said...

Do it because you love to write. Do it because you go crazy if you don't tell the story in your head. Hell, write for yourself.
If you can only think of the money, then go be a stockbroker, don't be a writer.
Writers starve. They sacrifice for the art, because that is the only thing they can do.
If I don't write when a story comes to me, I get mean, cranky and make Miss. Snark look like a pussycat on Extasy! I need to write. I want to be published, but I know that it might not happen. So I will read the books on my shelves and enjoy what I have created. They are my children, and I am damn proud I created them.

Anonymous said...

Old post, and lots of advice and "advice" already but here's one more:

To the discouraged writer:
Writers write.
Write what you love is good advice.
Do it.
Don't talk about it. Don't write ABOUT it.
Do it. Write. Every chance you get.

Write what you love and don't write what some nimwit (or excuse me, Miss Snark, I must say it) or some nimwit with a blog or web site tells you "the market wants." Why are you writing what someone else wants? Write what YOU want. That's when your joy is ignited, isn't it?

Don't write for the market.
Write because you love to write.
THEN after it's done and you love it, THAT's when you look for a market that matches your work, not the other way around. And while you're looking for a match, guess what you do?

Write something else, something you love even more than the last one!

When you do what you love and love what you do, someone somewhere WILL pay you to do it. You just have to find them--that's the WORK part of getting published.

Kim said...

It's my experience that if you give up, you really don't want to be a writer. Writers write because they can't imagine NOT writing. I'd been rejected more times than I care to think about, and I've had two books published and rejections sandwiched in between. I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't write - even when it was something I KNEW would never be published. And if I never sold another ms, I'd still write. Because I can't imagine not doing it. To me, and to most of the writers I know, it's as natural as breathing and equally necessary.

Try something new. Go back to the old stuff and see if/how it can be improved. If not, chuck it into a drawer and started something else. If you decide that may it's just not for you, then maybe it wasn't. But if you're like most of us, your fingers will always itch for the keyboard, or the notepad and pen, or coal and shovel, whatever. Publishing isn't the end, it's only another step. It's up to you whether or not you keep reaching and it isn't something anyone can answer for you, or predict. Good luck, write from the heart, and do what you love. That's all there is to it.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, I love you.

Glenda Larke said...

I had at least 8 unpublished novels at one time (most I didn't even try to get published). Then I wrote the one that was published. I now have 7 published novels and I've been shortlisted for national awards.

As far as I am concerned, I write to save my own sanity. I am a writer. That's what I do. Getting published is just the delicious icing.

Wonderwood said...

Author, I can identify with you. I know exactly what you're feeling, like many of the other folks here. I write because I love to write. Of course I do. I've loved writing for as long as I can remember, but I was a "closet" writer until just a couple of years ago, when I decided I would see if anyone besides me enjoyed my writing.

A wise man once said, "If you can make a living doing what you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life." So, fucking A, I want to be published. And paid. Damn right I do. I want to get paid so I can do what I love all the time. I have so many stories in my head, there isn't time enough to write them, work full time, get some exercise on a consistent basis, and have some sort of social life. The largest chunk of that time is spent earning a paycheck so that I can keep the meager assets I've managed to accrue. Give me that amount of time to add to my writing time and I'm a happy, productive writer. So I understand the drive to be published.

I also understand that it may never happen. Or it might happen next week. Or it might take five more years, or ten. It might be my fifth manuscript, or seventh, but whatever the time frame is, the only thing I control is my effort. If I do what's required of me, which is write, research, practice, edit, revise, study, read, learn, and of course, the inspiring (haha) query process, then I can take satisfaction in knowing that I'm giving myself a chance.

I have a sort of "karma" kind of belief system. If I'm doing the right things, things will work out the way they're supposed to. I don't decide how things are supposed to work out, but I do decide what degree of effort I'm willing to put into it. Remembering that takes the pressure off me. If it's in the cards for me to get published, and I'm doing all the right things, it'll happen. The bottom line is, I'm doing what I love. But hell yeah, I want to get paid for it.

When the frustration comes, I step away for a little while. Give myself whatever time is needed for the fog to clear. I look for inspiration in things outside of myself. Music inspires me. Nature inspires me. Mark Twain inspires me. When I sit down to write again, I'm fresh and bursting with ideas. And I'm giving myself a chance, which gives me hope, and hope keeps me going.

Don't give up if writing is what you love. Stay after it. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Remember too, that you haven't queried until you've sent at least 100. From my experience with writer friends, a lot of people seem to give up around 30, but a lot of people who keep querying seem to get an agent over the 70 mark.

Take a break AFTER you've sent 100!

GrotesqueBabe said...

"To put it bluntly, some people do not have what it takes to get published. As Miss Snark knows better than anyone here. No amount of love for the act of writing, no amount of dedication to working at the writing may make the difference."

I think a lot of people confuse the ability to write with the ability to tell a story. Lots of us are good writers, even really good writers, and having the ability to express oneself with words is something (I believe) that we're born with, just as some people are born with the ability to sing or to draw. However, the storytelling aspect of writing -- the ability to structure a story, to show instead of tell, to add subtext to a story, to create three-dimensional characters, to create conflict that leads to a story climax, the ability know how to end a story in the right way -- these are all things that take a lot of years and a lot of practice to learn.

I'm a basketball fan and enjoy watching D-Wade do his thing ... and I think: that beautiful slam-dunk or free throw that took him 10 seconds to execute actually took him 15 years to perfect.

Grapeshot/Odette said...

Could have been written by me. Everyone says persistence pays. At last year's Bouchercon, a panelist admitted to having written 17 books before one was published. Gawd, I hope they weren't all 100,000 words.

Anonymous said...

Send at least 100 queries for each novel. Don't quit--don't send it to the same author., remember some people wrote for all their lives and didn't get published or famous until after they were DEAD. Jane Austen wasn't published until she died.

So you shouldn't sweat it. Write because if you did not write, that the dharma, the experience that left you of getting rid of whatever is in your head in some visible form is committed.

I'll be happy to finish one novel and get it up to code. I'll be happy to get published too, but remember that getting published is ten times harder. You are facing a sheer cliff right now, not some little wimpy hill, even after you get published you will have to face harder challenges. Publishing is an icing, not the cake, don't confuse the two.

Write because you love it that deeply, that when you fall asleep you pray to dream about your characters. When you don't write you wonder what's wrong with you, when you hear character's voices you need to commit it to paper. Because you understand why the phrase explaining to a non-fiction writer that fiction writers is like explaining you are a bi-polar schizophrenic depressive that attends AA meetings. actually means.

Write because you love it or you won't make it. And write what you truly love, not where the money is (as a writer you aren't going to really save trees or make vast amounts of money. Disavow this from your mind.) Because if you don't love it, people instantly know. Readers and viewers know instantly. This makes the difference in the creative industries sometimes.

Anonymous said...

"Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."


Anonymous said...

Two? Two novels in what, two years and she's ready to give up. Maybe she should. Her skin is not tough enough. I know authors who took fifteen years and wrote ten or more novels before being published.

Keep writing....

Anonymous said...

"Jane Austen wasn't published until she died."

Oh my goodness, that's not true! Three of Jane Austen's novels were published in her lifetime. The others were published posthumously...and only because she died an untimely death at the age of 41.

Ray Wong said...

Right on, miss snark. This is probably one of your best advice, and you have given plenty of great advice.

I think people are trying too hard.

Do what you love and love what you do -- that's the only thing you can control. As Michael Chabon said, "To be published, you need talent, luck and discipline. You can only control discipline, and wish that you have the other two."

If someone quits writing altogether because he or she can't get published, then he or she is not a writer to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Give up? I tried that a few times. Now I know better.