Monday, September 20, 2010

For Those We Lose Along The Way

Publishing is not for the faint or tender-hearted and yet the very nature of writing often calls to sensitive souls. It can be an uneasy, often painful combination and the truth is, we lose a lot of authors along the way,  many before they’ve even published a word. The long hard slog toward publication simply becomes too much. But there are others we lose after they publish their first book. Perhaps the disconnect between the reality of ‘being published’ and their dream of what it would be like is too great, or the demands of being published are too hard, or they are crushed when their first book does poorly or if they received harsh reviews. I know of three authors who simply gave up after their first book, completely disillusioned and demoralized by the publishing process and the lack of support they got from their publisher, the lukewarm sales and reviews their book received.

What if a discouraged new author doesn’t have a good support system or a professional ally such as an agent or a second book contract to force them to keep going? How easy is it to just let the dream be crushed and retreat?

A few weeks ago I learned of yet another author who had fallen by the wayside after the publication of their first book and it made me long to sit down and have a heart to heart with them. To tell them all the things I could think of to make them realize they shouldn’t give up or feel embarrassed or defeated.

In our society, there is a strong sense of shame and embarrassment associated with not succeeding, even in areas where we have little control. There is sometimes a prevailing sense that the less successful have somehow earned that lack of success by not trying hard enough or by some lack of their own. Authors, in particular, bear the weight of a failed book. Even though publishing is a team effort comprised of a dozen different functions and components, it is authors who bear the brunt of poor numbers or bad reviews.

Then I realized that even better than just me saying something encouraging, I should tap into the Violet Collective and ask for YOUR words of wisdom for these bruised and battered authors. As a community of introverts, SVP blog readers are some of the most insightful, compassionate, and supportive  people I know. What if we were to compile a list of advice and insights new authors could turn to when they were discouraged? 

What would you say to a debut author whose sales tank? Or whose book never takes off? Or for whom the realities of publishing are simply overwhelming or underwhelming or whose dream has been too out of step with reality? What could we say that would prepare them for that reality so they wouldn’t be so shell-shocked when they run into it?

There are two things that I would like to tell those who get discouraged. The first is, more often than not a book’s success or failure has very little to do with the quality of the writing and a lot more to do with timing, luck, distribution, exposure, and connecting with the right readers, most of which is outside the writer’s control. The second piece of advice I would give  those authors is to explain that this is why finding some sort of joy or fierce satisfaction from the writing process itself is so important—so when things tank, you will still have had the experience of joyfully creating, and nothing can take that away from you.

What about you? What piece of advice would you give a discouraged author or a pre-published author to help them avoid being crushed along the way?

Leave your suggestion in the comments and I’ll compile a whole list of them and we’ll make it a permanent page here for people to find. Everyone who leaves a suggestion in the comments will be entered in a drawing to win an awesome writing journal (that you might just want to use for one of our upcoming workshops!) and a lovely, carry with you everywhere, book of poems on Solitude. (It's makes a great decoy when you want to look like you're reading so people won't bother you. Not that I would ever do anything like that.)


tanita✿davis said...

It's easy to preach persistence to a writer, but it's so hard to follow that advice without others to hold us to it. I so want to encourage everyone to find a writing group. I tried joining them for years, and couldn't find one that worked, and took my chutzpah in my hands and started my own. We support each other's right to create anything, and to publish - or not to publish. The emphasis for us is on creation.

There is so much else to say, but above all else, we writers need each other, because often we're the only ones who "get" all of the static that comes into our heads over the idea of "failure." Even the loosest connection with a group of like-minded scriptors can help keep us sane.

Becky Levine said...

Great post, Robin. I've had friends go through this kind of stuff--actually at every stage of the publishing process, from pre-publishing rejection (oh, yeah, been there myself!) to some point where you would call them already successful, then...boom.

I would say a few things. First, get online & read blogs like this, read agent & editor blogs about the business, look for authors talking about the process. I think it's the best way to feel that all this not-so-great stuff can be part of the process and that it does happen to everyone. It helps me, I think, to put a little distance between what happens to me, personally. It makes things feel a little less like someone pasted a target right on me and let the arrow fly.

The other thing I'd say is to keep writing. Keep looking for opportunities, keep saying "yes" when you can, and keep putting words on the page. I had co-written a NF book for kids, had it accepted, gotten paid for it, then the economy and other factors got involved & the book never made it to print. If I hadn't just signed a contract for my critique book, that would have been a lot harder to deal with. Similarly, as hard as it is has been to get rejections on a fiction book I love, it's easier now that I have another story I'm working on. Yes, sure, I worry about where/whether that one will go, but the writing itself makes me feel better--not just that I have some hope, but the act of writing itself. It's harder to get rejected in the middle of a dry spell.

Thanks for posting!

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

I'd suggest trying hard not to compare yourself to other writers in a negative way. Sometimes I feel like it was a huge blessing that I didn't know another debut author when I was one.

(Yes, I was on the Web, but back then, we weren't all so wildly connected and publishers were more risk adverse about taking chances on new voices.)

ART AND FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles and Ted Orland (Image Continuum, 1993) was helpful to me and I'd recommend it to anyone living the creative life.

mbpbooks said...

Dang, it's hard. It's just ... hard. All I can offer is myself as a survivor: 12 years between book one and book two.

Michele Shaw said...

I am finding the support and advice of other writers who are at all stages of the game to be invaluable. Authors who try to go it alone will be discouraged so much faster. Great post! Thank you!

Anne Calhoun said...

I write because I feel called to do it, but I struggle with pacing, for lack of a better word. In my genre the successful writers produce much more quickly than I am able to at the moment. The only thing that's helped with the resulting feelings of terrific inadequacy is staying committed to my own path as a writer, and as a human being, and the knowledge that if I fail at this, I can always go back to programming. ;)


deegarretson said...

This is so true:

"The first is, more often than not a book’s success or failure has very little to do with the quality of the writing and a lot more to do with timing, luck, distribution, exposure, and connecting with the right readers, most of which is outside the writer’s control."

The worst part is it feels like it should be in our control, with all the internet resources available to us, but unless a particular piece of your attempts go viral, in reality an author can only connect with a certain number of people.

I tell myself to focus on the fact that I had done the absolute best I could (I know it sounds like the parental 'Do you best' that most of us used to tune out), but it helps me keep away the crazies.

It also helps when I have people remind me it's a great accomplishment just to finish a manuscript, and that I shouldn't forget having a book out in the world is something to celebrate, no matter how well it does or doesn't do.

mary beth bass said...

Thanks so much for this post.

Other than continuing to talk with writer friends, what helped me the most over the past few years of what felt like abject failure was reading Maggie Stiefvater's blog, esp these two posts:

"Friendly Butt-Kicking on Courageous Querying"

"Hi, I Suck"

And, I had to redefine failure and success. I asked myself if I would regret continuing to write and working towards publication and a career as a published author if at the end of my life I never published another book. I really imagined that scenario and I realized "no" I wouldn't regret it. But I would regret not continuing to try. So now, I can't fail. Because you can't fail at trying, or working towards something.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for more comments as I'm currently between book one and book two. Dang, right, Mitali. It IS hard. But I'm trying my darnedest to be a survivor myself.

Anonymous said...

I am a first time writer. I hope to one day be published. I love writing but I am probably a one and done type. If I am unsuccessful at getting my book published I can't imagine continuing to try. Overall I write for me, but the story that I am writing I love as well. I guess self publishing is an avenue that should be explored if finding an agent doesn't work out in the end.

I have a young family and have recently graduated with a masters degree.

One positive thing is that I have a full time job that I love in the medical field. I work two and sometime three jobs in that alone and am very satisfied. But, when an idea came that I loved so much, I couldn't help but try to write my first manuscript and try to get it published.

I guess we will see!!!

Whitney said...

What a great topic, for all of us, not just the debut author. As the author of fourteen books that never provided big earnings or wildly successful author tours, books that never put me into the mainstream, I want to say that I write on subjects that move me even if they move only small numbers of readers. As R.L. LaFevers said beautifully—we, authors, often have very little control over timing, publisher promotion, exposure, and distribution, and that lack of control is frustrating and hurtful. We pour heart, soul, energy, craft, and wisdom into our literary babies and perhaps nobody comes by and looks into the baby carriage to say, "What a beautiful baby. May I pick her up?"
If you are out there, ready to give up writing after one rejected manuscript, or one book with weak sales, I know your pain and I wish I could share a hug. Sometimes it gets easier, and sometimes it doesn't. The trick for our pain is to turn it outward and let it go. For a moment, look outward, not inward (we do that all day). Focus on story, focus on our community of writers, focus on the joy of expression.

Nikki said...

As a writer who has only had short stories published so far, I feel a little out of my place commenting here, but the more I learn about the publishing process, the more frustrated I become. What keeps me going is the fact that this is what I love to do. If I never get another word published, I will still write books and since I write them, I might as well send them out.

I think love of the craft is important to keeping yourself going even when things look a bit bleak.

Cat Moleski said...

For me, I had to take the question out of the equation. I don't even ask myself "Will I write?" because that leaves room for me to say no. Instead I remind myself that if I stop creating, I will never know how good I could be.

Court said...

One of the things I would advise is to not let the voice of those who don't understand, trump the voice of those who do.

So often in smaller towns, the writing community is an online or once-a-year conference relationship. And every writer knows, they need actual feedback. But unfortunately they end up logging more comments from people that don't really understand- like friends and family that want to be supportive, but work 9-5 jobs and have consistent salaries.

They don't understand what takes so long. They ask questions like, "When is your book coming out?" and when you tell them you are doing a third draft they look at you like your an alien.

They don't know the difference between being published and J.K. Rowling. They say things like "You could sell millions," or "Oprah's Book Club, baby." (Like those things are the only indicators of success.)

They wonder how you can spend so much time on something that may or may not make any money? "How can you live like that?" they ask.

You know "why" and "how" when you start- This story has you, rather than the other way around. Writing is who you are, not what you do. But you forget that in the face of those comments.

Lean into those that understand.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow. Just WOW, people! Thank you for all these great comments and most excellent advice!

(And can I just say how much I wish blogger had a nesting comment feature!!)

Tanita, I love that you focus on the creation. That's what keeps me sane, as well.

Becky, I agree that the right blogs and online haunts can be helpful, but it seems to me that a lot of the info we collect online just makes things worse. We KNOW so much more now about other people's success. Hugely important reminder to not take things personally!

Cyn thanks so much for the book recommendation. I will have to check that out. (And maybe use that as a prize here on the blog.)

Mitali, yes it IS hard. And survivor stories are so important for us to hear!

Nearly seven years ago, when the first review of my first book came out in a Notoriously Cruel Review Journal, it essentially excoriated the book. It was clear that this reviewer didn’t just dislike the book, he wanted to assure I never put pen to paper again. He almost succeeded. For years I embarrassed to admit I was a writer since clearly I was such a poor writer. It robbed a lot of the joy of my first book from me.

The only thing that kept me going was that I had already sold my next four books. I couldn’t give up. Two books were turned in and waiting to be worked on and two more were due under contract. I had no choice but to dust myself off, hold my head high (or at least pretend) and meet my obligations.

Michele, I agree that the advice and support of other authors--at all stages of their careers--are hugely helpful. That's why I try to be so open about my failures as well as my successes. I hate that there is so much 'positioning' in this industry.

Anne, that producing quickly thing is HARD. I have heard a ton of successful authors emphasize that both editors and readers are happy to wait for quality. I like that thought.

Dee, what a great reminder to focus on our accomplishments! Yes, how many people DO actually finish a manuscript? Not nearly as many as you'd think...

Mary Beth, Maggie is a terrific cheerleader, b#tt kicker, isn't she?

Claudia, good luck with that wait between books! I'm hoping someone will post the exact right advice for you. :-)

earthsdivide, having another job/field that you love is a wonderful way to keep writing in perspective and not put all your emotional eggs in one basket.

Whitney, I loved your comment and your comparison to looking at our baby and admiring it is so apt!

Nikki, you absolutely shouldn't feel out of place commenting here! Especially because your point is such a good one: love of the craft keeps us going.

Cat, I love that you don't give yourself an opportunity to say no. Brilliant self-management technique!

Elizabeth Loupas said...

So many wonderful comments already and so much great advice!

One thing I've found helpful is to keep reading for pleasure. When I started to write seriously I found I wasn't reading as much (at least, not reading fiction for pleasure), and when I did read I couldn't just let go and feel the story... I critiqued as I went along. Heh. This dried up a huge well of inspiration and joy for me.

Finally I set aside a specific time each day to read for pleasure, and turned off my "inner writer" for that time. It was hard at first, but I persevered. I also scheduled time in bookstores and the library. Rediscovering the sheer delight of reading as a reader really helps me hold on to my inspiration and pleasure in the idea of storytelling.

I've also separated the creative parts of writing from the business parts as much as possible. All the business and promotion stuff can be stressful and discouraging, so I try to "quarantine" it in one part of the day. I need my writing time to be free of business and pressure and all about the pleasure of the story pouring out.

Anonymous said...

Dear post:
I have been looking for you all my life. Post, I must tell you: I love you!

Guys, I have honestly considered giving up many MANY times since my first novel was published. I just haven't gotten the hang of doing a second one. I was saying to my husband just this weekend, that my first book was just luck. He reminded me that librarians named it one of the 100 best of the year, and that I've written several non-fic since, but still.

I think we're all so hard on ourselves. I look at Mitali and think, just hang in there! Who says you have to bang out a new book every year?

Alright. I'm in. For the long-haul. For as long as it takes. So long as there are guys like you out there writing posts like this, I'm going to keep on going.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm really enjoying these comments. Thank you all so much!! I'm not a published author and there are no guarantees that I will ever be one but I'll share a little of how I'm attempting to navigate the writing world.

One thing that helped me through the tough time of querying, and now the even more tough time of having a book on submission, is trying to remember what I do and do not have control over, and setting goals that are specific to writing and not publishing. Those things have helped me to focus on my next project. I'm not going to pretend that it's been easy, but it is what I come back to when I start obsessing or doing a lot of future thinking that is not grounded in what is actually in front of me. As hard as it is, I think the best preparation for the future is to focus on the present.

E. Kristin Anderson said...

The best advice I can give is to make friends. Find your local writers (or your local-to-the-internet writers) and pick their brains. If you join a group like SCBWI or a forum like Verla Kay, you'll find lots of writers at every stage of the process who won't let you give up. I'm querying my first novel and every few weeks I ask one of my critique partners "What if it's just not good enough? What if I need to sell the next book?" and she says "It is good enough. Keep trying." And that's enough, you know?

Heather Wardell said...

My husband gave me the concept of my "number one fan". I need to write what she likes, and if she loves a book then it was a success. If she doesn't, it needs more work before it's done, and I'm happy to do it because the number one fan deserves it.

The "number one fan", of course, is me.

It's helped me so much. I've just released my fourth self-published book, a book which I firmly believe is the reason I had to be a writer in the first place, and I get so worried about what people will think of it. But then I pull myself back to, "What did the number one fan think?" and that helps calm me down again.

I also so agree with paulgreci - focus on the present. Do what you can do (write) and don't worry about what you can't do (make people buy your book, make agents fall in love with it).

Great topic! I look forward to seeing the permanent post. :)

audrey said...

What a great post and such wise comments, too.

Making peace with all that's out of our control as writers may not be possible for all of us. It occasionally nearly kills me.

I think there's a luck component that's underplayed in all aspects of publishing, from acquisitions to reviews to media coverage. The kicker is, you never know when luck's going to jump in front of you like a terrifying leprechaun. You could have bad luck for eight years and quit writing, but man was your luck lined up for year nine!

As for quitting--it seems so grand and final. I think writers have every right to take a break from writing when they feel overwhelmed. But they don't need to make grand pronouncements about how it's too hard and they're all done, because I think they make it too hard for themselves to return to it. Who wants to suffer all the I knew it/I told you so comments?

Mitali's so much more succinct, and right: it's hard.

chris said...

Publish then promote. It's the persistent marketing of my book that's been hard, really hard.

What has given me the most joy through this whole process? It's been the release of my story and the collaboration with the talented people who helped create my cork-bound book.

Enjoy the process, it's full of ups and downs. And realize that your friends and family will still be there no matter how well your book sells. You are who you are, book or no book.

feywriter said...

I'm not a published author, but this last year I almost gave up on writing. I had a finished manuscript, revised until I didn't know how to make it better, and queried my heart out. It didn't go anywhere, and it got to the point that all I could see was the flaws in myself and my work.

What brought me back? Diverting my energy. I still created, even if I didn't have the confidence to write. I scrapbooked, did crafts with my son, created a handmade book of poetry for my mother's birthday. It was incredibly freeing to create without having to worry about publishing. After a summer off, I came back to writing.

So that's my advice. Step back, and write or create for yourself. If it's meant to be, the desire to get back on the publishing road will return.

Anonymous said...

I know of so many people whose first book was not all they had hoped--or maybe the first book went well, but then they could get no traction with the second. And they went on, sometimes years and many many manuscripts later, to publish something else.

There are also many writers who have had a big splash not with their first book but with their 2nd, or 5th, or 10th.

So I would say: The first book isn't everything. Not only are there second acts in the writing world, there are third and sixth and eleventh acts.

Recharge for as long as you need to, and then if you want to try again, know that the next time around it may be a whole different story.

Anonymous said...

What a tresure trove of hand holding this blog is. If only I had found it sooner. I have had a few shaky weeks after months of basically overediting. Shelved two pbs for the time being, but in freeing up my time a little, I have picked up where I left off years ago with my MG novel. I am having so much fun with it and re-writing it from another pov. I agree with those who say recharge, step back and either throw yourself into another genre like I am doing right now or take a break and scrapbook etc.(oh how I'd love to do that!)

Jean Reidy said...

Thanks for your heartfelt advice, Robin. It's all so true.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm a debut author who's been feeling like a giant failure since my book came out. It's disappeared from the chains. PW and Kirkus sort of hated it. Yet I'm posting anonymously because I'm worried someone will see this and think, "Grrr, her book's doing fine--better than mine did!" and hate me for complaining.

Just last night I was freaking out to my husband. What if my second book gets canceled? What if I never get another contract? You know, that stuff. And he was like, Why is all that SO scary to you? I said, because I love writing and I'm afraid that they're going to tell me I can't be a writer anymore.

As soon as I'd said that I realized how silly it was. Of course "they" can't tell me not to write books. And if I write books I'll edit them, and I'll send them off, and there I'll be again. Back in their mailboxes, back in bookstores... I don't care if I have to start over with another name, in another genre, in a box, with a fox, etc. I will. They can't get rid of me because I'm in this for life.

Erin Robinson said...

There are so many good comments here!
I think the worst thing for me during the publishing process was the agent rejections. It wasn't so much the waiting/in-between, because the in-between allowed me plenty of time for dreaming about what COULD be. I think that made it hurt worse when a rejection would come in. The biggest advise I could give is to go easy on yourself. I think for writers, rejection is such a personal offense. "They're saying this piece doesn't work? This piece is my heart..." And then it becomes much bigger than just one rejection, it starts to get that self-doubting voice a chance to start grumbling again. So in order to go easy on yourself, whenever you experience a rejection just wave your hand in the air and say, "heh, well, what do they know? (Insert famous author name) wasn't appreciated in his own time, either." And keep smiling.

Carol Grannick said...

Thanks for this superb post, Robin.

The fact that I write about creating and maintaining resilience for writers helps me, too.

When things are at the worst they can be, when the business feels overwhelming and the possibilities limited, I recommend (and I take my own advice, always!)asking, "Why do I write?" If the answer has something to do with, "Because I MUST...because this is how I make sense of my internal and external worlds..." then quitting is simply not an option.

Shari Green said...

I'm not published yet, but my journey has included setbacks that have been confidence-shaking and humiliating. The only advice I have is this: Find joy in writing--not only in publication, or in achieving your goals, but in the actual act of indulging your creative spirit. Find joy there, and cling fiercely to it.

Also this: take courage. Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." (Mary Anne Radmacher)

Shari Green said...

"I don't care if I have to start over with another name, in another genre, in a box, with a fox, etc. I will. They can't get rid of me because I'm in this for life." -- LOL, awesome attitude, Anon! I'm with you on this, for sure. While others can decide whether they do or don't like my stories, whether they will or won't publish them, etc., only I get to decide if I'm gonna give up. (I'm not.)

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks so much for getting the conversation going, Robin. Just to hear all these authors say that yes, it IS difficult, just knowing I am in a community of people who deal with the difficulties, who persevere, and who are willing to share of themselves: probably the best help and support I can wish for.

Laura Resau said...

Wonderful post and discussion! I think that no matter where you are on your writing journey (and whether, at that moment, it feels "successful" by external measures) it's essential to remember the deepest reason why you write. (For me, it's because the act of creating feels magical and thrilling... and that's really what matters most to me.) Not an easy task-- not by a long shot-- but worth aiming for!

Mel said...

This is a beautiful post. I personally can't image the literary world without Theodosia in it.

I think that a writer must go inside and listen to that very personal voice within and let that be the light that shines the way through the process of writing an publishing. Everyone loves stories - even ones that aren't often considered high brow. We have to get past our egos and write our stories because the light inside motivates us to. Equally, we need to be selective of those who we will allow into our minds and hearts when it comes to our personal passions. We need to be the guardians at the door that protect the creative endeavors that come forth from us and treat them with respect they deserve as they find their footing in the world. We as writers owe this to our ideas, because they are ours and no one else would have the same inception.
Be your light and grow your light and the light will show you the way.

Christine Fonseca said...

**Be patient and persistent.
**Give yourself permission to feel sad and discouraged - but don't that be the excuse for quitting.
**If you still have something to say, keep writing. If you don't talk to a writerly bud.
**Remember there is something to be learned even from the hardest of times.
** Right the middle rails - don't get too attached to the highs or the lows in this business.


R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow, look at all these great additions! Thanks everyone. These are FANTASTIC!!

Anonymous said...

My books haven't made a big splash in the world of publishing. They never really did pop up in the chains. But I've learned to celebrate the small successes. My soccer novel has turned up on various sports library lists. My contemporary novel made it onto two children's choice lists. And a few kids have loved them. So the knowledge that my projects have been the favorite book of a child for at least a short amount of time has been huge for me.

But the reason that I keep writing comes is the same reason that I gave myself permission to start writing in the first place. Here's the quote from
Barbara Ueland’s book IF YOU WANT TO WRITE. This classic was published in 1938. It’s still in print today.

“I want to assure you with all earnestness, that no writing is a waste of time,—no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding. I know that. Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I would still keep on writing.”

Unknown said...

One thing that helps me is to think of Caroline Cooney,who wrote EIGHT novels that never sold. The ninth sold, and she went on to write The Face on the Milk Carton and many other well-received books. I also heard Isaac B. Singer (after he had won the Nobel prize) say that The New Yorker still rejected some of his stories. So, like whistling in the dark, I try to dismiss a rejection slip with a oh-so-grownup-sounding "rejection slips are just part of the writer's life."

Jennifer J. said...

The thing that has helps me the most is having writing friends. Whether celebrating or commiserating, having someone who gets what you are going through (and has your back) is just the best.

Taking joy in the process--trying to push aside those expectations thoughts and you-should-be thoughts, and losing yourself in the flow of writing, that also helps. Sometimes when I come up for air, I think, oh, this is why I write.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

This is a wonderful post, Robin, and the comments are absolutely fantastic - thank you to everyone.

I've been writing for decades and yet these comments and quotes are still so helpful. We always need a shot in the arm, friends who understand, and the reminder of why we write.

For 15 years I didn't know another writer, wrote 10 books that have never sold even as I was selling magazine pieces. Then I published 3 books with Avon and Knopf that fell into black holes (everything that could go wrong did. Orphaned, bad covers, no reviews, etc.) I went 8 years without a sale, but kept writing another half dozen novels, even while very discouraged and wondering if it would ever happen again. Then I changed agents and within 6 weeks we had a 3 book deal with Scholastic.

So I have a 25 year history (I did start at 19 years old and always wrote as a kid) of writing and trying to get published and 8 years in between book sales (waves to Mitali!). I feel like I'm FINALLY starting my career with THE HEALING SPELL that was just released. It's been HARD, HARD, HARD.

And no offense intended, but when I hear a 20 or 30-something year old say they started writing 2-3 years ago and their book is coming out next year - and HOW LONG IT TOOK - I can't help chuckling. They have no idea what *a long time* is!

Way back in the dark ages, I was trying to write/publish without a crit group, without the internet, without blogs or websites.

We are so blessed to have these online communities.

I also believe whole-heartedly in God's timing, too. It will happen when it's the right time for you, your family life, and your stories.

Lena Goldfinch said...

What a wonderful encouraging post and it keeps on going in the comments! Thank you all!!

I'll echo the sentiment that building your own writing community helps so much. This can take many forms: blog communities like this one, writer's conferences and professional organizations like SCBWI & RWA, writers loops, Facebook and Twitter connections... I'd have to say critique partners & close writing friends have made the most difference for me. Having someone read and critique my work has made a tremendous difference in my confidence and in the quality of my work. But it's not just the give and take of critique; it's the occasional face time and the day-to-day support via email (I've never even met one cp in person because she lives so far away! Waving and sending hugs of appreciation to Jen in New Mexico!)

Another thing, as others have already said, is taking joy in the writing. Even the challenges of getting stuck and working it through can provide such a feeling of accomplishment. Creating worlds and characters is also a rich endeavor and, in its own way, a spiritual task. I love it. Even when I hate it. LOL

Tara Kelly said...

Jennifer Hubbard linked me to this wonderful post. Thank you so much for this--it literally feels like it's speaking to me (even though this happens to so many of us). I'm a published author with a book that just came out last spring, and I've been having a really hard time dealing with the realities and how things have gone.

BUT I'm still writing...and I still enjoy writing. I consider that a good sign.

Robin L said...

I am so far in over my head in terms of being able to respond to everyone, but thanks for all these great comments!

Tara, it's HARD adjusting our expectations. So. Damn. Hard. Especially when writing is the fulfillment of a life long dream. If it makes you feel any better at all, I have heard your book mentioned A LOT online, and always in a, This is great you gotta read it, kind of way. :-)

Kristin, I loved that quote as to how writing is NEVER a waste of time. I absolutely believe that with all my heart.

lanielson, VERY interesting to know about Caroline Cooney! I hadn't realized that.

Jennifer J, I love losing myself in the flow of writing. That is one of the best feelings EVER.

And just WOW, Kimberly! What a publishing survivor story yours is!

Lena, doesn't that just sum it up! Even when we hate it, we love it! Perfect.

(And just for the record, Robin L is the same as R. L. LaFevers, I'm just signed in under my other blogger account.)

Karen L. Simpson said...

I'm about to become a debut author in Feb 2011 and I just want to say reading everybody comments and suggestions has helped me push aside all my greatest fears about my book going out into the world. It has taken me ten long years to finally get to this place so I 'm going to celebrate and learn from the experience even if the sales don't go anywhere.

I tell my writing buddies all the time that there are a lot of thing I can't control in the process of being published all I can do is the best I can with what I have in front of me and reach out as best I can to potential readers

Thank you for this post and I will be referring other in my various writing group to come over and read it.

Miriam Forster said...

"What if a discouraged new author doesn’t have a good support system or a professional ally such as an agent or a second book contract to force them to keep going? How easy is it to just let the dream be crushed and retreat?"

Way too easy. Even if you don't want to let it go. That's where I am right now, with a small press book that's been in limbo for over two years and lukewarm responses on everything I've queried since. I try to stay realistic and positive, but I'm starting to lose faith.

I keep coming back to this post and reading the comments. I'm trying to believe that if all these writers can stay in the game so can I. But it's hard.

Kathryn Magendie said...

You know; you really do need to find all those little moments and enjoy them -- the first time you hold your published book in your hands, read your own words, know that you did this INCREDIBLE thing - you wrote a novel - you did it - and it was even published...

The thing is, no matter where you are in your process, it becomes about never being enough - you "just want to be published" then "you just want to sell a few books and have a good review . . ." then 'you just want to win an award/be on a best seller list/sell a million copies/be on oprah..." and even then it's not enough:

there is someone always who has better rankings, ratings, reviews, sales --

instead, remember why you did this thing, this beautiful beautiful thing - remember how it felt to write "the end" and send it out to the world so hopeful - remember to enjoy all the moments . . .

just remember that with few exceptions (if any!) there is not a writer out there who does not wish For More . . . so take your book in your hands and remember that first time you held it and how all the possibilities for joy were there, and remember that joy.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

I take comfort in the fact that with my first YA novel I felt I did justice to all the people who helped me write it over the 22 years it took to get published, and that despite its small press origins it received critical recognition and awards and has been adopted for courses in high schools and colleges. Even if its companion and none of my other projects after that ever finds a publisher, no one can take the first one away from me.

Thanks for this wonderful site.

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