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Writer, Take Heart!

Every so often I get the idea that I'm never going to make it as a writer. That I will never have a novel published or that I'll keep on writing short stories that nobody reads. I'm pretty sure all writers have that thought from time to time, and while I don't know what brings it out in others, I know what can trick me.

Recently I've had a few rejections. Two of them were for new projects that I have, on second thought, filed under F for Forget About It Until You're Stephen King And Then Still Forget About It. Also, my most recent story came back from Writers of the Future with an Honorable Mention, which is not too shabby... But it's not a sale either, and it's not the finalist place I've achieved twice before.

Tuesday I had a great meeting with my writing group, who mostly liked my even more recent story but hated the ending. Their main critique point was both obvious (in hindsight) and unanimous, and so I've heeded their advice and rewritten the ending. No big problem. The problem is, I really loved the ending that they hated... and that has given me reason to doubt my powers of judgment. So I have the distinct sense of being stuck in the ol' hack routine.

(Sometimes, but not right now, I also get this feeling from reading a particularly brilliant short story or novel. "I'm never going to write as well as, say, Connie Willis or hold as big stories in my head as e.g. George R.R. Martin." Or, in other words, I'm comparing myself with masters of genre fiction and banging my head against a wall because I'm not yet writing as well as these writers. Never mind that they've been at it for a couple of decades longer than I have.)

Whine, whine. The question is: What to do about it?

When this happens, I remind myself of several things. Not every point applies at all times, but neither are they all absent at the same time.

1) I have a general sense of progress. This month I've revised more of my novel than I thought possible, added a couple of scenes, and rewritten two short stories. Despite the rejections, I'm getting more words ready for the market, so I'm improving my odds of selling more stories.

2) I have a good time while I'm writing. Sometimes writing is a chore, but right now I find it easy to get started and fun to stay by the computer.

3) Past successes. Those finalist stories in the Writers of the Future Contest could happen again. (If they ever do is another matter, of course). One of those finalist stories was recently published. See previous bragging posts for more ;-) And before I sold anything, I counted the stories I had finished.

4) I have a constant stream of good ideas when I'm writing and revising. I may not be selling my stories at present, but the well of ideas isn't drying out right now.

5) Feedback from my writing group also indicated that I'm not a total hack... And endings can be changed ;-)
 
Aside from that, I've found that it helps reminding other writers that things are going to be all right. (Guess who else gets a reminder...) I like to keep a positive attitude towards the writing business, because writing IS a hard business with enough downers to send your mood beneath the floorboards twice a week if you let it. No reason to do it to yourself or your fellow word-comrades.

So writer, take heart! You're making progress too. Probably you're writing your best novel yet right now. Or you're having fun with your characters, who happen to be even weirder or funnier or badassier or more nuanced than the motion picture protag you watched and loved last night. Or you've got a dozen other things going in your writing life that I can only begin to imagine.

Share it, flaunt it, hype it! And be happier for it.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
dr_phil_physics
Sep. 2nd, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)
Just before I started submitting stories in June 2002, I'd read some authors talking on the order of 600 rejections before they made it. Closing in on submission 400 with two pro sales and 13 others, so I suppose I could argue that at 2/3 the way to SFWA pro status I'm right on track.

That and enduring 300+ rejections for my post-Ph.D. job search, had already toughened me. (grin)

oh, and average and typical results mean nothing in specific cases. (big-grin)

Dr. Phil
jakobdrud
Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
Average and typical results are to be expected, unless you expect the unexpected :-) But it seems straightforward that a fair amount of trial and error goes into learning how to write.

With two pro sales and a very productive time (as you describe on your blog) you're definitely on the right track. And what you've written so far is probably helping you more than you realize -- even with statistics being as fickle as they are :-)
bogwitch64
Sep. 2nd, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
Huzzah and three cheers! Great attitude, lovey.
jakobdrud
Sep. 3rd, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Did I mention I find your motto very inspiring?
bogwitch64
Sep. 3rd, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
My "Modesty is for suckers motto?" Hheheheee!
jakobdrud
Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
That's the one!
j_cheney
Sep. 2nd, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
We all proceed at a different pace. I'm a very slow writer, comparatively and have not even managed 100 submissions yet (see Dr. Phil above for comparison...I started in late 2005, but still, I do NOT compare to his industriousness.)

You have to be comfortable with what you're doing, and what your goals are. And it does not matter a whit what I'm doing or what Dr. Phil is doing...

So I think you're on the right track...keep going and it will happen when it happens...

(Friendly reminder makes me feel better ;o)
jakobdrud
Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
I fully agree that pace means very little in the big picture. The Roman writer Vergil spent 12 years writing The Aeneid, and he died before he finished it. Yet it has survived him by 2000 years :-)
jongibbs
Sep. 3rd, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Uf you ask me, an honorable mention from WotF is a big plus :)
jakobdrud
Sep. 3rd, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
I'm not truly complaining, you know. Just panicking that my best writing years are behind me ;-)
jennygordon
Sep. 9th, 2011 08:04 am (UTC)
You absolutely ARE a writer! We all are if we're putting words on a page (crossing them out, writing new ones, crossing them out ... etc); we're making something tangible of our ideas, we're working at it and learning and developing. Publication isn't what defines writers (or, at least, we should stop putting that pressure on ourselves). DOING IT is what matters most.
jakobdrud
Sep. 10th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
Writing is definitely what matters, and that's worth a reminder (or five or ten) since I sometimes forget that :-)

I don't write because solely to be published, but I have this idea that I want to be 'good enough' or 'skilled enough' to write publishable stories. That's a pressure, of course, but it also fuels my writing. I'm doing something I love here, and I want to be very good at it. Which is why your comment is such a good reminder that the process should at least be little fun, and at best a lot of fun.
jennygordon
Sep. 12th, 2011 11:33 am (UTC)
Now I just need to learn to take my own advice!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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