Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Giving Up

Yesterday's comments were another testimony of the amazing community here.  When "Anonymous" announced that not having been chosen for the Baker's Dozen Auction meant an end to his/her writing pursuits, you rose to the occasion and offered exactly the encouragement--and gentle admonishment--that was needed.

Thank you.

(I didn't even feel the need to jump in.  You were all doing beautifully without me.)

Here's the thing.  The initial despair that comes with rejection can feel VERY HUGE.  So huge, in fact, that we may feel swallowed by it.  But after the grand sucking sound of the quicksand, WE REEMERGE.  And we move on.

In case there are others of you who are silently planning to quit, let me reiterate what was shared so eloquently and sensitively in yesterday's comment box:  This is a subjective business.  One man's smelly left sock will be another man's gift card for Best Buy.  (Okay, that was a really dumb analogy.  Bear with me; I haven't been awake that long.)

And you know what?  Maybe an agent or an editor or the hapless slush readers of a blog contest rejected your work because it really wasn't ready.  Because it still needed a lot of work.  But you know what?  THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT YOU SUCK, EITHER.  Now, if you don't get good, solid feedback and work your fingers off to MAKE IT BETTER, then, yeah, you're not going to move forward.  Not ever.  BUT!! (This is a big but.)  If you DO keep working; if you DO stay open to critique and keep learning and growing and writing and rewriting, then the only way you can move is FORWARD.

In short:  Don't give up.

You know that's my mantra.  You know how long my journey has been.  I'M STILL HERE.  (And I'm not going away.)

Years ago, I submitted a short story to the now-defunct Victoria magazine.  Non-fiction, anecdotal--just what they were looking for.  And I received the most incredibly snoot-tastic rejection letter ever.  (Think "We wish we could accept every submission our readers send; but, alas, we cannot."  Gag.)

I might've said to myself, "Wow.  I can't even get a story into a magazine with lots of pictures of flowers and Victorian porches in it.  I'd better stop writing."

But I didn't.

Then, of course, there was the middle grade fantasy that I queried to death, and, despite several requests for the full, never got me an agent.  I loved this story.  (I still love it.)  But in the end I had to shelve it.

I might've said to myself, "Wow.  I've sent a lot of queries and EVERYBODY HATES ME.  I'm not going to write anymore."

But I didn't.

So please don't throw the towel in because you don't move forward right away.  In fact, this is a principle that applies not only to writing, but to life.  I mean, seriously?  We don't get things right the first time.  Well, sometimes we might.  But that's the exception.  Most things take time and practice.


Keep practicing.  Keep perfecting.  Keep GRITTING YOUR TEETH AND PRESSING FORWARD.

And if you honestly don't feel like you can do that?  Like it's really not worth it?  THAT'S when you quit.  THAT'S when you decide that this writing thing isn't for you.

Because it's not for the faint of heart.  It's for the TOUGH-SKINNED.  The TENACIOUS.  The BLEEDIN' STUBBORN.

And, clearly, the SENSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE.  Because that's what you are.

I adore this community.  Am both humbled and encouraged by it.  Thank you for everything you are, and everything you offer!


  1. Thanks for sharing this--it's really quite encouraging. And I agree--I was also impressed with the support shown in the comments.

  2. One man's smelly left sock may be another man's toaster oven....???

  3. I'm so happy you put a positive spin on 'bleedin' stubborn' :)

    And very true! I love the Author's Unite! instead of the alternative dog eat dog world. I know without the support from the community, my bad days would have been a lot worse. :)

  4. I actually "lost" two contests yesterday. Did it sting? For a moment. Thing is, my query/pitch/first250 are works in progress. They're not amazingly good yet. YET. Also, even when they are, I'm never gonna let a single individual (or two, or twenty), no matter how awesome (and Authoress and Jodi, you ARE), tell me I'm not good enough - especially when THAT'S NOT WHAT YOU SAID. Out of 300 entries I didn't make the top 35? Pshaw.

    I've been around the writer's blogosphere long enough to know how stiff the competition is, even among the still-aspiring. I'm pretty proud of my little story, but am I certain it's better than 90% of the amazing stories out there? Nope. Not yet. More relevantly, am I certain that my story will appeal to two people I've never met more than 90% of the really cool stories out there? That's a rediculous question.

    Thanks again, Authoress and Jodi. You're the best.

  5. Authoress,
    I'm wondering about that middle grade ms that you loved but shelved. Maybe dust it off after its long "rest" -- you'll probably find what wasn't quite working, and now that you have an agent, it just might find a home! Just a humble "loser" ;) giving the Authoress advice.

    Not giving up here...I sincerely admire Authoress and Jodi, but they are not the eyes or voice of every agent.

  6. Thank you Robin Weeks, whom I have never met, for ROCKING my world with your spectacularly-RIGHT ON comment today! ㋡ N' much love to all the other writers on this site I have never met, you are all much treasured n' beloved people in my life! ♥♥♥

  7. Ha! as someone who also did not make it, I blogged on this yesterday:


    "Feel the fear and do it anyways." The point is, everyone gets afraid, especially of failure, but don't let the fear of failure hold you back.

  8. I'm curious about your shelved ms also,& I agreee with skywriter; dust it off. Ya never know. ;-)

  9. When I audition for things, and I don't get the gig, I always tell myself: "It's not that they didn't like me. It's that they didn't like me for THAT role, right now."

    When I get rejected in writing, I tell myself, "It's not that they didn't like my story. It's that they didn't want THAT story, right now."

    It makes it much easier, and reminds you, as Authoress said, that it is all subjective. It's not you, personally, and it's not what you're offering that's being rejected... it's just that what you are bringing to them at this moment is not what they want.

    And maybe next time what you're offering is what they want just then. Sometimes the casting director just doesn't want a short curvy redhead with freckless. Sometimes the editor just doesn't want a middle grade fantasy novel about an octopuss that only has seven legs. And sometimes you are exactly what they were looking for, whether they knew it when they saw you, and your work the first time, or not.

    The more auditions you go to, the better the chance that someone will need a short curvy redhead with freckles. The more stories you tell, the better the chance that someone will fall in love with one and take it.

  10. There's a reason I call my Script Magazine weekly column "Balls of Steel". Iron clad balls are exactly what you need to have as either a screenwriter or a novelist to survive. You will get kicked in the nads thousands of times, and each time, you MUST stand back up and say, "Thank you, Sir, may I have another." Because another is coming, like it or not.

    It's only those who survive the hits without quitting who ultimately succeed.

  11. internet's too slow to log into my account...

    Sensitive and supportive is the easy part. I keep checking this blog for a note that you sent the e-mail to the wrong people/36 people by mistake. (because I'm ever so confident). And tough-skinned, I am not.

    I'm just too stubborn to know when to quit.

  12. skywriter --

    Actually, shortly before I signed with Josh, another agent (whom I really like) read the full of my mg fantasy and, while she passed, said in her rejection letter that she thought this might be "the one" (she'd read others of my works before). Which was encouraging, because I'd recently done a complete rewrite of the thing.

    So, yeah. I'm not giving up on it. It's just not its time.

    (Also, it's a "portal story", and the whole "ugh, not another portal story" from the pub industry doesn't line up with the way most kids ADORE portal stories, and yada yada...yanno?)

  13. Jessica and Jeanne -- THUMBS UP!

    Actually, thumbs up to everybody. :)

  14. Lol Alaina, I checked my mail this morning too, I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    Jeanne Veillette Bowerman: This made my my day, maybe my entire week. Still laughing ;-)

  15. Great post, Authoress. There is such an amazing community of people following this blog. I'm glad I get to hang out here every now and then.

  16. Hear hear! I love this post, because it's so true! Rejections are definitely never easy, but I read another blog post earlier where the blogger gave her number one writing tip, which is the same as yours, Authoress. Don't give up!!! (Anyone hearing Josh Groban in their heads right now?)

  17. Thank you so much for this post. I have to share...
    My rejection in the adult genre was devastating because I really felt this was the last I could stomach for this manuscript. But you know what? After submitting and before results were announced, I started streamlining from the beginning and found that - not only did I have an excess of, say, 6000 words - but my logline was (gasp) a bit dishonest. I was so concerned about how to package it, I lost sight of what it really was. The whole thing was a huge wake up call! I'm glad for it. Thanks again.

  18. Very good post! It's a rare month that at least one of my CP's isn't moaning and threatening to quit. :)

    I did agree with some of the commenters yesterday that if you *can* give up, do. It sounds harsh, but this is a harsh business. (Also. Slow.) In the long run, if you are able to step away from the keyboard and find something else to fulfill you (or another way to make writing fulfill you), then do it!

  19. I should mention that I'm including myself with my CP's in that moaning and threatening to quit. lol

  20. I recommend this blog to every writer I meet- and these comments, and yesterday's slew are major reasons why :).

    Thank you Authoress and all the really well-balanced writers on here- you all rock!

  21. I can't NOT write. So, even being a bit thin-skinned at times, I am pretty damn stubborn. Thanks for this, because the sting of not being chosen as a winning entry was not pleasant, in no way did I truly think I'd quit writing (meaning, my first thought was pretty negative, but then my inner adult pulled up her big-girl pants & said, "this is ONE contest, and you know? the MS is probably in need of a lot more work anyway.")

    Anyway, thanks for this post. It's a great reminder that if I believe in my work, there's no reason to think it isn't worth it. :)

  22. Thank you all for adding one more blessing to my count - membership in this very supportive community. You all give honest critique, awesome suggestions (Skywriter and others, you gave me some recently), and then there is the great encouragement.

    I am betting that we've all had many more rejections than acceptances in our lives and that's what makes the successes (as few as they may be) really sweet when we experience them.
    Happy Thanksgiving All!

  23. I hear ya, Authoress! A good gut wrenching lesson for all of us.

    But couldn't you have also added that there were only a certain number of slots available and some other entries probably came so close that it was just a matter of *taste*?

    I mean, I've entered many contests with the same beginning, tagline etc. and won some and lost some. I even got query rejections in my in-box *post-agent*!

    So I think after a rejection you have to ask yourself some tough questions about whether you are satisfied with your work or have room to grow (or tweak). Even manuscripts post-agent or editor are improved upon!

    If you are getting lots of rejections all the way around, I'd say, yeah lots of room to grow. If it's half and half or more, then maybe tweaking or matter of taste. Look at your record and the numbers for a pattern!


  24. Christina -- Yes, I think it definitely comes down to a matter of taste in the end. But for us, it's more of a "which of these maybes is as strong as the yeses we've already chosen?" It isn't so much a "close" thing as it is, which ones resonate enough that we feel they'll stand up well in the auction. We are admittedly tough and picky! And I have the added benefit of Jodi's experience as an agent's assistant--she knows her slush. :)

  25. This is a slightly pathetic last thought...Will you pluck a "Maybe" out of the slush if one of your picks gets agented before the auction?

  26. Aw, that's not pathetic -- it's hopeful! But alas, no. All the non-winning entries have been deleted (had to get them out of my Blogger queue). If anyone pulls out at this point, the entry will simply be redacted.

  27. Hear, hear! This was especially pertinent for me today - not because I'm thinking about giving up, but because your post was another reminder that somewhere out there are a bunch of other writers who are writing and waiting, just like me. And there are another bunch of writers who wrote and waited, and made it past the slush pile. So I just have to keep writing and sending and improving and waiting and writing, and one day, I'll get there. Because I'm NOT giving up.

    Thank you for this.

  28. Another word of encouragement for Anonymous, from a different perspective entirely:

    Last year I participated in the Baker's Dozen. My entry was picked in the adult category and appeared here on the site. I had bids, and not only did one agent "win" the bid to read my work but a second agent requested pages also.

    Neither offered representation.

    A year later, I have not entered because I am now represented by not only "an" agent but "THE" agent I most wanted to represent me (who, for the record, is not either of the agents who read my work last year).

    I was offered and accepted representation for an entirely different manuscript in an entirely different genre. Last year's work wasn't as ready as I thought it was, but in the months since I found my stride, wrote another book and grabbed the gold ring.

    The point is this: even people who make it in aren't guaranteed representation, and when your work is ready, if you refuse to give up and keep working and growing, the right agent will come along. Possibly even an agent you didn't expect.

    YOU are the only one who can make you fail. Don't allow your doubt to crush you. Hang in there. Persevere. Write another manuscript (or revise the one you have). You don't know when or where your success will come. Be ready. Be strong. Don't quit.

  29. The most stinging rejection I ever received from an agent was simply one sentence long. Only 12 words but ones that will always stay with me. It said, "We are looking for exceptional writing, and yours I'm afraid is not." Did I quit writing? No. It just made me work harder so I could one day prove that agent wrong.

  30. Let me chime in with some more encouragement: every rejection is another step along the way, and each one at least proves that you're trying. The moment you stop writing, you've rejected your own dreams. No one contest or agency's rejection letter will hurt you as much as your own self-doubt.

    If you don't write, you won't have a story to submit. If you don't submit anywhere, you've lost your chance at an acceptance.

    I've had four magazine rejections and two anthology rejections this year. I've also had two short stories get high marks in the Writers of the Future Contest. The mms I used as my Bakers's Dozen entry has already won a finalist slot in a large publisher's contest this year.

    I'm actually glad my Baker's Dozen entry didn't place. By the time the adult judging had finished, I'd already submitted it directly to a publisher who'd asked for it.

    My reasoning: this is a reputable publisher open to all of my chosen genres, while most agencies are not. It's not a done deal, by any means. But it's something that would never have happened if I didn't finish the mms, or enter it into the publisher's contest.

    Keep writing, research your markets, and keep submitting!

  31. I missed yesterday's post, but all a rejection means is that a particular piece of work didn't fit with that audience at that particular moment in time. That's all. And it's hard to remember sometimes, but post your work on one of the other blogs, get some feedback and look to improve it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

  32. Just read the other comments and realise J.M. Frey said something similar first - sorry for repeating!

  33. What a lovely post. And so true. Rejection stings, but it makes me step back and look at whether the problem is that my writing just isn't someone's cup of tea, or if it's the writing itself.

    And congrats to Filigree!

  34. "YOU are the only one who can make you fail."

    Well said, Anonymous.