Before I begin, I just wanted to say a couple of things; firstly, a big THANK YOU to Rebecca Bradley for my blog award. It is very much appreciated. Do check out the other blogs on the list, as they are really good and full of great articles. Rebecca is a crime writer and her posts are a great source of inspiration.
I also wanted to let you know that you can download my short story, The Bench, for FREE until midnight US time tonight and extracts of my work and two new flash fiction pieces, ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Lines and Space,’ can now be read on Readwave, so do take a look.
I have spoken to several writers recently, both new and established, to discover that they have all been through periods of discouragement and wondered whether to give up, and whether the difficulties were worth it. After my wax lyrical post from last week on the fact that I love writing and would keep going, whether or not the world continued to read, I thought that this week I might try to balance things out by highlighting some of the tougher parts of writing and encouraging people not to give up.
Writing can be an isolating pursuit and it is a long haul process. There are no quick fixes with writing a book or getting published. The journey is long and unpredictable and you can’t always find the breakdown tools when a chapter doesn’t work or a scene grinds to a halt. The weather can be too murky to see ahead and the characters can sometimes feel out of reach; you try to pin them down but they refuse to show themselves. If you have felt lost in the maze of the first draft, or so fearful of finishing that you edit and re-edit until you remove all trace of the story that originally griped you, refusing to let go, read on.
There are readers who do want to hear your story, lives that will be changed by your unique view of the world. Don’t subscribe to the view that there are already too many books on the shelves or that your voice won’t count. If you have a story that wakes you in the night and follows you through the shadows of the day, if you begin to know your characters in a way that makes them real, and if you feel somewhere in the pit of your stomach that you HAVE to tell THIS STORY, then let nothing stand in your way. You may need to overcome obstacles and juggle commitments, you many need to learn more about the craft or read a wider range of books, and you will need to be disciplined enough to sit down and type until your head rolls onto the keyboard, but it will be worth it. Don’t let people tell you it can’t be done or that you’re wasting your time. Don’t give up before you reach the end.
Fix your eyes on what you want to achieve and then move any mountain to get there.
I want to give you some encouraging stories from writers who have not given up and whose work will be read by people because they persevered. Some are self-published, some began self-publishing and signed traditional book deals on the back of their success, or moved from trad publishing into self-pub, others secured agents and publishers. Whatever path you choose to take, fix your eyes on your readers and your story, muster up a fierce resolve and get going. Don’t give up until you reach the finish line.
Hugh Howey, self-published a sixty page postapocalyptic thriller, titled Wool, in 2011 and within a year of publishing it on Amazon it grew into a USA Today bestselling novel and was picked up by Ridley Scott for a film deal. Howey has kept the rights to the eBook but signed a print deal with Simon and Schuster. He has sold more than half a million copies.
Claire King, author of In The Night Rainbow, blogged about her experience of contacting agents and she charts their responses and then her success. She points to the difficulties of the publishing industry being “incredibly risk averse and subjective.”
Vanessa Gebbie interviews Sarah Hilary. Her agent Jane Gregory signed Sarah on her fourth manuscript and it was her fifth and sixth books that were sold to Headline in a two book deal this year. She talks to Vanessa about not giving up: “[the book] went to auction, but for every two publishers who loved it there were four who didn’t, or not enough to offer for it. ‘All it takes is one’, as the adage goes, and you should certainly never give up – or make radical changes – based on what appears to be a loose consensus. Unless or until your gut (or your ear) tells you that what you’re hearing is the truth.” I’m very much looking forward to reading Someone Else’s Skin when it comes out in 2014.
Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of 20 books, moved from traditional publishing to self-publishing eBooks on Amazon. She found herself at the top of the Amazon kindle charts this morning with her book, When I Found You, after Amazon promoted it. Her book, Pay It Forward, was turned into a film. Her early successes came from writing short stories, at one point racking up more than 122 rejections before being first published, and since then a total of more than 1500 rejections resulting in about 50 published stories.
Great post. Even when you’re a published author it’s easy to become discouraged when you see other books soar to the top of the charts whilst yours flaps around on the ground! I’m always encouraged by Ian Rankin who wrote four Rebus (and countless other) books before his fifth Rebus book captured the public’s attention and catapulted him into the bestseller lists.
Yes, he’s a great example of a consistent writer who keeps producing good work. I think he pays less attention to the charts and just keeps writing. He also writes some really good short stories.
Wonderful post – I admit I sometimes get discouraged feeling that the world is already overcrowded with books, but I will keep this little jolt of inspiration and perseverance close by and read it in those moments!
Thank you, Sophie. There are many voracious readers who devour books. I am finding that I can’t write fast enough for many of my readers, which is partly why I have been publishing short stories. I’m glad the post inspired you. Keep going and don’t give up!
Hi, just to thank you for the post. It was what I needed to give me the push to get myself back into writing. Since recieving my degree early July , I took a break which has gone on and on. Reading your post has put me back on track. Reading about the authors you also mentioned reminds me I am not on my own.
Hi Ann, Glad it helped. It is difficult to get back into writing. Well done on gaining your degree. It is really important to give yourself breaks so that you don’t burn out. You can sometimes feel that it is just you plodding through but so many writers are in the same boat, with the same doubts and fears. Writing is very exposing and it can be intimidating to put your work out into a public arena where it is open to a wide range of opinion. At the end of the day you are writing for your own enjoyment and if people like your work and join you on the journey, all the better.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for a balanced view here. All too often I hear of the downsides and it’s easy to wonder what is the point. However, hearing about all the amazing contracts can equally be difficult to stomach. Story writing is often ups and downs, so thank you for writing about this!
It can be easy to slip into negativity but it’s not constructive and is really unhelpful. I tried to keep the big contracts to a minimum as they are the exception, but it is good to have goals; large and small. I set myself small goals which are reachable and then stretch them. I think real stories of perseverance are really encouraging. I’m glad it was helpful.