When should you give up on your writing?
Many of us asked that question long before we had anything published. Some who eventually sold things we wrote still wonder about pieces of work we haven’t sold yet. Often that manuscript is something dear to our hearts.
Early in my writing career, I learned an important lesson about not giving up. I had read in writers’ magazines that a wanna-be author should not put her first work in the mail and then wait for a contract. Make sure you put a SASE in with what you’ve written, and record the date and place you sent it. Then start working on something new. The article said the saddest thing in the world is a writer standing next to her mailbox, waiting for a check to arrive.
I envisioned myself waiting next to my mailbox. It’s black, plain, and across the street. My imagination did not paint a pretty picture of me standing in front of my neighbor’s house.
The piece I was sending out was really special to me. Called Five Left to Love, the essay described my five wonderful children aged five to eleven coping with strength after a major struggle. I studied the excellent source Writer’s Market to find the best place to send my work. A detailed description of a certain magazine made me decide it would be the perfect fit for my story. I sent it out, recorded the date and place, and started on something different, anticipating the editor’s excitement when he read about my tremendous family.
I didn’t wait near the mailbox but must admit I rushed outside each time I spied the mailman, knowing he’d brought me fabulous news. He finally did bring a response. No thanks.
I sulked awhile and felt sorry for myself. For my children. How could that editor say no? Soon I remembered not to sit around and mope, so I sent the piece out again—to Living with Teenagers magazine. I soon heard from an editor there—with a congratulations letter and a check! It wasn’t much, but it was so exciting and with all of my kids, every little bit helped. I was feeling slightly cocky and thinking I should write to that other magazine and tell them “Ha, somebody knew my work was good enough.” (I wouldn’t really do that but must admit I considered it a moment.) I did check back to see where I’d sent the piece first. It was to Living with Teenagers. The same magazine that had turned it down bought it! One editor rejected the piece; another editor at the same place bought it.
The magazine no longer exists, but I certainly appreciated their publishing my story. And I learned so much from that experience. Since then I’ve discovered that most writers have their work rejected many times, so expect it and don’t give up. I know Mary Higgens Clark had her work rejected forty times before she sold her first story. A current popular mystery novelist, K.A. Konrath, wrote nine novels and received over 500 rejections before he sold a book. How many people would have given up? As Louisa May Alcott wrote the classic Little Women, her family was encouraging her to find work as a servant or seamstress instead. Over 100 publishers turned down the Chicken Soup for the Soul books before a wise editor snapped up the first one. Others had said “That’s too nicey-nice,” and “Nobody wants to read a book of short little stories.” Star Wars couldn’t sell for a long time. Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers; the 28th publisher sold over 6 million copies.
So when do you give up on your writing?
Perhaps something you wrote isn’t quite up to par, and you need to work more on it. Or maybe the right editor hasn’t seen it yet.
Recently I sold Deadly Reunion , third book in my humorous Cealie Gunther mystery series. Last week the editor of a popular magazine for writers emailed me, apologizing for the delay, and asked if I would still be willing to write an article for their Breakthrough column. I said I would and then looked back to see when I’d first queried him about writing such an article. It was two years ago, soon after my first book came out.
So give up? Are you kidding? I believe that if you love to write, you keep writing. And you keep submitting your work, sometimes working to improve it. And eventually you sell!!!
If you’d like a chance to win one of my humorous mysteries, Relative Danger or Killer Cousins, please leave a comment below. The winner will be chosen on Monday night, May 31 and contacted the next day. Thanks for letting me share thoughts with you. Maybe you’ll also contact me at my web site, www.juneshaw.com.