When we moved to Cape May 15 years ago, I joined a writing critique group, and page by page started to write. I knew absolutely zero about the craft of writing—show don’t tell, point of view, round vs. flat characters, a sense of narrative place— and even less about getting published. I thought, “If you write it they will come.” Boy, was I naïve.
Developing as a writer has been daunting at times. More than once, I have asked myself, “If I knew then what I know now, would I have even tried?”
One of the things (besides sheer naivety) that kept me writing was hearing that in writing, just like in life, persistence counts as much or more than talent. I might have known squat about writing craft, but when it comes to the ability to stick to and complete what I start—whether you call it persistence, diligence, tenacity, determination, loyalty—lucky for me, that is a quality I possess.
Fast forward 15 years, I have written, rewritten, edited and rewritten again (Ad nauseam) 2 novels. I have sent queries (writer language for asking literary agents for representation) had a number of promising nibbles, and the same number of rejections. Each time an agent rejects my work I pick myself up and get back on the horse, sending out more queries. That’s persistence— right?
But when does persistence and getting back in the saddle turn into blind, stubborn denial? When is it time to accept I am beating a dead horse?
They say Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times, Stephen King’s Carrie, 30 times, Harry Potter, 12 times, The Help, 60 times, and what might be the all-time winner among breakout successes, Chicken Soup for the Soul, a whopping 140 times.
How did those authors know to persist in spite of the odds? What kept them from giving up and stashing their unpublished books in a drawer?
When you face obstacles, how do you decide when it is time to stop or at least reconsider your goal?
Counting up my rejections, I am ahead of Harry Potter and closing in on Carrie. Do I set my sights on catching Chicken Soup for the Soul? Or is it time to stable the horse?